How do I locate my Ancestors Home Town in Saskatchewan?
You have found a letter, a document in your ancestor’s box of keepsakes. Upon this piece of memorabilia is an address. It states that the ancestor came from Bonneville, Assiniboia, North-West Territories, or perhaps the district is abbreviated such as in the address; Ladstock, Assa, NWT.
Or your document may state that your ancestor’s address was SW section 2 township 40 range 10 West of the 3rd Meridian on a birth certificate, and oral history may remark that the closest post office was Copeau, Saskatchewan.
Looking at a current map of Saskatchewan or the North West Territories, it is impossible to find neither Bonneville nor Ladstock, let alone Assiniboia, nor Copeau.
Before 1905 the province of Saskatchewan was a part of the North-West Territories. Between May 8, 1882 and September 1, 1905, the North-West Territories was divided into provisional districts for the convenience of settlers and for postal purposes. The area currently defined as Saskatchewan was known as Athabaska (Athabasca) to the north, Saskatchewan centrally and Assiniboia (Assa) to the south. Assiniboia was also further divided on some early maps as East Assiniboia and West Assiniboia.
Rupert’s Land Act 1868 transferred ownership of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson Bay Company HBC to Canada. In 1870 Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory became known as the North-West Territories. It wasn’t until the Northwest Territories Act was passed 1906, that the hyphen was removed from the name of the North-West Territories.
The Post Office had a say in determining place names to avoid duplication. For example Bessborough, British Columbia was originally named Willowbrook. The name Willowbook would not be accepted because it duplicated the town of Willowbrook in Saskatchewan.
The historical place name may have considered a geographical feature or distinctive flora or fauna and given it a descriptive name. A place name may have commemorated an event or to honour a community founder, Indian treaty, politician, royalty, famous writer, soldiers, saints or an immigrant’s home country. A community may have an aboriginal name or a name in another language if settled by an ethnic bloc settlement. In one location the school district, telegraph station, rail way siding, post office and town may indeed originally started out with differing names. To avoid confusion one name was adopted for the community following the Canada Permanent Committee on Geographical Names at Ottawa.
Elbow (geographical feature – elbow of the South Saskatchewan River), Duck Lake (fauna – ducks), Kinistino (Knis-to-neaux Aboriginal naming), Piapot (Treaty), Spy Hill (event), St. Louis (saint>, Prince Albert (roaylty), Fort Walsh (North West Mounted Police superintendent Major Walsh), Biggar (solicitor of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway GTPR), Zumbro (Alphabetic railway line naming), Browing (Robert Browning (1812-1889) British writer), Bruno (Reverend Bruno Doerfler community leader), Beatty (Reginald Beatty early pioneer), Chamberlain (United Kingdom Prime Minister Arthur Neville Chamberlain (March 18, 1869 – November 9, 1940) are a few of these examples.
In the case of the earlier addresses Bonneville, Assiniboia, North-West Territories is now referred to as Kenaston, Saskatchewan, and Ladstock, Assa, NWT is currently Bankend, Saskatchewan. The Copeau post office was located at four separate locations depending on the post master’s residence. NE Sec.13, Twp.43, R.9, W2, Sec.20, Twp.43, R.8, W2,
Sec.29, Twp.43, R.8, W2 and SW Sec.21, Twp.43, R.8, W2. All of these locations are in the vicinity of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, as Copeau no longer exists.
Searching for a place name in Saskatchewan has been made easier by several books and online resources now available. Post office records, dominion land grant patents, maps, geographical web sites are among the increasing number of tools for finding an ancestor’s homestead, birth location or cemetery.
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