Nova Scotia Genealogical Research

Red Cross brand_NS Archives


This subject guide provides a list of essential resources and records to help you trace your ancestors from Nova Scotia. Many of these resources are held onsite at the NEHGS library and archives, or available online at our website,

How-To Guides

Genealogist's Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research by Terrence M. Punch and George F. Sanborn, Jr.
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm CS88.A88 G46 1997

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee
NEHGS, 5th Floor CS82 .I78 2007

Vital Records


Some 18th and early 19th century vital records can be located in township books for Nova Scotia communities. NEHGS has the following townships available on microfilm:

Annapolis, Argyle, Aylesford, Chester, Cornwallis, Digby, Douglas, Falmouth, Fort Lawrence, Granville, Horton, Liverpool, Londonderry, Maccan, Manchester, New Dublin, Newport, Parrsboro, River Philip, St. Mary’s, Stormont, Truro, Tusket, Westchester, Wilmot, Windsor, Yarmouth.

NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N642

Marriage licenses by county on microfilm for 1849-1918: NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N6443.N68

Marriage bond indexes 1853-1864: NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N644.N64 #10

1864 and beyond

Official registration for Nova Scotia began in 1864, however, the returns are quite incomplete. (On the births you can often find the pre-1864 marriage date and place of the parents.) NEHGS has microfilm for births, marriages, and deaths for these years. After 1877 only marriages were recorded until 1908. NEHGS has microfilm of county marriage registers after 1877 to approximately 1918 for most counties. NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N644.N64

Online access to vital records Online access to births (1864-1877, 1908-1912, delayed registrations 1830-1912); Marriages (1864-1937) and marriage bonds (1763-1864); Deaths (1864-1877, 1908-1962); and City of Halifax deaths (1890-1908).

Other vital-record-related collections

NEHGS also has two collections used in conjunction with vital records on microfilm:

Nova Scotia Coroners Inquisitions 1755-1928
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm N6485.N68

Divorces and Matrimonial cause case files 1759-1951
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.W649.N65

Peggys Cove_NS ArchivesCensus Records

The following census records are available for Nova Scotia.

Pre-1851 census or tax list returns exist for various communities. Refer to the book Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1666-1891 by Thomas A. Hillman
NEHGS, 4th Floor Reference MT.HA.742.P82.1987

YearAccessible at:Notes:
1851NEHGS, Ancestry.comHead of household (only Halifax, Kings, Pictou Counties survive)
1861NEHGS,, FamilySearch.orgNames only the head of household, agricultural data
1871NEHGS, Ancestry.comFirst census to include all names of the household. This continued throughout the remaining years.
1881NEHGS,, FamilySearch.orgAll names of the household.
1891NEHGS, Ancestry.comAll names of the household.
1901NEHGS, Ancestry.comAll names of the household., Archives of CanadaAll names of the household.
1921Ancestry.comAll names of the household.

The Archives of Canada has free access to most censuses online.

Probate Records

NEHGS has microfilm of Nova Scotia probates from the 18th century to the late 20th century.
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N643

Annapolis (1763-1970); Antigonish (1819-1963); Cape Breton (1872-1970); Colchester (1798-1969); Cumberland (1840-1969); Cumberland (1840-1969); Digby (1803-1970); Guysborough (St. Mary’s District 1843-1970, and Guysborough District 1946-1969); Halifax (1749-1968); Hants (1761-1900); Inverness (1831-1969); Kings (1783-1968); Lunenburg (1762-1967); Pictou (1811-1969); Queens (1743-1970); Richmond (1831-1969); Shelburne: (Barrington District 1866-1970, and Shelburne District 1784-1970); Victoria (1851-1969); Yarmouth (1794-1970).

Land Records

Early land records can often be found in the colonial-era township books for some communities (see Vital Records – Pre-1864 for more about township books).

County Land Records

4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N643

Annapolis (1765-1910); Antigonish (1785-1907); Cape Breton (1786-1969); Colchester (1770-1959); Cumberland (1764-1967); Digby (1785-1958); Guysborough (Guysborough District 1785-1967), and St. Mary’s District 1815-1969); Halifax (1749-1967); Hants (1763-1952); Inverness (1825-1929); Kings (1764-1901); Lunenburg: (Chester District 1879-1926, and Lunenburg District 1759-1961); Pictou (1771-1924); Queens (1764-1969); Richmond (1821-1963); Shelburne (Barrington District 1854-1950), and Shelburne District 1873-1961); Victoria (1851-1988); Yarmouth (1766-1969)

Plan of Pictou_British LibraryCrown Land Grants and Associated Maps

Nova Scotia Crown Land Maps
A series of 140 maps showing the location of crown land grants in Nova Scotia between 1750 and 1850. View or download the maps here:
NEHGS also has these maps available. Please ask for them at the reference desk on the 4th floor.

The Crown Land Grant Registers
Available at NEHGS on microfilm for the years 1732-1901
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N647.N68

The documentation relating to Crown Land Grants 1854-1967 are available on microfilm
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N6472.N68

Ambrose F. Church Maps. In 1864, Ambrose F. Church was commissioned to produce a series of maps for each county in Nova Scotia. Please ask for these maps at the reference desk on the 4th floor.


The Nova Scotia Historical Review (1981-1996)
NEHG, 5th Floor Stacks F1036.N928

The Nova Scotia Genealogist (1983- present)
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1036.N63.1983

The Casket (Antigonish, NS, 1860-1908, 1928-43)
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.N645.C37

Children on sled 1919_NS ArchivesManuscripts

NEHGS has a number of Nova Scotia genealogical collections. The Fred E. Crowell collection is useful for those with planters from New England to Nova Scotia in the 18th century. This collection has also been placed online on

New England Planters to Nova Scotia

To stabilize the region and bolster control of Nova Scotia, the English worked to populate the area with Protestants after the Deportation of the Acadians. Several immigration schemes were considered in the years before and after the deportation campaigns. Most notably, Massachusetts Governor William Shirley proposed that thousands of New Englanders be brought to Acadia. When the English claimed victory at Louisburg in 1758, Governor Charles Lawrence adopted some of Shirley’s plans and coordinated the settlement of the New England Planters to Nova Scotia. Read more.

Resources at

Barrington & Argyle, Nova Scotia, Vital Records

New Englanders in Nova Scotia

Need help?

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.

Chat live with our experts!

Do you have a genealogy or local history question? Consider our free, online live chat service! The service is available to all, Tuesday—Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

Sample questions:
  • I recently heard that the Wales Family Association collection was donated to NEHGS. Are these papers available online?
  • What is the 19th century definition of a homesteader?
  • How or where would I be able to locate volume 4 of the Newport, RI Probate Records Index?
  • What resources could I use to find more about local Massachusetts regiments from the Civil War?
  • I discovered that my ancestor was christened 45-50 miles away from where he was born in Norway. Could you tell why my ancestors would have traveled so far?

Visit and type your question in the window in the lower right corner.

Meet one-on-one with our genealogists

Want hands-on research guidance from a professional genealogist? Take your experience to the next level with an extended research session with our Personal Genealogist for the Day service. In-person and online sessions are offered as half-day (three-hour) or full day (five-hour) options.

  • 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!

Schedule your session today or contact

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

Hire Research Services today or contact, 617-536-5740.