Finding living people in Canada can be difficult due to Canadian privacy laws, but it’s not impossible. Connie offers some tips and resources for finding living people in Canada.
Looking for living people in Canada? Finding living people in Canada is not impossible, but it may be difficult due to Canada’s privacy laws. In general, Canadian privacy laws are stricter than those in the US. There is one law for the federal government. For example, Canadian census data is withheld for 92 years. And for census information starting in 2006, citizens have been able to mark their information as private. There is also a second law (PIPEDA) for businesses that is in effect in most provinces. In addition, all provinces have their own privacy laws, and a few follow their own privacy laws instead of PIPEDA.
Finding living people in Canada
Google and social media
Nonprofits are not held to PIPEDA and I’ve found a surprising number of living people this way by Googling their names (and any hints about their location), and finding their names listed as donors to a charity. From there you can start a more specific search in a province or city.
Since people volunteer to post information about themselves on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, that’s often another great place to start. Vary your strategy by the age of the person that you’re looking for. If they are younger, I start with Google, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Pinterest. If they’re older, I start with Google or Facebook, but also voter lists and newspapers may prove to be helpful.
Newspapers are another great way to find living people in Canada. Even if you are looking for a living person, obituaries can be a great resource because they typically list the person’s living relatives. Wedding and birth announcements are also useful for finding living people.
Newspapers.com currently offers access to 391 Canadian newspapers. Browse which papers are available by province, then check to see which years are available. For example, The Vancouver Sun in British Columbia is available from 1912 to 2023. You will need a Newspapers.com subscription to actually view the pages of the newspapers. You can also try searching in specific newspapers through their website, such as Prince Edward Island’s The Eastern Graphic.
Voter lists may also be a useful source for finding living people. The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has federal general election voter lists digitized online from 1935 to 1980. Lists from 1935 to 1980 are also available at Ancestry. For voter lists from the 1984 and 1988 elections, you’ll need to send an inquiry to LAC’s Reference Services.
Naturalization and border crossing records
Canada has one of the highest immigration rates in the world, so looking at naturalization and border crossing records may prove useful in your search. Naturalization records through 1951 are available through LAC.
Border crossing records from the US to Canada and vice versa can be found in a few places. Here are some indexes and collections available:
- US to Canada up to 1935 at Ancestry
- Canada to Detroit, Michigan up to 1954 at FamilySearch
- Canada to the US up to 1956 at FamilySearch and MyHeritage
- Canada to the US up to 1960 at Ancestry
- Canada to Detroit, Michigan up to 1963 at Ancestry
Also keep in mind that because of Canada’s high immigration rates, it often doesn’t take long before you find yourself researching in another country.
Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records
Each Canadian province and territory has its own archives, and may contain birth, marriage, divorce, and death records and indexes that are available online. The most recent dates available for these records vary and may not be very recent, but these records may still provide you with helpful clues for finding a person living today. Note that some records may only be available in French.
Canada collections at MyHeritage
MyHeritage has a Canada collection on their site which includes 177 collections of Canadian phone and address information (“from the last several decades,” but no dates provided), Canadian newspapers up to 2007, British Columbia deaths, Quebec marriage returns up to 1997, French newspapers up to 2007, and US and Canada indexes of obituaries up to 2019. In most cases these are not comprehensive databases, but they may contain the information you’re looking for.
People finding sites
People finding sites may be another useful resource. The information from these sites is not always accurate, but it may help get you on the right track to finding someone. Canada has a few of these sites available.
You can receive basic information (username, address, phone number, or name) for free from Canada People Search, but a comprehensive report will require payment. Canada411 is Canada’s yellow pages database, where you can search for people and businesses. The site allows you to search by name, address, province, phone number, and other advanced search features. CanadaFinder is another website where you can search by name, location, postal code, or phone number.
Keep in mind that some people are very hard to find in Canada for the same reasons they can be hard to find in Alaska: living in remote locations, maintaining a subsistence lifestyle, or working a non-traditional job. Labor mobility is a big deal in Canada. For example, many men, typically younger men, come from all over Canada to work in the “oil patch” or in mining in the northern, less populated areas of the country and live in labor camps on a rotation schedule (14 days on, 14 days off, or 6 weeks on, several weeks off).
This list of records and resources is a great start for finding living people in Canada, but maybe you want to take it a step further and learn expert strategies for finding living people. Your DNA Guide’s Finding Living Relatives Workshop will help you do just that! Learn more and register for the Finding Living Relatives 2-day workshop.