Thanks to the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, I found out about an excellent new resource available to genealogists researching their Canadian roots. Often, in the absence of census records, we suggest that our genealogists check out the voters lists for the area they are researching. We have the municipal voters lists in paper format in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We also have one set of Federal Voters Lists, for 1974. We used to have to borrow other years from Library and Archives Canada on microfilm. Now Ancestry has put up Federal Voters Lists for Canada for 1935-1980. Most of these images have been indexed, but a few of the later years are still only available as images for browsing. (The indexing was done by OCR and if you have a look at some of those later lists, you’ll understand why they haven’t been indexed.) To find your people in the indexed lists, you can go to the Canadian Voters Lists database in Ancestry and type in the name. Keep in mind that OCR indexing is far from perfect and it may still be necessary to browse the lists, if you know someone should be somewhere but their name doesn’t turn up. You can also find people in the un-indexed lists, but in both cases, you will need to know in which electoral district they lived.
To find an electoral district there are a few resources. Not all sources cover all years so you may have to use more than one.
For electoral districts prior to the 2003 reorganization, you can visit the Elections Canada website. This site allows you to search the 301 districts by place name and keyword. Or you can try the Parliament website which has a list of historical ridings. It can’t be searched by town but you can get a list of all ridings in the province and this may help you narrow down your search.
There are also electoral district maps available online at this site, which includes the National Atlas of Canada.
Otherwise you can use print sources such as the Canadian Almanac and Directory, which we do keep, so our collection runs from 1911 on. There is usually a way we can help you find an electoral district, so if these resources don’t help, please ask us.
If you are still in love with the clickety click of the microfilm reader, you can still get these voters’ lists on microfilm. Dave Obee has produced two great finding aids: Federal voters lists in Western Canada, 1935-1979 and Federal voters lists in Ontario 1935-1979 You can find out more about using electoral lists at the Canadian Genealogy Centre.
If you’d like to find out more about the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, visit their website. Information about the discussion list is right there on the front page.
Remember, you can access Ancestry LE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library for free with your library card.
Calgary Municipal Voters List
Community Heritage and Family History Collection