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  • Microfilm Resources for Nova Scotia Research at NEHGS

    Michael J. Leclerc

    Published Date : February 20, 2004

    While published sources are critical for success in genealogical research, it is also important to utilize original records and unpublished manuscript material as much as possible. This will guarantee the best chances for solving the puzzles in your family tree. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has worked for decades to obtain microfilms of much of this material for eastern Canada.

    The Society is lucky to have had donors such as Robert F. Hendrickson, Patricia E. Haynes, and others who have donated funds or microfilms to build our collection. Thanks to their generosity, the collection of microfilm for records in the province of Nova Scotia is one of the leading collections of source material available for this area. While some of it is available through the Family History Library system, much of it is not.

    If you are among those who can come in to the research library at 101 Newbury Street you can have the benefit of utilizing all of these materials. Some microfilms, such as New Englanders in Nova Scotia, are available through the NEHGS Circulating Library. To see which titles are available through your local Family History Center, use the Family History Library Catalog. Another option is to hire the Society’s Research Services department to examine the records and report back to you.

    Vital Records
    It was not until 1908 that full vital records registration was mandated and adhered to in Nova Scotia. Between 1864 and 1877 an effort was made to record all births, marriages, and deaths. Unfortunately, compliance was low and the records, especially for births and deaths, are nowhere near complete. Microfilm copies of the birth and death records from 1864 to 1877, as well as their indexes, are available at NEHGS [CS88/N64/N64].

    Only marriages were recorded after 1877. Indexes are available for 1864 to1918 [CS88/N64/N64]

    Marriage records available on microfilm at NEHGS

    County

    Years

    County

    Years

    Annapolis

    1864–1908

    Inverness

    1864–1908

    Antigonish

    1864–1910

    Kings

    1864–1909

    Cape Breton

    1864–1912

    Lunenburg

    1864–1908

    Colchester

    1864–1914

    Pictou

    1864–1917

    Cumberland

    1864–1913

    Queens

    1864–1910

    Digby

    1864–1909

    Richmond

    1865–1918

    Guysborough

    1864–1906

    Shelburne

    1864–1908

    Halifax

    1864–1916

    Victoria

    1864–1918

    Hants

    1864–1917

    Yarmouth

    1864–1908

    Prior to 1864 there was no organized registration of vital records in the province, but many of the townships kept their own records of births, marriages, and deaths. These were not mandated and the completeness varies from location to location. Many of the township books have been microfilmed and are available at the library.

    Township records available on microfilm at NEGHS

    Township

    Call Number

    Township

    Call Number

    Annapolis

    CS88/N642/A161

    Maccan

    CS88/N642/M32

    Argyle

    CS88/N642/A73

    Manchester

    CS88/N642/M36

    Aylesford

    CS88/N642/A93

    Parrsboro

    CS88/N642/P37

    Barrington

    CS88/N642/B24

    St. Mary’s

    CS88/N642/S24

    Cornwallis

    CS88/N642/C67

    Shelburne

    CS88/N642/S53

    Douglas

    CS88/N642/D68

    Truro

    CS88/N64/N64 (reel 35)

    Granville

    CS88/N642/G72

    Westchester

    CS88/N642/W47

    Guysborough

    CS88/N642/M36

    Wilmot

    CS88/N642/A161a

    Horton

    CS88/N642/H67

    Windsor

    CS88/N642/A161a

    Liverpool

    CS88/N642/L58

    Yarmouth

    CS88/N642/Y31


    Probate Records

    Probate records include records of both testate (died with a will) and intestate (died without a will) estates. In addition to wills, probate records contain inventories of estates, executor’s bonds, petitions from heirs, creditors, and others, distribution of estates, and many other records. Thanks to a generous donation by Robert F. Hendrickson, the Society was able to obtain all available microfilms of probate records for the province of Nova Scotia. 

    Probate records available on microfilm at NEHGS

    County

    Est.

    Records Available

    Call Number

    Annapolis

    1759

    Estate files, 1763–1925;index 1763–1979

    CS88/N643/A16

       

    Probate wills, 1763–1970; probate acts, 1844–1970; petitions, 1926–1938; letters of administration, 1926–1969; letters testamentary, 1901–1970

    CS88/N643/A16a

       

    Wills, 1879–1970

    CS88/N643/A16e

    Antigonish

    1784

    Probate records, 1819–1963

    CS88/N643/A25

    Cape Breton

    1784

    Probate records, 1782–1970

    CS88/N643/C2

    Colchester

    1835

    Probate records, 1798–1969

    CS88/N643/C6

    Cumberland

    1759

    Book of Acts, 1840–1969; indexes 1840–1945

    CS88/N643/C8

       

    Estate files and card index, 1833–1938

    CS88/N643/C8a

       

    Probate papers, 1760–1900

    CS88/N643/C8b

       

    Will books, decree books, and indexes, 1796–1969

    CS88/N643/C8c

    Digby

    1837

    Index to probate files, 1803–1970; wills, 1810–1970; probate acts, 1842–1970; letters of administration and testamentary, 1843–1970; estate files, 1838–1925

    CS88/N643/D5

       

    Probate records, 1814–1934

    CS88/N643/D5a

    Guysborough

    1836

    Index to wills, 1942–1967; wills, 1942–1967; acts, 1947–1969; decrees, 1922–1967; administrations, 1946–1969; testaments, 1963–1969; index to estate papers, odd papers, and unprobated wills, 1850–1946

    CS88/N643/G8

       

    Probate records, 1843–1970 (St. Mary’s District)

    CS88/N643/G8a

    Halifax

    1749

    Original estate papers, 1750–1968

    CS88/N643/H3

       

    Probate records, 1749–1968

    CS88/N643/H3a

    Hants

    1781

    Loose petitions and wills, 1761–1900

    CS88/N643/H4

       

    Probate records, 1761–1968

    CS88/N643/H4a

    Inverness

    1835

    Probate records, 1831–1969

    CS88/N643/I5

    Kings

    1759

    Administration papers, 1783–1900

    CS88/N643/K5

       

    Estate files, 1785–1925

    CS88/N643/K5a

       

    Probate records, 1783–1968

    CS88/N643/K5b

    Lunenburg

    1759

    Administration papers, 1763–1894

    CS88/N643/L9

       

    Decrees, 1843–1961

    CS88/N643/L9a

       

    Decrees, 1961, 1968

    CS88/N643/L9b

       

    Estate files, 1900–1925

    CS88/N643/L9c

       

    Probate acts, 1762–1967

    CS88/N643/L9d

       

    Probate records, 1783–1902

    CS88/N643/L9e

       

    Will book, 1879–1897

    CS88/N643/L9f

       

    Will book, 1762–1967

    CS88/N643/L9g

    Pictou

    1835

    Decree books, 1812–1926

    CS88/N643/P6

       

    Index to estates, A–Z, 1811–1940; estate files, 1813–1925

    CS88/N643/P6a

       

    Probate office wills, 1811–1969; letters testamentary, 1901–1944; probate letters of testamentary, 1944–1969; letters of administration, 1901–1968; probate acts, 1842–1969

    CS88/N643/P6b

       

    Wills registered at the Registry of Deeds, 1879–1969

    CS88/N643/P6e

    Queens

    1762

    Probate records, 1743–1970

    CS88/N643/Q3

    Richmond

    1835

    Probate records, 1831–1969; probate index, 1828(?)–1993

    CS88/N643/R5

    Shelburne

    1784

    Probate records, 1866–1970 (Barrington District)

    CS88/N643/S5

       

    Probate records, 1784–1970

    CS88/N643/S5a

    Victoria

    1851

    Probate records, 1851–1969

    CS88/N643/V5

    Yarmouth

    1836

    Estate files, 1798–1925; index, 1843–1891

    CS88/N643/Y3

       

    Probate wills, 1794–1970; probate acts, 1843–1970; letters of administration and guardianship, 1906–1970; letters of petition, 1843–1970

    CS88/N643/Y3a

    Land Records
    The English Crown became responsible for the distribution of land in Nova Scotia after the conquest. Once land was granted, any subsequent sales of land were recorded at the local Registry of Deeds.  Crown land grants are recorded separately from the later registrations of deeds. The Society currently has all available microfilm copies of records from the registries of deeds in Nova Scotia. In some instances, information on Crown land grants is available, but not for all areas.

    Land records available on microfilm at NEHGS

    County

    Est.

    Records Available

    Call Number

    Annapolis

    1759

    Card index file to deeds, grantor and grantee, 1965–1970

    CS88/N643/A16b

       

    Land grants, 1854–1955

    CS88/N643/A16c

       

    Land records, 1763–1970

    CS88/N643/A16d

    Antigonish

    1784

    Land records, 1798–1867

    CS88/N643/A25a

    Cape Breton

    1784

    Crown land grants for Cape Breton County, 1786–1949, 1969

    CS88/N643/C2a

       

    Deed books, 1786–1912; index, 1786–1966

    CS88/N643/C2b

       

    Cape Breton land papers and index, 1787–1843 and misc. land papers, 1820–1964

    CS88/N643/C2c

    Colchester

    1835

    Land records, 1798–1969

    CS88/N643/C6

    Cumberland

    1759

    Land records, 1764–1968

    CS88/N643/C8d

    Digby

    1837

    Land records, 1785–1958

    CS88/N643/D5b

    Guysborough

    1836

    Deeds, 1785–1910; land grants, 1854–1967

    CS88/N643/G8b

       

    Land records, 1815–1969 (St. Mary’s District)

    CS88/N643/G8c

    Halifax

    1749

    Deed records, 1749–1903; index, 1749–1967

    CS88/N643/H3b

       

    Crown land grants, 1854–1967

    CS88/N643/H3c

    Hants

    1781

    Index of deeds, 1763–1968; deeds, 1763–1887, 1899–1908

    CS88/N643/H4b

       

    Land grants, 1854–1952

    CS88/N643/H4c

    Inverness

    1835

    Deed books, 1825–1910; grant books, 1854–1929, 1967; indexes, 1825–1968

    CS88/N643/I5a

    Kings

    1759

    Deeds for Horton, Cornwallis, and Aylesford townships, 1764–1903; index, 1764–1968

    CS88/N643/K5c

    Lunenburg

    1759

    Deeds records, 1902–1926; index, 1879–1955; judgment books, 1879–1925

    CS88/N643/L9h

       

    Allotment books, vols. 1–4, 1760–1767

    CS88/N643/L9i

       

    Bills of sale, 1861–1936

    CS88/N643/L9j

       

    Record of deeds, 1775–1912; land grants, 1854–1968; indexes, 1759–1968

    CS88/N643/L9k

    Pictou

    1835

    Index to deeds, 1771–1967; Grantor and grantee index cards to deeds, 1968; deeds, 1771–1905; mortgage registers, 1896–1917; land grants, 1854–1924

    CS88/N643/P6c

       

    Register of deeds and mortgages, 1894–1904

    CS88/N643/P6d

    Queens

    1762

    Index to deeds, 1764–1970; deeds, 1764–1920; Land grants, 1854–1969

    CS88/N643/Q3a

    Richmond

    1835

    Deed books, 1821–1909; indexes to deed books, 1821–1969

    CS88/N643/R5a

       

    Land grants index, 1854–1963; land grants, 1854–1963

    CS88/N643/R5b

    Shelburne

    1784

    Index to deeds, 1854–1970; deeds, 1854–1913; land grants, 1767–1933 (Barrington District)

    CS88/N643/S5b

       

    Township of Barrington (land divisions), 1768–1769, 1773, 1783–1795; Proprietor’s book of records, 1764–1861

    CS88/N643/S5c

       

    Index to deeds, 1784–1968; deeds, 1783–1921; land grants, 1854–1961 (Shelburne District)

    CS88/N643/S5b

    Victoria

    1851

    Deed books, 1851–1911; grant books, 1854–1988; indexes, 1851–1969

    CS88/N643/V5a

    Yarmouth

    1836

    Index to deeds, 1774–1969; deeds, 1766–1910; land grants, 1854–1969; book of land records, 1764–1858

    CS88/N643/Y3b


    Census Records
    Census records for Nova Scotia date back to the eighteenth century. The first decennial census for Canada was taken in 1871, four years after the Confederation. Prior to that year the provincial government was responsible for the taking of censuses. The 1861 Nova Scotia census is the earliest complete census of the province to survive. The National Archives of Canada borrowed copies of provincial censuses to add to the post–Confederation materials to put together the most complete collection of censuses for Canada. NEHGS has copies of the NAC microfilms for the entire country [HA741/C4].

    In 1987 the NAC published a finding aid for these materials, Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm (Ottawa, ON: Public Archives of Canada, 1987) [Microtext HA742/P82/1987]. The guide covers the surviving censuses through 1891 and is divided into the separate provinces. Each province lists the districts and sub-districts in alphabetical order. The districts are roughly analogous to counties, while the sub-districts are analogous to town boundaries (or ward boundaries in cities). Each district and sub-district lists the year for which a census survives for that area, and gives the National Archives reel number on which it may be found.

    Unfortunately, this guide does not list all surviving census returns. There are a large number of census fragments, householder lists, and other census–related resources which are contained on the microfilms, but not included in the catalog. The National Archives of Canada has a special finding aid, Finding Aid 300, which should be consulted for additional information about these census fragments. Copies of this finding aid can be ordered from them. Visit their website for more information.

    Canadian census materials are not available for loan through the NEHGS Circulating Library. There are, however, two ways to obtain microfilms in your area. Films can be rented through the Family History Library system and brought to your local Family History Center. See their website for more details. In addition, the National Archives of Canada circulates copies of these microfilms through interlibrary loan. Contact your local public library for details on how to borrow these films. (Interlibrary loan works only between institutions. It is not possible for individuals to borrow films directly from the National Archives.).

    Church Records
    Because of the lack of early vital records in Nova Scotia, church records of baptisms and burials are often the closest estimation of birth and death dates. NEHGS has a limited number of church records available on microfilm for Nova Scotia.

    Church

    Denomination

    Location

    Call Number

    St. Andrews

    Presbyterian

    Pictou

    CS 88 N64 P73

    Prince Street

    Presbyterian

    Pictou

    CS 88 N64 P73 #2

    St. Luke’s

    Anglican

    Annapolis Royal

    CS 88 N64 T75

    Trinity

    Anglican

    Liverpool

    CS 88 N64 S593


    Shelburne County

    The Society has a number of microfilms pertaining specifically to the records of Shelburne County. Two reels contain transcriptions of over a dozen of the county's cemeteries [CS88/N641/S531]. There is a reel filmed by the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS) containing six volumes of early county records [CS88/N641/S35]. These records include lists created circa 1784 of town lots and water lots; an alphabetical record of Shelburne settlers from the same time period; a grant book covering 1784 to 1787; a book of log marks from 1904 to 1956; and a deed index for 1874 through 1876. Log marks are similar to cattle marks and were used to prove ownership of logs as they were sent to sawmills. If your ancestor was involved in the lumber trade in Shelburne County they will prove interesting to look at.

    At one time PANS borrowed and microfilmed a private collection containing a great deal of information on families in the area. NEHGS has a copy of this film [CS88/N64/S53], which includes 496 handwritten charts of families, along with two indexes. The first index lists the names of those in the main families treated. They include the Acker, Bower, Bruce, Cox, Crowell, Davis, Dexter, Doane, Firth, Goulden, Hamilton, Harris, Hewett, Hogg, Holden, Irwin, Johns, McGill, McAlpine, McKay, MacKenzie, Muir, Nickerson, Perry, Ryer, Smith, Snow, Swansburg, and Thorburn families. The second indexes the miscellaneous people who appear in the charts.

    Newspapers

    Unfortunately the Society does not maintain a large collection of newspaper materials on microfilm. Due to the generosity of member Patricia Haynes, however, we are fortunate to have a copy of The Casket [CS88/N645/C37], a Catholic newspaper published in Antigonish for many years. In addition to the daily news, there are thousands of announcements of marriages and deaths within its pages. These announcements are not limited to individuals in Antigonish, but mention individuals throughout the province as well as other locations more removed. It is not indexed and must be searched issue by issue. NEHGS has over eighty years of issues, from December 1860 through December 1943.

    Miscellaneous Documents

    There are many miscellaneous documents in the NEHGS materials as well. Some of these are hidden on microfilm reels with other materials. In order to ensure that you find all of the available material, please search the NewEnglandAncestors.org library catalog for the localities and subjects you are interested in. This will reveal many hidden sources to you.

    For example, at the end of one of the vital records microfilms are a series of miscellaneous documents [CS88/N64/N64 Reel 35]. One item included is an 1861 compilation entitled A Catalogue of Manuscript Documents between 1748 and 1841 Collected and Arranged under the Direction of Thomas B. Sherns (?), Commissioner of Publications at Halifax, N.S. 1861. This document sources many original manuscripts that should currently be held at PANS. While much of the material consists of correspondence between various civil and military officials, there is a great deal of genealogical information hidden within these documents as well. For example, document number 66 is a letter dated March 12, 1760, from Sir Jeffrey Amherst in New York to Governor Lawrence in Nova Scotia. Included in the letter was a list of officers who had been granted a leave of absence – a potential source of information on your ancestors.

    Among the other treasures on this reel are several early passenger lists. Sometimes, as in the case of the ship Sarah, which arrived in 1801, the lists have transcriptions. On this list one can find the following individuals listed as coming from Kiltarlity:

    Dond. McKenzie, farmer
    Donald McDonald, farmer
    John McDonald, laborer
    Rod McDonnell, laborer
    Ann McDonald, spinster; Cath. McDonald, spinster; Janet McDonale, spinster; John McDonald, (2); a child

    One microfilm that is available through the Circulating Library contains the Compiled Genealogical Materials of the Maritime Provinces – New England Genealogy Research Interest Group of the Orange County, California Genealogical Society 1650 to 1995 [CS88/M35/N49/1997]. Fully indexed, this contains manuscript materials collected by the interest group including notes, photocopies, letters, pedigree charts, and family group sheets. The materials cover a wide geographic area, but the index makes it easy to search and find people you are looking for. There are a large number of records for individuals from Nova Scotia within these materials.

    Also available through the Circulating Library is Fred E. Crowell’s master work New Englanders in Nova Scotia [F1036.8/C78]. This is a microfilm published by NEHGS in 1979 from a manuscript donated by Mr. Crowell. The work deals with planters as well as Loyalists. The first half of the film contains articles published by Mr. Crowell in the Boston Transcript, while the second half contains additional research and manuscript notes. The materials are fully indexed for ease of use.

    The vast number of Canadian resources available on microtext at NEHGS will prove valuable to many researchers. Although using microfilms is sometimes more complex than researching in published print materials, the benefits to be gained are enormous. Any of the librarians in the microtext area will be happy to assist you in finding materials.

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