Finding your indigenous heritage can be an important part of understanding who you are and discovering your place in the world.
Our histories are so diverse and complex that it can be easy to lose the thread of our family history over time. It’s perfectly normal to want to find it again.
Finding your bloodline can be complicated and might take time, but uncovering your ties to your indigenous ancestry can help you to define your own identity.
There are a variety of resources available to help trace indigenous genealogy. Though no one resource exists to determine ancestry with 100% accuracy, it is possible to gather enough information to give yourself a solid picture of your heritage.
The Importance of Cultural Identity
Everyone belongs to their own form of culture. Understanding your cultural identity is a lifelong process that is heavily influenced by our surroundings, the people around us, and our experiences. Cultural identity provides a sense of belonging.
For Indigenous Peoples, culture is of great importance, as it defines who they are, where they come from, and how they relate to one another. Culture is defined by the teaching, traditions, ceremonies, values, and spiritual practices of the ancestors, allowing those who come next to feel connected not only to their ancestors and their heritage, but to a unifying culture and way of living.
Being connected to one’s ancestors allows one to be better connected to their defining culture, making ancestry and family history a critical component of discovering a sense of self and a sense of belonging.
Who Were My Ancestors?
People have lived in Canada for thousands of years. Over the years, European settlement has made it difficult to trace First Nations ancestors, but the research only continues to grow as more and more people start to wonder, “Am I indigenous?”.
From physical libraries and archives to digital materials, a wide variety of resources exist to help people like you discover your indigenous heritage.
If you’re unsure how to even begin to find out if your family is indigenous, the Library and Archives Canada has compiled a thorough guide to help you get started.
A few of the best resources to consult are:
If you have family members that you can talk to about your ancestry, it is important to consult with them first. They might be able to point you to family histories, heirlooms, or records that might provide you with context about your bloodline and clues as to how much information is already known about your history.
Write down as much information as you can about every generation. Start with yourself and work back in time. Include names, dates, and places of residence. Keeping notes and compiling information is a crucial part of the process, as it will allow you to figure out where to start when you begin to conduct research.
Libraries and Archives
The research process might be complex, as many records are private and often scattered throughout the country. You might find you need to travel between library and archives facilities to locate specific records. Information changes and is often reconstructed over time, so finding consistent information can be difficult.
With diligence, however, libraries and archives can be a great place to start learning about your family history.
Websites and Digital Records
There is also a wealth of digital records and resources available to you that can be accessed from all over the world.
Research sites and universities have compiled helpful lists that can link you to books, articles, and websites that can aid you in your search.
Though careful research can take years of dedication, there is also the option of new DNA technology that helps us track our lineage.
By submitting your DNA to companies like Ancestry, they can provide you with precise geographic information about where your bloodline started and even information about living relatives. They track your ethnicity across thousands of regions and match you to others who have taken a DNA test.
The results of these kinds of tests can provide you with a great starting point for further research or help you dig deeper into research you’ve already done.
Understanding Your History
No matter how you choose to tackle this process, understanding your indigenous genealogy can be a culturally fulfilling and spiritually grounding experience. We all want to know where we come from. Learning our ancestry seeks to define or reinforce who we are and our place in the world.
We are lucky to live in an age where many tools are available to us to conduct this search. Though it might be difficult, using your resources wisely can unlock your past and help you discover where your journey started.
If you’re still feeling daunted, here’s one more great resource for figuring out how to begin.
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