Religious Records Part 3 – Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

Last post we started our trek across Canada in search of Religious Records, by looking at Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. Now we\’re going to look at Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia
For a brief outline of the religious history of Nova Scotia, take a look at anglicanhistory.org\’s page on The Church of England in Nova Scotia and the Tory Clergy of the Revolution. Though obviously centered around Protestantism, it does briefly mention the Acadian Catholic years. Also take a look at St. Francis Xavier University\’s page that covers both Catholicism and Presbyterian histories of the province. It also has a bibliography if you want a more in depth look at either history.

FamilySearch has a browse only collection of records called Nova Scotia Church Records 1720-2001. The collection covers both Catholic and Church of England records. Also check out their wiki on church records in general. What\’s great about this particular wiki is that is also has links and contact information for some of the denominational archives as well.

If you have Catholic ancestors, then check out the Drouin Acadian church records on Ancestry. Do take note though, that this collection covers both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Also please note that is not fully indexed. Some of the locations will need to be browsed page by page, especially if you are looking at the very years of the collection, when Nova Scotia was Acadie. Some records are in English, but a huge amount are in French. So along with poor handwriting, you will be dealing with French and sometimes Latin records. They can be a gold mine of information though. The Catholic records were usually a little more detailed than their Protestant counterparts. Some of the extra information I\’ve come across in these records included:

  • Names of parents of a marrying couple
  • Maiden name of mothers in baptism entries
  • If one of the parties of a marriage comes from a different parish, their home parish is sometimes listed
  • If a widow is remarrying, sometimes her previous husband\’s name is also included (i.e the widow of so and so)
  • Relationship of the witnesses to the infant, wedding party, or deceased\’s entry. I\’ve seen this in both marriages and burials for my own tree, and births in some other entries. (i.e. In attendance at the burial was her son Pierre)

The Nova Scotia Archives has a church records collection. There is an online database that will tell you what they have available. It is NOT the records themselves. For that you will have to visit the Archives in person to see the microfilms. The individual parishes still retain custody of the microfilms, and therefore are only available according to their guidelines. A detailed explanation of the holdings is here. The exception to this is their collection An Acadian Parish Remembered. These are the records of St. Jean Baptiste in Annapolis Royal, and covers the years 1702-1755. This is valuable tool for Acadian researchers. Type in a surname and you get every event pertaining to that surname in the registers. For example, when I enter BASTARACHE, one of my Acadian surnames, I get 43 results. If I click on one of these results, I will get to see a digital image of the page the entry is on. You cannot download the image, it is for viewing only. Above the image is an extract of the entry.

The Nova Scotia GenWeb has the LDS film numbers for various churches in Nova Scotia. Click on the county you are researching and you will get the various churches and their LDS film number. Some counties also have pictures and brief histories of individual churches.

The Shelburne County Archives and Genealogical Society has some church records and family bibles among their holdings. Along with Shelburne County, they also have the Liverpool Methodist and the
Port Mouton Circuit records from Queen\’s County.

If you have Lunenburg ancestors, then you have to look at the information on the Lunenburg County GenWeb site. They have a huge collection of transcriptions available for download. Along with that though, is the Don Shankle database. It has almost 50,000 BMD\’s taken from both vital statistics and church records. Though it is not as good as looking at original records of course, this database is the next best thing. Oh, and did I mention it is free to download? You can access the Shankle database here.

 New Brunswick
Originally part of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick became a separate entity in 1784. Over the years of it\’s existence, there has been much friction between the Catholic and protestant sects. Most of the Catholics were and are of French and Irish descent, while the Protestant sects come from the British and American immigrants. The Scottish immigrants fell into both groups. Today, the second largest Catholic population in Canada live in New Brunswick.

FamilySearch has a small collection of births and baptisms for the years 1819-1899. There are no images, but you will get a simple extraction of the original record. You can access the wiki as well for information and helpful links on the various denominations.

As mentioned in the Nova Scotia segment above, you can access the Acadian Drouin Collection on Ancestry for Catholic New Brunswick records. I have traced my own tree back several generations using this collection.

My favourite site in the whole world, The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, has microfilms of both Catholic and Protestant church records. I love these guys. Not only are they \”genealogist friendly\”, but they offer inter library loan on most of their records. For the church record microfilms, you need to go to the tab Research Tools, then click on County Guides. That will take you to this page. Click on the county you are interested in. You will get an Adobe Acrobat file of all the information for that county. Near the bottom is the section Church Records. Here you will get a listing of the various churches in the county, what years the records cover, and the microfilm numbers. Then just go to your local library with the information and have them submit a request for the film. Easy and free!

The University of Moncton has a great Acadian department, where you can find Stephen A White. Mr. White is the go-to source on Acadian genealogy. His work in progress on the original Acadian settlers and all their descendants is a hot commodity. The first two volumes are no longer in print, but if you can get your hands on them, they are invaluable. I was lucky enough to buy a used set last year. Though they are written in French, there is a English supplemental guide that can help you navigate the information. You can check out Stephen A. White and the holdings of the Centre D\’Etudes Acadiennes Anselme-Chaisson here. The page is in French, but if your web browser should be able to translate it for you.

If you have First Nations ancestors, check out Genealogy First\’s page on parish records. They have information to help you find your New Brunswick First Nations ancestors.

If your ancestors belonged to Gagetown parish, then check out the Queen\’s County GenWeb page on parish records. There are over 4,000 transcriptions of baptisms, marriages, and burials.

And of course for both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, check out LAC\’s Religious Archives links.

Next post we\’ll leave the Maritimes and head over to Quebec and Ontario.

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