Researching Your Family Tree


Genealogist and family historian Brian Gilchrist came on the show to chat with Steven about discovering your roots!

There is a difference between Genealogy and Family History. Genealogy is your pedigree, vital dates of birth, marriages, how many children you have etc. Family History are the stories and fleshing out of the stories in your family such as careers, why did your ancestors come to Canada, social economic status and the like.

Genealogy is the 2nd most popular search on the internet today. One of the most common reasons is for genetic and medical purposes; to find out more about certain risk factors that they may fall into. Though Genealogy has generally been an older persons hobby a lot of younger generations are getting into it.

Brian shared with us some easy steps on how to start researching your family history:

Step 1 - You have to start with yourself
Ask yourself tons of questions about your family and your own life. Then spread out to your immediate family.

Step 2 - Start your research
Get to a library and books on how to trace the family tree. Some great examples that Brian recommends are:

Global Genealogy Supply

- Canada's largest genealogy mail order supply centre
- Variety of "how to books", a great selection of family tree software for organizing your records, maps, and other resources.

- This is the largest free genealogy website in the world, hosted by the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints "the Mormons".
- Millions of indexed records, online research procedures, and an ever growing catalogue of microfilmed and digitized resources.
- Many of these records are available through your local Family History Centre. is the home site for Canada
- This is the largest fee based genealogy research site in the world.
- Access to digitized copies of original documents from all parts of the globe, the collection is always being added to.
- Some Canadian public libraries subscribe and offer public access to the site.

Genealogy and or Family History societies are located in many parts of the world. Brian suggests becoming a member not only of the local group near you but also one from your ancestral homeland. The website of the Ontario Genealogical Society has links to other organizations across Canada - or else "Google" the term "genealogy" along with the name of the province, state or country you are researching in - and you should find something of interest to you.

There are also Free Tutorials and paid tutorials online but make no mistake some of the best stuff is free online. This of course depends on the nature of the person. Some individuals are more tactile and prefer books while others are internet savvy.

Be aware of good data vs bad data. For example, Brian explains that in some countries you cannot do an extended pedigree search because records have been destroyed. Other times geographical boundaries have changed over the years due to wars. Therefore the country of origin is not necessarily where you will find your information because the boundaries have changed over the years. Do not get discouraged though, it is not impossible.

Step 3 - Get organized

Start to record your information and get an organizing program. One of the best is Family Treemaker.

Step 4 - Analyzing names

Remember when it comes to researching your ancestors, spelling means absolutely nothing. Most of our ancestors were illiterate and wrote what they heard rather than the actual spelling. So if your family ancestors immigrated to Canada most often the name spelling would change.

Ski and Sky in last names for example means the same as Mc and Mac which means "Descendant of"

Step 5 - Join a family genealogy site/society

Join a chat room and family genealogy society can provide valuable information. There are Chapters all across Canada. They help people who live in Ontario or your given province to research your family history all over the world and not just those that are born in Canada.

And get your kids involved. These make for great school projects and it teaches them the importance of writing down details of their lives that will one day become their future generations history. So do write your current life events down so that you will be able to pass on your information to future generations.

If you have any questions that you would like to ask Brian, send him an email:

Want to meet Brian in person? He is one of the speakers at the 2009 Conference of the Ontario Genealogical Society being held in Oakville this May. For details go to


Researching Your Family Tree
Also on CBC
Privacy Terms of Use Contact Mobile Services Help
Copyright © CBC 2022