Ryan Taylor Guide to First Nations research in Ontario
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By Ryan Taylor

There is a new handbook offering guidance in First Nations research in Ontario.

Anyone with aboriginal ancestry knows how difficult it can be to get a handle on your family. David K. Faux’s Understanding Ontario First Nations Genealogical Records: Sources and Case Studies offers an overview and then specific advice on how to proceed. At this point, Faux’s readers will spot an anomaly.

From the evidence in his book, the only native Canadians in Ontario were those belonging to the Six Nations around Brant County. No natives in the Bruce, near Deseronto or anywhere in Northern Ontario. The book is an example, all too common in genealogical circles, of giving a title which makes the book seem like more than it is, presumably to generate sales.

That said, the book is good at what it does attempt to do. There are discussions of church records, pay lists, access at the National Archives, deeds, and with each there are case studies.

Although the use of case studies in teaching genealogy has always existed, in the last few years there has been a ‘growth industry’ in this area. At the recent National Genealogical Society conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, four experienced genealogical lecturers were invited to contribute master classes using their most difficult cases. These were the highlight of the conference for many attendees. The experts wrestled with the complexities of their examples and showed others their techniques and advanced methodology.

So Faux’s explanations of Six Nations research is much helped by the examples. His exploration of anthropological and historical records, not usually thought of as contributing to genealogy, will be helpful to those who need new avenues to travel.

The extensive bibliographical references are a goldmine.

Understanding Ontario First Nations Genealogical Records is available from the Ontario Genealogical Society, 40 Orchard View Blvd., Suite 102, Toronto M4R 1B9, 416 489-0734, or by e-mail. Also see the OGS website. The book’s price is $25.


I recently spoke at the Midland Writers’ Conference in Midland, Michigan. This was the 23rd annual day-long workshop sponsored by the Midland Public Library. There is a keynote speaker, usually a well-known author, and then lectures on writing techniques from assorted specialists. The keynote lecture is given in consort with the Matrix series of lectures and concerts at the Midland arts centre, which is next to the library.

Our keynote speaker was Homer Hickam, author of The Rocket Boys (also known as October Sky), his own story of manufacturing rockets in West Virginia in the 1950s. The boys’ last rocket was six feet high and went 36 miles in to the air. Hickam later fufilled his dream of working for NASA and still makes impromptu rockets. Last year on a visit to Montana, he and his hosts proved that dolls can be rockets too. They created The Ballistic Barbie.

Amateur writers enjoy hearing the tales of successful professionals, especially when they are as well-told as Hickam’s. The other speakers discussed memoir writing, Christian fiction, poetry, and dealing with editors, as well as family history. I especially enjoyed children’s author Shirley Neitzel, who displayed a dozen of her published works while showing us samples of rejection letters she had received from a wide variety of publishers. She demonstrated how to use the rejection letters in a positive way to advance one’s writing career.

Midland is not far from Saginaw. It is an attractive city with large public gardens, a riverside walking and biking trail and a modest and charming farmers’ market. Interested writers might want to consider attending next year’s conference and perhaps some of the Matrix events also. Information about it, when it becomes available, can be found on the library’s website.

Column copyright © 2002 Ryan Taylor

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