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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 ($).
Most incumbents in local churches keep a record of burials, but may or may not include the day of death. The importance of funerals and burials will vary with the customs of the community and the denomination. Using some early registers, you may notice that Aboriginal societies give considerably more importance to deaths and burials than to birth and baptism.
Burial registers should always be checked against cemetery records and tombstone inscriptions. They may not always agree. Blame human error either in carving the stone or reading it after 100 years. Also check newspapers.
Remember that there will be a notice giving information on the death and funeral arrangements, but look further for an account of the funeral, and even further for a more elaborate obituary. The local correspondent may need time to consult people who knew the individual, and a week or two to write the piece.
The University of Saskatchewan developed a list of Canadian archives that have websites; it is now available on the Canadian Archival Information Network website. Links are by province, or by type, such as “religious archives”. Your library may have an old Directory of Canadian Archives which also lists most church archives and gives some idea of their holdings. The Canadian Council of Archives’ website also gives web addresses.
Because most denominations were around long before Confederation (1867), you will find that while the churches’ “Head Offices” in Ontario may appear to be where their archives are held, in actual fact, the Maritime Provinces were in a quite separate jurisdiction and there are separate archives in the Maritimes.
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.
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.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada has only one archival repository, that 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.
United Church of Canada
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.
- Maritime Conference Archivist
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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