The editors of ActiveHistory.ca are currently enjoying our annual end of summer hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.
The following post by Stacey Devlin and Emily Cuggy was originally featured on December 7, 2017.
Genealogy is having a moment; from genealogy websites and DNA test kits to television series like Who Do You Think You Are and Genealogy Roadshow, it’s undeniable that genealogical research and the underlying desire to discover one’s personal and familial identity are more popular than ever before. There are countless resources available to both the professional and amateur genealogist making it seem easy to trace your family tree back to its roots; and in particular, many marketing campaigns for genealogy and DNA services put particular emphasis on Indigenous ancestry. But is identifying Indigenous ancestors really this simple? 
When done well, genealogy involves using primary documents to connect each generation in a family tree. Ideally, these documents will provide information such as full name, age, names of immediate relatives, location, religion, and occupation—details that together help prove an individual’s identity and their place within the tree.
However, genealogists and family historians can run into numerous obstacles when trying to obtain the necessary primary documents. These obstacles arise from two main sources: gaps in the historical record, and legal restrictions preventing access to documents that are more recent. These issues are amplified for researchers of Indigenous family history, further complicating what can already be a difficult process, and perpetuating colonial systems of administration and its definitions of ethnicity.