National Archives of Canada

Old books and glasses

The National Archives of Canada was united with the National Library of Canada through legislation in 2004. It is now known as the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC). It is a rich source for genealogical research of Canadian ancestors.

History of the National Library and the National Archives of Canada

The National Archives originated in 1872 as the Public Archives of Canada. It began as part of the Department of Agriculture. The name was changed in 1987 to the "National Archives of Canada."

The National Library was created in 1953. When the two institutions joined in 2004, it developed the following mission:

  • Preserve the documentary heritage of Canada
  • Be an accessible source of knowledge
  • Facilitate cooperation among communities to acquire, preserve and diffuse knowledge
  • Serve as the continuing memory of the Canadian Government

Holdings at the Library and Archives

The LAC has extensive holdings of genealogical information. Its website hosts a large number of searchable databases on a wide variety of topics. There are birth, marriage and death records available, as well as other sources that will help a family tree researcher.

Censuses

The LAC has online databases of the Canadian censuses for 1901, 1906 and 1911. You can also view census microfilms for 1666-1901 at the facility. While not all of the census years are complete and some enumerations have been lost, it is still a valuable resource.

One interesting thing to note about Canadian censuses is that an individual's birthplace and religion are included in the enumeration.

Immigration

Immigration records are also available. One online source is the Citizenship Registration Records for the Montreal Circuit Court 1851-1945, containing approximately 8,400 references. There is also the Canadian Naturalization Records 1915-1932, focusing on those outside the British Commonwealth, comprised of approximately 200,000 references.

Military Records

LAC has many records regarding the Canadian military, spanning many wars. Online databases include the Soldiers of the First World War - CEF, which has over 800,000 Attestation images of those who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. These documents include the names of the next of kin, date of birth and birthplace.

Another database of broad interest is the Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead. This source contains references to the service files of the over 44,000 Canadians who lost their life during World War II.

Other Topics of Interest

There are other helpful resources at LAC. The Lower Canada Land Petitions has more that 95,000 references to land petitions between 1784-1841. The petitions are for land grants or leases as well as some administrative documents.LAC also hosts a vast number of county and city directories, as well as provincial and national ones. Besides many smaller city directories, there are ones for the following locations:

  • Quebec, 1790
  • Canada national directory, 1855
  • Ottawa, 1872-1873
  • Ontario, 1899-1900

Special Services

There are several other special services offered by the Library and Archives of Canada.

AMICUS

AMICUS is a searchable database of published sources throughout Canada. These sources include cemetery indexes, family histories and genealogical journals. Users are required to register, but registration is free.

Ask a Question

Genealogists may submit a specific question about either an ancestor or an LAC record. An LAC librarian will respond. They cannot research entire trees, nor can they search unindexed records. Questions may be submitted by several methods:

  • Online form
  • Mail
  • Telephone
  • Fax
  • In person

Youth Corner

To encourage young people in the discovery of their heritage, LAC has a special online Youth Corner. It has genealogy lesson plans for teachers and charts and activities for students. There is also a special genealogy merit badge developed with the Scouts Canada.


The Library and Archives of Canada provides a wonderful service for genealogists with Canadian roots in the past. With its large electronic holdings and programs for young people, it is also looking to the future.

National Archives of Canada