Go through your attic, basement, storage, and so forth to collect family photos, letters, diaries and anything else pertaining to your family.
Talk to your family, especially the older members, and gather their memories. Get it all down on paper, or capture it on video or audio.
Start by writing down what you know. Try putting together a basic family tree chart, going four or five generations back.
Are there blanks in your family tree? That's where you start your research! Start from the most recent "blank" and work backwards.
Use the Routes to your Roots application to search your family name. The map will show you where in Nova Scotia your ancestors lived and will point out archives in that area. Archives have so much to offer anyone interested in their family history and you may find staff members who are already familiar with your family's story.
NovaScotiaGenealogy.com is another great research tool. Search by your relative's name and find birth, death and marriage records from the province, dating back to 1763. Refine your search by county, year and type of record. You can order paper and electronic versions of these records.
Compare the information in these sources with what you already know, fill in the blanks in your family tree chart and look for hints to more answers to your queries.
Write down your findings (or use family tree software or an online tool). Keep photocopies and notes by family and note your sources so you can refer to them again. Now... decide what you want to research next!
- Your ancestors in Nova Scotia may not have spelled their last name the same way you spell it today. In general, spelling didn’t become standardized in North America until the early 1900s, when public schooling became mandatory and governments began keeping more records about citizens.
- In the old days, most people didn’t write very often, and some of them could only sign their names. Without practice and frequency, spelling was usually phonetic and often changed from one time to the next. Correct spelling of words and names just wasn’t very important.
- Have you ever seen 19th century handwriting? The script is loopy and fancy, and some of the spelling mistakes are due to the difficulty, then and now, of reading the script. Capital ‘F’s and ‘T’s can look the same; so can capital ‘C’s and ‘G’s. They also wrote some letters differently than we do: until the early 1800s, for example, when an ‘s’ appeared in the middle of a word they wrote it like a small ‘f’.
- Try alternate spellings of your name based on how it sounds.
- Type in the first few letters and review the dropdown list for other suggested spellings.
- Talk to family members to get clues about the history of your name.
- The database covers the 1760s to the 1950s, and is based on surviving birth, marriage and death records collected by government.
- Until the early 1900s, registration of births, marriages and deaths was not mandatory, and many people are missing from the database.
- Community archives hold many additional information sources not included in this database. Contact an archives to ask about your specific family search.
- There are rich community and family records available in archives all around Nova Scotia for time periods outside this database, or to build on what you’ve already found here. If you know the place in Nova Scotia where your family comes from, use our map to locate the nearest archives and then contact them to find out if they have additional information.
- Church records (baptisms, marriages and burials) are important information resources. Ask the archives in the community where your family comes from for details, or contact the Nova Scotia Archives for more information.
- Because of its location in North America, Nova Scotia is like a funnel. It’s a destination, but it’s also a temporary home where people stayed for a decade or two and then moved on elsewhere, or it’s a port of arrival where people got off a boat and immediately left for elsewhere in Canada or the United States.
- Check out the availability of church records (see above) to fill in missing details. The principal faith communities in Nova Scotia are the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopalian), Roman Catholic, the United Church of Canada (Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational), the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and various Baptist congregations.
- Many events in our lives cause records to be created: being born or baptized, attending school, getting married, buying land, or resolving a dispute. Archives keep these records and make them available for research.
- All archives are not the same. Each one focuses on the families living in and around their location.
- If your family donated records to an archives in NS you may find letters, notes, or perhaps a diary written by one of your ancestors.