Starting Your Research
When researching your family history it is best to start with what you know therefore it is best to start with information on your immediate family and work your way backwards. Gain information on your parent's family; their birth and marriage dates, and then onto your grandparent's family information, and so on. A common practice amongst families of Christian faith is to keep family information in a family bible. These bibles can contain important dates of events such as births, marriages and deaths. Within some family hierarchy there may have been a family historian so perhaps asking members of your family if such as person exist/existed can save you a lot of time.
At some point, unless a family history has already been completed, you will need to visit the archives and search through microfilm for further information. It is important to note that more recent data, especially data within the last 50 years, is protected by privacy laws and not accessible to the public. In this age of computers, the internet can be a great source of information however researchers should exercise caution when using non-governmental websites as sources. Websites can easily contain inaccurate data whether the intent was malicious or simply a mistake. Further caution should be exercised with companies offering complete family histories or family crest, shields or coat of arms. Often this information is purely fictional and few families have "true" authorized coats of arms.
It is always best to be connected directly to the source, try to avoid middle sources or the "middleman". If a middle source is used, ask that person for their references or sources of their information. If they can not provide this detail, walk away or use the information as hearsay. If they do provide references it might be best to double check the information yourself, thus giving you a direct connection to the source.
It is important to note that you will likely hint a wall at some point in your research. Just know that you will likely never complete your family history, as it is a living document, and that you will never trace your roots back to a pre-historic man living in cave since genealogical record keeping did not start until the 14th century therefore you may have to settle for tracing your family back to the 1500s and not much further.
Talking the Trade
Below are a few common terms that you may come across when researching your family history:
abt. - Short term for "about". It may be substituted for "Approx." or approximate
bapt. - Short term for "baptized"
ca - circa, about, (as in ca. 1840)
CCA - Charlotte County Archives
chr. - Short term for "christened"
div. - Short term for "divorced"
DOB - Date of Birth
DOD - Date of Death
ILL - Inter Library Loan
Kew - Short term for the National Archives of the United Kingdom, located in Kew, England
LAC - Library and Archives of Canada
LC - Library of Congress (United States)
NBGS - New Brunswick Genealogical Society
née - Usually refers to a woman's maiden name
obit. - Short term for "Obituary"
PAD - Personal Ancestral File®. A widely used, DOS-based genealogy program
PANB - Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Parish - An administrative subdivision with a county
PDF - Portable Document Format®. A commonly used computer file format which requires Adobe software to read and write
Shiretown - An administrative center, or captial, of a county
Spinster - a single/unmarried woman
Finding Your Resources
The colony of New Brunswick was officially created by Sir Thomas Carleton on August 16, 1784. New Brunswick joined the confederacy in 1867. But it was not until 1887 that the province passed legislation in regards to record keeping in regards to its residents. In April 1887, the government of New Brunswick passed an Act (The Vital Statistics Act) to provide for the registration of vital events such as births, marriages and deaths. Prior to the Vital Statistics Act of 1887 there was no requirement to record such information, nor a system in place to collect and preserve this information. Some information prior to 1887 was collected by the counties but these records are limited.
Births (1810-1887 & 1888-1919)Birth records are limited prior to 1887 when the New Brunswick Vital Statistics Act was passed requiring all births to be registered. However many people did complete "late registrations of birth" for birth dates prior to 1887 and in one case the oldest birth registered in New Brunswick is for someone born in 1810. These late registration were completed when people needed proof of birth, especially for government programs. New Brunswick birth information is held in private holdings for 50 years and then released for public viewing.
Recommend Web Links: PANB (Vitals)
Marriages (1812-1887 & 1888-1965)Marriages in New Brunswick are available to the public for 1847-1965. The Vital Statistics Act of 1887 required that all marriages be registered with the registrar and/or deputy-registrars of Vital Statistics and filed for consultation. Although this process began in 1888, a few marriages dating as far back as 1882 were included. Previous to 1888, marriage made between 1812 and 1887 were registered within each county. However researchers will find that records for marriages made between the mid-1880s to 1965 are more extensive. New Brunswick marriage information is held in private holdings for 50 years and then released for public viewing.
Recommend Web Links: PANB (Vitals)
Deaths (1815-1887 & 1888-1965)The first Act to Provide for the Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in New Brunswick was passed in 1887. It provided that civil registers for births, marriages and deaths be created by the deputy registrars within the various counties. As a result, county death registers were created and maintained between 1888 and 1920. Legislative changes in 1920 resulted in the records being kept centrally. New Brunswick death information is held in private holdings for 50 years and then released for public viewing.
Recommend Web Links: PANB (Vitals)
Census Records (1851-1921)The first national census was held in Canada in 1851 and was held thereafter every ten years. In 1956, censuses were conducted every 5 years. The last census to be made public was the 1911 Census of Canada. The next census to be release to the public will be the 1921 Census of Canada which is schedule for release in 2013. Prior to 1851, smaller censuses were taken of some cities and communities, such as the 1824, 1834 and 1840 Population Census of New Brunswick as well as early Acadian and Loyalist census. Many of these censuses provide little detail other than the number of people in a given household. In the case of early Acadian censuses, property and possession were included in the report.
Recommend Web Links: Automated Genealogy or LAC (Census)
DirectoriesIn the 1860s, Thomas Hutchinson published several directories. An early directory published in 1864 for the city of Saint John and two later directories for the whole province came in 1865/66 and 1867/68. These directories included the name of the residents, street address, community, county and occupation.
Recommend Web Links: PANB (Hutchinson Directories)
Land Grants & Petitions (1784-1997)Many early immigrants, such as loyalist, acquired Crown land through grants and petitions. These land grants cover a large period of time, from 1784 to 1997. The grantee receives a legal document authorizing possession of the land. These records were created and maintained by the government and can provide information such as grantee name, location (county, parish) and acres of land. Another valuable document in regards to land was Land Petitions. Those who wished to obtain a grant of Crown land submitted a petition to the Lieutenant Governor (later to the Crown Land Office) describing his or her circumstances, need, family, and any service (usually military) rendered the Crown which would reflect favorably and put the petitioner in the good graces of the Administration. The Lieutenant Governor in Council, acting as a Committee of Council on Land would approve or disallow the petition. If the petition was allowed, an Order/Warrant of Survey would be issued to the deputy-surveyor who had to establish the boundaries of the grant to be issued. Land petitions can contain very detail information on a person life especially as they plead their case for land.
Recommended Web Links: PANB (Land Grants) & PANB (Land Petitions)
Military RecordsFrom colonial French and British soldiers to First & Second World War personnel, military records can offer a very detailed glimpse into a person's life. These records can provide personal information such as date and place of birth, parent's names, health data (height, weight, scars) as well as military information on unit(s) served, rank, rates of pay plus their location at a given time (battles, bases, ships). Many World War One units maintained a daily diary and are a great resource when following the life of our WW1 soldier. These diaries mention names of soldiers in companies or on duty. Diaries will also give detailed accounts of front line battles as well as rest periods of units. Copies of Military Records can be obtained from the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa. If a relative served in the military, they may have belonged to a local Legion. Some Legion may have information on former members such as membership dates and photographs.
Recommended Web Links: LAC (Military Records)
Immigration RecordsWhen you research your family tree you will most likely reach a point where an ancestor immigrated to Canada from overseas. Immigration records such as passenger list can be very beneficial to those of European descent such as Irish and English. The 1901 Census and 1911 Census may indicate year of arrival to Canada. Death records can also provide the number of years the deceased resided in Canada and cultural background of the deceased.
Recommended Web Links: PANB (Immigration) & LAC (Immigration)
Newspaper VitalsNewspapers can provide a wealth of information in regards to vital events such as births, marriages and deaths however early newspapers may not have vital events listed in a common section as is the case with newspapers today, therefore researchers may have to scan through early newspapers for scatter vitals. By the mid-1900s, vitals were placed in a common area in newspapers. Obituaries or death notices can provide great detail into a family as these vitals tend to list not only the date and place of death but also the names of children and location of burial. Early death notices often indicate the reason of death unlike notices of today. It is important to note that publishing a birth, marriage or death notice in a newspaper was, and still is, not mandatory so be don't be surprised if you come up empty handed on your newspaper search for a death notice.
Recommended Web Links: PANB (Dan Johnson 1784-1896)
Cemetery RecordsIf you're still having difficulty finding information on a person and the person is no longer living, perhaps a visit to a cemetery is in order. Headstones can provide information such as dates of birth and death. More recent headstones sometimes offer information such as marriage date. Recent trends in headstone inscription include listing the names of children on the back of the headstone and images engraved on the headstone such as portraits or images of the deceased favorite interest. Visiting a cemetery can also be beneficial for gathering information on recently deceased relatives since official government information is not released to the public until 50-100 years has past.
Recommended Web Links: Heritage Charlotte (Cemetery Directory)
School/Education RecordsSchools records are a good source of information. Early records such as teacher petitions, certifications and copies of licenses can provide an insight into a person's life and profession. The Provincial Archives holds the "Petitions for Teachers' Licenses and Payment" file which covers 1812-18882. School records can also show the pupils in a school and class/teacher. Some later school records will also list the names of the student's parents and the birth date of the student. Though student marks are not common they can be found in some school records. Currently, school records can be search up to more recent years, such as the late 1980s, which can be beneficial when research more recent subjects.
Business & Employment RecordsThough business records are private and usually held within an organization, there are items that can be used to research a business history. In 1871, John Lovell published Lovell's Canadian Directory for 1871. It was a two volume work containing the names of professional and business men and other inhabitants in the cities, towns and villages of the Canadian provinces. Another source of data may be located from old phone books.
Recommended Web Links: PANB (Lovell Directory)
Local History GroupsFinally, you may find further information on your family or a person in your family by contacting a local history group in the area that your family lived. While these groups will not do all the work for you, they may have photographs or data in their holdings that may be of value to your research. Keep in mind that these groups are mostly made up of volunteers and are non-profit organizations so if they do not charge a fee for their work/assets; it is customary to offer the group a donation. This will ensure that their good work can continue. There are also several culture societies in existence that can be of great assistance with understanding your family cultural background. And if you become overly interested in genealogical research or have a great love for local history, perhaps you might find pleasure in joining a local history group where you can meet with people with a similar interest and share stories and ideas.
Recommended Web Links: NBGS
Below are a few files that you may find helpful in your genealogy project:
Family Generation Worksheet (45kb)
Relationship Chart (24kb)
Interested in learning more on researching Charlotte County families? Visit the Charlotte County Archives.
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