Monday, March 15, 2010

Searching for my Ontario Ancestors by Rob McLean

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My paternal grandfather, Bill McLean, was born 17 July, 1901 to Donald (“Black Dan”) M(a)cLean & Catharine M(a)cLean. Grandpa was the youngest of seven children (Henrietta, Agnes, Hugh Daniel, Margaret, Reuben, Catherine & William Angus) in Keewatin, Jaffray Township, Kenora District, Ontario.

At the time of his retirement in 19681, Bill like every other new retiree in Canada, applied for his Canada Pension Plan benefits. He was advised that according to the Government of Canada, he didn't exist.

After much consternation & discussion, his sister Kate recalled an old story of how their parents had fought over what their son would be named. His father swore up and down that his youngest son would be named Angus, a good highland name. His mother wanted grandpa named William.

Donald finally agreed that the child would be named William, and so it was. All of his life, he was called, Will or Bill. Every document he signed bore the name William McLean.

Finally, after months of arguing with the federal government, my Uncle Bill (a federal civil servant) did some searching of his own. He went on a hunch that “Black Dan” had not registered his youngest son as William, but rather as Angus as he had originally wanted. Sure enough, the provincial records showed an Angus McLean being born to Daniel & Catherine McLean of Keewatin on 17 July, 1901.

With this proof, and the recollections of the relatives, grandpa finally got his pension. And to ensure that he was named what both of his parents wanted, he had his named officially changed to William Angus McLean.

For those interested in researching Vital Statistics in Ontario, the Government of Ontario has a great site -Ontario Vital Statistics: Registrations of Births, Marriages and Deaths. Here you will be taken through the process of looking up a Birth, Marriage or Death in the Province of Ontario. These records are not available on the web site, but may be:

  • consulted at the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd., Toronto,
  • borrowed through the Inter-library Loan Department of your public library,
  • borrowed from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through their Family History Centres,
  • Purchased directly from the Ontario Genealogical Society.

    To find the birth registration for my grandfather, which allowed me to have a Primary Source for his birth I went to the Ontario Vital Statistics: Registrations of Births, Marriages and Deaths web site.

    Once there, I clicked on “Finding a Birth Registration -A Pathfinder”, and then scrolled down to the date range that covered his birth year. Since he was born in 1901, I clicked on “...Between July 1869 & Dec. 1912”.

    This took me to the page that gave me the microfilm number for the index that lists his birth. In his case I find that I can:

  • either go to my local public library and request that they order in film # MS 931, Reel 13 through the Inter Library Loan Program, or
  • Order and view film # 2073810 at my local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Centre.
    In my case, my local library was closer.

    When the film came in, I loaded it into the reader and scrolled through until I found his record. This gave me his birth registration number, which I then used to the order the microfilm that held a copy of his birth registration.

    I hope this helps? I am no expert at this, but I thought that sharing my personal experience may help others.

    Rob McLean
    Host – Rainy River Ontario GenWeb

    1 In 1968, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) was just two years old, and there were many disbelievers in the program. My grandfather wasn't one of them.

    Ontario Vital Statistics registrations can also be searched at these websites:

  • Ontario Vital Statistics Project (free website offering transcripts)
  • Family Search Pilot (free website offering an index)
  • (subscription-based website offering images)
    For more information about Ontario Vital Statistics, what years are available and where they can be found, please see OntarioGenWeb.