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New guide helps people trace their Aboriginal roots.

REGINA

People wanting to find out more about their Aboriginal ancestry now have a new tool that can help them in their search.

Tracing Your Aboriginal Ancestors in the Prairie Provinces: A Guide to the Records and How to Use Them was published in the fall of 2006 by the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society with financial support from the Metis National Council.

The guide includes information on how to begin a family history search and chapters on the variety of records that can be mined for genealogical information, including specific resources that can be helpful in searching Metis and First Nations ancestry.

Laura Hanowski served as editor for the guide. Hanowski was the librarian at the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society for a number of years, and noticed that more and more Aboriginal people were coming to the society to find out how to do genealogical searches.

"It seemed that it was appropriate to devise a book that would help them," Hanowski said.

"And we had already done one on tracing in Saskatchewan, so this was just an extension of this, using the basic sources and then concentrating on special resources that would help people trace their Metis or First Nations backgrounds."

The guide will not only help people decide which resources they can turn to to find information about their ancestors, it will also provide them with information about the questions to ask when they get there, Hanowski said.

People have a variety of reasons for wanting to trace their Aboriginal ancestry, she explained. Some of the research is being done to help people prove their Aboriginal heritage.

"Well, I think it was spurred on initially when people could apply for their status again. And then with the Metis folk ... as they were starting to apply for their Metis cards, then they needed certain documentation. And in the beginning, they needed help from a genealogist in order to show that the people that they were searching for were indeed their ancestors."

Any genealogical search starts out the same way, Hanowski explained--you begin with yourself and then work your way backwards through your ancestors, from parents to grandparents to great-grandparents. The main difference in doing a search of Aboriginal ancestry comes in the resources you turn to for information.

"Because there are written records for these people that go back much further than there are for the European people who have come, you look to records that have been created the federal government," Hanowski said.

"If they were Metis, maybe they were applying for scrip and were involved with various churches who kept records. Of if they were First Nations people, records of Indian Affairs or the Hudson's Bay Company records and this sort of thing."

Hanowski spent about two years travelling across the Prairie provinces and going through a variety of historical records in order to put the guide together.

"We had gotten a grant from Sask Culture and with that I was able to travel to Manitoba and visit the Archives of Manitoba, the Hudson's Bay archives, the St. Boniface Historical Society, as well as the Manitoba Genealogical Society, and kind of got a handle on what their resources were," she said.

"And then I also travelled to Alberta and visited the Glenbow archives, the Archives of Alberta and the Alberta Genealogical Society. And through that had a lot of contacts and used the Internet and asked a lot of questions and put it together."

During her research, Hanowski met with the registrars for the various provincial Metis associations, who provided information about the types of genealogical resources they knew of. She also worked with other Aboriginal organizations, including the Gabriel Dumont Institute and the First Nations University of Canada.

Even though the guide has been completed and published, Hanowski is still learning about new resources that can prove useful to people researching their Aboriginal ancestry, and has begun compiling a list in case the society ever decides to publish an updated version of the guide.

In the meantime, she hopes people will find the book a useful tool in their search for information about their heritage.

"I think it's useful and hopefully will be helpful to a wide range of people and really encourage people to trace their roots and understand their families and what a great contribution they have made in the past, and how people can continue to add to the family stories."

The guide sells for $28 and is available through the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society in Regina. To find out how to order a copy call (306) 780-9207 or visit the society's Web site at www.saskgenealogy.com.

By Cheryl Petten

Sage Writer
COPYRIGHT 2007 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:SASKATCHEWAN SAGE
Author:Petten, Cheryl
Publication:Windspeaker
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:776
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