In 1752 St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg recorded the first Protestant marriage (outside of Halifax) in what we now know as Nova Scotia. Although Roman Catholic missionaries had served the Acadian and Mi'kmaq population since the founding of Port Royal in 1605, most of these early records are well-known and many have been published. Repeating these records would not be of any value and hence the "start date" of 1752. Since this project was conceived as a supplement to Dr. Terrence M. Punch's Religious Marriages in Halifax, 1768-1841, From Original Sources, the “end date” became 1841.
The marriages are taken primarily from church registers, township books and newspapers but supplemented by diaries and family bibles. All of these records are publicly accessible, usually on microfilm. The pages that follow are intended as an index only. The researcher is strongly encouraged to consult original sources, both for additional information and to make one's own interpretation of some very challenging penmanship. The original records should, at the very least, provide the name of the officiating clergyman. As well, many give the residence of the bride and groom at the time of the marriage and/or the groom's occupation. Catholic records are the only sources that consistently provide the names of the prospective in-laws although newspaper announcements often name the father of the bride. Catholic and later Anglican records usually give the names of witnesses (frequently relatives) and many records give the place of the wedding. Township books and family bibles will often provide the whole family - not just the wedding date but a list of children with their dates of birth.
Those who take the time to consult the originals may be rewarded with other information. For example, the announcement of the marriages of Robert Doyle to Ann Mulligan, Richard Daley to Mary Dolland (sic) and Thomas Huggan to Catherine Dunn in the Colonial Patriot of 4 June 1831 states that the couples "arrived here on the 22nd ult. per brig Pandora from Waterford, Ireland." An early example of ecumenism is found in the records of St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg: on 23 Nov. 1837 George Rodenauser and Lucy Hirtle, both Lutherans, were married by the Rev. W.E. Shenstone, Weslyan missionary, with the notation, "Rector sick". Finally, the diary of Almira Bell, a school teacher in Barrington Township records her observations at the wedding of Susanne Kenney on 24 July 1833: "the bride looked very well but the bridegroom - oh mercy! . . . I looked at him and thanked Heaven I was not in Susanne's place."
Researchers seeking to better understand the laws governing Nova Scotia marriages during this time period are encouraged to read the very thorough introduction in Dr. Terrence M. Punch's Religious Marriages in Halifax, 1768-1841, From Original Sources.
[Summary of Types of Sources Consulted:
Church Records - Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Lutheran, Methodist, Quaker, Presbyterian
Newspapers - Halifax, Lunenburg, Pictou, Shelburne, Sydney, Windsor, Yarmouth
Diaries & Journals
Marriage Certificates & Licenses
Notes on Religious Sources
Anglican records provided more marriages than any other source. As the Establishment Church, this is not surprising. The researcher benefits from the Anglican churches in Nova Scotia all belonging to one Diocese. Their records are available on microfilm at the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM) in Halifax. If only other denominations were so straight forward!
Baptists were a rapidly growing segment of the population in the early 1800's but only about 600 marriages survive for the period of interest. Only the personal journals of Rev. Joseph Dimock (Chester), Rev. Edward Manning (Cornwallis) and Rev. William Chipman (Pleasant Valley, Kings Co.) provide any substantial quantities of Baptist marriage records. My thanks to Winnie Bodden, archivist at the Maritime Baptist Archives as well as to Pat Townsend, archivist for Acadia University for their help.
The United Church of Canada came into being in 1925 with the amalgamation of the Methodist, Congregationalist and many Presbyterian Churches. The records of the early congregations for these three denominations are often elusive. Some records are known to be lost due to fire or flood. Others are simply missing, offering the hope that some day they may come to light. I would like to thank Judith Colwell, archivist for the Maritime Conference Archives (Sackville, N.B.), for her kind assistance.
The Roman Catholic Church in Nova Scotia is divided into three Dioceses - Halifax, Yarmouth and Antigonish. The early church records of both the Diocese of Yarmouth and the Archdiocese of Halifax have been microfilmed and are available locally (the Halifax records at NSARM and the Yarmouth records at the Centre acadien at Université Ste. Anne in Pointe-de-l'Église and the Centre d'Études acadiennes at the Université de Moncton.) The policy of the Diocese of Antigonish is that the parish priest is the custodian of the sacramental registers. Many records from the Diocese of Antigonish, especially those of the Acadian parishes were microfilmed many years ago and are available at the Centre d'Études acadiennes and to a lesser extent at NSARM. In 2005 many, but not all, were made accessible to the Genealogical Society of Utah for recording through the efforts of the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia and are now available at NSARM.
The first (known) wedding outside of Halifax to be noted in a newspaper was in 1774 in the Nova Scotia Gazette and Weekly Chronicle. For another forty years marriage announcements in newspapers would be unusual. Slowly, from about 1815 onward, the number of notices increased.
Alas, it’s not enough to extract marriages from newspapers – it’s then necessary to find out which ones were subsequently denied. More confusing yet, it appears that in some cases the denial was untrue.
Listed below are six marriages that were reported in Nova Scotia newspapers then subsequently denied as having ever having taken place. They do not appear in this index.
Billings, Capt. S., - Leonhard, Catherine Ann, w Acadian Recorder, 19 Sept. 1829
Hay, George, - Hunt, Cecilia, - Acadian Recorder, 23 July 1836
Norval, James, - Robinson, Jane, - Acadian Recorder, 3 Sept. 1836
Shearer, William, - Hope, Eliza, - Halifax Journal, 20 May 1833
Cannon, John, - Lamb, Ann, - Novascotian, 11 Jan. & 2 Feb. 1837
Sanders, Richard A., - Winchester, Elizabeth E., - Yarmouth Herald, 26 Nov. 1841
In addition, the marriage of John Forbes and Susan Nelson in 1838 appeared in a number of newspapers who described both the bride and groom as "of colour". This was denied in the Novascotian of 14 June 1838.
However, the marriages of the following, all denied in the Novascotian of 2 April 1840 are possibly legitimate. They appeared in a variety of papers. Preferring to err on the side of inclusion they are left in.
[here follows a list of 11 couples]
In most cases where a marriage was reported in more than one source, the discrepancies between records were minimal and only one listing appears for the couple. However, there were seventy-one marriages that either took place twice (usually once in her church and once in his) or the discrepancy between records is such that it seemed only right to note both cases. These discrepancies fall into six categories. First, the couples who were truly married more than once:
[here follows a list of 27 couples]
The second case covers brides who were widows with different sources giving different surnames for the bride. This was the case for
[here follows a list of 13 couples]
The third case also covers brides whose marriages were reported under two different surnames but the bride was either believed to be a spinster or her status at the time of marriage was unknown. These may also include cases of error on the part of the recorder.
[here follows a list of 7 couples]
The fourth scenario consists of couples whose marriage was entered twice in the same set of records, but on two different days. It is, of course, possible that two couples by the same name were married about the same time.
[here follows a list of 8 couples]
The fifth case is the only one to involve the press. Sometimes different newspapers reported the (apparently) same marriage occurring on two substantially different dates. Other times the newspapers reported the marriage occurring on a date quite different from other record sources. This category also includes those whose marriage is reported on two different days in two different sets of church records of the same denomination.
[here follows a list of 13 couples]
The sixth and final category we’ll call leftovers. They consist of the wedding of Elizabeth Kendricks who married either Nehemiah Nickerson or Nehemiah Wilson, the only case where the surname of the groom remained undecided; the marriage of Jean Cottreau and Marie Henard where one record supplies the original marriage date and the other the revalidation date; and, finally, the marriage of Jean Petit dit Le Vent and either Marie Carepe or Clairette Malaque on the same day in Louisbourg.
1. The symbol * denotes Black persons while the symbol # denotes Aboriginal persons.
2. Angle brackets are used where a name was not found in the source(s) listed but was kindly provided by someone with knowledge of the couple.
3. In the case of marriages that were revalidated by Roman Catholic clergy, only the date of the revalidation is given here although the original record will often give the date of the couple’s marriage without a priest.
4. Although the area known as Nova Scotia in 1752 included what we now know as New Brunswick, this index has been limited to those marriages which took place within the boundaries of present-day Nova Scotia. Where there is doubt as to the location of the wedding, error is on the side of inclusion