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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Finding an ancestor when you have very little information

Margaret's Questions:
How does one find an ancestor when you don't have much to go on. eg... Fernande Pradier, emmigrated from France, 1911-1920. Born in the Southern part of France, to a white mother and a black father. Only know there was one brother, (don't even know name). She put an add in La Press, a French newspaper, stating, "looking to come to Canada, and get married". My ancestor noticed the add, contacted her, paid her way to Canada, met her in Edmonton, got married the same day, and went back to Legal Alberta. The Person she married in Edmonton was Emile Jaques Rochat The only thing I find on Ancestry, is what I put on my private file. I've looked on Canadaian Archives, to no avail..What am I not doing that I should be.?? This really is mind boggeling

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Margaret. You didn't give me years of birth (even approximate years is helpful) and I'm not sure from your email if you want to find information on Fernande in France, or in Alberta.

However, here is what I would do if I were you - you should be able to narrow that timeline for Fernande's arrival in Canada. You haven't told me what year she and Emile married but you will want to search the 1916 Census for Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. If Emile is still single, then likely Fernande had not yet arrived. If he's married to her, even better as that will give you more clues (years of birth etc)

Have you searched Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 for Emile and Fernande? I had a quick look but without some years of birth I have no way of knowing if this is the right person. There is an Emil Rochat age 28 arriving with his family (looks like mother, brother and brother's wife and children) in 1910 on Corinthian. They are heading to Edmonton Alberta. He is also found in Swiss Overseas Emigration 1910-1953 database found on This database gives precise locations of the emigrating individual's home village.

If this is your Emile then you should find him the 1911 Canadian Census. Check to see if Fernande is with him.

A good census substitute is The National Registration File of 1940. This was the registration of all people 16 years of age or olde, from 1940 to 1946. There is a great deal of information on this Registration. This is another way to find an ancestor in that time period.

Statistics Canada holds these records and for a fee they will search on your behalf. See the explanation and an online order form at the URL above. Also, have you checked to see if Emile or Fernande naturalized? A new Version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 Database is available as of July 22, 2009 at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Being curious I had a quick look and Emile is there naturalizing as are many members of his family.

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