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  • Acquisition News - Sources at NEHGS for Atlantic Canada, Part I: Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia

    Published Date : December 1990
     During the past three years, the NEHGS collection of Atlantic Canadian materials has grown to world-class stature, thanks largely to a generous grant from the William H. Donner Foundation of New York City.  As word has spread, patron demand for Canadian materials - particularly for the Atlantic provinces of (from west to east) New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia (the three traditional “Maritimes”) and Newfoundland and Labrador- has boomed. Such interest is hardly a surprise, given the historical ties between Atlantic Canada and New England to the south.

    One of our first large acquisitions under the Donner Foundation grant was the entire body of census materials for all of Canada, making NEHGS one of only two U.S. repositories (Salt Lake City is the other) with coast-to-coast Canadian census coverage.  In addition, patrons with Atlantic or other Canadian questions should not hesitate to consult library director George F. Sanborn Jr., for English-Canadian, or reference librarian Jerome E. Anderson, for French-Canadian problems.  Another resource NEHGS can offer is our very popular Genealogist’s Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research (1989), edited by Terrence M. Punch ($10.00 U.S. + $2.50 P&H from our Sales Department; Mass. residents please add 5% on the book’s price), which is indispensable for anyone doing Maritime or Newfoundland research.

    In this issue we shall focus on Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, which form the eastern part of the Atlantic region.

    Newfoundland and Labrador

    A most interesting and helpfully detailed discussion of research in this newest Canadian province will be found in Genealogist’s Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research, mentioned above.  Elsa H. Hochwald has written an authoritative account of sources and techniques for genealogical research in this former British colony, which only joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949.

    While many people are aware of the large numbers of Newfoundlanders who came to the Boston area between ca. 1880 and ca. 1920, not many know of the eighteenth-century migrations to Newfoundland from New England, most notably from Boston, Charlestown and surrounding towns, establishing a society of merchant-class residents and coastal traders.  These New Englanders took with them their Congregational form of religion (otherwise very rare in the Atlantic area) and established a Congregational church in St. John’s.  Members and patrons will be pleased to learn that we have received permission to obtain a microfilm copy of this church’s records (which date from ca. 1775).

    We recently added the 1921 colonial census for the entire province.  This enumeration asked for not only the month and year of everyone’s birth, but also requested the precise place of birth for all residents.  This enormously helpful feature can provide many clues for further work for those researchers whose family members were still living in 1921, and for those whose relatives moved back and forth from the Province to the States, or to other parts of Canada.  We are also in the process of getting the 1911 census, which should help in identifying mobile relatives.

    Earlier censuses are fragmentary and far from complete, although some of the early “French censuses” (which contain more than just French residents) are thought to be relatively comprehensive.  We hope to obtain microfilm copies of these records from the Archives nationales in Paris.  These sources should be of particular help to people of Irish descent whose families came through Newfoundland.

    We hope to add early Roman Catholic and Anglican church records on microfilm to our collection in the near future, as well as to expand our United Church of Canada holdings to include early Methodist and Presbyterian material as well as the above-mentioned Congregational data.  A full list of church records available at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador will be found in the Genealogist’s Handbook.

    We receive the journals of the Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society, as well as their occasional publications of cemetery transcriptions from around the province.  The 1804-1806 Conception Bay Plantation Book, expected soon, lists the surnames of planters and settlers residing in settlements from Bay de Verde to Holyrood.

    Gert Crosbie’s Births, Deaths, Marriages in Newfoundland Newspapers, 1825-1877, and Mildred Howard’s Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser 1810-1845 Vital Statistics and Items document many events, while the Guide to Dr. Keith Matthews Name File Collection indexes the great collection, housed at the Provindal Archives in St. John’s, on which Dr. Matthews recorded on slips of paper events and records from many sources concerning hundreds of thousands of persons.  Last but not least is E.R. Scary’s Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland (1977), a wonderful source for the distribution of surnames in both historic and current periods, to help you pinpoint the likeliest places in this majestic province to search for elusive Newfound land ancestors.

    Nova Scotia

    Considered the “fourteenth colony” prior to the American Revolution because it had to that point been settled largely by New England “planters,” Nova Scotia soon became home to a great variety of people from different backgrounds.  Chesapeake Bay Swedes, Loyalists from all parts of the “United Colonies,” “Foreign Protestants” from Germany and Montbéliard in [197] France, Ulster Scots from New England “Scotch-Irish” settlements, Scottish Highlanders, English, Welsh and Irish settlers, Americans of African descent, and many others came to join the native Micmac and long-established Acadian French people to create a microcosm of the Canadian mosaic.  Nova Scotia is correspondingly rich in genealogical records.

    The early New England planters brought with them the New England system of record keeping, of which a prominent feature was the township book of town records.  We have microfilmed township books for Argyle, Aylesford, Barrington, Annapolis, Cornwallis, Douglas, Granville, Horton, Liverpool, Maccan, Manchester, Guysborough, Parrsboro, Shelburne, Yarmouth, St. Mary’s and Westchester. Others are extant and will be added later.

    Bell's Register of Lunenburg County Families, on microfilm, includes “Foreign Protestant” passenger lists at the end of the reel, leading the researcher to the earliest mention of his or her immigrant ancestry.  Canon Harris’ Papers on Lunenburg Families may also be useful.  Father D’Entremont’s Acadian Families of Yarmouth, and the Crowell and Brown collections of newspaper clippings from The Yarmouth Herald, plus other data, will be particularly useful to those with South Shore and Yarmouth County interests.

    Our library has microfilm copies of all Nova Scotia birth and death records from 1864 to 1877 (the period during for which the province kept such data prior to the twentieth century), and we have marriage records (varying by county) for the whole province from 1864 to 1918.  In addition, we have the marriage bonds from 1763 to 1847, which may be the only source for verifying an early marriage.  Attention is called to the fact that reel No. 34 of the vital records also contains the Truro Township Book, and a list of baptisms in Londonderry from 1873 to 1889, while reel No. 35 contains passenger lists of the Sarah and the Dove in 1801, passenger lists of “Foreign Protestants” from 1750 through 1752, and a “victualling list” of “Foreign Protestants” at Halifax from 1750 to 1753.

    We are fortunate to have (among others) Presbyterian records from the two churches in Pidou; Anglican church records from Guysborough County; and published early Anglican church records for St. Paul's Church in Halifax.  A real time-saver for busy vacationing genealogists is The Stone Book, which will lead you to all extant gravestones in Pictou County.  We have, in addition, all surviving census data for the province, including scattered early ones; the partial 1851 census; the difficult-to-use 1861 census; and those for 1871, 1881 and 1891.  Prior to 1871, these censuses list the name of only the head-of-household, with statistics for the rest.

    Nova Scotia was the only part of Atlantic Canada which enjoyed the publication of county histories. Our collection includes them all: Annapolis, Colchester, Digby (with index), Inverness, Kings, Lunenburg. Queens, Antigonish, Pictoti (with two indices), and Victoria (typescript).  Some good local histories include those for Barrington, Shelburne and Yarmouth, as well as the three excellent histories with family genealogies by John Victor Duncanson on Falmouth, Newport and Rawdon & Douglas, chronicling the many Rhode Islanders who peopled those townships. Cemetery inscriptions from Lunenburg (including Shelburne) and Queens Counties join those mentioned above for Pictou County, while the five-volume Histoire du Cap-Sable is useful for early work there.  Many family genealogies have already been added to the collection, most notably excellent works on the following families: Bell, Blauvelt, Boehner, Campbell, Card, Chipman, Curtis, Cutten, Dedrick, Eaton, Fletcher, Forbes, Freeman, Gouthro, Harvie, Hyson, Kirkpatrick, Layton, Lockhart, Pace, Patterson, Purdy, Stevens, Trask, Twining and Whidden, among others.  We receive many books and periodicals, including Acadian Descendants, The Nova Scotia Historical Review, The Nova Scotia Historical Quarterly, the Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, and the Nova Scotia Genealogist.  Less used, but deserving of attention, are the ten volumes of the Publications of the Royal Archives of Nova Scotia. Volume 4, in particular, lists many land grants to Loyalists, while volume 10 contains the diary of Adolphus Gaetz of Lunenburg.  Other printed works of lasting value include Bells The Foreign Protestants and the Settlement of Nova Scotia (to be used in conjunction with the microfilrn of Bells Register, mentioned above); MacKinnon’s scholarly yet very readable account of the Port Roseway Associates and the Loyalist settlement of Shelburne, This Unfriendly Soil; Brebner’s The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia; and the five-volume Diary of Simeon Perkins from the Liverpool area.

    The published Nova Scotia Vital Statistics from News papers 1769-1847 may be the source of the date or place you seek. And those with Acadian interests will want to consult Bona Arsenault’s classic eight-volume Histoire et Genealogie des Acadiens for early Acadians.

    Our holdings will continue to grow as we ann for a comprehensive collection of published and original source material on all the Atlantic Provinces.  If you know of any published local history material or family genealogies of which we may not be aware, please contact George F. Sanborn Jr. at the Society with details.  And if you come across any obscure gems, let us know so that we can share your discoveries with others in the library.

    In the next issue, “Acquisitions News” will focus on Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

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