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…