1853 map of Canadian Maritime Provinces

New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces: Differences in Record Keeping, II

Editor’s Note: This post is by Dr. Terrence M. Punch, CM FRSAI, FIGRS, CG(C), the leading authority on immigration into Canada’s Maritime Provinces. In this two-part article, Dr. Punch explains the differences in record keeping between the New England states/colonies and the neighboring Maritimes, which some future New Englanders used as a stopping-off point. Part I of this article, originally published in last week’s “Genealogy Pointers” and here on this blog, concerned the differences between New England and Maritime census and citizenship records. Persons with Scottish or Irish ancestry should refer to the linked notes following this article for more information about possible family connections in the Maritimes.

A reminder from last week: There are four potential stumbling blocks when working with Canadian Maritime records. To reiterate them briefly (points one and two are in last week’s post): 1. Canada has no federal records prior to 1867. 2. Different citizenship – British subjects going and coming until 1947. 3. Canada has a different pattern of governance. 4. Canada is affected by a lack of/incomplete records.

 

Maritime Provinces – a Different Path to Governance

 

The third point is a different path of governance. Nova Scotia was founded as a royal province. Many of the thirteen colonies had been established by corporations, such as Virginia; by proprietary grants, as were Pennsylvania or Maryland; or by religious groups such as Plymouth Bay or Rhode Island. In Nova Scotia’s case there was no lord proprietor, nor a tradition of townships which elected their own officials and largely governed their local affairs. Control was vested in a governor and council appointed by the mother country. This model continued until the attainment of responsible government in 1848.

In 1759 Nova Scotia’s mainland was divided into five original counties: Halifax, Lunenburg, Annapolis, Kings and Cumberland, but merely for administrative convenience to permit the setting up of county land registries, probate courts and the appointment of local petty officials. Until the charter of Halifax as a city in 1841 there were no self­ governing municipalities in Nova Scotia, hence there isn’t much to seek in terms of local governmental records prior to the 1840s. New Brunswick was part of Nova Scotia until 1784.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick did indeed have townships, mainly in areas settled by New Englanders in the 1760s and 70s. There survive a number of useful township books, in which at least the births and marriages of the proprietary or shareholding families were recorded, along with such information as the earmarks of cattle and the like. Some books were well kept while others were not, or have been lost. Continue reading…

780_Raynal_and_Bonne_Map_of_New_England_and_the_Maritime_Provinces_-_Geographicus_-_Canada-bonne-1780

Canadian Maritime Provinces and New England: Differences in Record Keeping, I

 

Editor’s Note: Terrence Punch is the leading authority on immigration into Canada’s Maritime Provinces. In this two-part article (part I published below) Dr. Punch explains the differences in record keeping between the New England states/colonies and the neighboring Maritimes, which some future New Englanders used as a stopping-off point. Persons with Scottish or Irish ancestry should refer to the link in Footnote #4 for more information about possible family connections in the Maritimes themselves. This post was written by Dr. Terrence M. Punch, CM, FRSAI, FIGRS, CG(C).

From the perspective of most of North America, the New England states and the Canadian Maritime provinces are near neighbors, sharing many cultural and genealogical similarities. Yet, an international border separates them and the story of their settlement and record keeping reveals some differences that affect genealogical research. Let’s look at four of these potential stumbling blocks.

The first thing to remember is that the Maritimes were not part of Canada until 1867 or afterwards, which means that there are no records at the federal level until then. This gives Americans about a 90-year head start. The second point to keep in mind is that people born in the Maritimes or coming there from the British Isles before 1947 were British subjects when they sailed from Britain and remained so over here. The third thing to remember is that the pattern of government evolved quite differently. A fourth matter to recognize is that record keeping was not very assiduously carried out here and that, when records were created, they were not always preserved for posterity. Each of these facts impinges on what records were required, and therefore, exist to be utilized by researchers now.

These facts are so important that we should reiterate them briefly: 1. We have no federal records prior to 1867. 2. British subjects going and coming until 1947. 3. We have a different pattern of governance. 4. Incomplete records.

Continue reading…