Archives Moment: Genealogy

Our genealogy archival materials at the Musée Héritage Museum are heavily concentrated on Métis families, primarily since St. Albert was a Métis mission community when it was first established in 1861. The Métis history in this region precedes the Mission era as well, so our archives strive to collect as many resources as possible pertaining to these pioneering families.

Early St. Albert history is also dominated by French immigrants and then other European families, and so our archives also have records pertaining to these families.

The Métis families’ genealogy database that you see in the video above is one of many resources we have at the Musée Héritage Museum for all those looking into family histories. We also have a database concentrated on French families in St. Albert, centred on the Chevigny family. Several books are available at our research station and museum shop to assist you, they include, The Black Robe’s Vision, The Sun Traveller, The First Métis – A New Nation, A Bridge Over Time, and many others you can see on the museum gift shop page.

We collect newspaper articles, and other related materials based on family names, placing them into “family files” that patrons can view at the research station. In addition, our archives is full of oral histories in audio and video formats, and include interviews with many of our pioneer families. These provide first person information on families and living situations over the years in the St. Albert area. You will find some of these in the St. Albert Historical Society’s oral histories in our online database. We’ve uploaded summaries, but audio is also available upon request.

It really is a big thrill for people to find photographs or handwritten letters written by their ancestors, and that is one of the main reasons why archives work hard to preserve these types of materials.

Often archivists are asked why we keep original items when we can easily digitize them and then get rid of the original. Removing the original would, in essence, remove the human connection involved in the creation and consumption of the records at the time they were created.  We work to make sure that these personal items, and the emotions connected to them, can be preserved and be felt by future generations.

There is the perception that researching your family genealogy is something you start later in life, but it may be better to start as early as possible. You may find later in life that the people you want to talk to are no longer around, so best to start early, and  genealogy can be fun!

We’ve created an activity for youngsters to find their family linage, called the Family Detective. You start your detective work with questions about yourself, and then find those closest to you and fill in the blanks (photos are even better). The archivists at the Musée Héritage Museum really love detective work in the archives and they try to find answers to all kinds of questions.

We hope this Family Detective activity will turn your young kids into detectives as they learn more about their own family history.

We’ve outlined some questions one can ask, and where and what kind of records you might seek to find answers as you work to fill out your own family tree. If you feel you have more than one person you would like to investigate, simply print out more of the sheets, adults are more than welcome to join their kids on this detective work!

We encourage all of you to look further into your history, it can turn into a very fascinating experience and hobby!

If you think you have ancestors from the St. Albert area, don’t hesitate to contact our archives at archives@artandheritage.ca or 780-459-1528 with any questions you may have.