Friday, 1 September 2017

Finding Your Ancestors in Canada - the Maritimes

Photo credit: David Paul Ohmer     Via
Creative Commons Licenses 2.
If you are planning a visit to the Maritimes, the vistas in the Fall / Autumn are absolutely stunning, so many colours and beautiful trees! Perhaps you'll discover the beauty for yourself on that long awaited Eastern Canadian genealogy trip.

Brief History
The first people in New Brunswick,  the Mi'kmaq, were there when the European explorers 'discovered' the wilds of the province. The French expanded their homesteads into the areas surrounding the Saint John River and what became known as the Bay of Fundy. New Brunswick is also known as the Acadian province and became a separate province from Nova Scotia in 1784. Along with Ontario and Quebec and the other Maritime provinces, New Brunswick was incorporated into the Commonwealth of Canada in 1867.

Fredericton- the capital of New Brunswick, was named (posthumously) after King George III's son, Prince Frederick Lewis, of the house of Brunswick. It was originally known as "Frederick's Town" and was shortened in 1785. Officers' Square was very much the military centre of the city in 1785. Government House (1828) was the governor's residence and home to General Sir Howard Douglas.

Saint John - Incorporated in 1785, the city is referred to as 'Canada's Most Irish City' and the 'Loyalist City', also heavily involved in the shipbuilding trade in the nineteenth century. The Old Burial Ground across from King's Square dates from 1784 and most of the area's Loyalist settlers are buried there.
(Sources: Wikipedia, Government of New Brunswick History webpage,  The Canadian Encyclopedia webpage.) 

For Genealogists
These free websites should be your first stopping ground for New Brunswick genealogy.
Cangenealogy New Brunswick created by Dave Obee has links to explore Canadian genealogy.  Library & Archives Canada - New Brunswick is the Government of Canada's Genealogy page for New Brunswick.  Family Search New Brunswick is the Family Search wiki.

New Brunswick Archives digital BMDs - Late Birth Registrations are now digitized up to 1922 and Death Certificates up to 1966.
The Vital Statistics page gives the years of coverage for Births, Marriages and Deaths, how many records are available and the date the data was updated.

Cemetery listings of Saint John and county - from Rootsweb, page last updated in 2007!  Thankfully, 10 years later most of the links still work and provides names of burials.

A very good and concise guide to the Irish in New Brunswick is offered by the National Institute of Genealogical Studies on the Family Search wiki. The print resources which are provided include lists of Irish emigrants. Search for these on the Library and Archives Canada catalogue to see where they are available in your neck of the woods.

Look into a valiant and ongoing effort by Saint John historian Harold Wright
 to raise awareness about the Partridge Island Quarantine Station 
and to make it accessible to the public.
Note: Unfortunately due to the volatile nature of a high concentration of 
arsenic it is currently illegal to visit the island. 
It is purported to be Canada's first quarantine station used from 1785 and there are approximately 2500 burials. The immigrants landed on the mainland where the immigration stations was located. Harold notes that the Island was initially used for seamen who became ill and had to be quarantined away from the mainland. He says: "There are Saint John and Canadian residents buried on the island, sailors, as well as immigrants." More information via interviews with CTV news - a visit to Partridge Island as well as Global News in regards to the petition.

- - - This resource provides information about those buried on the island: A Chronicle of Irish Emigration to Saint John, New Brunswick 1847, compiled by J. Elizabeth Cushing, Teresa Casey and Monica Robertson (Saint John: New Brunswick Museum, 1979)   Join the Partridge Island Facebook page  and add your support to lobby the Government. Currently 2,186 followers.

New Brunswick E-Resources
Digging through the University of New Brunswick Special Collections pages, I came across an article referring to a digitized collection of a lawsuit in 1800 to free a slave woman from her owner. Although unsuccessful, this became an important legal battle that was to provide the underpinning of the present structure of New Brunswick law. Clicking on the links leads to numerous pages about Black History in Nova Scotia.

The Gilmour and Rankin collection (1812-1864) at the University of New Brunswick, most of which is digitized, highlights the successful shipbuilding and timber business one of which was originally connected to Pollock and Gilmour (ca.1804) of Glasgow. See more on the Digital Collections page.

The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick  -   As of July 2017 they have added the Indexes to Marriages and Deaths 1966 and Birth Records 1921 to their website. List of databases in the PANB search tool - think card catalogue - provides date ranges and specific datasets, ie: BMDs, Cemeteries, Immigration, Land Records. The Archives also has an interesting digital collection of newspaper advertisements of arriving ships and the news of the passengers, Notices of Irish Immigrants in Newspapers.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick - County Guides - these guides will be invaluable to help you sort out what resources are available for specific counties in the province. Also available in French.

New Brunswick Newspapers Dave Obee's site for newspapers. Also check Gail Dever's newspaper pages on her Genealogy Research Toolbox - Genealogy à la Carte.

Print Resources
The St. John Free Public Library has an interesting print collection (sounds much like a card catalogue) - The Miscellaneous Index - indexes covering family histories, articles of local history, events and something I'd like to know more about - Scrapbooks! Another interesting sounding collection: Fitzpatrick's Funeral Home.     A Guide to Genealogy at the St. John Free Public Library  - A guided tour to the collection in the library - this is a very detailed step by step guide to researching genealogy.

French-Canadian Sources: A Guide for Genealogists  by Patricia Keeney Geyh, Joyce Soltis Banachowski, Linda Boyea. Although published in 2002, this book is was a team effort by the French Canadian/Acadian Genealogical Society.

In New Brunswick We'll Find It by L.J. Thomas and R.W. Barton

Saint John's North End: 1864-1975 by Harold E. Wright and Paul James

New Brunswick Genealogists' Blog
Fredericton Museum - @FredMuseum new exhibition "A Ship Full of Troubles" / "Un bateau plein d'ennui" - interprets the role New Brunswick played in the confederation of Canada.

Candice's look at the PANB - The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Researchers Located in New Brunswick
Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes - see this site for genealogy researchers

Chaisson, Alfred email: alfredc@ (note the space between the @ and the n)

Mulherin, Francine - Mulherin Genealogy Services  DSL Drummond, New Brunswick

Ruby Cusack's Genealogy Webpages - Ms. Cusack will undertake research on your behalf


Brief History
The Canadian Encyclopedia suggests that Port Royal was the 'first agricultural settlement' in Canada and the 'beginnings of the French colony of Acadia'. Port Royal was later renamed Annapolis Royal and the province was named Nova Scotia, Latin for New Scotland.  A sad piece of Nova Scotia history is the expulsion of Acadians in 1755 by the British, which was a political maneuver to ensure that Nova Scotia would not fall to France's rule. Notwithstanding the fact that this seriously impacted many families' lives, the French fort Louisbourg soon fell to the British.
Nova Scotia
© credit: DHurt

Nova Scotia harbours have been used by many navies, including the British Navy, whose Royal Navy dockyard at Halifax was built from the 1740s. Today the city still supports an active shipbuilding and naval base.  Jumping ahead to 1867, Nova Scotia joined the other maritime provinces to form a new Dominion of Canada. 

A bit of trivia:
No point in Nova Scotia is more than 60 km from the sea - this compares to Great Britain where any one point is 70 km from the sea. According to Frommer's Travel Guide p.72,  2010 edition, 150 buildings and homes in Nova Scotia are officially designated heritage sites. Provincial license plates bear the moniker : Canada's Ocean Playground. Someone who lives in Halifax is known as a Haligonian. A resident of Nova Scotia is known as a 'Bluenoser' - after an Irish potatoe. The famous ship - the one represented on the Canadian dime - was named after the potatoe, not the other way 'round.

For Genealogists

These free websites should be your first stopping ground for Nova Scotia genealogy.
Cangenealogy Nova Scotia a website created by Dave Obee with links to explore Canadian genealogy.  Library & Archives Canada - Nova Scotia  -the Government of Canada's Genealogy page for Nova Scotia.  Family Search Nova Scotia is the Family Search wiki.

Genealogy à la carte highlighted a little sad news: Moncton Times & Transcript to stop publishing genealogy column after 12 years that Diane Tibert's column: Roots to the Past which she has written since October 2005 has been cut back to be published in 2 newspapers towards the end of January. I say well done Diane - that is certainly a lot of dedication to the genealogy community!  Diane's blog has great links to Maritime genealogy!

Libraries and  Archives
Genealogy guide - provides tips and tricks for genealogy research in Nova Scotia - provided by the Nova Scotia Archives.

This website allows you to search the Nova Scotia Archives Library - the main component of the collection is the Akins Nova Scotiana Collection. A collection named after Thomas Beamish Akins, the first Commissioner of Public Records in Nova Scotia. Note: these are print resources. There is also a database to search their Map Collection. Some of the collections provide images such as Community Albums or textual information about the collection allowing you to make a visit.

Memory Nova Scotia - MemoryNS is a one stop search of all the archives across the province. There is also a catalogue of Digital Items.  The Nova Scotia page on Rootsweb is a GenWeb resource, offering lots of links to genealogy in Nova Scotia. There is a list of digital resources, including passenger lists and lists of army and military regiments from the 18th century - you won't find on Ancestry - and even better, they were submitted by volunteers.  Also try the links via Cyndi's List resources for Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia E-Resources

1988 map of Nova Scotia from the University of Texas Library!

Death Notices of Some Early Pictou County Settlers - Information extracted from The Pictou Book, Stories of Our Past, written by George McLaren, published in 1954.

Tancook & Starr Island  - lots of interesting material here if your family is from Tancook, Little Tancook or Starr Island. Please be aware that as the page is a little dated, you will need to copy and paste some of the links to see if they still exist. 

Print Resources

Biographical directory of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Free Baptist ministers and preachers by Frederick C. Burnett. Published by Lancelot Press for Acadia Divinity College and the Baptist Historical Committee of the United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces, 1996.

Ethnicity and the German descendants of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia by Laurie Lacey. Saint Mary's University (Halifax, N.S.)

Genealogical newsletter of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society published by the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society.

Le Réveil acadien : Acadian awakening by the Acadian Cultural Society.

Yeadon of Nova Scotia compiled by Iris V. Shea for the Mainland South Heritage Society.

Nova Scotia Genealogists' Blogs

The Community Albums Project - Michell Boychuk travelled around the province collecting items of interest from local archives that highlights stories of people in those communities since 1867. This effort was a project initiated by the Council of Nova Scotia Archives. The result has been made available in a virtual exhibit - please visit

Candice wrote a great article on Acadian Ancestors resources

Researchers Located in Nova Scotia
Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes - see this site for genealogy researchers in Nova Scotia

Also contact the Nova Scotia Genealogy Society -

@atlancestors - Peggy Homans Chapman
@DouglasCochran2 is certified and listed with the Nova Scotia Archives, and the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes.


Brief History
Prince Edward Island was previously known as St. John's Island. There are three counties in Prince Edward Island, Queen's County, Kings County and Prince County. Each county was named by Capt. Samuel Holland. Queen's County was named in 1765 for queen consort Charlotte of Meklenburg-Strelitz. Charlottetown is the county capital.  King's County has a rural concentric population and it's main economies are forestry and fishing. It was named in 1765 for King George III and it's capital is Georgetown. Prince's County was named in 1765 for George, Prince of Wales and it's capital was to be Princetown but Summerside was chosen instead. Prince Edward Island is known of course for Anne of Green Gables, a very popular fictional character. Charlottetown was the site of discussions of a union of the three maritime provinces which evolved into the agreement of the Confederation of Canada. PEI joined Canada in 1873. Confederation Bridge connects PEI with New Brunswick and the rest of Canada and was opened for traffic in 1997.   

© Penny Allen's postcard collection
For Genealogists

These free websites should be your first stopping ground for Prince Edward Island genealogy.
Cangenealogy Prince Edward Island is created by Dave Obee. Library & Archives Canada - Prince Edward Island  is the Government of Canada's page for Prince Edward Island genealogy.  Family Search Prince Edward Island is the Family Search wiki.

Government of Prince Edward Island Database - search across Vital Statistics, Census and Archival Content - some of which is digitized.  Also check Genealogy at the PEI Provincial Archives.

Prince Edward Island E-Resources

Island Register Databases 

Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society
Master Index  - a list of Surnames which then tells you which book to find the family name in.

Surname List   1,538 PEI surnames to date

Ship RecordsDatabase The Maritime Provinces are historically renowned for the ship industry. This resource includes records as early as 1787 through to 1936. Records such as voyages, crew lists, vessel registry file (including vessels registered in Bermuda!), masters and owners of said vessels, as well as a ports file of over 33,000 ports visited by Canadian registered vessels.

McAlpine’s Maritime Provinces Directory 1870-71

The Robertson Library at the University of PEI has published a video on YouTube describing their project, Postcards from the Past, digitizing and transcribing postcards from Prince Edward Island.

This is a free pdf of links for PEI Genealogy Research  Use with caution

Print Resources

An Index of Irish Immigrants based on obituaries and death notices in Prince Edward Island newspapers, 1835-1910. Gallant, Peter. Charlottetown: Prince Edward Genealogical Society, 1990.

The Early History of the Catholic Church in Prince Edward Island. MacMillan, John C. Campbellville: Global Heritage Press, 2007

The Arrival of the First Scottish Catholic Emigrants in Prince Edward Island and after (1722-1922). Campbellville: Global Heritage Press, 2005.

Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory - 1871 (PEI Section)

Confederation Connections: Finding the Fathers’ Families published by the PEI Genealogical Society

Libraries and Archives
Found on the University of PEI Library page:
- Exploring Island history : a guide to the historical resources of Prince Edward Island edited by Harry Baglole.
- Launched, volume II : genealogy of the families of Port Hill, Prince Edward Island Lot 13 by the Port Hill History Committee.
- Prince County, Prince Edward Island, index of monumental inscriptions Prince Edward Island Genealogy [i.e. Genealogical] Society.
- Readings in Prince Edward Island History compiled by Harry Baglole.
- The way things were : growing up on a Prince Edward Island farm during the depression and World War II / by Lloyd Beck MacLeod.

Prince Edward Island Genealogists' Blogs

Doug's Genealogy - a collection of articles about Doug's families, BALLEM/BALLUM, HENCKELL, JENKINS and MacDONALD.

My PEI genealogy adventure

The Rootsweb message board for PEI is quite active, the last post was on 20 August 2017. Great place to post a question!

PEI History Guy - not terribly regular blog posts, but still interesting reading

Researchers Located in Prince Edward Island
Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes - see this site for genealogy researchers

Georges Arseneault - PEI genealogy and local history - highlighted as one of Great Canadian Genealogy Summit's speakers


  1. Does your blog go out by email? I don't use any of the social media places so email is my only choice.

  2. Hello Mr. T; Mrs. T or Ms. T? Thank you for this suggestion. I have enabled the email feed which is now located in between the Featured Post and Popular Posts. Please do pop me an email at anytime to : pallenresearch @ Happy reading!

  3. Ms. T. Thank you, I subscribed. I'm hunting my Ward family. Unsuccessfully. But one day, they will want to be found. I hope I am still alive!