Newfoundland Ancestors: Newfoundland\’s Grand Banks

Newfoundland and Labrador can be one of the more challenging provinces to research. Joining Canada in 1949, it is our newest province (Nunavut was created in 1999, but is a Territory). Because of this, you are not going to look at the traditional Census and other government records that we rely on for the rest of Canada.

Thanks to the Newfoundland\’s Grand Banks website, researching from a distance is a whole lot easier. Run by volunteers, this site has an incredible amount of transcribed information. In an email exchange with Don Tate, I found out that there are over 100,000 files of information, and that the site gets around 1800 visits per day. Even on their home page you can get lost with all the links to the individual databases. They are also available along the tab bar, which has everything separated to into categories. For the purpose of the blog, I\’m going to concentrate on the tab bar.

Hovering over this tab gives you four options:

  • Cemetery Transcriptions

Divided first by district, and then by community. You can then look at individual cemeteries. Beside each cemetery it tells you how complete the transcriptions are, and whether there are accompanying photos of headstones.
If you\’re not sure of where your ancestor might be buried, at the bottom of the district list is a link to the Stonepics Database index. Arranged alphabetically by surname, each name gives you a town code of where that person\’s name has appeared on a headstone, war memorial or monuments. There is a code index as well, to help you determine the town name. They\’ve also provided the link to the StonePics Database website. Here you can purchase CDs arranged by community that have the photos and transcriptions.

  • Parish Records
These transcriptions are grouped by district, then by church. The year range is different for each church, but I saw records from the 1700\’s to the 1970\’s. There is also an Other Countries section that lists miscellaneous records of those with Newfoundland ties in Nova Scotia, Quebec, England, and Ireland.
  • Vital Statistics
This section contain transcriptions that predate 1891, when civil registration commenced in Newfoundland. Grouped first by region and then by church. There are 3 other sections titled USA, Canada, and Foreign. These are civil registration transcriptions from outside of Newfoundland for people with a Newfoundland connection.
  • Wills Indexes

As the title suggests, here you can find indexes and transcriptions of wills and estate files found both in Newfoundland and outside of it. Also among the collection are two section that contain miscellaneous court records and deeds. It\’s a good idea to check these out as well. Remember that a lot of families didn\’t register a will or estate file in the usual manner, and instead used land registries to record a will. It was often cheaper and faster to do it this way, as well as making sure land passed down to those named in the will. As well, I noticed in the indexes Power of Attorney, Marriage Certificate, and Licence entries. Don\’t forget to check out the additional information section, to learn how to obtain copies of wills.

Official Lists
Here you can find various Government records, as well as Business Directories
  • Newfoundland Census Records
Here are Census transcriptions that range from John Berry\’s 1675 Census, to the 1945 Newfoundland Census. This is a great resource, since Newfoundland doesn\’t become part of the Canadian Census Collection until after 1949.

  • US Census Records
This little gem gives you information on Newfoundlanders living in Essex County, MA in 1870, and various parts of the US in 1880. They also have Newfoundlanders enumerated as crews on vessels in the 1930 Census.

  • Census of Canada Records
This is where you can find Canadian with a Newfoundland connection from 1871 to 1911. As well, they have Labrador transcriptions for 1911.

  • British Census Records
Covering the 1841-1911 census years, this collection highlights people in England with a Newfoundland connection.

  • Crown Lands
A really interesting section. Make sure you look at the subsection Registry Volumes. It gives a bit of history of the Crown Lands Grants. It also mentions that the Great St. John\’s Fire of 1892 destroyed many of the books. The 20 volumes lost in the fire have been partially reconstructed from land owner copies and sources from other collections. 
  • Court Records
This section has court records from Ferryland, Harbour Grace, Placentia & St. Mary\’s,and Trinity Bay. It also has an indenture agreement from 1817. The majority of the Court records I looked at dealt with civil law, but I did notice a criminal law entry here and there as well.
  • Early Fishing Rooms/ Planters
here you can find specialized censuses and reports of the Fishing Rooms, and lists of Planters. These go back to the 1700\’s and early 1800\’s. I did notice some entries that cover the later 1800\’s as well.
  • Business Directories
The amount of transcribing work done here is amazing. Covering the years 1864-1941, for Newfoundland, there is also the 1867 British Mercantile List. Some of the years not only have the names transcribed, but also the information pages that appear at the front of directories. I can only imagine how many hours of work went into this.
  • Voter\’s Lists

Separated by region, this section is a collection of voter\’s list covering a variety of years before Newfoundland became part of Canada. Some areas have only one year represented, while clicking on others gives you a few different years.

Other Lists
There are several options to choose from here as well.
  • Maps

Maps are a good resource that people don\’t always use. Here you\’ll find maps of Bonavists Bay, Carbonear, St. John\’s, Lance Cove, and and Port de Grace.

  • Newspaper Transcriptions

This is another one that boggles the mind on how many hours went into this. There are Government Publications, and local and provincial newspapers. You\’ll also find extracts from newspapers from across Canada. They also have some from the US and the UK. There\’s even a section of obituaries from internet sites. Looking through this section made me wish I had a Newfoundland connection in my own tree.

  • Passenger and Immigrant Lists

A collection of not only ship\’s passenger lists, but trains as well. At the bottom is a miscellanoues section of Immigrants located in other source material such as church records, newspapers, and wills. The entries list rather specific source citations, so you can go find the original source.

  • Telephone Directories

There are transcriptions of telephone directories for Habour Main, St. John\’s, and St. George\’s. 

  • Road Reports

Sounds mundane, but what an interesting source of information! I was expecting to see a list of roads and bridges in certain areas. While some of them are, I also found lists of men doing road work. I even found an 1846 list of names that was \”…for the Relief of Sufferers by the Gale\”

  • Community Names
A handy chart that gives you community names. You also get their Latitude and Longitude. The best part though is that it also gives you what district they were in for the 1921, 1935, and 1940 Censuses.
  • Community Name Changes
Here you can find names of communities that had their name changed. It will also tell you where some of the communities were relocated to after the Resettlement in the 1950\’s 1960\’s and 1970\’s. 
  • Church Society Reports
These are reports of donors to churches throughout Newfoundland. The donations were to the British North American Society for Educating the Poor. It was one of the first school systems in Newfoundland.
  • Information from Other Countries
here you\’ll find a hodge podge of information relating to records outside Newfoundland. Those listed had Newfoundland connection. There\’s everything from Australian Convicts to the American Civil War, to English Apprenticeship Records.
each District of Newfoundland is named. Clicking on the district will give you links to what\’s available on the website for that area. it also has links to outside sites to help further your research. Down at the bottom you can access a map showing all the districts
Yet another section that had a lot of work put into it.
  • Colonial Office Records
Transcriptions of records from mainly the 1700\’s, you\’ll find an eclectic mix. There\’s letters and lists, but also petitions. I also found a verdict of the trial of George Rider in 1774, and a medical report by Dr. Henry Stabb, a surgeon.
  • House of Assembly Records
Another eclectic mix of records. I saw entries dealing with Land records, pauper applications, coroner\’s reports, and school inspections. There\’s also entires from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada.
  • Historical Information
Divided by District, here you can find excerpts from publications and collections dealing with that particular district. The entries run the gamut in historical and genealogical context. You can even find an entry on how the fish was cured before it was sent back to England.
  • Newfoundland Disasters
Listed according to type of Disaster, clicking on the individual entries gives you an account of the tragedy. The information is very well sourced and can include interviews, newspaper accounts, church records and vital statistic information. There\’s even a list of newfoundlanders lost in the Halifax Explosion.
  • Newfoundland Military Records
This section has military information on Newfoundlanders in WW I and WW II. There\’s also a bibliography, in case you want to check out their sources.
  • Treasury of Newfoundland Stories
An entertaining section. These are stories transcribed from the book The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories. It include both fiction and non-fiction.
Separated by district, you can find photos of not only buildings and people but geography as well. They also have a section of unidentified photos. If you recognize anyone in the photos, you can go to the bottom of the page and click on the \”Contact Us\” link to let them know.
  • Available Research Sources
A collection of churches, archives, museums and libraries. You can also get contact information for Crown Lands and the Vital Statistics Office.
  • Available Genealogy Resources
Links to genealogy sites, churches, government sites, and books. You can also find Census information, finding aids, and lists of Methodist ministers.
  • NGB Research Interest Forum
Grouped by surname, here you can find contact information for other researchers interested in a particular surname.
  • Personal Web pages
A great collection of not only personal pages, but also general genealogy pages targeting specific groups. Among those listed are ones relating to the Acadians, military, and the Newfoundland Forestry Group.
  • Family Bibles
There\’s 21 bibles listed here, with extracts of entries from each.

  • Vital Family Records
This collection has records from 8 families., These were submitted as missing records to the government for early Vital Statistic information. They are found in The Rooms in the Delayed Births section.

  • Newfoundland Genealogy Mailing Lists
There are several mailing lists that you can join that focus on Newfoundland research. Keep in mind though that some of these are Rootsweb, and therefore won\’t be functioning properly.
  • Message Board
The volunteers who run this site will not do research for you. I cannot stress this enough. So please do not contact them with research requests. However, if you do have questions,you can post a message here to see if another visitor can answer. It is an active board, as I saw discussion topics from 2017 and one from 2018 in there.
  • Contact NGB
By right clicking on Don Tate\’s name, you can copy his email address into your email to send him a message. He also stresses here that they do not offer research services.
Here you can find out how to submit information to be posted on the site. They also have a list of contributors. You can also find information about the website, and new additions. In fact, just this week they\’ve added new information on wills, cemeteries, and photos. 
A final note:
The work put into this website is absolutely phenomenal. I am still in awe of the amount of information available. A huge thanks goes to all the people who have put their time into it. The information here is copyrighted, but they have given permission for reproductions of it for personal use. I received permission from Don Tate to include screen shots from the site for this blog post. 
Now, even though I don\’t have Newfoundland roots, I have a friend who does. I think I\’m going to start doing a little digging on their behalf….

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