Thursday, January 19, 2012

The possibility of a One Place Study

Recently, I am finding myself drawn to an idea that might be disastrous in terms of my time and energy. I want to do a One Place Study. Basically, what that means is that I want to look at a single town, and do a complete genealogy of it. As in, go through every vital record, every census record, every record I can get my hands on, and compile this information in some useful way.

The place I want to study is St. François Xavier, Manitoba. I thought of this town for several reasons. First, it's pretty close by. I mean, I can't bike there (simply because the Trans Canada Highway is very bike-unfriendly), but as long as I can convince Mr. Canadian Family to drive for 45 minutes each way, I can get there. That means I can take pictures, transcribe tombstones, and all kinds of fun things like that.

I don't really have more ancestors there than other places, but for some reason I've always enjoyed really branching out on my family there. It's one of the places where my ancestors were during the period of 1881-1916, meaning there are census records to make things easy. That also means that if I find common descendants of my ancestors there, they're pretty closely related to me, which is always fun. The population is also fairly small, sitting at just a bit over 1000 today (though I think the definition of the town must have changed over time, at least as far as census subdistricts go; all the census numbers make sense except for 1901, when almost 2300 people were enumerated in St. François Xavier).

To be honest, I don't even know how much work this would take. But it just seems like such a fun thing to do. I'm already picturing myself publishing a book and being a minor celebrity within the tiny niche of Manitoba genealogists. :)

So far I've identified a couple of first steps:

  • Join the Manitoba Genealogical Society (I should have done this ages ago anyway). Find out what research has already been done so I'm not reinventing the wheel.
  • Find out how I can access the relevant vital records. Manitoba Archives doesn't have them, and Manitoba Vital Statistics does not allow the public to browse them (you can search them online, but to see the full record you have to order it; that would cost a lot for a whole town!). Hopefully the MGS can help me there. Also, the Family History Centre has the church records for the town, which are baptism, marriage, and burial records, so those would be similar to the vital records.
Are any of you working on a One Place Study? How did you get started on this monumental project?

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