Tracing Your Family History on Prince Edward Island
Have you ever wondered where your ancestors came from? Do you know when, why and how they came to Prince Edward Island? Are you interested in learning about your family history but do not know where to start?
Start with yourself and work back
The best place to begin to trace your family history is with YOURSELF. And from there you can begin to work back generation by generation, from the known to the unknown, to your immigrant ancestors.
This means that you should do some genealogical homework before you visit Prince Edward Island record repositories. Only then will you be able to make effective use of their resources.
Do your homework first
Your first task is to establish the NDPs in your family; that is names of people and their relationships to each other, dates of events such as births, marriages and deaths, and the places where these events occurred.
To organize this information, you need to create a pedigree chart which has spaces to show the lines of descent from your eight great great grandparents down to you. Then establish family relations for yourself, for your parents, your grandparents and other forbears. You also may wish to do one for each of your siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Print what you know to be correct in pen, but what you are uncertain of print in pencil so that changes can easily be made.
Now, from looking at your charts, you will be able to assess what you know and what you will need to find out. To avoid confusion, work on only one line at a time.
People are your best resource
Next talk to relatives as well as friends and neighbours who knew your forbears. Elderly people, in particular, may be a treasure trove of information. If you cannot visit them in person, phone or write a letter.
Ask your contacts for more than just names, dates and places. While this information is important, you should try to flesh out your family history.
Can they tell you interesting stories, legends and traditions that have been passed down over the years? Has a relative already compiled a family history? Does anyone have old family photographs, diaries, letters or scrapbooks? Is there an old family Bible with birth, marriage and death information? Does anyone have old legal papers such as wills or land deeds? What role did religion play in the lives of your forbears? What did they look like? How did they celebrate special events such as birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries? What were their funeral customs?
As you gather information, record your data by taking notes, obtaining photocopies, tape recording interviews and collecting or reproducing photographs. Be certain to document your work by writing down the source, location and date of each piece of information. This is very important so that you and other researchers can verify your findings. A good reference book on this topic is Cite Your Sources: A Manual For Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records, by Richard S. Lackey.
Store all your written data in a three-ring binder. Down the road, you may want to investigate genealogical software packages should you decide to computerize your material.
You should also study a genealogical guide book such as Gilbert Doane's Searching For Your Ancestors, and read any published community or church histories for the areas where your forbears lived. A general history of Prince Edward Island such as F.W.P. Bolger's Canada's Smallest Province will help place your ancestors within an economic, social and historical context.
Once you have completed your genealogical homework and organized your data, your next step will be to visit Island repositories. Be sure to check their hours of operation first.
Most of the foregoing repositories do not have staff hired specifically to answer genealogical queries so the time that they can spend with you is limited. A list of private researchers who can undertake extensive research is available from the Public Archives and Records Office.
Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society
The PEI Genealogical Society (P.O. Box 2744, Charlottetown, PE C1A 8C4) provides a forum for exchanging information through its quarterly newsletter, meetings, workshops and indexing projects. Although the Society has a membership of over 400 individuals, it is run by a volunteer executive and has no staff or office. Membership in the Society is currently $25 in Canada, $25 in the USA and $25 overseas (please note: USA and overseas memberships are payable in U.S. funds). Please visit their website at http://www.peigs.ca/ for more information.
Compile your research
After you collect and document all the information you can find on your family, you will probably want to write up your research. There are a variety of ways to do this, and some of the methods are examined in Write It Right: A Manual For Writing Family Histories and Genealogies, by D.R. Barnes and R.S. Lackey.
Share your findings
You are urged to share your findings with relatives and your local genealogical library or archives. In return, other researchers may be able to offer you information.
Take your time
Beginners often try to do too much too fast when tracing their family history. Some well done genealogies have taken years to research and compile, so take your time and strive for accuracy and thoroughness in everything that you record.
By following these steps, you will find tracing your family history to be a challenging, absorbing and rewarding pursuit. Good luck!
Still have questions?
Try our email address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide your E-mail address, your name and full mailing address as most replies will be by mail as enclosures are often necessary. The Public Archives and Records Office of Prince Edward Island holds genealogical records for the province of Prince Edward Island only. Please keep in mind that birth, marriage and death certificates cannot be issued by the Public Archives and Records Office. Due to the volume of requests for information we receive and the ever-increasing numbers of visiting researchers and other archival staff duties, we are unable to provide extensive research, fill in blanks in family group sheets or genealogical charts. We can attempt to answer a few specific questions. Requests will be answered in the order in which inquiries are received. You will not receive an immediate E-mail message. There is no charge for conducting searches, however, a small fee will be charged for photocopies and postage. A list of private researchers available to conduct genealogical research for a fee is available on request.