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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 Research: New Brunswick Ancestors  by Althea Douglas, MA, CG(C). The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).



Biographical Dictionaries

You find them in books like A Cyclopaedia of Canadian Biography being Chiefly Men of the Times (1888) or Prominent People of the Maritime Provinces. By 1922 when this was published, women, though not yet legally ‘persons’, were allotted some twenty entries. As well, the annual editions of The Canadian Who’s Who and its variants, can be a useful source because they usually give the place of birth, names of parents and often earlier lineage, as well as marriage, wife, children and education, offering leads to professional and college directories.

“But my ancestors were farmers, they won’t be there.” Don’t be so sure. You would be surprised at how many Canadian farm families of modest means produced at least one noted clergyman or educator, politician or military man. The prominent same name may be granddad’s second cousin, but such books offer good clues as to where in the province a family name can be found. Someone who makes Who’s Who about 1950 was probably born around 1900, and his parents before 1875. An entry in the 1888 Cyclopaedia might take you back to 1800 or earlier.[1]

PANB Website

Remember those searchable databases the PANB has developed:

  • Guide to Biographies
This includes two editions of Prominent People of the Maritime Provinces … (1922 and 1938), Dictionary of Mirimichi Biography, and a variety of other sources at the PANB.
  • Index to Hutchinson Directories
  • Index to Lovell Directory 1871

And always check Guide to Family Histories, that is where I found the lead to Oshkosh, and so to Lemuel and Xenophon Cleveland.

Most regions, alas, do not have W. D. Hamilton’s Dictionary of Mirimichi Biography, which contains 1,110 sketches of “men and women born before 1900 who played a part in public life on the Mirimichi”. Each biographical sketch contains family data and anecdotes, with source notes for each sketch. The names are in the searchable database (above), but that only gives the reference number of the books. For actual facts, you have to find the books themselves. Try to convince your library to buy a copy.

Census 1851-1901

Here is where you will find those who stayed on the family farm. The PANB has compiled and published all surviving 1851 census returns, and quite a number of later returns are in print. Check the Associates of the PANB list of “ Publications” at their website and also look at Generation “Information Sheets”, where other privately published indexes may be found, such as the 1861 Census Charlotte County. The local library may hold manuscript material or have card indexes for the immediate area (parish).

Local Secondary Sources

Check Daniel F. Johnson’s Vital Statistics from New Brunswick Newspapers, available as a searchable database on PANB. When checking newspapers, keep an eye out for things like “List of Electors, Town of Moncton, 1885” which gave each man’s name and ward. Transcribed from The Daily Moncton Times, Friday, February 27, 1885, by D.F. Johnson, printed Generations, Vol. 18, No. 1, Issue 67, Spring 1996, pages 32-36.

As you know, there is probably at least one local history for every town and most villages in New Brunswick, and each church in town may also have produced at least a booklet with names and photographs and information on members of the congregation. They range widely in size, quality and usefulness.

I have praised James Fraser’s work on Chatham, By Favourable Winds. You won’t find many local histories of that calibre or that useful to genealogists. More will resemble the chronological account by Lloyd A. Machum, A History of Moncton … 1855-1965, which goes into great detail about people and events in that city, though Ned Belliveau’s two volumes of The Monctonians is more lively reading and also has a good index. You may turn up little booklets like Ethel E. Patten’s The Hills of Home (1979), a brief personal memoire of her early life in nearby Rockland, or find a well annotated history of a town like Rev. Ross N. Hebb’s Quaco—St Martins, A Brief History 1784-1884, mentioned in connection with the Loyalists, but also of great value to anyone interested in 19th century ships and shipping, because he draws heavily on the microfilmed Moran family papers available through the PANB. Alas, no index.

Regional, personal and detailed, such histories (local or family) are worth searching out. Many are privately published but local libraries should have copies, and may know about others as well.

Business Histories

Maritime companies sometimes publish their histories, and always check periodical indexes for the Atlantic Advocate, Busy East and Maritime Advocate which wrote up many firms and entrepreneurs. The local libraries will doubtless have copies of the books and vertical files with the articles.

Historic Homes

Three volumes, actually booklets, Historic Homes of Chatham, were published by the Town of Chatham in 1979-1981, based on research by students funded by a variety of government programs. There is a photograph of each house with information on the current and the original owners. Some houses date back to the 1830s.

The “Young Canada Works” and other student employment programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s produced a lot of these sorts of historical-cum-architectural surveys and reports. I have seen one for Moncton, done for Parks Canada I think, but never published in book form, just in binders. The local library, or university library may have a copy tucked away. These are worth asking about since they may produce a picture of the “family home” for a client.

Visual Records

In the 1840s, photography in several early forms became available. By the 1850s you can hope to find portrait photographs (mostly tintypes) of your ancestors. By the 1870 expect to find cabinet photographs taken by commercial photographers, and by 1900, black-page albums with very fuzzy snapshots.

A Few Dates[3]

Commercial portrait Daguerreotypes date from this year
Commercial ambrotypes (on glass) and Cartes-de-visite (on card)
Tintype patented, and quickly takes over the portable portrait market
Cabinet Photograph, 5.5” x 4” on card 6.5” x 4.5”, introduced
Kodak camera introduced by Eastman
FirstBrownie camera

The PANB has an extensive collection of photographs. Robert Fellows has published two soft-cover books of photographs from the PANB: Early New Brunswick Photographs. Volume I: Cities, Towns and Villages (1978); Volume II: People at Work and Play (1981). “The Woodsmen” section of Mary Peck’s The Bitter with the Sweet, includes several from a large collection on the lumbering industry. The many illustrations throughout her book will give you an idea of what to look for and where to look.

  1. Douglas, Tools of the Trade, page 56.
  2. See Douglas, "Notes on Names", Here Be Dragons. page 32.
  3. For a detailed list, see A. Douglas, "A Chronology of Photography", Help! I've Inherited an Attic Full of History, Volume I (OGS, 1998), pages 42-46.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: New Brunswick Ancestors

offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at <br> 

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