New Brunswick Church Records
Church records contain baptisms, marriages, and burials. Many records of births, marriages and deaths are not kept by governments. In New Brunswick the registers kept by churches and missionaries, those that have survived, are held in many places. Very few of these records for New Brunswick are indexed and most of them are located in the parish itself. Requests for information should be addressed to the individual church. To find the name and address of a church, use the church locator feature on each denomination's web site or consult a church directory. To obtain further information about various denominations, contact the denomination through their web site, telephone or address listed below.
Methodist records are in the United Church archives, Presbyterian registers may be there or with the Presbyterian archives, and if the family said they were Episcopalian check both the Church of England and Methodist Episcopal records. Church of England Parish Registers are kept by the individual Anglican Diocese archives; those of the Roman Catholic Church are also with their Diocese, but the Diocesan boundaries of the two denominations are different.
The Marriage Act that came into force in 1791 confined the privilege of solemnizing marriages to Church of England (Anglican) clergymen, and generally disallowed marriages by Justices of the Peace or dissenting preachers. This was all very well for the Loyalists along the St. John River and in Charlotte County who had Anglican clergymen among them in fair numbers, and who were responsible for the Act in the first place. Authority, hierarchy, and good records were all dear to Loyalist establishment’s hearts. They thought the Congregational dissenters had fomented revolution, Presbyterians were highly suspect. Baptists? Newlight!! In the established settlements in Chignecto most Church of England members were being influenced by William Black and Methodism, and the New England Planters tended to be Congregationalists or some sort of “Newlight Baptists” influenced by Henry Alline. Up on the Mirimichi many Scottish settlers were Presbyterian. The Acadians, of course, were Roman Catholic, as were many aboriginal tribes that had been “converted” by missionary Priests coming down from Québec for a century or more.
The nearest Church of England clergyman was often far, far away and the original act had included exceptions: where both parties to the marriage were Quakers, or in communion with the Church of Rome or Kirk of Scotland, the marriage might be solemnized according to the manner of that denomination, and in “parishes where there was no Anglican clergyman resident, a marriage might be solemnized by a justice of the quorum.”
|regardless of whether the family were Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist or Congregationalists, always check the Anglican registers within the radius of a day’s horseback ride.|
As well, there were itinerant missionaries, the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), The “Newlight Baptist” (James Manning, Joseph Crandall) and Methodist (William Black and his followers ) and Roman Catholic priests from Québec. All of these registers may be deposited far from where a couple lived. LAC and PANB both hold parish registers and related documents, and there are also denominational archives, discussed at the end of this section.
This collection is in the possession of the Diocese of Fredericton but has been located in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick since 1988. You will find documents from the 1600s to 1994 but the dates most predominant will be from 1800 to 1950. The Diocesan Archivist acts as liaison between the two groups. The collection does not circulate. No charge is made for searches but donations to PANB are gladly accepted.
An excellent three-part description of this collection has been written by Harvey Malmberg, Diocesan Archivist, and Twila Buttimer of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. Briefly, the organization of the Diocesan Archives reflects the organization of the Diocese―that is, records created by any one organization (Parish, Deanery, Bishop, etc) are kept together as a unit and then the records within that unit are arranged and described. Records of the Parishes, which account for approximately half of the collection, are first arranged alphabetically by the name of the Parish and within each parish the records are organized under pre-determined headings, such as vestry records, parish registers, correspondence, etc. At PANB all of the Anglican records that were transferred from the previous archives are held together under Manuscript Collection 223 (i.e. MC223). However, some Anglican records arrived at the archives as part of other collections and therefore are filed in the other collections. An example might include items such as historical articles on a particular church or family histories contained in a Historical Society Collection.
There are no New Brunswick archives for the Anglican Church serving the public. The province is in the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton. Two recent publications may give some guidance: Guide to the Use of the Synod Journals of the Diocese of Fredericton, 1890-1990, by Gillian Liebenberg (Fredericton, New Brunswick, 1995) and Clergy List, Diocese of Fredericton, from 1783 to the present, compiler Elaine C. Mercer (Fredericton, New Brunswick, 1995). The Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia headquarters are in Halifax.
For more information about the Anglican diocese holdings, contact:
Searchable Databases Related to Anglican Records
A searchable database of baptisms, burials and marriages for Gagetown Parish of the Anglican Church, Queens County, New Brunswick is available. A word of caution: this has been transcribed from a transcription so there may be errors. Researchers are advised to use this only as a finding aid and to seek out the original records.
Anglican Church of Canada
General Synod Archives
80 Hayden Street
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 3G2
The Anglican Book Centre
Anglican Church of Canada
600 Jarvis Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 2J6
Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, is to the Baptist what Mount A. is to Methodists. It is here you should go to find Baptist related material. The webpage for Acadia University Archives has a clear warning:
- Many genealogical researchers come to the Acadia University Archives, interested in the Baptist Historical Collection. These records are usually not helpful, as the Baptist faith in general did not record births. Marriages and deaths were also infrequently recorded, if at all.
If at all possible, try to secure a copy of Phillip G.A. Griffin-Allwood, “The Mystery of Baptist Records, or the Lack Thereof”, Generations, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer 1996, pages 32-36. Your local library, using Inter-library loan services might produce a photocopy of the five pages. If you are not a Baptist, this will explain many mysteries and where to find records.
United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces
1655 Manawagonish Road
Saint John, NB E2M 3Y2
Some early Baptist registers are in the Maritime Baptist Historical Collection held at:
Atlantic Baptist Archives
Wolfville, NS B0P lX0
A complete list of these records is found in Robert F. Fellows’ Researching Your Ancestors in New Brunswick, pages 226–36. These records are not available through interlibrary loan.
The Presbyterian Church of Canada
50 Wynford Drive
North York, ON M3C 1J7
The Presbyterian Church in Canada has only one archival repository, that is in Toronto. Details of holdings and services can be found on their website. Archivists are Kim Arnold and Bob Anger. Searches (maximum 2 hours) are undertaken, for a fee, but expect at least a month’s wait.
There are four Roman Catholic Dioceses in New Brunswick, all under the Archdiocese of Moncton. Only Saint John has an archive service. Call the local diocese to obtain the appropriate information.
The Diocese of Saint John Archives
Over the course of more than twenty years, Diocesan Archivist, Mary Kilfoil McDevitt, has painstakingly transcribed virtually all pre 1900 sacramental records onto several hundred thousand Family Group Sheets. These sheets constitute the Archives’ single most consulted source, making it possible—in a matter of minutes—to determine where and when any given couple was married and if that couple had a child or children Baptized anywhere in the Diocese. While many of the records of the Diocese of Saint John are available to on-line researchers as part of the Drouin Collection, this invaluable collection of Group Sheets (and the accompanying maiden-name index) remain available only on site at the Saint John facility.
Even though it may be a bit outdated,a 1992 description of materials available in the archives is helpful to establish what records exist for what time periods in which locations. This helps researchers identify which locations in the Drouin collection correspond with the geographical locations of ancestors during specific time periods.
THE DROUIN COLLECTION:
Drouin Collection 1621-1967 at Ancestry.ca. When searching these databases, be creative in the spellings as well as the various focuses in searching for an ancestor. The French language has many possible spellings for a name, as well as there are errors in the indexing.
This French-Canadian collection has over 15 million genealogical and vital records entries; they were microfilmed by the Institut Généalogique Drouin. In Quebec, under the French Regime, there were two sets of records kept: a copy for the civil government archives and a copy for the ecclesiastical church archives. The Drouin collection is a civil copy of these entries. Please note that the cutoff date of this collection is in the early 1940s; only a small percentage of entries were covered from 1948 to 1967.
This collection is divided into six databases: 1. Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967 2. Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967, 3. Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954, 4. Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946, 5. Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942, and 6. Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941. For details about these six databases, see "The Drouin Collection: Six Databases" at The Drouin Collection: Six databases.
Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946: This database only contains the French Catholic parish records from the old Acadia. In the 1600s and early 1700s, Acadia covered today's provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as Prince Edward Island and part of Quebec (i.e. the Gaspé Peninsula). The types of records include baptisms, marriages, and burials as well as confirmations, dispensations, censuses, statements of readmission to the church, and so on. They are written mainly in French, as well as English, Latin, and Italian.
A great number of church registers have been microfilmed by the National Archives of Canada. A list of their holdings is found in their Checklist of Parish Registers.
The registers of over three hundred Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches are on microfilm at the Provincial Archives which can be ordered through interlibrary loan. A list of their holdings can be obtained from the archives.
Many of the above-mentioned registers are on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or at local Family History Centers.
United Church Records
The United Church of Canada Archives holds the local church records of the United Church and its uniting denominations (Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian—1925 union; and Evangelical United Brethren joined in 1968). The records of the churches which did not join at union but remained part of the continuing Presbyterian Church in Canada after 1925, are held at:
Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives and Records Office
50 Wynford Drive
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1J7
Telephone: (416) 441-1111
Maritime Conference Archives, United Church of Canada
21 Wright Street
Sackville, New Brunswick E4L 4P8
Telephone: 506-536-1334 ext. 208
The Guide to Family History Research in the Archival Repositories of the United Church of Canada, published by OGS in 1996, has in its centre fold a chart of the “Union of Churches in Canada Leading Towards The United Church of Canada” which, if you can sort it out, will give you a good idea of the many branches of the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian denominations you must contend with in the 18th and 19th century.
Published in 1996, the section on the Maritime Conference Archives, is no longer correct. Formerly held in Halifax, in a basement room at Pine Hill Divinity Hall, the Maritime Conference Archives were moved to Sackville, New Brunswick, into refurbished ground-floor space in the Maritime Conference Building. The official opening took place on May 1, 1998.
In 1998, Carolyn Earle retired and was replaced by Judith Colwell. A native New Brunswicker, Judith had been employed at the Canadian Baptist Archives at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. Her article, “All That Stuff”, Generations, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 1999, describes what you can expect to find in this archive which holds the documentary history of the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada from c.1925, and is also the depository of Methodist, Congregational and much Presbyterian material from earlier years.
Early Chignecto church records, especially Methodist material, may also be found at Mount Allison University Library or Archives. As well, some historical essays have been published by the Canadian Methodist Historical Society in Toronto.
We don’t think of individual church histories as potential sources of family data, unless we are researching a minister who served in a community. However, they may be worth checking. There is usually information on the burial ground or grounds, and where and when each was in use. I have seen photographs with gravestones just barely legible, and frankly, you never know until you look.
Between the Canadian centennial (1967) and the provincial bicentenary (1984), a lot of small churches were inspired to put together their history. Typical of the genre is The History of the United Baptist Church at Penobsquis (Moncton 1981), by Grace McLeod and Phyllis Hall. It is somewhat curiously organized, filled with names, dates and early photographs but lacking an index and poorly bound (my copy is shedding pages). Nearby, The Sussex Corner Bicentennial Committee compiled the History of Sussex Corner July 1984, edited by former teacher W. Harvey Dalling, curator of the Kings County Historical and Archival Society Inc. museum at Hampton. Two of the 32 pages are devoted to churches, eight to education, with a list of teachers from 1855.
More scholarly productions are Peter Penner’s The Chignecto ‘Connexion’: The History of Sackville Methodist/United Church (Sackville: Sackville United Church, 1960), which is well indexed, and Shirley A. Dobson’s The Word and The Music: The Story of Moncton’s Central United Church and Its Methodist Roots (Moncton: Central United Church, 1994), a valuable study of early Methodism in Chignecto, as well as a church history, but no index.
A useful little guide-book to churches and church locations is by Roger M. Holdsworth, Faith of our Fathers: The Story of New Brunswick’s Centennial Churches and of early religious life in the Maritimes (St. Stephen: self-published, n.d.). It contains a brief history of the various denominations active in the province and a list of 184 “Centennial Churches”, their location, name, denomination and date. If someone was a minister, or Deacon, or ran the Ladies’ Aid, these very local histories can undoubtedly be found at the local library or possibly accessed through the denominational archive.
- New Brunswick Marriage Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- New Brunswick Provincial Returns of Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Douglas, Althea, Here be Dragons! Navigating the Hazards Found in Canadian Family Research (Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1996), page 35
- Journals of James Manning and James Innis, Page 198. Appendixes I to IX contain petitions signed by several dissenting congregations in New Brunswick protesting act the Act.
- Betts, E. Arthur, Bishop Black and His Preachers (Sackville, New Brunswick: Tribune Press for Maritime Conference Archives, 1976). Appendix II, pages 125-162, is "Biographical Notes on the Preachers."
- Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Church Records (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Church_Records_%28National_Institute%29.
- Murphy, Sharon L. "New Brunswick Birth, Marriage, and Death Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Birth,_Marriage,_and_Death_Records_%28National_Institute%29.
- Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Church Archives (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Church_Archives_%28National_Institute%29.
- Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Church Histories (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Church_Histories_%28National_Institute%29.