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dave obee Naturalization indexes -- An example

By Dave Obee

The naturalization indexes published in the Canada Gazette from 1917 through 1951 can be an invaluable aid for tracking down distant relatives. The indexes record the names of people from non-Commonwealth countries who chose to put their loyalty to Canada on record.

Along with the name of each person, the indexes show the date they were naturalized, their occupations, their previous citizenship, and -- a critical point for genealogists -- their town or city of residence at the time of naturalization.

How do they help? Here's an example, from my own research.

I've been gathering information on all the German residents, related to me or not, who lived in a group of villages in the Volhynia area of Ukraine, about 80 miles west of Kiev. The release of Canadian passenger lists from 1925 through 1935 proved to be a gold mine for my study.

I've found more than a hundred of these ethnic Germans in the passenger lists from 1926 through 1929, when Soviet leader Josef Stalin effectively closed the border to emigration. (As a side note, I've found that these ethnic Germans from Ukraine generally arrived in Canada in one of two ways: by a Holland America ship to Halifax, or by a Canadian Pacific ship to Quebec.)

I've ordered copies of many manifests from the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. At times, there have been pleasant surprises, when I've discovered a second family of interest on a sheet, along with the one I already knew about.

One example is the manifest for the Empress of Scotland, which sailed from Southampton for Quebec in August 1928. The page contained the two people I was looking for -- plus another family that I didn't expect.

Rudolph Schmidt

This extra family was a Schmidt family, listed as being from Lasovitz, Volhynien Gov. That would be Wjasowitz, Volhynia -- and I'm keenly interested in the Schmidts from there, because I'm related to them by marriage.

This family was made up of Rudolph Schmidt, age 31; his wife Erna, age 26; and their children Arthur, three, and Lydia, two. Their destination, according to the manifest, was Bruderheim, northeast of Edmonton in central Alberta, where Rudolph had an uncle named Gustav Werner.

So I checked the Bruderheim local history book, From Bush To Bushels. The Werner family was listed, but there was nothing for the Schmidts.

Back to the passenger list, to check to see whether anyone in the family had been naturalized. I was in luck! There were dates handwritten above the names. Those dates indicate when the people in question had applied to become naturalized citizens of Canada. Rudolph had applied in March 1946; Erna in November, 1948; and Arthur in February, 1948.

Armed with that bit of information, it was off to the library to check the back issues of the Canada Gazette. The Gazette lists people alphabetically by the month in which their naturalization process was completed, so I knew I should start my search in the summer of 1946 (to catch Rudolph) and plan to check through to about 1950.

In a matter of minutes, I had discovered Rudolph. He was in the listing for April 1948, which was published in the Canada Gazette on Sept. 25, 1948. I then found Erna on the list from June 1949, which was in the Canada Gazette on Oct. 22, 1949.

The indexes said Rudolph's previous nationality had been German, and Erna's was German by marriage. That came as a bit of a surprise, but can probably be explained in a couple of different ways.

The most important bit of information came from the place of residence. Both were listed as living in Thorsby, Alberta, southwest of Edmonton. That sent me off to find the local history book for Thorsby, A Patchwork of Memories. It had a three-page spread of the Rudolph Schmidt family, confirming that it was the one I was looked for.

It turned out that Rudolph had become quite well known in central Alberta as an expert applicator of plaster and stucco. He had also built about 250 stone fences. He and Erna celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1975.

I would not have found that information without the clues contained in the Canada Gazette's naturalization indexes.

It's possible the indexes could have contained more than one Rudolph, or more than one Erna. That's why it was necessary to check for both names, and check several years of the Gazette, rather than simply searching until one entry was found. If I had discovered more than one entry for Rudolph (or Rudolf), then I would have had a few more leads to follow.

Further research into this family was made possible because of one source -- the naturalization indexes in the Canada Gazette, one of the little-known sources for Canadian genealogy.


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