Celebrates Canada's Black History With Largest Collection of Online Records - Highlighting the Black Battalion, Abraham Shadd, and Ancestors of Hundreds of Thousands of Black Canadians

    In honour of Black History Month, historical records allow almost 800,000
    black Canadians enhanced opportunity to uncover their heritage

    TORONTO, Feb. 5 /CNW/ -, Canada's leading online family
history website, celebrates Black History Month with an unprecedented array of
online historical records that trace the lives of black Canadians dating back
to pre-Confederation, including records from the First World War's Second
Construction Battalion, the only all-black military battalion in Canada's
history. These records are a treasure trove of information for almost 800,000
black Canadians living today.
    Public records, personal narratives, legal documents and letters all
detail the contributions of the black community in defending our country, in
government, in forging new ideas and in helping lead thousands to freedom
through their involvement in the Underground Railroad.
    Some of the significant black Canadians that appear in these records
include members of Canada's Second Construction Battalion. At the beginning of
the First World War, black men were turned away at recruiting stations when
they tried to enlist for battle. Many would not accept the policy that
excluded them based on racial grounds.
    After lobbying the government, 605 men from across Canada formed a
segregated unit on July 5, 1916 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. The attestation papers
of these men can be found in the Canadian Soldiers of World War I collection,
most notably:

    -   Roy Fells from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was awarded the Military Medal
        while serving with the famed 25th Battalion

    -   Curley Christian born in Pennsylvania, was the only quadrilateral
        amputee to survive the war and he was present at the unveiling of the
        Vimy Ridge memorial in 1936

    -   Jeremiah Jerry Jones from Truro, Nova Scotia, was remembered for
        crossing the bloody battlefield at Vimy Ridge to take an enemy
        machine gun nest

    -   James Grant from St. Catharine's Ontario, was awarded the Military
        Cross in 1918

    Karen Peterson, Marketing Director,, comments "Historical
records such as attestation papers, censuses and marriage records, to name a
few, are surviving documents that paint a picture of accomplishments of black
Canadians and the important role they played in this country.
    "More and more Canadians are interested in tracing their roots and now,
thanks to the online preservation of these kinds of records, people of any
background can discover where their ancestors came from."
    By making this information widely accessible, is making it
easier for people to uncover and share the personal stories that make up their
family history and heritage.
    Other prominent figures that can be found through various collections on include:

    -   Abraham Doras Shadd (1801-1882) an active member of the American
        Anti-Slavery Society as a conductor for the Underground Railroad and
        President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free
        People of Colour. In 1851 he settled in North Buxton, Ontario and
        became the first black man to be elected into political office as the
        Counselor of Raleigh Township (record found in the Canadian Passenger

    -   William Edward Hall (1827-1904) was the first Canadian Naval Officer
        and the first person of African ancestry, to receive the Victoria
        Cross, the highest military decoration in the British Empire. (record
        found in the 1901 Census)

    -   Ray Lewis (1910-2003) from Hamilton, Ontario was a track and field
        athlete and the first black Canadian-born Olympic medalist. He won a
        bronze medal as part of the 4 x 400 relay race in the 1932 Los
        Angeles Olympics (record found in 1911 Census)

    -   Delos Davis (1846-1915) was born in Maryland and came to Canada via
        the Underground Railroad to Colchester, Ontario, a destination for
        slaves escaping the US. On November 10, 1910 he became the first
        black person appointed as a King's Counsel (Records found in 1891
        Census and 1901 Census)

    -   Anderson R. Abbott (1837-1913) was the first black Canadian doctor to
        be granted a medical license under the Medical Board of Upper Canada.
        He participated in the American Civil War and attended the death bed
        of Abraham Lincoln (multiple records found including marriage and
        death certificates)

    -   Lincoln Macauley Alexander Sr. was the father of Lincoln Alexander,
        Canada's first black Member of Parliament and the 24th Lt. Governor
        of Ontario. Alexander Sr. can be found in the Canadian Passenger
        Lists, arriving in St. John from St. Vincent to start his new life in
        Canada on April 13, 1920

    -   William Daniel Peterson and Kathleen Olivia John were the parents of
        internationally acclaimed pianist Oscar Peterson. Their marriage on
        October 9, 1918 in Montreal can be found in the Drouin Collection

    For the many Canadians who can trace their family roots to slavery in the
United States, offers access to a wealth of records through the
African American Research Center ( Some of
the records available include:

    -   Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874 - Shortly after the Civil War in
        March 1865, several New York businessmen started the Freedman's
        Savings and Trust Company, or Freedman's Bank - a savings bank where
        soldiers and former slaves could invest their money. The Freedman's
        Bank records show depositors' names and sometimes other personal
        information such as age, place of birth, and occupation

    -   Slave Schedules, 1850 & 1860 - Slaves were counted separately during
        the 1850 and 1860 U.S. censuses. In most schedules, the names of land
        owners only were recorded; individual slaves were not named but were
        simply numbered and can be distinguished only by age, sex, and color

    -   Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1718-1820 - Detailed
        information on over 100,000 slaves who arrived in Louisiana between
        1718 and 1820. The records include rich personal details such as,
        gender, race, birthplace, family names and relationships, skill or
        trade, personality traits, and information about how the person was

    -   Slave Narratives - A collection of one-on-one interviews with more
        than 3,500 former slaves collected over a ten-year period from 1929
        to 1939. The interviews, written exactly as they were dictated to
        preserve the spoken dialect of the former slave, are very rich in
        family history data and often identify ages, places of residence and
        birth, and names of spouses, children, siblings, and parents. is offering visitors a free 14-day trial at

 was launched in January 2006 and has 410 million Canadian
names in such collections as the 1851, 1891, 1901, 1906 and 1911 Censuses of
Canada, Ontario and British Columbia vital records from as early as 1813,
Quebec Vital Records (The Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, Canadian Passenger
Lists, 1865 to 1935 and U.S. / Canada Border Crossings from 1895 to 1956.

    (*) is part of the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly
owned by The Generations Network, Inc.), which contains seven billion names in
26,000 historical record collections. To date more than 8.3 million family
trees have been created and 810 million names and 14 million photographs
uploaded. 6.6 million unique visitors logged on to an Ancestry website in
November 2008.(*)

    The Ancestry global network of family history websites -
in Canada, in the UK, in Australia, in the US, in Germany, in
Italy, in France, in Sweden and
in China.

    (*)comScore, Unique Visitors, November 2008

For further information:

For further information: INTERVIEWS, IMAGES, CASE STUDIES: Media
Profile, Patrick Erlich, (416) 504-8464,

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