Locating Records with MemoryNS

So let’s say you’ve found a possible solution to an ancestral problem. You know there’s a record set, but you don’t know where it might be located. Or perhaps you are looking for inspiration and the thought of searching each individual repository’s website (if they have one) feels a little daunting. If your ancestor lived in Nova Scotia, then you need MemoryNS in your toolbox.

This one stop shop website allows you to search the holdings of 62 different institutions. There are University Archives, Government Archives, Museums and Historical Societies. Now, keep in mind, you are not going to get access to records here. But, if you find a record set you’re interested in, it will tell you where it is, and the contact information for the archive. The site is fairly user friendly to use. I could write a series of posts on this site showing the depth of what is on here. But part of the fun of a new site is playing with it and finding all it has to offer. So what I’m going to do instead is give you some scenarios where it will definitely help you.

Location! Location! Location!

You want to know what participating Archives are in your particular area of interest. Just scroll down that main page and there’s an interactive map showing the locations of the Archives.

Just zoom in and find your location of interest. I have ancestors on both sides of my tree with Nova Scotia roots. My maternal side is Acadian, and one line of paternal side spread out between Lunenburg and Halifax. One of the locations they lived was Mahone Bay. When I zoomed in on the map, there is 1 archive located right in Mahone Bay. I click on the marker, and up pops the contact information for the Mahone Bay Settlers Museum.

By clicking on the link I can go right to their site.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

With 62 institutions contributing, there’s thousands of record sets in the collection. That’s a lot of records to sift through. By using the search function, you can use keywords to help find what you’re looking for. So, my great grandmother Edna Johnson descended from several lines of the Foreign Protestants who settled the Lunenburg area. When I typed in “Foreign Protestants”, I got four results:

Just to compare, I then typed in “Lunenburg Settlers”, and this time got 11 results:

By using the menus at the left, you can narrow the results. When you want to look at a particular collection, just click on the title and it will give you details on the collection and where it’s housed. Some of the descriptions are quite lengthy, but some are not. Here the one for the Winthrop Pickard Bell fonds

The nice thing about the records housed at the Nova Scotia Archives is that a link to the pdf finding aid is included if one is available

Don’t Forget to Browse

While targeting searching is great, it does have drawbacks. As I showed in an earlier example, using different search words on the same subject can bring different results. It all depends on the person who indexed the record.

And then there’s that old saying “You don’t know what you don’t know”. If you do some browsing, you can stumble across record sets you didn’t think to look for. If you didn’t know they existed, you wouldn’t know to look for them, would you.

As you can see, you can browse by several different ways.

What about this scenario? You’re planning a trip to an Archive and you want to make sure you get the most out of your visit. Use the Browse by Archival Institution.

Pick your Archive and click on it. Then click on “Browse # Holdings”

Then you can look and click on each record set held by that institution. Even if you don’t get to visit in person, you’ll still be able to contact that Archive to find out more information. Depending on the institution, you may be able to utilize their research service.

Another scenario: You have Acadian ancestry. You are definitely not alone. There are lots of us, if my maternal DNA matches are any indication. One of the upsides to this is that there is a lot of research done on them. I browsed by subject and under “Acadians”, there are 66 different record sets, and then several more under subcategories. These are scattered in different Archives across 10 different locations in the Province. A lot of these are the research of others in personal fonds collections. These bear looking at just as much as traditional record sets. Acadian families intermarried through several generations, just like many other isolated populations. These researchers who have donated their work to Archives very likely have connections to the same Acadian surnames you do. You wouldn’t think on the surface to look for that researcher’s collection, unless they happen to be a researcher of some renown.

These are just a few ways in which this site can help further your research. Take some time to explore the site. If it helps you, you can thank the Government of Nova Scotia and the Council of Nova Scotia Archives.

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