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…

Old Parish Register of Scotland

Old Parochial Registers of Scotland

In this archived post by the late Carolyn Barkley, she delves into the usefulness of old parochial registers of Scotland, including what they are and resources to utilizing them.

One of the three “C’s” of Scottish research is church records (the other two being census and civil registration). One of the most extensive collections of church records can be found in the Old Parochial Registers (OPR), which document births/baptisms, marriages/proclamations, and deaths/burials in the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) from the late 1500s through the end of 1854, although the dates for extant registers differ with each parish. As such, these records represent the best source for vital (birth, marriage, death) records prior to the beginning of civil registration in Scotland at the beginning of 1855.

It is important to understand what information can be found in OPR records as the details may vary. First, registration was costly, and therefore unpopular, and thus events often went unrecorded. In addition, the denominational history of churches in Scotland is quite convoluted. If your ancestor was a non-conformist during certain time periods, there will be no record of birth, marriage, or death events in the registers of the established church.

Baptismal registers may provide as little information as the date of baptism, name of the child, and name of the father. If you are looking for a George Duncan, born ca. 1809, who was the son of Charles Duncan, and you don’t know the parish in which he was born, your search will be more difficult and time-consuming. If a baptismal record, in addition to the more basic information as noted above, including the mother’s maiden name, it will be much easier to determine if you have identified the correct child and father combination. Additional information in the register might also include the father’s occupation, residence and the names of witnesses.

Marriage records also vary in content. In addition to the name of the bride and groom, they may document the dates of three (usually) proclamations (notices of upcoming marriage), either instead of, or sometimes in addition to, the actual marriage date. In addition, the parish(es) of the bride and groom, their residences, the groom’s occupation, and sometimes the name of the bride’s father, although seldom the name of the groom’s father, may also be provided. If the bride and groom come from separate parishes, both should be searched.

Burial and mortcloth rental records may be available for some parishes, but are found much less frequently. A mortcloth was the pall draped over the casket at a funeral. Such a pall was often owned by the parish and rented out for a fee. If the parish mortcloth was used, the receipt of the fee and by whom it was paid would have been recorded in the register. Rentals may not have been paid in other circumstances including the funeral of a child, or when a mortcloth was owned privately. The information provided in a burial record may be very brief, perhaps only a surname and a date. Remember also that burial records are not indexed in the microfiche OPR index.

When I first began researching in the OPR, the best access to these records was through the Old Parochial Registers Index on microfiche at the Family History Library or a local Family History Center. The index could locate an ancestor’s parish, document an ancestor’s christening, marriage, or burial date, or identify an ancestor’s spouse or parent. There are several drawbacks in using the OPR fiche, however: it contains christenings and marriages only (burials were not indexed); and the microfiche are arranged by county, the very piece of information that you might not know. For example, I cannot look at all of the records for a christening of a George Duncan, born ca. 1809 (county unknown), without searching through the fiche for each individual county. Obviously if I already knew the parish and/or mother’s name, my search would be much simpler.

Once an entry of interest is located in the index, the microfilm of the original register can be identified either through the batch number for the entry (located in the right-hand column on the fiche) or through the Family History Library Catalog. This index continues to be available both in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and in your local Family History Center. You do not need to go to General Register House in Edinburgh to do this research. If you do, you will be looking at Family History Library film! Save your time and look at documents not available to you on this “side of the pond.”

Today, OPR records are much more accessible, with several research opportunities available, some at no cost, some for a reasonable fee.

  • Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. This free electronic database has an interesting description in the FamilySearch Wiki: “This index is an electronic index for the years 1564 to 1955. It is not necessarily intended to index any specific set of records. This index is not complete for any particular place or region. This collection may include information previously published in the International Genealogical Index or Vital Records Index collections.”However, the Wiki goes on to state the primary record collections are pre-1855 Church of Scotland and Civil Registration 1855 to 1875. In addition, researchers are prompted to use the following wording as part of any citation of information from this database: “…citing Scotland Registrar General, Registers of births, marriages and deaths, FHL microfilm 232638, The New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland.” My current research about George Duncan, my great-great-great grandfather, has led me to a hypothesis that he might by George Duncan, born 1809 in Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, the son of Charles Duncan and Elizabeth Middleton, although my reasoning is very circumstantial at this stage in my research. My search for George in this database identified 167 entries for George Duncan, but did not identify a record for a George Duncan, son of Charles and Elizabeth, in the parishes of Auchterless or nearby Fyvie.
  • Scotland Marriages, 1561-1910. This free electronic database includes the same FamilySearch Wiki caveat as did Scotland Births and Baptisms. I searched in this database for a marriage between Charles Duncan and Elizabeth Middleton in Auchterless ca. 1806, information that I had obtained from a family tree on Ancestry.com.  Once again, I was unsuccessful in searching based on the information currently available to me, and I was equally unsuccessful when I searched for any Charles Duncan who was married in 1806 in Auchterless.
  • ScotlandsPeople. This site is fee-based and in addition to the OPRs, provides access to wills and testaments, coats of arms, Catholic parish registers, statutory registers (civil registration), and census records. In the case of an OPR search, the cost is approximately $11.00, which provides thirty “page credits” and access for one year after your credit card payment is authorized. You may extend your access for a further year and additional page credits can be purchased for about $7.00. Before using the site, read the information on charges carefully to understand their intricacies. Because other known information suggests that George was not married in Scotland, I searched for the marriage/banns of George’s possible parents, Charles Duncan (and variants of Duncan) and Elizabeth Middleton, for whom I had located a specific date and place in an Ancestry.com family tree (with no documentation provided). As I had such specific information, I first searched narrowly for a marriage between Charles Duncan and Elizabeth Middleton between 1 April 1806 and 1 June 1806 (the marriage date in the family tree was 6 April 1806) in the parish of Auchterless, Aberdeenshire. There were no matches. I tried several other searches including a very broad search for this bride and groom in all parishes and counties in Scotland from 1800 to 1810. Again, there were no matches. I also searched in the marriages and banns in Catholic registers. This search yielded two marriage records, but neither event occurred in Auchterless, and neither bride’s name was Elizabeth Middleton.

Not willing to give up, I tried one last, very broad search for a Charles Duncan marrying any woman between 1 January 1800 and 31 December 1810 in the parish of Auchterless. Bingo! The entry I received was for 6 April 1806, Charles Duncan to Elisabeth Midleton (please note spelling!) in the parish of Auchterless in Aberdeenshire. The lesson to be learned from this group of searches is that unexpected spelling variants can trip you up every time! Less information can often produce a more successful search. The entire search cost me seven page credits, three to view index entries identified by my searches and five to view the actual register page. I was able to print an image of the original register page at no cost.

You will also want to learn more about pre-1855 church records in Scotland in general and about the availability of specific parish registers. After you identify a possible parish, search for more information about it and its records, including pages for specific parishes on the FamilySearch Wiki. For example, there is a specific page for the parish of Auchterless. You can also consult V. Ben Bloxham’s Key to the Parochial Registers of Scotland from Earliest Times Thru 1854 (1872, Brigham Young University Press, 1970).

There are numerous titles providing general assistance with Scottish research. In particular, I recommend the 3rd rev. and updated edition of Kathleen B. Cory’s Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004). Appendix three in this book is particularly useful as it provides an alphabetical list of parishes with, for each, its district number (Registration Act of 1854), county, the year of its earliest OPR, and its earliest testament or inventory.

Other titles include:

  • Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors: the Official Guide (National Archives of Scotland), 6th ed. (Birlinn, 2012).
  • Linda Jonas and Paul Milner’s A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors (Betterway Books, 2002), in particular Chapter nine.
  • Sherry Irvine’s Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians (2nd ed., Ancestry, 2003), in particular Chapter five and Appendix A.

Image Credit: VisitScotland, Scottish Ancestry

 

Ship passenger lists

The Pitfalls of Passenger Lists

Michael Tepper is a leading authority on passenger and immigration lists in the U.S. He is the author of “American Passenger Arrival Records,” which is a road map through the tens of millions of records and resources documenting immigrant arrivals from the time of the earliest settlements to the passage of the Quota Acts of the 1920s.

The following is an excerpt of an interview from Genealogy Pointers about some of the problems researchers run into when they are on the trail of an immigrant ancestor.

GP: “What would you say is the most common misconception about passenger lists?”

MT: “Almost certainly it is the belief that people had their names changed when they got to Ellis Island. In fact, immigrants did not change their names unless they applied for a change of name by deed poll at a courthouse or when they were naturalized. During processing at Ellis Island, officials had the actual ships’ manifests in front of them. They called each immigrant by name, according to the manifests, and often put a check next to the name after it had been called. So the passenger records are an exact reflection of the immigrants’ identities before they crossed the Atlantic, not after.”

GP: “Are there other false assumptions about passenger lists?”

MT: “Among Americans of relatively recent ancestry, say researchers whose immigrant forebears arrived after 1850, there is the belief that official passenger lists must also exist for the Colonial and Early National periods of our history. The fact is they don’t. No colony-wide or U.S. law requiring the compiling of immigration records was enacted before 1820. The only immigration records prior to 1820 to have survived are really kind of quirky. For instance, we have lists of German immigrants who immigrated to colonies like Pennsylvania because the authorities, intent on keeping tabs on these newcomers, required them to take a loyalty oath. Also, some of the most important published immigration records are not immigration records at all, but land records, such as Nugent’s “Cavaliers And Pioneers” and Skordas’s “Early Settlers Of Maryland,” which identify early immigrants taking up land grants.”

GP: “Let’s turn that situation around. Can you think of an instance when surviving records are frequently overlooked?”

MT: “Yes. Here’s a common mistake that’s made by researchers hoping to find an ancestor during the 1840s. Let’s say the genealogist is looking for a Sean O’Shaunessey, who is supposed to have come from Dublin to New York in June of 1849. The researcher finds a Sean in the official Customs Passenger Lists; however, because the record indicates that his country of origin is Great Britain, not Ireland, the genealogist concludes, mistakenly, that this Sean is not his relative. This is an error that could have been avoided had the researcher known that shipping agents, or bursars, or others who were responsible for compiling the ships’ manifests were far more likely to write ‘Great Britain’ and not Ireland as Sean’s country of origin during the 1840s because Ireland was, in fact, officially part of Great Britain.”

Image credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

 

CU Heritage image

Evidence Explained: An Interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills

Dipping into the Genealogy Pointers archives, we unearthed a fascinating interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.”

As one of the most respected and influential persons in American genealogy, Published widely in academic and popular presses, she was editor of the “National Genealogical Society Quarterly” (NGSQ) for 16 years.

Mrs. Mills has also taught for 13 years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for 20 years, headed the program in advanced research methodology at Samford University in Alabama.

Mrs. Mills knows records, loves records, and regularly shares her expertise in them with audiences across three continents.

“EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” is Elizabeth Mills’ third major publication pertaining to source citation. Her earlier works include: “EVIDENCE! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian” (1997) and “QUICKSHEET: Citing Online Historical Resources “Evidence!” Style” (2005). The groundbreaking “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” analyses citation principals and includes more than 1,000 citation models for virtually every source type. In the process, it covers all contemporary and electronic history sources–including digital, audio, and video sources–most of which are still not discussed in traditional style manuals.

“Genealogy Pointers” spoke with Mrs. Mills about the making “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” and how researchers can benefit from it. Here are the exchanges from that conversation:

GENEALOGY POINTERS (GP): Why did you write this book?

ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS (ESM): Researchers need help and want help, but what they need today is not available elsewhere. Those who study history now probe far beyond the materials covered by standard citation guides–combing long-ignored original, grassroots-level records for fresh insight into our world. Thanks to modern technology, billions of these original records are now easily accessible through many different media. However, today’s researchers also know two things: First, all these records are not created equal. Second, the real reason to carefully identify sources for each piece of information is to ensure that we use the best sources possible. Otherwise, we just can’t reach reliable conclusions. Analyzing evidence is no easy task, considering the volume of information available, the diversity of the records, all the quirks within each type of document, and all the media formats.

Since the 1997 publication of the original “briefcase edition” of “EVIDENCE!” (which compactly covers 100 of the most common types of history sources), researchers have deluged me with questions about thousands of other materials. I definitely understand their angst, after three decades of my own research in the archives of most western nations, as well as writing for journals and presses in several academic fields and 16 years of editing a major scholarly journal. The new “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” draws on that experience–but it’s also rooted in four file drawers of inquiries and debates generated by the users of that first edition.

Continue reading…