Sheet Harbour, Halifax County, N.S.    St. Andrews, Antigonish County, N.S.    Maitland Village, East Hants County, N.S.
A. F. Church Mapping Program
Many people are fascinated with maps, and historical maps, which show how earlier generations conceptualized their world and the things that were important to them, are among the most fascinating of all.  However, the recent upsurge of interest in maps speaks to something important for genealogists.  All family history happens somewhere.  It is reasonable to think of all families as being embedded in communities, and family history is, therefore, intertwined with local history.  The mapping of our communities is emerging as one of the new pivots of genealogical work.
Working with the Maps
Between 1864 and 1888, Ambrose Finson Church, a transplanted Maine cartographer, conducted large-scale topographical mapping of each of the eighteen counties of Nova Scotia.  Apart from his efforts to map the roads and waterways, and the external coast, coves and inlets, Mr. Church also pinpointed the dwellings of residents, writing the first initial and surname of the principal family member in the empty spaces.  In 1881, there were 74,154 dwellings in the province and, when properly digitized and geo-referenced, precise latitudes and longitudes can be calculated with the Church Maps for more or less all of those dwellings.  The practical goal has been set as transcribing the names on the map, and matching them to census information.
In 2019, GANS became part of a joint venture with three other continuing heritage groups to work on these maps:  the Heritage Association of Antigonish, East Hants Historical Society, and West Hants Historical Society.  The partnership collected original lithographs as donations, and started work on the maps.
The job is not straight-forward though.  The maps were printed as lithographs, typically in four sections, matched and glued together on a linen blacking.  The maps range in age now between about 140 years and 170 years of age, and are all degraded in some respects, often with pieces having fallen off, or having become stained from water damage, or with paper that is now cracked and broken.  The physical conservation of the maps is, therefore, the first job. In our first project, we did physical conservation of five maps:  Antigonish county, Cumberland county, Hants county, Halifax county, and Lunenburg county.
Digitization also has its own problems.  In our initial job, we used an overhead camera for the digitization work, splicing together multiple small images to reduce focal distortion.  At 600 dpi, the combined image file for one map range between 5GB and 6GB in size, requiring serious computing power for edits and digital repairs.  We have completed digital work on Halifax county, and done preliminary digital work on Antigonish, Cumberland, and Hants counties.
Experiments with Matching the Maps
In a early experiment, we conducted experiments with matching dwelling locations on the Church maps to the 1881 census in Heatherton (Antigonish county) and New Ross (Lunenburg county).  We also did experiments with the 1878 Pictou Co. Atlas in Durham (Pictou county) and the Hopkins Maps in the Old North End of Halifax. 
In a later project, we geo-referenced the maps for Antigonish, Hants, and Halifax counties.  Working with the much more accurate geographies we have now, the geo-referencing of these older maps required the creation of between 300 and 500 anchor points per county to micro-anchor the maps to contemporary spatial systems.  We used this geo-referencing to  work with portions of each of the three maps to match the dwelling points on the A. F. Church maps with census information.  In the second experiment, we used a much more formal process to control and audit the matching process.
So we have had a number of runs at this matching process, and have been able to demonstrate that it is possible to do.  Other improvements in the process will need to be made on a future run at it. 
Here are two test results from the first simple census match:  Heatherton Antigonish County, or New Ross, Lunenburg County.  You will have to adjust the "Map Background" dropdown in the top left corner to find the "Satellite" image in order to see the A. F. Church map.
Current Work
Further work is focussed now on software development, a job which has presented considerable difficulties.  Progress is slow, but steady.  In the meantime, we are moving ahead in the Spring of 2024 with physical conservation of three further Church maps - Queens County, Shelburne County, and Guysborough County.  We intend to complete full digitization and repair of the Queens County map.
This Project has a high level of difficulty and is very capital intensive, but work continues.