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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Archival Centres by Ryan Taylor. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
The collection of archives in Nova Scotia dates from 1857; the emphasis on materials collected is that they should be ‘provincial in scope.’ This includes both corporate and private fonds. Although it is not explained explicitly, the message seems to be that local materials must find a home at local archives. The Nova Scotia archives is part of the government records management division, and the emphasis in the website is on the records management side.
The website is elaborate and some users may find it difficult to manoeuvre. There are many places where it is impossible to return to the homepage if you have wandered far into some topic. However, it does provide access to finding aids which researchers will find useful for planning their visits, or for exploring research questions to be done long distance. There are also several searchable online databases of historical records. Birth, marriage and death records can be searched individually or simultaneously and corresponding images of the original records are available for viewing or purchase. Census, assessment and poll tax records are available from 1767 – 1827 although none of these records are complete for the province.
Their publication NovArchives (1998), which describes government records available at the archives, may be still available in print format through interlibrary loan but is not available as an ebook at the time of this printing. Online it has been replaced by the section of the website labelled “Government Administrative Histories”.
BosaNova is an electronic guide to archival holdings, both government and private, and is searchable. Click on “Search Archives Catalogue”. For example, the Coroners Records 1920-1974 are described down to file level. The searches require some concentration as instructions are minimal. The database does not make the actual documents available in electronic format, but instead provides descriptions of the holdings. There is a tab within this section that describes new research holdings. There is also a good glossary of archival terms, which you can reach simply by clicking on the term.
There are a number of print guides which will help those planning to work at NSA. The archives still sells Julie Morris’ Tracing your ancestors in Nova Scotia (1987). The alternatives are the relevant pages in Terrence Punch’s guides Genealogical research in Nova Scotia (1998) and Genealogist’s handbook for Atlantic Canada research (2nd edition, 1997), both first-rate. More to the point regarding the archives are the various titles in the Nova Scotia Genealogical Resources County Guides series, which provide detailed information about seven counties and Halifax city, with a focus on records at NSA. These guides are also for sale from the archives site.
Among materials listed on the site are marriage bonds, vital statistics 1864-1937, church records, cemeteries, newspapers, passenger lists, land records, wills and directories. Most of the materials mentioned are available in self-serve microfilm or, increasingly, on online databases sometimes with digital images; NSA seems to have filmed a larger percentage of its genealogical resources than other provinces. There are individual card catalogues or indexes for various specialized topics, including Biographical (for people, including genealogies) and Communities (for local histories and non-book items). In addition to its own collections, NSA is a remote site for Library and Archives Canada.
The archives has a library although items do not circulate but are available for on-site use. The catalogue is searchable online. The books are obtained using request slips, similar to the manuscript materials.
Those approaching searches in Nova Scotia newspapers should remember there are extensive printed indexes for Halifax newspapers 1769-1854, Chronicle-Telegraph obituaries 1961-1999 and The Presbyterian Witness (9 volumes) 1848-1908. Online images in a browseable format are also available for extant issues of thirteen different newspapers published in six different Nova Scotia communities over a span of 210 years — from The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser in 1769, to The 4th Estate in 1977.
A private researcher list is available online; everyone listed must have been tested and certified by the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes (G.I.M.) or the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (N.I.G.S., Toronto ON) to qualify.
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