I’m a genealogist. I become easily distracted.
And that’s what happened to me once again while I was watching a recorded version of the Bryan Cranston episode of Who Do You Think You Are? See yesterday’s post about this.
But the distraction, as is often the case, was worth it because I came across an incredible resource that may help improve my understanding of times when my ancestors lived.
I discovered a wealth of information in masters and doctoral theses — available online.
Library and Archives Canada
Theses Canada is a collaborative program between Library and Archives Canada and nearly 70 universities accredited by Universities Canada. It was launched in 1965 at the request of the deans of Canadian graduate schools.
The best way to use this website is to search through Advanced Search and choose the option, Electronic Theses. That way, you will see only what is available to read online. I entered keywords, such as Ireland, Fenian, and Montreal. I also entered some surnames.
Searching Fenian resulted in: The 1866 Fenian raid on Canada West: a study of colonial perceptions and reactions towards the Fenians in the Confederation era.
McGill University‘s online archives of theses is also excellent, especially because of the large number of theses available and the search feature.
The McGill search feature was the best I could find for researching Canadian theses. What I like is that you can search by keyword or topic. Not knowing what may be available, I sometimes review the list of topics and choose one of them to browse. Genealogists may want to start their search in History and then narrow down the results by selecting a sub-topic, such as Canadian, Church, or Military.
A search of “Fenian raid” produced 16 results, including:
- Robert Sellar and the Huntingdon Gleaner: the conscience of rural protestant Quebec, 1863-1919
- The county of Missisquoi in the Eastern Townships of the Province of Quebec (1770’s-1867)
- Preaching the Great War: Canadian Anglicans and the war sermon 1914-1918.
A search by topic and sub-topic, History and United States, uncovered this 1927 thesis:
- Lord Palmerston’s diplomatic partisanship in favor of the Confederate States during the American Civil War, April, 1861 – October 24th, 1862.
A search of “New France” resulted in more than 300 hits, including these:
- The French-Canadian under British rule, 1760-1800
- “To be sold, a Negro wench” : slave ads of the Montreal Gazette, 1785-1805.
Université de Montréal
The Université de Montréal also offers online access to theses, and the vast majority are available in French only.
The good news for English-speaking genealogists is that the web page and search terms are available in English. While it may be best to search for French keywords, all the theses I looked at were tagged with both French and English words. So, try Ireland or Irlande.
The thesis database on Concordia University‘s website is worth reviewing if you can visit the library in person or if just to see what is available. I could not find a thesis online, only titles and some abstracts. This database would be useful to family historians conducting in-depth research who can visit the university’s library. Or perhaps the university handles long-distance requests.
For theses from 1998 to 2002, the university directs researchers to Theses Canada. Students with a university card have fuller online access.
Other Canadian universities
I checked the University of Toronto and Queen’s University’s websites for an online thises database, but could only see where students and staff with cards and/or login IDs would have online access.
Maps and illustrations
Some theses and dissertations include maps and illustrations, so scan through the thesis to find them.
Bibliographies and appendices
Look at the bibliographies and appendices at the back of each thesis. Sometimes these sections will hold more information for you than what you will find in the dissertation.
Remember that the authors who submitted these theses own the copyright for the work and retain their intellectual property rights. No one can reproduce the material or a portion of it without the copyright holder’s expressed consent.
I would be interested to learn about other Canadian universities that have a good online database of theses. I bet some American universities have excellent online databases that would help both Canadian and American genealogists. Any suggestions?