Category Archives: Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia

Visiting the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia

I have to admit that I never expected my next visit to a governmental records repository to be the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia, but that is exactly where I visited recently on a cruise.

Before my husband and I left on a cruise to Canada, I noted that one of the stops was in Halifax, Nova Scotia – exactly the town where the provincial archives are located!

I have but one connection to Nova Scotia and it is early. Robert Carlisle, one of my ancestors, fought with the Royal Fencibles in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution. He is recognized as a Loyalist, although I have no evidence he ever lived in the colonies before or during the war.

Robert Carlisle’s parents or possible siblings are a complete mystery and the Carlisle name is rarely found in Nova Scotia in that time period.

Before we left on our trip, I called the Archives office to be sure that they would be open on the one day I had to visit and inquired as to whether records from that time period existed. I got a YES to both questions and headed to the archives on a chilly morning.

First stop was the Reception desk, where Dave and I completed paperwork to allow us access as researchers.

Next stop was the third floor, where the open stacks are situated. Next, I met Gail Judge at the reference desk:


She got me settled in  and set me on my way looking for Carlisle clues. I did find one biographical reference to Dennis Heffernan, who married a “Mrs. Jane Carlisle” in December 1761:

My best find was an article published in the Nova Scotia Historical Society journal about the Royal Fencible Americans, which was the regiment in which my Robert Carlisle served. While it stated that not much is known about this regiment (no muster rolls, etc.), it did pull together the bits and pieces that are known about the regiment, which was primarily in charge of the defense of Fort Cumberland, near Sackville:

Although I found very little, I was not expecting to uncover a lot or break through my brick wall. In spite of my lack of success, I have to highly recommend the Nova Scotia Archives if you have family who settled there.

The facility itself is chock full of resources. There is a huge card catalogue (an equal number of drawers on the back side of this card bank) with categories like surnames and land records. :

There are rows and rows of books and journals:

There are also many open rows of microfilm:

The work area is nicely laid out:

Keep in mind that these are just the public areas. There are many more resources in closed stacks – manuscripts, documents, photos and rare records.

If, like me, you don’t live close by and won’t be in Nova Scotia any time soon, the archives has an ever-growing website.

Click on the “Virtual” tab at the top of the page.

Last, but certainly not least, be sure to take a look at the Vital Statistics.

If you find a name of interest, it is possible to both view the record (and clip/save it) and to purchase a record copy directly from the Nova Scotia Archives.

I only had a very short time at the Nova Scotia Archives – about two hours to be exact – but it was long enough for me to determine that anyone with Nova Scotia family should be visiting, either in person or online.

A special thank you to Gail, who took the time to help me get as much out of my two hours as possible, and to two patrons (who didn’t want their picture taken) who helped me navigate the filing systems and the technology. 🙂