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Information for New Researchers

Information for New Researchers
Guide to Genealogical Research in Guysborough County

Thanks to Peggy Feltmate for compiling most of this information.

There are many things that you, as a new genealogist, can do to find information on your ancestors.
Following is a compilation of possible sources of information.

Good luck in your research, and have fun!

Check NS Vital Stats.
It covers the following dates:
Births, 1864-1877
Delayed Births, 1836-1907
Marriages, 1763-1864, 1864-1932
Deaths, 1864-1877, 1908-1957
If you have already checked it, check it again as new content and corrections have been added.
Be sure to check out the FAQs on the site, as they provide additional information that will be useful.
Also Explore the 'What's New' area of the Website, to read about other updates and new resources planned for NS Historical Vital Statistics Online.

When you are searching indexes etc., be sure to check for variants in spelling of names.
Guysborough County is notorious for naming a child one way and then calling them by their apparently middle name for the rest of their lives.
I have run across a particular naming pattern in Guys. Co., which goes like this:
Say someone is baptized John Robert Smith in Guysborough County and dies many years later and is called John Ira Smith in the obituary.
Why? Because he is John the son of Ira!
Similarly, women were identified (and sometimes still are) by appending their husband's name, as in:
MagWill (wife of William Feltmate), and MagHarm (wife of Harmon Feltmate), etc.

Be sure to check for birth death and marriage records for any and all relatives. Why? Because you may find some other relative has given the death information to the registrar, or has stood as a witness at the marriage, etc. It gives you additional insight into potential relatives. And who knows, one of them may be a grandparent of the child, especially in the case of a baptism record. Not all transcripts provide information on the witnesses so try to see the original record whenever possible.

Mike Casey's transcriptions of BMD records (Births Marriages Deaths) on the Families of Tor Bay website always gives full information from the record which is quite wonderful. Always keep an eye out for people of similar age of the person you are searching for, male or female. They are quite likely siblings, (or first cousins) and if you can find birth/marriage/death information on a sibling, you have also just discovered information on your family member. For this reason, marriage records witnesses are useful as the witnesses are often siblings.

Do be flexible about church records. Check the Christ Church Anglican records but also the Methodist Circuit records. And the Roman Catholic if you are able to, not always easy. In the early days, church minister visits were few and far between. Consequently, the Roman Catholic priest may have come into, say, Port Felix for the day, and baptized and married people who were not Roman Catholic. Similarly, the Methodist minister might make a visit and marry 5 couples in one day, and not all of them will have been Methodist. And of course there were Protestants who converted to Roman Catholicism in order to marry, and so on.

Sometimes the parish priest insisted on a certain order of names:
If a parent wanted to name their child Cranswick Matthew, the priest might insist on baptizing the child Matthew Cranswick so that the saint's name came first. But the family would call the child Cran for the rest of his days. Also, priests and ministers came "from away" and were not familiar with certain local names, so surnames could get mangled, as in Rhynold becoming Reynolds, Grover becoming Graver.
Also in viewing transcriptions, use your imagination, especially in early records, because the transcriber is working from a faded list done in eccentric handwriting.
In viewing original records, ALSO use your imagination because the justice or the priest might be the only one who knew how to read and write and so he was putting down what he HEARD being said to him, and often that would lead to entirely phonetic spellings. One minister insisted on spelling Feltmate as Phelpmate (several times!) so that sure wreaked havoc with some index searches!

Be sure to check the archives of the Nova Scotia GenWeb mailing list.
Go here and click SEARCH at the right side. On the search page, enter the name your are searching as the Key word, and away you go.

National Archives of Canada holds a series of forms on the Fenian Raids subsidy., and you may find info. on your family there. If nothing else you may get some signatures which is always nice!
The Fenian Raid Volunteer Bounty Act in 1913 provided compensation for those men (now elderly) who had volunteered for militia service during the Fenian Raid scare in the 1860s. The grant applications and comrade declarations are held at the NAC in Ottawa. Guysborough had its own militia and a ton of the young fellows of the area signed up. These documents are not online yet, but if you are in the Ottawa area, you can find info. on a personal visit.

World War One records:

You can do searches on the Canadian Great War Project site here.

Also check Diana Tibert's Veterans of Guys Co website at Guysborough Vets. You can search the site. Lots of good info. for those who were of military age in the 1900s. (Also, if you find a Guys. Co. relative who was indeed a veteran, please be sure to let Diana know!)

Maps: does your surname appear on the A. F. Church map of Guysborough County? The Guys. portion dates from the 1860s. Maps are posted online on this site (click MAPS on the pulldown menu on our front page).
Both the AF Church maps, Land Grant maps and Land Grant index maps can be ordered through the Historical Land Information at the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
Crown lands

Land Records and Wills: Worthwhile searching, Wills for obvious reasons, but land records can be a tremendous help in figuring out family ties. Grandparents often provided for their grandchildren by obtaining grants of land or purchasing land for them . Both wills and land records are held at the Guysborough Registry office in Guysborough town, and you can go through the books yourself in person if you are able to visit there. You can email Darlene David-Cashin[[email protected]] at the office), but she is not permitted to search records for the public, but you are free to do so yourself (on either their computer database or their old paper indices). They have a separate index for estate files and that they only have mapping information for current owners. Their records go back to 1785 and anything previous to that may be in the archives in Halifax. You are able to correspond with the Crown Land Information Management Center, Department of Natural Resources, in Halifax. Send an initial inquiry (with Surnames, First Names, and township information) and they may be able to help you. Grants and their associated papers sometimes named relatives, or listed more than one grantee, or described a special situation. And of course maps of this kind guide you to the exact area of Guys Co where your ancestors "hung out".

There is also land grant information on this website (Pulldown menu under LAND GRANTS on our front page).

Also, the NSARM site has Nova Scotia land petitions 1769-1799 online and searchable by surname. Or plug in Guysborough in the search, and see what comes up. For example, one of the entries is for Peart, Thomas. Memorialist is a British subject, who came to this province in 1758. Resides at Canso, where he has served on board several of H.M. ships of war. Finds it difficult to support his family by the fishery and requests a grant of land at TorBay. Approved - for 300 acres.

Check out the other sections of this website and also the TORBAY website. Each section contains lots of valuable information. Of particular importance is the CEMETERY INSCRIPTIONS. Every cemetery in Guysborough County has been documented by Maureen Brown and is online. Pictures of headstones are being added constantly.

There is also a Nova Scotia Obituaries site here .

More worldwide obituaries may be found at The Obituary Times site .

As well as looking at the New Brunswick general archives online, be sure to check their vital stats from newspapers here . You can search by surname and also place name, try spelling Guysborough and Guysboro both, and also try differing spellings for other place names and surnames. They carry quite a lot of Guysborough Co. information, surprisingly enough.

If your ancestors were fishermen, check the Out of Gloucester website.

Other Gloucester, MA records, may be helpful, as many from Guysborough County fished from there.
Here are some online resources to try: This makes a portion of Gloucester's archives available online.
Massachusetts State Archives .

The Maine marriage index may list some Guysborough people after 1892. Go here .

There is an extensive list of NS Genealogy Links here .

Check out the NS Archives webpage for a bunch of online databases that can be searched: here . Note the searchable Poll Tax Rolls of 1791- 1793.

NS Genealogical Sources County Guide Series, No. 7 - Guysborough County, compiled by Philip L Hartling, 1990, published by the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (now NSARM). Here is some useful information: (This information is not online, as far as I know, but it is available at NSARM)

Marion Gilroy's Loyalists And Land Settlement in Nova Scotia actually contains a chapter specifically on Sydney County (now Guysborough Co), pages 119-145.

Here are a few more names of Community Histories:
A memorial to the E. Country Harbour - Stormont United Empire Loyalists by Roy A Chisholm, 1982.
History and stories of Isaac's Harbour and Goldboro, 1976, by Findlay Cook.
The development of Sherbrooke Village to 1800, by John N Grant, in the NS Historical Quarterly, Vol 2, No 1, 1972.
Records from Sherbrooke, NS, by Anne Borden Harding, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 125, 1971, pp 114-123, 194-199, 256-261.
History of Canso by Harriet C, Hart.
Sherbrooke As I Remember It, by Florence M. MacDonald, 1987.
The Pioneers and Descendants of Eastern NS, During the 1800s and Early 1900s, by Arnold J. MacMillan, 1978. (Isaac's Harbour).
Historic Canso, by John A. Morrison, 1928.
"Render unto God...: a Guysborough Assessment of 1804", NS Genealogist, Vol 4, No 3, Nov 1986.
The story of Mulgrave, by Colin Purcell, 1980.
The Guysborough Negroes, a Study in Isolation, by G. Rawlyk, Dalhousie Review, Spring 1968.
Souvenir Number of the Canso News, May 1912 (call number V/F, Vol 54, #6).
United Empire Loyalists of Country Harbour by Sarah Wilson.

There are churches outside of Guys. Co. that contain vital stats on Guys. Co. families:
Antigonish - St. James United, 1854 on.
Antigonish - St Pauls Anglican, 1829 on
Eastern Passage - St Peters Anglican - Records for the summer months of 1914, 1915, and 1916 contain entries for residents of Country Harbour, Fishermans Harbour, and Port Bickerton, because the Rev. D. Edwards spent part of his summers there.
Halifax - St. Pauls Anglican, 1749,-,1954.
Lochaber - Presb/United includes St Mary's River. Births listed begin in 1812 and marriages in 1811.
Port Dufferin - St. James Anglican (1847-1910 records are relevant to Guys. Co.)
Port Hastings - St. David's Presb/Un. 1852 on.
Ship Harbour - St. Stephens Ang, 1840s records are relevant to Guys Co.

Community Records include:
Sketches and descriptions of historic buildings and brief essays on the rural communities of Ecum Secum/Marie Joseph/new Chester.
Local History Project, St Mary's High School, Sherbrooke, 1975 by Jim Bezanson.
Guysborough Town history by Guys High School (Micro:MG4, Vol 36)
History of Guysboro by Grade 6 students 1933 (MG 4 Vol 37)
History of Liscomb by Hazel Pye, 1910, (MG 100, Vol 176, #8)
Township Book for Manchester and Guysborough - 1782-1869
History of New Harbour, Grade 8 Project, no date, (MG 4 vol 119)
Township Book for St Mary's, 1807-1867
Township Book for Stormont Township, 1784-1877

In the Education papers for the 1820s and 1830s, names and ages of pupils, names of parents or guardians and lists of schools may be found. References; RG 14, Vols 13-22. See Inventory of Manuscripts page 132-133, and RG 14 Finding Aid for detailed listings.

PANS at the time this Guys Co. guide was published (1990) had a surname card index for the land papers and it was divided into two sections: 1765-1799 and 1800-1914. The guide mentions that often a petitioner for land will mention his county and country of birth, military service and the number of children in the family (Micro: RG 20, Series A, 94 reels). The guide goes into some detail about the land papers regarding grants that the archives has in its holdings. The archives also holds microfilm copies of deeds. The original deeds are held at the Registry Offices in Guysborough town. Wills and estate papers are also at that office, but the provincial archives holds microfilm copies.

Return to Guysborough County GenWeb Index

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