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By Marie E. DalySenior Genealogist
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Prince Edward Island was originally a French colony, named Ils St. Jean or St. John Island, and was settled in the early 18th century by Acadians. Most of the Acadians were deported by the British in 1758 after the battle of Louisburg, but about 300 Acadian families stayed on the island by hiding out in the woods. In 1763, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, the island was officially turned over to the British. The island was divided up into 67 numbered lots and a lottery was held in 1767 to allocate the lots. The proprietors were required to pay quitrents (a tax or land tax) to the Crown and bring in 100 Protestant, non-British settlers within 10 years. However, the first settlers were Scottish Catholics and arrived in 1772. Subsequent waves of Scottish immigrants, both Catholic and Protestant, and Irish and English immigrants came to the island, largely between 1772 and 1841. This subject guide provides a list of key resources, records, and some background information to help you get results in your PEI research.
Genealogist's Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research by Terrence M. PunchNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks, 7th Floor Reading Rm, and Microtext Floor (4th Floor) 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
The Master Name Index (MNI) is a finding aide that includes abstracts of census records, obituaries, gravestone inscriptions, histories, and other resources. It’s a great place to start your research.
Master Name Index, Part 1 and Part 2NEHGS, Microfilm Collection (4th Floor) CS88.P74 P7 1985 (Part 1); CS88.P7 P72 1998 (Part 2)
Computerized Master Name Index (CMNI), peigs.ca/cmni.phpThe PEI Genealogical Society has placed many, but not all, of the sources in the Master Name Index in an online database.
Available census records for Prince Edward Island generally cover the period of 1798 to 1911. Census records, dating back to 1728 also exist for the island when it was under French control (known as Ile Saint Jean). For more information on these earlier records and to view transcriptions, visit the Island Register website.
The information and coverage provided by the 1798 to 1911 census returns vary from year to year. The 1881 return was the first national census that included Prince Edward Island (the province having joined the Confederation in 1873) and all subsequent censuses occurred every ten years. Surnames, lots, and other data can be searched online at a variety of websites. The following census records are available for PEI:
There was no civil registration in PEI prior to 1906. In addition the following restrictions apply:
Microfilm copies are available at the PEI Public Archives and Records Office.
Marriage Registers, 1832–1888, FamilySearch.orgImages of indexes and registers are browsable on FamilySearch.org. Marriages took place in churches and before Justices of the Peace. Dates of indexes correspond to dates of marriages, and marriage records are arranged by date of registration, so the dates of the indexes and the marriage records do not always match. Indexes are alphabetized by first letter of the surname only. Note: In some indexes, the "Mc" and "Mac" names are indexed by the first letter after "Mc" or "Mac."
Death Card Index, 1721–1905, FamilySearch.orgBrowsable images of a PEI death card index from 1721 to 1905 are available on FamilySearch.org. With only 3,428 images, the index greatly under-reports the actual deaths of this time period. Cemetery inscriptions are a better source.
Since there was no civil registration in PEI before 1906, church records are the best alternative for genealogists. Baptism indexes are available on FamilySearch.org and also on the PEI Archives and Public Records website. Not all church records are in either database, and there are transcription errors. Copies of original church records should also be consulted.
PEI Baptism Card Index, 1721–1885, FamilySearch.orgThis collection of 92,218 records provides an index of church records of baptisms and births. The baptism card index was created to provide pre-civil registration birth records. The earliest records date from 1751, but the majority date from 1830 onwards.
PEI Baptismal Index, gov.pe.ca/archives/baptismalThis PEI Archives and Public Records database of baptismal records was taken from existing church records from across the Island. In lieu of official birth certificates which were not issued until 1906, baptismal records provide information concerning individuals’ births and parentage. The database contains over 168,700 records which span approximately 1777 to 1923.
Church RecordsNEHGS, Microfilm Collection (4th Floor) CS88.P74 A53NEHGS has pre-1900 baptisms, marriages, and burials for Anglican Church of Canada, Catholic, Church of Christ, Church of England in Canada, Church of Scotland, Free Church, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Canada churches.
PEI Church Records, 1777–1985, FamilySearch.orgFamilySearch.org has 22,448 browsable images of some church records. They are arranged by community, and then by church.
PEI Wills 1807–1901NEHGS, Microfilm Collection (4th Floor) CS88.P74 W55 NEHGS has copies of 19th century PEI wills, including an index, on microfilm.
Early Prince Edward Island Probate Records, 1786–1850 by Linda Jean NicholsonNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.P74 N53 2004
Most residents of PEI did not own the land they lived on until after the land reform was implemented in 1875, so many deeds date from the later nineteenth century. Many earlier leases, however, were recorded with the Registry of Deeds. There are grantee and grantor indexes, 1769–1872.
Prince Edward Island Land Conveyances, 1769–1872NEHGS, Microfilm Collection (4th Floor) CS88.P74 L36
The Island Imagined, islandimagined.caThe Island Imagined is an online collection of historic maps of Prince Edward Island. The collection features maps, atlases, books, images, and documents from various Prince Edward Island repositories. The site contains over 1,000 maps and features a digitized version of Meacham's atlas from 1880 (see below).
1863 Lake Map, islandregister.com/lakem/1863maps.htmlThis map shows the location of residents in 1863 and is available online on the Island Register website.
NEHGS has two atlases that show the occupiers of every farm in the province for 1880 and 1928:
Illustrated Historical Atlas of Prince Edward Island published by J. H. Meacham Company, 1880NEHGS, Atlas Collection (5th Floor) G1135 .M4 1972
Atlas of Province of Prince Edward Island, Canada published by Cummins Map Co., 1928NEHGS, Atlas Collection (5th Floor) G1135 .A84 1928
P.E.I. Genealogical Society NewsletterNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1046 .P75 1977
The Island Magazine by PEI Heritage FoundationNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1046.I8
The Abegweit Review by University of Prince Edward IslandNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1046.A23
PEI Genealogical Society, peigs.caGenealogical Institute of the Maritimes, nsgna.ednet.ns.caPEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, peimuseum.comAmerican-Canadian Genealogical Society, acgs.org
PEI Public Archives and Records Office, gov.pe.ca/archivesLibrary and Archives Canada, collectionscanada.gc.ca
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