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The Military

Some Terminology

militia
n. a military force, esp. one raised from the civil population and supplementing a regular army in an emergency
garrison
n. the troops stationed in a fortress, town etc. to defend it
1. the building occupied by them
garrison
v. provide (a place) with or occupy as a garrison
1. place on garrison duty
garrison town
n. a town having a permanent garrison



British Military and Local Militia

The invasions of 1775-1776 and 1812-1814 convinced Britain that the United States was a potential aggressor and so the British Army built fortifications at strategic points along the Saint John River. Here they maintained small garrisons of their regular army. However, through much of the 19th century the local militia was seen as the mainstay of land defence. However, except for the Fenian agitations, most American attacks in the Maritimes had been by sea from privateers, and it was the British Navy that protected the colonies.

Universal Compulsory Service

In the first months of 1787 Thomas Carleton (the Lieutenant Governor) and the General Assembly agreed a militia was essential in the new colony, and the enabling bill was passed on 1 March 1787. The militia depended on a form of universal compulsory service by all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60. Units were formed on a local basis, usually by county. The higher ranks of militia officers were often officers who had retired on half-pay from the British army and taken up land grants in the area.

Published militia lists, naming officers only, are quite common in the almanacs, directories and such. Actual muster rolls listing all militia members are rare, but may turn up in the provincial archives, or local museums. One muster roll from 14 July 1790, is printed by M.G.Reicker in Those Days are Gone Away: Queens County New Brunswick. 1643-1901, pages 162-163, as well as a list of the officers of the First and Second Battalions, Queens County Militia, 1862, on pages 164-165.

The county militias were not a formal “military force”; they supplied their own weapons and turned out once a year for a day of training, usually on June 4th, birthday of King George III. Attendance was compulsory at this annual muster of the militia with a small fine for “delinquency.” It being the King’s birthday, toasts were in order, often leading to an excess of drinking and little drill.

David Facey-Crowther, The New Brunswick Militia 1787-1867 (Fredericton: New Ireland Press and New Brunswick Historical Society, 1991), is an in-depth examination of the militia and its many units across the province. Illustrated, well annotated with a full bibliography (it started as a Masters thesis at UNB), it lists all the units of militia, dates of formation and commanding officers.

British Garrisons

British regiments served in Canada until the Treaty of Washington in 1871 (see Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume II, Plate 24 “British Garrisons to 1871”). In addition to their actual military duties, the British regiments made a large contribution to the colonies, not just by their services as surveyors, engineers, and builders, but to the social and cultural life of the garrison towns and cities where they served. Some married (some did not), and children might be born in several towns as the regiment’s posting changed. Saint John and St. Andrews were the two main Garrison towns, with a smaller group at Fredericton. The annual New Brunswick Almanac will contain a page or two listing the “Staff of the Army, Serving in the Province of New Brunswick” as well as “A Corrected List of Militia Officers Within the Province.”

Military “C” Index

The Encyclopedia of Canada’s “Militia” entry is a concise source for information on Canada’s defence forces up to the First War and in the 1930s. British War Office (Army) and Admiralty (Royal Navy) records are in the Public Record Office in England, but most material related to Canada is available on microfilm at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. The Military “C” card file index (also microfilmed) simplifies access to these earlier British Army records.

Captain?

Some families treasure great-grandfather’s “Commission,” and believe he was an officer in the British Army, when in fact he was an officer of the County Militia. Actually reading the commission will make this clear. Such militia commissions, however, do indicate that this ancestor was a man of some standing in the community.

Library and Archives Canada has extensive runs of the British Army Lists, which list all officers, by regiment, as well as those on half pay. A quick check will show whether or not the ancestor actually was an officer. However, a disbanded sergeant might well become a captain in the local militia, depending on how many actual officers were settled in the area.

J.P.s, M.P.P.s and V.I.P.s

Family tradition usually contains a germ of truth in a cloud of wishful thinking. It may claim our ancestor was an important M.P.P. (Member of the Provincial Parliament), or M.L.A. (Member of the Legislative Assembly), while research will show he was a long-serving J.P. (Justice of the Peace), who won a single election and served one brief term in a short-lived government.

As with those militia commissions, to verify legends about V.I.P. ancestors, consult the Almanacs that were published in most colonies. The New Brunswick Almanac lists government and military officials, clergymen, doctors, notaries and lawyers within the colony, as well as court terms and many local regulations.

The Almanac was published at least every two or three years, under different titles and by several publishers, from 1829 through 1865, then irregularly to 1916. According to AMICUS, nothing exists from then until 1954 when new, and very full editions were published until 1956, after which it was absorbed by Atlantic Almanac. Use AMICUS, see what exists and where it is held.

M.P.P. or M.L.A.

There are published lists of members of provincial legislatures of the colonies and provinces though some may cover pre-1867 and post-Confederation in separate volumes with different editors.

J.P.s

The PANB website has a searchable database: RS581 “Index to Justice of the Peace Appointment Register, 1863-1963”, a position most local V.I.P.s held at one time or another. The Justices of the Peace were appointed by the provincial governments and presided at the General Sessions of the Peace (Courts of Quarter Session) which were an early form of local government. Records of these courts from the early 19th century often survive, and by mid-century local newspapers usually print lists of the appointments.[1]

World War I (1914-1918)

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service records are available through the Personnel Records Unit of the National Archives of Canada (see New Brunswick Archives and Libraries for the address).

These service records contain detailed information from enlistment to demobilization (discharge). Information may include each person's date and place of birth, address at time of enlistment, name and address of next of kin, marital status, occupation, personal description (eye and hair color, height, weight, distinctive marks or scars), and religion. When requesting information from the Personnel Records Unit, please include the person's name, rank, and regiment (where known).

References

  1. Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Military and Nobility (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Military_and_Nobility_%28National_Institute%29.

Some New Brunswick militia muster rolls and pay lists from about 1808 to 1839 can be found in the Provincial Archives and the New Brunswick Museum.

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  • This page was last modified on 7 August 2014, at 22:35.
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