Sunday, 7 September 2014

Basic Nova Scotia Genealogy Research for New England Yankees

Like many other Americans with New England ancestry, I have some ancestral lines that went from New England, to Nova Scotia and back to New England with “The Planter Movement”.  This migration happened after the Acadian Expulsion of 1755, when the French Protestants were forced to leave Nova Scotia.  The area was re-populated with foreign Protestants and New Englanders.  Some New England Loyalists removed to Nova Scotia after the American War of Independence.   Other New Englanders of French extraction had their ancestors leave Nova Scotia after 1755 and arrive in the “Boston States”.   Later, some of these Planter families came back to New England after several generations.  The migrations back and forth, or from one country to the other continue until present times. 

If you look at the maps of New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces, you can see that traveling by water made these two regions very easily accessible to each other. I had ancestors from Cape Cod, Connecticut and Boston’s North Shore travel to Nova Scotia by water.  In 2007 I traveled from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia by ferry to trace my roots.  My route was the same one traveled by my ancestors, although they used coastal sailing vessels instead of a modern catamaran ferry.

If you have ancestors from Nova Scotia, or if you area resident of Nova Scotia with New England roots, it pays to become acquainted with the history of the two regions.   There are basic outlines of the Planter Movement, the Acadian Expulsions, the Revolutionary War Loyalists and Ulster Scots migrations online starting with short sketches at Wikipedia to more lengthy records at the Nova Scotia Archives website. 

You don’t have to travel to Nova Scotia to trace your roots.  Here is a list of helpful steps:

      1)       Try online searches at websites such as and to become familiar with the databases available for free and for subscription on the web
      2)      Search out genealogy societies such as the Canadian American Genealogical Society in Manchester, New Hampshire or local genealogy clubs
      3)      There are many websites and blogs available for Nova Scotia research such as Lucie LeBlanc Consentino’s “Acandia Ancestral Home” blog or check out the forums on Facebook for Nova Scotia genealogy
      4)      There are books on Loyalists, Acadians, Planters and I listed some below

If you would like to plan a "genea-jaunt" (research trip) to Nova Scotia you should try to do as much research at home ahead of time.  Map out the villages where you ancestors lived so you can plan your driving route, and research the times and hours of the local repositories of records.  Most archives will be closed on a Sunday, but we planned to be at the Baptist church in Billtown on that day, where my 2nd great grandfather, Reverend Ingraham Ebenezer Bill, had been the minister, or use that day for cemetery hunting (cemeteries don't close on Sundays).  Don't forget to photograph where your ancestors lived, worshipped, went to school,  and all the local landmarks.  

The Billtown, Nova Scotia Baptist Church
where my 2nd great grandfather was the pastor.
We drove our car and traveled by ferry to get here in 2007

Nova Scotia is accessible by air to Halifax, or by ferry from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  Driving is a long trip, through Maine and New Brunswick, but a worthwhile route if you also have New Brunswick ancestors.  We decided to drive one way (because Reverend Bill was buried in St. John, New Brunswick), and to take the ferry the other way because I had many ancestors in Yarmouth as well as in Billtown and Lunenburg.   We also visited Louisburg because I had many ancestors fight in the several attempts by New Englanders to overtake the French fort there.  

Dictionnaire Genealogique des Families Acadiennes by Stephen A. White, 2 volumes, 1999

Planter Nova Scotia 1760 – 1815, by Julian Gwyn, 2010

New England Planters in Maritime Provincial Canada, by Judith Norton, 1993

Nova Scotia Archives   (formerly Public Archives of Nova Scotia)

The New England Planters website

The New Englanders in Nova Scotia database at the New England Historic Genealogical Society website (membership needed).  This database has 48,155 names from more than 650 families of Planters and Loyalists

Nova Scotia GenWeb Project

Planters Studies Centre, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada
Chair: Stephen Henderson Email

Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia   and on Facebook at

American Canadian Genealogy Society, Manchester, New Hampshire 

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino’s “Acadian Ancestral Home” blog

Gail Dever’s “Genealogy a la Carte” blog

Lorine McGinnis Schulze’s “The Olive Tree Genealogy” website, Nova Scotia resources page

Nova Scotia Genealogy on Facebook


  1. Thank you Heath Wilkinson Rojo for this lovely post, it gives some excellent pointers for tracing roots in Nova Scotia. You mentioned several migrations to Nova Scotia, with special emphasis on the Planters, but I was surprised that you didn't mention the Foreign Protestants. Like the Planters, they were a "bolster the British presence in what is now Nova Scotia initative" and were just slightly before the Planters in 1750-1753. Headhunted throughout Germany, Switzerland and Montbeliard France, these protestant folks were first brought to Halifax and then to Lunenburg in 1753. They add another great reason for coming to Nova Scotia to enjoy some ancestral tourism. Cheryl Lamerson, South Shore Genealogical Society.

  2. Heather, I haven't any ancestors from this area but will add the link to this post to Evernote. People are always asking me about doing research in places that are so foreign to me and this will be useful to have up my sleeve.

  3. Great post Heather, as you know, I too have connections in Nova Scotia, I believe you share a lineage there with Man. Thanks for the links.


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