Nova Scotia Provincial Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in December 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Canadian Ancestors  by Doris Bourrie, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Nova Scotia Provincial Records


The first settlers in Nova Scotia were of French origins, who settled at Port Royal, which they called Acadia. In 1621 King James I of England granted Sir William Alexander a large area of land which included that area now known as the Maritime provinces, as well as the eastern portion of Maine, and part of the province of Québec. This area was to be known as “New Scotland”, and the name of the province is derived from that charter. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) awarded Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick to Great Britain, while Cape Breton Island (Ile-Royale) and Prince Edward Island (Ile-Saint-Jean) remained under the control of France until 1763 at the end of the Seven Years’ War, when New France was ceded to Great Britain. The British brought a number of German settlers to found Lunenberg in 1751. In 1867 (British North American Act) New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Québec joined to form the new Dominion of Canada.

Provincial Archives

Public Archives of Nova Scotia
6016 University Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 1W4
Telephone: (902) 424-6060

The provincial archives website has a number of searchable databases which include:

  • Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes case files: search for names and dates of divorce cases heard between 1759 and 1963.
  • Marriage license files: search for marriages registered in Cumberland county 1864-1913 and Colchester county 1864-1914.
  • Poll tax rolls, Census and poll tax series: search for names of individuals taxed 1791-1793.
  • Anglican Parish Database: search a description of Archives holdings of Anglican Church of Canada parish records for Nova Scotia.
  • Marriage Bonds: search marriage bonds submitted in application for licenses between 1763-1864, 1769-1871. Records for 1763-1840 are available at present, remainder records in progress.
  • Cape Breton land petitions and other materials: search for Cape Breton residents who petitioned for land 1787-1843.
  • Appeal casebooks: search appellant and/or respondent in appeal cases 1890-1947.
  • Medical Examiner for City of Halifax and Town of Dartmouth: search for individuals whose deaths were reported on by Medical Examiner between 1895-1967.

In addition to the searchable databases provided on the website there is an electronic guide to the archival holdings of Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. You may also purchase Tracing Your Ancestors in Nova Scotia direct from the Archives. See the website for ordering and price details.

Census Records

Some early Heads of Family census records exist. Those prior to 1755 include French Acadian records. Nominal census records exist after Confederation, beginning in 1871, up to and including 1901.

For additional information, see Nova Scotia Census.

Vital Statistics

Systematic registration of vital statistics by the provincial government began in 1864 with the Registration Act, which made registration the responsibility of the Board of Statistics. Civil registration records from 1864 to 1876 have been transferred to the provincial archives. Registration began again October 1, 1908 and continued to the present. See the Vital Statistics Department website for details of locations of records, and to order copies of registrations.

Land Records

Regulations governing land grants and land sales changed periodically. The provincial archives has extensive files for grants and petitions for land in Nova Scotia. The Registry of Deeds for each county handles later transactions such as mortgages, sales, etc. Most of these records have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, and the microfilms are available at the provincial archives and through the LDS FamilySearch Centres. Years covered vary depending on when each county was formed and settled. There is a special group of records covering Cape Breton transactions, as outlined in the provincial website.

Additional Records

Maps, Atlases and Directories

  • The Nova Scotia department of Natural Resources maintains two series of provincial maps which are of great interest to researchers. The department’s library holds copies of the Ambrose Finson Church (A.F. Church) maps dating from mid to late 1800s. These historic maps give the name of the heads of households and list tradesmen and prominent citizens. A schedule of completion dates for each is available on their website, and copies may be ordered. Also available are Crown Land Grant Index maps. As the crown commenced issuing grants in the 1730s the names on these maps may predate those on the A.F. Church maps. Details of this series may also be found on the website, and copies of the appropriate area may be ordered.
Their address is:
Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Founders Square
1701 Hollis Street, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 698
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2T9
Telephone: (902) 424-8633

Genealogical Organizations

This site offers a number of searchable databases, some requiring Acrobat Reader to access. A list of consultants for Maritime research is provided. There are a number of helpful links, including a link to the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes, an independent certification agency which offers certification courses in Maritimes research. This agency also provides a list of certified professional researchers of Maritimes records.

This organization provides information on certification requirements for Maritimes researchers, and provides a current list of certified professional researchers.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Canadian 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

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.