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Day One
Saturday, May 4, 2024

Note: All Times are Atlantic Daylight Time (UTC-03:00)

9:00 AM/ Welcome and Introduction

Tim Gay, President of the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia will welcome conference participants and provide insights into our attendee demographics and interests.

We'll also be providing a taste of our "Genealogical and Historical Societies" lunch session on Sunday with a short video presentation from the Colchester Historeum.

9:30 AM/ Prominent Nova Scotia Genealogist Profile - Dr. Allan Marble

Besides being one of the founders of the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia, Dr. Allan Marble is one of the most prolific Nova Scotia Genealogists of all time, having published works across seven decades. Join us for an interview with Dr. Marble regarding his life's journey in genealogy.

10:00 AM/ Beyond the Basics: Next Steps in Improving Your Nova Scotia Research Skills

Nathaniel Smith and Peggy Chapman will explain how to move beyond the basics of using the Nova Scotia Vital Stats website and into the world of more intermediate and advanced techniques and record sets: 

You have looked for your ancestors in the Historical Vital Statistics section on the Nova Scotia Archives website, and you have also browsed the menu of their Genealogy Guide.   You are aware that early births, marriages, and deaths will likely not be available except through alternate sources, especially church records. Canada Census records begin in 1851 (Head of Household only) and are very useful from 1871 onward.  In Nova Scotia research, early brick walls are common and finding information to flesh out the lives of your ancestors beyond "hatch, match, and despatch" is a definite challenge.  The significance of historical context with settler groups is paramount.  This session will address beyond the basics and a small case study will demonstrate how flexible research strategies can enhance your chance of success.

Brenda J. Thompson will take you back to the 1880s in Nova Scotia as a poor person. We’ll examine the stories of a few people who were living in poor houses: how people came to be there (e.g. housing difficulties, disabilities, unemployment), but also the horrors that occurred once you were admitted (you were considered an ‘inmate’, faced harsh working conditions, endured poor nutrition, were separated from your family, and many other grim realities).

Did you know?

  • Prior to the 1880s, the poor were auctioned off.

  • It was recommended to have a Poor House in every county in Nova Scotia; Kings County had three.

  • Poor Houses weren't formally abolished in Canada until 1958!

12:00 PM/ Lunch: On-going Projects at GANS / Introduction to GIMS

Enjoy your lunch while watching a presentation from Timothy Gay, President of the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia (GANS), regarding the on-going projects which GANS is supporting.

Hear from Nat Smith, Registrar of the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes (GIMS), about the organization, and from one of the recent  members on their certification journey.

See a presentation from the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society regarding the resources available as a member of their organization.

1:00 PM/ Who Were the Parents of David R. Matheson? A DNA Case Study from California to Nova Scotia

Alice Childs will tell the story of David R. Matheson, who emigrated from Nova Scotia to California as a young adult. Documents created throughout David’s life in California fail to identify the names of his parents. This case study illustrates how combining DNA and documentary research helped identify David’s ancestral family, identify and eliminate paternal candidates, and solidify biological relationships to both parents.

2:00 PM/ Genealogical Records at the Nova Scotia Natural Sciences Library [recording]

Sarah Ziolkowska will share the basics about all that the Natural Sciences Library has to offer for genealogical research. Learn about Church Maps, Crown Land Index Sheets (and what all those strange symbols mean), and how to order a copy of a land grant.

3:00 PM/ BREAK

Get up and stretch your legs.

3:15 PM/ Digby’s Loyalist Settlers

Brian McConnell will be making a presentation entitled “Digby’s Loyalist Settlers”. He will explore the experience of both the United Empire Loyalists and the Black Loyalists who arrived in Digby and Digby County, Nova Scotia in the 1780s. His presentation will draw upon some information in his book “The Loyalists of Digby” as well as other sources, including some newly-discovered records.

4:15 PM/ Maritime Religious Archivists

End Day One with four mini-sessions: 20 minute presentations and interviews with archivists who manage the collections of the four largest religious archives in Nova Scotia. What records do they have or have not? How can you access records at these Archives?

4:15 PM - Sarah Wallace - 
United Church of Canada East Archives

4:35 PM - Soren Himmelman
Anglican Church Archives, Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

4:55 PM - Wendy Robicheau - 
Atlantic Baptist Archives  (video)

5:15 PM - Sharon Riel - 
Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax - Yarmouth, Archives and Research  (video)


Day Two
Sunday, May 5, 2024

8:50 AM/ Kings County Museum Presentation

In the vein of our "Genealogical and Historical Societies" lunch session on Sunday, watch a short video presentation from the Kings County Museum.

9:00 AM/ Prominent NS Genealogist Interviews

We will have 20-minute interviews with each of the following prominent Nova Scotian genealogists:

10:00 AM/ Irish and Channel Islanders in Nova Scotia: Did they come via Newfoundland?

Peggy Chapman will outline that the majority of Irish who settled in Nova Scotia came well before waves of emigration caused by the potato famine. The mid-1700s to 1800 is the timeframe for most Irish settlers in Nova Scotia. When researching Irish ancestors back to their Irish origins, often there is lack of evidence for migrating direct from Ireland to Nova Scotia. Newfoundland's population in the 1700s was small but full of Irish.  Your ancestor may be one who emigrated to Newfoundland before a move to Nova Scotia.  The Channel Islands has a similar history - as early as the 1600s the fishing trade drew Channel Islanders initially to Newfoundland. Emigration patterns suggest that while some came directly to Nova Scotia due to shipbuilding and fisheries, many others were first resident in Newfoundland. Many Channel Islanders had "French" surnames, causing additional confusion in looking at Acadian resources with no results. This session will provide history and context for both groups and resources in Newfoundland that can help.

Crown Land Grants, Warrants to Survey, Petitions - what do they all mean? And what is an Escheat, or a Quit Rent? John MacLeod, Manager of the Nova Scotia Archives, will provide an overview of the origin and subsequent re-distribution of land in Nova Scotia, including reference to deeds and other methods of property transfer - they're often a goldmine of genealogical information. Come learn about this rich Nova Scotian record source. 

12:00 PM/ Lunch: Local Genealogical Organization Presentations

During lunch hour pre-recorded presentations will run highlighting the work of local Nova Scotia genealogical and historical societies and organizations, including:

  • Antigonish Heritage Museum

  • Chestico Museum & Historical Society

  • Lake Charlotte Genealogy / Eastern Shore Archives

  • Yarmouth County Museum & Archives

1:00 PM/ Exploring the Acadian mtDNA Project

Denis Savard will discuss how can we use mtDNA to identify the origin of the "Mothers of Acadia", i.e. the women pioneers that gave birth to the Acadian colony in the New World. The speaker will also explain how DNA is used to verify, or even discover the ancestry of women stuck behind brick walls, by comparing their signatures to the "Mothers".

2:00 PM/ Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity

Dr. Darryl Leroux has studied a social phenomenon that has taken off in the twenty-first century: otherwise white, French descendant settlers in Canada shifting into a self-defined “Indigenous” identity. White, French-descendant people discovering an Indigenous ancestor born 300 to 375 years ago through genealogy and using that ancestor as the sole basis for an eventual shift into an “Indigenous” identity today.


After setting out the most common genealogical practices that facilitate race shifting, Leroux examines self-identified “Indigenous” organizations that have their origins in committed opposition to Indigenous land and territorial negotiations, and that encourage the use of suspect genealogical practices. His study brings to light how these claims to an “Indigenous” identity are then used politically to oppose actual, living Indigenous peoples, exposing along the way the shifting politics of whiteness, white settler colonialism, and white supremacy.

3:00 PM/ BREAK

Get up and stretch your legs.

3:15 PM/ Scottish Immigrants in Atlantic Canada

One of Scotland’s largest exports has been their people. Scots began leaving their homeland for North America as early as the 1650s. Christine Woodcock's presentation will cover the merchants and professionals that emigrated to Newfoundland, those who came with the Timber Merchants, the groups of Highlanders and Islanders who were ousted from their homes for religious reasons or who were cleared from estates and came to Canada to make a better life for themselves and their families. (PEI, NS and Cape Breton)

4:15 PM/ Brick Wall Busters

We are pleased to re-offer one of our most popular features: a Nova Scotia Brick Wall Busters session! Three luck registrants will be selected at random to have the Nova Scotian Ancestor Mystery Investigated further by our team of Nova Scotia Certified Genealogists. However you must have registered by March 18 to be selected. Find out more details here!

5:30 PM/ Farewell & Closing Remarks

Brief farewell remarks and "thank you"s to all of our attendees and presenters!

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