New Brunswick History

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

You will need some understanding of the historical events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. Records of these events, such as land and military documents, may mention your family.

Your ancestors’ lives will be more interesting if you learn about the history they may have been part of. For example, in a history you might learn about the events that occurred the year your great-grandparents were married.

History[edit | edit source]

By the early 1700s the area that is now New Brunswick was part of the French colony of Acadia, which was in turn part of New France. Acadia comprised most of what is now the Maritimes, as well as parts of Québec and Maine. The peace and prosperity of the colony was ended by rivalry between Britain and France for control of territory in Europe and North America starting in the early 1700s. With the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, the part of Acadia today known as peninsular Nova Scotia became another British colony on the eastern seaboard. Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island remained French.
To defend the area, the French built six forts and one was later captured by British and New England troops in 1755, followed soon after by the Expulsion of the Acadians.
After the American Revolution, about 10,000 loyalist refugees settled along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, commemorated in the province's motto, "hope restored". In 1784 New Brunswick was partitioned from Nova Scotia, and that year saw its first elected assembly. In 1785 Saint John became Canada's first incorporated city.
In 1866 the US cancelled the Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty leading to loss of trade with New England and prompting a desire to build trade within British North America, while Fenian raids increased support for union. On 1 July 1867 New Brunswick entered the Canadian Confederation along with Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
At the end of the Great Depression the New Brunswick standard of living was much below the Canadian average.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

Some key dates and events in the history of Canada and New Brunswick are:

  • 1534: Jacques Cartier explored the northern coast.
  • 1605:  Port Royal, now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, was founded by the French in “Acadia.”
  • 1608:  The French established the village of Quebec.
  • 1670:  The Hudson’s Bay Company was chartered by the English to compete with the French for the fur trade in western North America.
  • 1713:  The English officially received peninsular Nova Scotia, but serious British colonization did not begin until 1749, when Halifax was founded. Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay region were also ceded by the French in 1713.
  • 1755–1758: Some 6,000 French Acadians were forcibly removed from Nova Scotia.
  • 1762: Establishment of the first British community at St. John.
  • 1763:  At the close of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War), the Treaty of Paris confirmed British possession of two French colonies in North America, Nova Scotia (formerly Acadia) and Quebec (formerly New France).
  • 1769:  Prince Edward Island was detached from Nova Scotia to become a separate British colony.
  • 1774: The British Parliament passed the Quebec Act, which ended military government for the French Canadians. French language, law, religion, and custom were legally recognized in the Province of Quebec.
  • 1784: New Brunswick was separated from Nova Scotia.
  • 1785: Fredericton became the capital.
  • 1791: The old Province of Quebec was divided into two separate colonies, Lower Canada and Upper Canada.
  • 1812:  The Red River Colony was founded by Lord Selkirk, who settled displaced Highland Scots in what is now Manitoba.
  • 1836: The colonial government gained control over crown lands.
  • 1841: The Act of Union established a single combined legislature for Lower Canada (to be called Canada East, later Quebec) and for Upper Canada (called Canada West in 1841 and later called Ontario).
  • *1842: The Webster-Ashburton Treaty settled the boundary between New Brunswick  and Maine.
  • 1848: Responsible government for the colony was recognized.
  • 1851: A telegraph cable was laid to Prince Edward Island.
  • 1867: The Dominion of Canada was created, uniting the four provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario.
  • 1870s: The Dominion of Canada stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans as new lands and territories were added. The provinces of British Columbia (1871) and Prince Edward Island (1873) joined confederation.
  • 1870–1912:  Large portions of the Northwest Territory were later removed to create the provinces of Manitoba (1870), Saskatchewan (1905), Alberta (1905), and the Yukon Territory (1898) and to add to the areas of Manitoba (1880, 1912), Ontario (1912), and Quebec (1912).
  • 1876: The Intercontinental Railway was completed. 
  • 1890: The CPR line was built from Moncton to Montreal.
  • 1915: The Grand Trunk Railway linked Moncton to Prince Rupert, BC.
  • 1953: Discovery of zinc, lead, copper, silver and pyrite deposits.
  • 1947: Canadian citizenship was established separate from British.
  • 1957: The Beechwood hydro-electric generating station was opened.
  • 1949:  Newfoundland became the tenth province to join Canada.

Historical Sources[edit | edit source]

In 1947, J. Clarence Webster, C.M.G., M.D., D.Sc., L.L.D., F.R.S.C., Chairman, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada; Trustee, Public Archives of Nova Scotia; President of New Brunswick Museum; Honorary Curator of Fort Beausejour Museum, issued a revised edition of An Historical Guide to New Brunswick. It is arranged alphabetically, by topic, from “Aboriginal Pottery” to “Villebon, Chevalier Robineau de”, and was intended to encourage an interest in New Brunswick history by both residents and visitors. Dr. Webster was born in 1863 and did not consider his lifetime as “history,” his Guide is basically about the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.[1]

If you can locate a copy of this now rare booklet you will find it a very handy reference when you want to know something about a place or event or group of settlers, but do not want to wade through a whole history book to find it. For libraries with this book, see the WorldCat catalog.

The Family History Library has some published national, provincial, and local histories. See the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog Surnames Search under:


These are two of many historical sources:

  • A Short History of Canada. [2]
  • The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712–1857 [3]

Canada Sources[edit | edit source]

Encyclopedias also include excellent articles on the history of Canada. Many books and articles on Canadian history are listed in these annotated bibliographies:

  • A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. [4]
  • A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. II. Confederation to the Present. [5]

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Local histories are some of the most valuable sources for family history research. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of early settlers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.

Published histories of towns, counties, districts or other municipalities, and provinces often contain accounts of families. Many district, county, and town histories include sections or volumes of biographical information. These may give information on as many as half of the families in the area. A county history is also the best source of information about a county’s origin.

The Family History Library has about 300 district histories from the Prairie Provinces and fewer township and county histories from the rest of Canada. Similar histories are often at major Canadian public and university libraries and archives.

Bibliographies that list histories for some provinces are in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Sources for further reading, see:

  • New Brunswick History: A Checklist of Secondary Sources [6]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick History Sources and Timeline (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012),
  2. Morton, Desmond. A Short History of Canada. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig Publishers, 1983. (Family History Library book 971 H2md.)
  3. MacNutt, W. S. The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712–1857. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland and Stewart, 1965. (Family History Library book 971.5 H2mws; computer number 405750.)
  4. Muise, D. A., ed. A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. I. Beginnings to Confederation. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1982. (Family History Library book 971 H23r v. 1.)
  5. Granatstein, J. L., and Paul Stevens, eds. A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. II. Confederation to the Present. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1982. (Family History Library book 971 H23r v. 2.)
  6. Taylor, Hugh A. New Brunswick History: A Checklist of Secondary Sources. [S.l.: s.n.], 1968. (FHL book 971.5 H23t.)