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- November 2001
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When North America was first settled, there were no borders. Even after the northern part of the continent was divided into the United States and Canada, the border between them was little more than a formality. Families, Shermans among them, moved, migrated, and intermarried freely back and forth across the border. Should you find your Sherman line has strayed north, it may help to know what resources are available.
The National Archives
The main repository for any country’s records is its national archives. Canada is no exception. The National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada are headquartered in the same building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ontario. Just a few blocks down the street from the Parliament Buildings and close to many of the major hotels, it is well worth a visit if you are in Ottawa. There is no parking available right at the Archives, but there are a few commercial parking lots within a few blocks walk and the public transportation system in Ottawa is one of the best in North America.
In the archives, you will find a variety of public records and historical documents of interest to the genealogist and family history researcher. I will deal with the main categories of these documents later. The National Library of Canada has microfilm copies of as many Canadian newspapers as can be found, city directories, family and local histories, the periodicals of genealogical and historical societies, provincial gazetteers, atlases and geographical dictionaries.
Before you go:
As with any research trip, your chances of success when visiting the National Archives of Canada will increase if you prepare before your visit. Gather as much information as you can so that you will know the location and time periods you wish to search. Try to have several topics you can pursue. That way, if one line of inquiry proves fruitless, you can switch to another. Finally, don’t lock yourself in. Leave yourself open to serendipity.
One of the best tools to help you prepare for a visit to the archives is their web site (http://www.archives.ca) You can use their ArchiviaNet search tool to identify specific microfilm reels and specific records that you may wish to search in more detail.
Because not all records are stored onsite, it may be necessary to submit a request to have them brought to the reading room from an off site storage facility. If you are coming from outside Ottawa, you will want to be sure that the documents and records you wish to use are available when you are in the city.
On your first visit:
On your first visit to the archives, it will be necessary to register for a research pass. There are separate passes for the archives and the library, which must be renewed annually. Both can be obtained in the main lobby of the building between the hours of 8:30 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday. On your first visit, set aside time to talk to the genealogical consultant who is on duty in the reference room of the archives. This consultant can give you a short tour of the facilities, show you where research materials are found and help you use the various finding aids.
On this and other visits:
Each time you visit the National Archives/National Library, it is necessary to check in with the security guard in the lobby. You will be asked to sign in and indicate whether you will be using the facilities of the Archives or the Library. You are not allowed to take coats or briefcases to the upper floors of the building so the guard will direct you to the cloakrooms and give you a key for a locker where you can store your personal belongings. There are no restrictions on the writing materials you can bring in and laptop computers are permitted. Once in possession of a research pass, you are in a position to take advantage of the extended hours in the reading rooms of both the Library and the Archives. These hours are from 8:30 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., Monday to Friday and from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. on weekends and statutory holidays.
If you can’t visit in person:
Even if you can’t come to Ottawa to visit the Archive in person, you can take advantage of their facilities. I have already mentioned their Internet web site at http://www.archives.ca. Much of the genealogy information can be found using the Archivia search tool. Specific microfilms can be ordered through interlibrary loan. The archives maintain a list of freelance researchers who can do research on your behalf. If you can identify specific records you want to see, for a fee you can order photocopies.
Prior to 1851, the census information may be an aggregate, statistical summaries, or it may list head of households only. Beginning in 1851, the census became a nominal roll - listing every member of each household. The censuses of 1851, 1861, and 1871 contain additional specific agricultural information. You may find information about acreage, number and type of buildings, livestock and crops. The 1901 census lists date of birth and not just the age of an individual. If not born in Canada, it also lists the date when the individual came to Canada.
At this time, the 1901 census is the most recent census available in Canada. It is possible that this may be the last census to be released to the public. Gathering census information is the responsibility of Statistics Canada, a department of the federal government of Canada. Statistics Canada has taken the position that guarantees of privacy given by the Canadian Government in 1905 means that all census information shall remain confidential in perpetuity.
As a result, Statistics Canada has refused to turn over any post 1901 census information to the National Archives of Canada where they would be made public after 92 years have elapsed. Gordon A. Watts has spearheaded a drive to have the legislation changed to permit the release of the post 1901 censuses after a suitable period of time has elapsed. A full discussion of the question can be found online at http://www.globalgenealogy.com/Census. Petitions in support of legislative change to make release of census information possible can be downloaded, including a petition of support for non-residents.
As an alternative, voter lists may provide a partial replacement for census information. Voter lists only contain the names and addresses of people qualified to vote for the years following 1935. It is not the best source of information, but it can provide confirmation that a person was living in a specific location. In some cases, students may be listed in their home riding and not the riding in which they were living at the time of the election.
Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages did not come into practise in Canada until the last half of the 19th century and they are a provincial responsibility. The National Archives of Canada do have some parish registers and some published marriage indexes. There are also some cemetery listings, but these may be out of date. Be sure to note the publication date.
The National Archives of Canada has land petitions for Quebec and Lower Canada for the years 1764 to 1841 and for Upper Canada and the United Province of Canada for the years 1741 to 1867. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia land petitions are held in the provincial archives. Deeds and land patents are also held in Provincial archives.
This tax information can yield much valuable information if you know the person’s place of residence. It may include other information. In general, this information is accessible by the public, but some information may be protected under the Privacy Act.
Wills and Estate Records:
Although generally kept in provincial archives, some wills and estate records can be found in the reference room of the National Archives.
This is the area where the Archives of Canada can provide much information. In general, Muster rolls, pay lists, medal registers, land grant applications and certificates of service are available for all Canadian military action beginning with the War of 1812. These include the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada, 1837-38, the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1878, the Red River Rebellion of 1870, the North West Rebellion of 1885, the South African (Boer) war, 1899-1902, the First World War and subsequent military action. Records of the War of 1812 includes pension records and the Fenian Raids includes bounty claims.
It is the First World War that provides the most readily available information. The attestation certificates of most members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force have been digitized and are available online through ArchiviaNet. A recent search of this database yielded 156 Sherman/Sharman/Sheerman/Shearman listings. In many cases, the individual entry includes a scanned copy of the individual’s attestation papers. This document lists place of birth, name and address of next of kin, trade or calling, marital status, prior military service, religion, and a physical description including any distinctive marks or scars. If you are luck and a parent is listed as next of kin, there may be an exact address for the next of kin.
Ships passenger lists for the years 1865 – 1919 have been microfilmed and are readily available in the National Archives of Canada Reading Room. Some lists are available for ships arriving before 1865, but these are patchy and incomplete. Border entry records for persons arriving from the United States are available for the years 1908 – 1918. Arrivals for the years 1919 – 1935 are in the custody of the National Archives, but I’m not clear on whether these records are available to the public. Post 1935 records are held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
No discussion of immigration to Canada is complete without mention of this special class of immigrants. Between the years 1869 and the early 1930s, over 100,000 children were sent to Canada by over fifty British childcare organizations. The lucky ones were adopted by families wanting children. The rest were placed, often on farms, where the desire was for cheap labour. They were indentured servants. Most lost contact with their families in England. Many lost their identites. The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa in cooperation with the National Archives of Canada is in the process of extracting the names of these children from ships passenger lists and other immigration documents. The results are in a searchable database. This is a work in progress and being updated constantly. A recent search of this database yielded 17 Sherman/Sharman/Sheerman/Shearman listings.
Other Government Documents:
There are several other searchable databases online. The first is the Postal database which includes all postal stations bearing the name Sherman and all postmasters to have the name Sherman, either as given of as family name. The relevant document itself is not available online, but there is a complete reference number which will allow the researcher to request the specific file.
The other is a database of all government documents. The online database gives few clues except the reference of the document, be it a microfilm reel number or the box in which the document is stored, and the title of the file. The specific document must be requested and may take several weeks to be available.
Many records are not held by the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, but are kept by the archives of the various provinces. To help you contact these provincial archives, I have listed their postal addresses below along with the relevant URLs.
Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador
St John’s NF A1C 2C9
Public Archives of Nova Scotia
6016 University Avenue,
Halifax NX B3H 1W4
Public Archives and Records Office (Prince Edward
P.O. Box 1000,
Charlottetown PE C1A 7M4
http://www.gov.pe.ca/ for more information
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 6000
Fredricton NB E3B
Archives nationales du Quebec
Direction des Archives nationales de l’Ouest du Quebec
1945, rue Mullins
Montreal QC H3K 1N9
Direction des Archives nationales de l’Est du Quebec
1210 avenue du Séminaire
Sainte-Foy QC G1V 4N1
Archives of Ontario
77 Grenville Street
Toronto ON M7A 2R9
Provincial Archives of Manitoba
200 Vaughan Street
Winnipeg MB R3C 1T5
(204) 945-3971 or (204) 945-3972
Saskatchewan Archives Board
University of Regina
Regina SK S4S 0A2
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon SK S7N 5A4
Provincial Archives of Alberta
12845 – 102 Avenus
Edmonton AB T5N 0M6
British Columbia Archives
655 Belleville Street
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
Yukon Territories Archives
(E-5) P.O. Box 2703
Whitehorse YT Y1A 2C6
Archives of the Northwest Territories
c/o Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
P.O. Box 1320
Yellowknife NT X1A 2L9
In 1768 a Shawnee child was born in a village in Ohio. The child was named Tecumseh. Two years later, in 1770, a Cherokee child was born in Tennessee. The child was named Sequoya. Fifty years later, in 1820, a red-haired child was born in Lancaster, Ohio. The child was named Tecumseh Sherman, in honor of the great Shawnee chief who was born 52 years earlier. Although these three individuals came from very different cultures and backgrounds and would seem to have little in common, they share a unique commonality. What binds these three together? Simply, the Largest Living Thing on the Planet!
The General Sherman Tree, a giant Sequoia in California's Sequoia National Forest, stands unchallenged as the largest living thing, in sheer volume, on the face of the earth. This tree claims pre-eminence through its gigantic mass. No other living organism on the planet Earth can match the volume of organic material produced by this one tree. An awesome specimen of the giant trees named in 1847 by Austrian botanist Stephan Englicher to honor the great Cherokee nation leader Sequoya, the tree was named "General Sherman" in 1879 by James Wolverton to honor William Tecumseh Sherman, (the man named for another great leader, the Shawnee Tecumseh), whom Wolverton served under in the Civil War.
Born about 300-700 B.C., right where it stands today to
the General Sherman Tree started from a seed that weighed 1/6000th of
ounce. The basic scientific facts of the General Sherman Tree's great
are by themselves imposing, at the very least:
These figures suggest that the General Sherman Tree is not only the world's largest living thing, but perhaps also one of the world's fastest growing organisms. Based on the age estimate, the General Sherman Tree has produced an average of 21 cubic feet of trunk growth every year of it's life, an astonishing record.
To get a more visual idea of the size of the General Sherman Tree - in other words, just what do 52,000 cubic feet amount to - let's look at this immense tree from other perspectives:
The General Sherman Tree is so old that it was alive in the year 0, and it was already ancient when it's namesake was marching to the sea! Most of recorded history has taken place while this giant General was growing. It began growing at about the same time the Great Wall of China or the Greek Parthenon was being built. It has been around since the time of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. It was a maturing tree when Christ was born and nearly 2000 years old when Columbus arrived in the New World.
The red color of a young sequoia, like the red-haired young general it was named for, has mellowed in the General Sherman Tree, the weathered gray of the ancient tree showing its age, much like the graying, older General in his lifetime.
Which brings us back to the original query of this article - what do the Shawnee "Tecumseh", the Cherokee "Sequoya" and Tecumseh Sherman, the red-headed boy from Lancaster, Ohio have in common?
How are they connected? Connection. Connectedness.
How things and people are connected is the very essence of genealogy. Deane Starr, a Unitarian minister once described his experience of "connectedness" when he visited the General Sherman Tree in 1986. Paying homage to the great tree he exclaimed, "Two-thousand-five-hundred years old! It boggles the mind! Five hundred years before the time of Jesus! Two thousand years before the time of Columbus!" Sitting in awe in the presence of the tree, bathing himself in its grandeur, he writes, "The trunk is scarred and blackened, the brands of countless forest fires that it has endured and survived. It is almost perpendicular to the earth, and all the way to the top, it is a mass of scars. Great branches, easily four feet in diameter, have been broken off, leaving jagged and painful edges, stumps of limbs without prostheses. Here and there as the tree lifts to the sky, tender new shoots of branches and leaves, thirsting, and throbbing with green life, cling to the great trunk while straining toward the light. I am in communion with this tree. It does not speak English, and I do not speak Sequoia. But no matter. Our communion is not a communion of common language - nor of common experience - nor of common consciousness. It is much deeper than these. It is a communion of common being, of common participation in life, of the infusion of eternal energy into eternal matter, an infusion that has formed two separate discrete organisms, which are still, in their essences, one. The tree and I are not only infused with this common life: we are this common life, the life that was, and is, and is to be, world without end!"
Richard Gilbert, a colleague of Starr's, commented on his friend's experience at the General Sherman Tree. If I had to define the essence of genealogy and what it can teach us, I could not find better words than his: "We are held together by an invisible link with the earth on which we live and move and have our being. We are part of a mystic oneness with all who have gone before, of prophet and poets, fathers and mothers, saints and sages. We are members, one of another, in community, sharing our joys and sorrows, victories and defeats. We are citizens of humanity, nestled together to strive for the common good. We are actors on the stage of history, bound to one another by a common destiny of weal and woe. We are sparks of divinity, glowing in a cosmos whose origin and destiny we do not know, but whose mystery we celebrate. We rejoice in that which binds us to one another, to the world of nature, to the cosmic mysteries."
In conclusion, it is safe to say that the Shermans, both
tree and people,
are very much alive and well in today's world. Just this past May,
George W. Bush, himself a descendent of the Hon. Phillip Sherman,
Sequoia National Park, where he spoke of his $5 billion plan to improve
the national parks and launch what he called "a new environmentalism
the 21st century." Before returning home, the President made a stop at
the General Sherman Tree. From beneath the old General and other giant
Sequoias that stand around it, President Bush spoke to park personnel
others, saying, "They were here when the Roman Empire fell, and they
here when the Roman Empire rose. And had Christ himself stood on this
he would have been in the shade of this very tree."