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Monday, October 24, 2011

Using Wildcards to Break Down a Brick Wall

Roxanne asked about her great grandfather's arrival in Canada and naturalization date:
I am looking for informationon my great grandfather.  He came over to Canada about* 1913 on a ship.  I'm not sure from which port but he came from Sweden to Ontario.  He started out in Kenora, Ont.  On the ship were two or three of his children and his wife:
Albin Franz Danielson (my great-grandfather)and Charlotte (Wohlin), along with Sonia, Siren and Donald their children. (All the children are under 5).  I can not seem to locate a passenger's list anywhere to find out where in Sweden they came from.  Or when they became citizens of Canada.  I do know that Charlotte his wife died in Kenora, Ontario in 1917 and my great-grandfather died in Eagle River, Ontario 1970.  I've looked at many different passenger lists but still could not find them.
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Hi Roxanne. I don't usually do lookups or research on this blog. Instead I try to direct genealogists towards locations to find the records they want or to offer ideas on where/how they might search next.

However your question intrigued me! I wondered why you had not found Albin on a ships passenger lists, since passenger lists to Canada after 1865 are online on and at Library & Archives Canada. So I headed to to have a look.

They have the complete set of ships passenger lists to Canada from 1865. I figured it might be the spelling of the names and that perhaps you weren't aware you could use wildcards. That brings me to another point I wanted to make - when you are struggling with a brick wall ancestor, find out WHAT records are available for your needs and WHERE they are kept!

Tip #1: Use Wildcards!

So I started with wildcards and did a search for DANIELS*N. That allows for e, o, i or any number of other substitutions for the *

With this method I found  someone I thought was your Albin travelling to Kenora Ontario in May 1911 on board the Lake Manitoba. I wasn't 100% sure it was the right man but then I found Albin's wife and children arriving later with the notation that Charlotte was headed to her husband in Kenora. Bingo. Albin came first and Charlotte and the children followed in August 1911 on board Empress of Ireland. You can find the passenger lists online and enjoy reading all the details.

Charlotte,  28, was with two children (not 3) named Sonya age 3 and Albin aged 1 1/2. Could Albin Jr be Sorin? Albin was with a man named Axel Adolph Danielson but I can't read his age with certainty. I'm wondering if he was related - a brother perhaps? There is a notation beside Albin's name which you will want to follow up "Continental Bonus Allowed"

It didn't take long and that is why it's important to use wildcards in searches to allow for mis-spellings, mangled readings of surnames and other errors.

Tip #2: Be prepared for errors and inconsistencies when comparing records to family lore/memories

Also you're going to have to be very creative with the wildcard searches because I found the marriage of your Albin to Olga Anderson in 1918 in Kenora. But he is recorded as "DONALDSON". He's a farmer, widower, living in Eagle River born in Sweden and with parents "D. Danielson"  and "Brita Crautch" This also was found on Ancestry.

Interestingly a birth registration for his son Carl Donald in Kenora in 1912 shows Albin as "Frans Albin Danielson" but a death registration for another son (unnamed) who was born and died in Dec 1916 records him as "Albin Donaldson" We know it is your ancestor from his wife's name in that record - "Charlotte Wallis" So either he called himself Donaldson/Danielson interchangeably or the clerks doing the recording misunderstood what he was saying.

Tip #3: Finding Naturalization Records

Remember you want to find out WHAT records are available and WHERE they are kept. So for naturalization records I went to, clicked on Canada and then used the link there to go to the LAC (Library &Archives Canada) searchable index for Naturalization records 1915-1936.

Another bingo! Your great grandfather is found there as Frans Albin Danielson. His two minor children Sonya and Soren are also naturalizing with him so you will want to send for the full record. You can do so by reading how to do this on the LAC website.

And that's all there was to it. If I were you I would now search Swedish records for Frans Albin/Albin Frans and his parents, as well as the Axel Adolph Danielson he was travelling with in 1911. I'd also search records after 1911 for Axel to see if there's a family connection to your Albin. 

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