Monday, 5 December 2016

What You May Find in Government Papers and Journals

Government publications are a vastly underused resource to find our ancestors. We have visited the Sessional Papers a few times in this blog, and today we will explore some other types of publications. Most of my examples are from Canadian works, but you may find the same types of records in your country of research. Below I have links for the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

In the journals, as in the sessional papers, some years you will find lists of names and other years just statistical numbers by county. There is an index in the front to guide you to possibilities.

This page from the Public Accounts for the Province of Canada¹, 1851 shows an example of both... numbers of licenses issued to Auctioneers by district or port, and a nominal return of ferry operators.

Looking further, in 1880 there was a case in the Court of Chancery involving the ferry at Ameliasburgh, though by then there was a different ferryman... (looking to see where Ameliasburgh is I got curious and distracted haha).

The Dominion Annual Register and Review is a political paper, but don't let that fool you! In the 1879 issue there is a Militia section with names of men who joined Cadets, and those who won matches at Wimbleton! A rifle match that is. Team Canada sailed to Liverpool to compete against the British.

According to the website of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association...
"Canadian Teams had been attending the Annual Matches in England since 1870, the first Team being sent by the Ontario Rifle Association. The first DCRA Team went to Wimbledon in 1873 and continued to do so each year until the matches moved to Bisley in 1889."

In 1986 my husband was a member of the DCRA and the vice president of the Alberta Rifle Association. He was invited to Ottawa to try out for the Commonwealth Games, but sadly he didn't make it.

In these papers you will also find appointments and promotions of public servants, obituaries of notable (not necessarily well known) people, and some newsworthy trials. In the section titled Remarkable Occurrences you will find suicides and accidental deaths. This section was included from the years 1878 to 1886. In the back of the publication there is an index of all names mentioned in the paper.

Speaking of Militia, if you have a military ancestor you will want to take a look at the Reports of the Department of Militia and Defense (made for the Sessional Papers). Here you will find names of those who passed exams or were awarded prizes at the Military College as well as general workings of the military.

In the Journal of the House of Assembly, Lower Canada 1793 you will find names of those chosen to serve in the House of Assembly, and other names throughout.  This publication is in English and French.

I had one ancestor who passed the Preliminary Exam for entering Civil Service, but he did not pass the Qualifying Exam.  I found that out, plus more about the exams and the examiners by looking at the Report of the Board of Civil Service Examiners.

At British History Online  there is an excellent online searchable collection of parliamentary papers, including the Journals of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Put keywords of names and places in the search box and pick your filters on the main search page. I typed in Loddiswell (where my ancestors lived in Devon) and I got 60 results. Then I typed in the name Tait and since this is a family of Scottish Border reivers it did not surprise me to find five instances where my Middle March Tait's were trespassing at the Borders in 1523.

To find out more about the provinces of Canada you can also do a search at Internet Archive for "Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of..."

¹Province of Canada was formed by the Act of Union of 1840, merging Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Province of Canada ceased to exist with Confederation in 1867.  

Relevant Links

Public Accounts for the Province of Canada

Related posts:  Sessional Papers

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