Connecting to Your Past

Many of us are currently working from home and/or physically isolated as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For the first time in my professional career, I am writing this column from the guest room of my home. The dog is very confused at the change in his routine of napping, sunbathing, and neighbourhood watching. 

I can’t help but wonder how this point in time will carry forward in future years of research, particularly family history and genealogy. What stories will be told for generations to come of how people and communities navigated this unprecedented experience? Family structures and social networks are shifting to accommodate the need to maintain connection. And that is the core of all genealogical research; connecting with the past while creating connections to future generations. 

Ancestry Library Edition logoEven though the Thunder Bay Public Library buildings are closed right now, our online resources are available and growing in volume as vendors are stepping up to help with increased levels of free, remote access to collections. The folks over at Ancestry Library Edition have been working hard and are now offering remote public access to the database until at least the end of April 2020. You read that right, you can now use the full Ancestry Library Edition database from the comfort of your own home! This version of the Ancestry suite of products includes international content and collections plus loads of helpful features and tools. Have a question about how it all works or need some help along the way? Feel free to email me at and I will see how I can help (and I promise not to let the dog reply on my behalf). Don’t have a library card already? Just send us an email at to register for one.

Add to this the many resources that continue to be available online through the Thunder Bay Public Library and many local organizations that maintain publicly accessible history collections. I strongly encourage anyone to check out websites and social media accounts to learn what’s out there!

Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History logoSpecific to the TBPL though you’ll find some great information through our website – The Local History & Genealogy section of the site includes A LOT of great info; particularly the online indexes for births, marriages, deaths, and social notices and news dating back to 1875. Indexes are a great remote research tool to see what is available and get yourself organized prior to a visit or reaching out to ask for assistance from afar. Another online TBPL tool is the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History database. There you’ll find thousands of photos, maps, mining, and newspaper records from our local history collection. Maybe you’ve uncovered some precious records during your genealogical journey – share them with others through the Community Contributions option to upload your own material into the database. Digging into connections during the First World War? Check out the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project to learn about all of the contributions made to the war effort by Thunder Bay and area families.

Why not also start scouring the internet for new ideas as well? provides free public access to portions of its collection from home. There are also reams of genealogy databases out there to choose from, along with social media groups dedicated to family history in a variety of ways. While you’re browsing, let the Naxos Music Library keep you company with free streaming of music. Access it for free through the TBPL with your library card 🙂

Who will you find along the way? What will you discover about where you come from? Now is the time to get started, pick up where you left off, connect the dots, or hunt down that elusive thread of curiosity. So stay home, wash your hands, and start connecting to your past. 

Jesse Roberts – If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. 

WWI Thunder Bay Centennial Project Logo

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