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Genealogies at LVB Strategic Negotiations Research

Genealogies & Kinship - a living history

Genealogies are popular today. A number of very good websites offer programs with which to track ancestry. However these genealogies are for the most part based upon biological connections, while kinship relations are based upon just who your culture determines is your relation. A kinship system can be bilateral, ambi-lateral, patrilineal or matrilineal. Marriage between families leads to reciprocal rights, as a consequence, all societies have rules as to who you can and cannot marry. Kinship reigns.

Ancestry is generally tracked across the generations through the use of government records such as Canadian census returns. In addition, one can generally access birth, marriage, and death records from Statistics Canada or provincial archives. The spelling of names, for the most part, was not standardized until about 1920. The tracking names is done by comparing numerous records, the age, gender, ethnic affiliation, educational level, occupation and family members of the individual — more easily done if you are of European origin. First Nation people in Canada, referred to as "Indians" or "half-breeds" in the early records, were initially recorded by their Indian names, spelled phonetically. The baptismal, marriage and death records are often the best source for obtaining the Indian names, and record the slow transition to more European-like names.

Unfortunately, the transcription of aboriginal names on the genealogy websites is often inaccurate or not there at all. We therefore prepare our genealogies by first interviewing the elders — remember, kinship reigns. We record not only the knowledge that they possess of their ancestry, but also their knowledge of the ancestry of the other families in the community. This launches us on the trail of family connections back in time through the documentary record, one which includes treaty pay lists, Indian Agent letter books, Fort journals (HBC) scrip records, etc. Connections require at lease three sources to properly substantiate that you are on the right trail, two if need be, just one can lead questionable connections. 

We prepare the kinship diagrams/charts as we go using the anthropological tradition of circles for women, triangles for men, equal signs or u shaped bars for marriage and so forth. It is a universal language that can depict an entire village and its relationships — unlike the European style family trees which work best for families of European descent.    

These kinship diagrams are frequently used in negotiations and litigation. They are also used to regain "Indian status" pursuant to the 1984 amendment to the Indian Act. Modern Day treaties have an "Enrolment and Entitlement Chapter". T hey are used there as well. And of coarse, most people want to know where they came from. 

LVB Strategic Negotiations & Research Group Inc. can assist you in developing your kinship charts. Remember, kinship reigns. It is not simply a matter of biological connections.

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