By Judy Lucey
Newfoundland and Labrador were established as British fishing colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. The cod fishery helped shape its unique history and as a result, genealogists with Newfoundland and Labrador ancestry must consult records related to the fishery as well as the early history and settlement of the province. This guide provides a listing of essential resources and helpful tips for researching Newfoundland and Labrador ancestry. Many of these resources can be found or accessed at the library at NEHGS.
How-To and Other Guides at NEHGS
Genealogist’s Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research by Terrence M. Punch
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Room Reference; 5th Floor Stacks; and 4th Floor Microtext CS88.A88 G46 1997
Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS82.I78 2007
Unique Newfoundland and Labrador Sources
Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland by E. R. Seary
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.N6 S4 1977
Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada compiled by Atlantic Canada Shipping Project
NEHGS, 4th Floor CD Collection F1035.8. S55 1998CD
A Guide to Dr. Keith Matthews Name File Collection in the Maritime History Archive by Paula Marshall
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.N6 M3 1987
Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography
NEHGS, 7th floor reference F1121.8.D53 1990
The Peopling of Newfoundland: Essays in Historical Geography edited by John J. Mannion
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1123.P39 1977
So Longe as There Comes Noe Women: Origins of English Settlement by W. Gordon Handcock
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1123.H36 1989
The Irish in Newfoundland, 1600-1900: Their Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs by Mike McCarthy
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1125.I6 M38 1999
As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of Newfoundland and Labrador by Kevin Major
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1123.M35 2002
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not begin in Newfoundland and Labrador until 1891. Newspapers, church records and cemetery records can help fill the gap for earlier vital record information.
Newfoundland Vital Records, 1840–1949 on FamilySearch.org
This collection contains civil birth index and records, 1891 to 1897 only; marriage index and records, 1891 to 1922; and death index and records 1891 to 1949. The delayed birth registrations are from 1840 to 1915 and include extracts from family bibles, sworn affidavits, and baptismal certificates.
Vital Statistics and Items from Newspapers, 1831–1872 by Mildred Howard
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.N6 H68 1983
Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser: Vital Statistics and Other Items, [1810–1873] by Mildred Howard
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.N6 H69 v. 1-3 (covers 1810–1873)
Gravestone Inscriptions from the Anglican Cemetery, Topsail
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1124.5.T66 C52 1985
Inscriptions from the Anglican Cemetery, the Salvation Army Cemetery and the United Church Cemetery, the Town of Fortune
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1124.5.F67 I57 1986
Roman Catholic Cemetery, Conception Harbor, Newfoundland
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1124.5.C59 R65
Cemetery Inscriptions of Labrador
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1137.C45 1985
Roman Catholic Burial Registers for St. John’s [1871–1879] by Edward Vincent Chafe
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1124.5.S14 C52 1988
Newfoundland Vital Statistics, 1753–1893
In the 1930’s and 1940’s the Newfoundland government instituted a program to transcribe the pre-1891 church records across the province. The collection is not complete as not all churches responded. These church transcripts consist of baptisms, marriages and some burials. This browseable database is organized by community and then religious denomination. Note: most are of Protestant denominations, only six out of the 124 volumes are Roman Catholic records.
Newfoundland, Church Records, 1793–1945
The original Roman Catholic parish registers for the City of St. John’s and several other communities. These browseable records are organized by community name.
Census records exist for early French and British settlers in Newfoundland. The first comprehensive island wide census was taken in 1836 listing heads of household, but only a few communities have survived. The remaining 19th-century censuses have statistical information only. Because Newfoundland did not join the Dominion of Canada until 1949, the 1921, 1935, and 1945 censuses are available to researchers.
1921 census of Newfoundland [NEHGS microfilm]
NEHGS, 4th Floor HA741.C4 1921
Index of Jews Resident in Newfoundland According to the 1921, 1935, and 1945 Censuses by Glen Eker
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1125.J5 E44 2005
Maps and Atlases
Historical Atlas of the Maritime Provinces 1878
NEHGS, Atlas Collection G1122.51.S1 H57 2005
Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador
NEHGS, Oversize 5th Floor Stacks G1185.M36 1991
Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society Newsletter currently known as The Newfoundland Ancestor: Quarterly Journal of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS80.N48
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1121.N48
Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, fhsnl.ca
Established in 1984, the FHSNL publishes the quarterly newsletter, Newfoundland Ancestor. Their website has two online databases for member access only, Vital Stats Pre-1892 from indexed church records and a headstone database.
Bay St. George Genealogical Society, bsggs.ca
A member-based genealogical and historical society for the western part of Newfoundland. Their genealogical collection of materials is housed at the Kindale Public Library in Stephenville, NL. Its online documents and files can only be accessed by members.
Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries
Genealogy links to Newfoundland websites and resources.
Newfoundland’s Grand Banks, ngb.chebutco.org
This website is a starting point for anyone who has Newfoundland ancestry. It has the largest amount of online primary source material including census, church, newspapers, military, local history, and many other records. There is also a message board for posting queries and sharing family history.
Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogy, nl.canadagenweb.org
The Newfoundland Provincial page of the Canadian GenWeb Project contains census records, will transcriptions, church records, vital records, directories, and much more.
Newfoundland Census Records
Links to online census records from the 1600s to 1945.
Stonepics-Cemeteries of NL, stonepics.com
This website is a project to photograph every cemetery, headstone, and monument in Newfoundland. The website has a searchable name index. The index can also be found at the Grand Banks website. One can purchase a single photograph or an entire cemetery on CD-ROM.
Maritime History Archive, mun.ca/mha
This website's primary purpose is to collect and preserve original and copies of documents relating to the history of sea based activities in the North Atlantic region. The archive also has family history, photographs, newspapers, some Irish and English parish registers, business records, crew lists and agreements, and an online database of Crew Lists, 1864–1942.
Digital Archive Initiative, collections.mun.ca/
Memorial University with its partnering organizations have digitized collections of archival documents, books, photographs, maps, periodicals, video, and audio materials representing the history and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.
Meet one-on-one with our genealogists
Want research guidance from a professional genealogist? Our experts provide 30-minute to two-hour consultations in person or by phone.
- Find elusive ancestors—Whether you are searching in the U.S. or abroad, in the 17th or 20th century, our genealogists have the knowledge to assist you.
- Locate and use records—Vital records, military records, deeds, probate, and more—if you’re wondering where to look for them, how to read them, or what data you can find in them, we can guide you.
- Get more out of technology—Feel like you could be making better use of your genealogy software? Curious about websites and databases that might be relevant to your research? Let us help!
Hire our experts in Research Services
Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:
- Conduct hourly research
- Break down “brick walls”
- Retrieve manuscript materials
- Obtain probate records
- Research and prepare your lineage society application
- Organize your materials and files
- Write narrative biographies about your ancestors
- Create customized family charts