June 9, 2010 (Toronto, ON) Ancestry.ca, Canada’s leading family history website, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Archives, today launched on Ancestry.ca the Nova Scotia Birth Marriage and Death Indexes, 1763-1957, which contain indexes for more than one million Nova Scotia birth, marriage and death (BMD) records.
The indexes are searchable by a combination of name, place of birth, marriage or death, gender and name of spouse (for Marriages only). Having searched the indexes on Ancestry.ca, users will also have the option to click through to NovaScotiaGenealogy.com to view and purchase original record images.
As BMDs are considered core records by family history researchers, these indexes will be a major addition to Ancestry.ca’s existing collection of provincial BMD indexes, which includes those for Ontario and British Columbia, and will be of great significance to anyone with ancestral ties to Nova Scotia.
In total, the indexes span 194 years of Nova Scotia’s history in three separate indexes: the Nova Scotia Births, 1863-1907, Nova Scotia Marriages, 1763-1932 and Nova Scotia Deaths, 1864-1877, 1890-1957. More than 206,000 birth records, 423,000 marriage records and 410,000 death records will be name searchable through these indexes.
The collection starts in 1763, the year that procedures for obtaining a marriage license were first initiated in Nova Scotia, however the procedure was optional and not formalized until 1864 when registrations of deaths and births also became mandatory.
In addition to being able to research one’s own ancestors, the Nova Scotia Birth Marriage and Death Indexes, 1763-1957 contain fascinating information about historical figures who were born, married and died in the maritime province during this period, including:
Given the hugely significant role that Nova Scotia played in the heyday of immigration to this country, it is believed that Canadians from coast to coast will be able to find ancestral links in these indexes. In fact, from 1881 to 1935 alone, almost 1.8 million people arrived to Canada via Halifax and North Sydney.
- Alexander Graham Bell – the inventor of the telephone died August 2, 1922 at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia
- Samuel Cunard – the shipping magnate married Susan Duffus on February 4, 1815
- Charles Fenerty – the inventor of the wood pulp papermaking process married Ann Hamilton in Halifax County in 1868
In addition to their value to family historians, the indexes reveal some interesting demographic trends which occurred across this period, with some interesting results when compared to modern day Nova Scotia.
Births: Mary and John, wherefore art thou?
When it comes to choosing a name for a baby, many factors may come into play. For example, some name their child after a relative, while others prefer to pay homage to famous individuals. And sometimes, it’s the uniqueness of a name that inspires. Whatever their reasons, Nova Scotians have certainly changed their tastes over the past century.
Of the top ten most common names given to newborn boys and girls over the 44-year-period for which the birth records span, only two names, Sarah and Alexander, manage to remain in the Top Ten in Nova Scotia a hundred years later. Sarah and Alexander (or Alex) were both the seventh most common names for girls and boys respectively between 1863 and 1907.
In 2007, Sarah had jumped up to the fifth most common girl’s name while Alexander was eighth among boy names, according to Nova Scotia Vital Statistics.
By far the most common names for boys between 1863 and 1907 were John, William and James, but they barely register in 2007. William ranked as the 15th most common name, James the 24th most common and poor John did not even crack the top 25.
And it is even grimmer for the top women’s names. Other than Sarah, only two names from the historical top 25 list can be found in the top 25 list from 2007. Emma, the most common girl’s name in 2007, ranked 13th historically while Eva (or Ava), which is the third most common name in 2007, ranked 14th just one century ago.
The most notable trend in names for boys appears to be the switch from names with links to the British Empire and the monarchy (William, George, Edward) to names from the Old Testament (Jacob, Noah, Benjamin, Nathan). Former Queens (Elizabeth, Mary, Victoria) also seem to have fallen by the wayside in favour of trendier names with much less historical significance (Madison, Olivia, Ella, Chloe).
Deaths: infant mortality
According to information from death indexes from 1864 to 1877 and 1890 to 1957, Nova Scotia has gone from having among the highest infant mortality rates in Canada to among the lowest. This can be attributed to the province establishing in 1973 one of Canada’s first reproductive-care programs.
In 1927, the infant mortality rate was as high as 95 deaths per 1,000 infants, lowering to 29.3 per 1,000 in 1957 and only 3.3 deaths per 1,000 in 2007 - the lowest in Canada.
Marriages: I’m dreaming of a white wedding?
Perhaps the most surprising trend gleaned from the 423,000 marriage indexes now is that the most common month for a wedding from 1763 to 1932 was December. Not many brides today dream of having to compete with snow as the main “white” attraction at their wedding. Today’s brides overwhelmingly prefer August and July nuptials.
Though the preference over the time of year may have changed, there has been less change in the age at which people are getting married in Nova Scotia. The median age of brides and grooms has risen slightly since 1932, the last year captured in these records. In 1932 the median age was 27 compared with 29 in 2007.
The bigger difference is the gap in the age of the brides and the grooms. The average age at marriage for men only increased by one year, from 29 to 30, during this 75-year period while the average age of brides increased by five years from 24 to 29.
Ancestry.ca Genealogist Lesley Anderson comments: “For many years Nova Scotia was at the centre of immigration into Canada and so these indexes will be of interest to the huge number of Canadians whose heritage is tied to the province for a short period of time through immigration, or for those with deeper roots.
“Birth, marriage and death records are considered the cornerstone of family history research and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to host these indexes on Ancestry.ca for our members.”
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management Director of Public Services Lois Yorke comments: "Learning more about our past enriches our lives. Our partnership with Ancestry.ca will give website users instant access to the province's vital statistics going back to 1763. For the expert genealogist or the first-time researcher, these records can be of immense value."
To discover your Nova Scotia ancestors, visit www.ancestry.ca/novascotia and let the journey begin.