New Brunswick Gazetteers
Townships, Counties and Parishes
The Townships established when New Brunswick was part of Nova Scotia did not last when it became a separate colony in June 1784. Soon after New Brunswick was divided into eight Counties for administrative purposes: Westmorland, St. John, Kings, Queens, Sunbury and Charlotte in the south of the region, with Northumberland covering the whole north east quarter of the colony and York taking in Fredericton to the south and the disputed north western quarter.
|Counties, their changes and borders are important because almost all archival records are organized by county.|
At present there are 15 counties: Albert County was cut out of Westmorland, Kent County from the southern part of Northumberland, Gloucester from the north east of Northumberland and Restigouche, along the river of that name, from Northumberland and York. Victoria and Carleton Counties were carved out of York as well, but Madawaska was only separated out of Victoria in 1873.
The County Guides issued (and posted on the Internet) by the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) explain the history of each county. Maps, and a table showing the changes and the dates they occurred will be found at the end of this section. Counties are divided into civil Parishes which you encounter usually as census districts. They are not the same as church parishes. Alan Rayburn names all parishes, and they are marked on the map included with his book. Otherwise, the quick way to check is on the Internet.
Maritime place names have always baffled Upper Canadian radio announcers. A five stanza poem, “Sweet maiden of Passamaquoddy,” by James DeMilne, praises two brooks, the Skoodawabskooksis and the Skoodawabskook, telling us:
- Meduxnekeag’s waters are bluer;
Nepisiguit’s pools are more black;
More green is the bright Oromocto
And browner the Petitcodiac…
You get the idea, and you can read the entire poem in Alan Rayburn’s essential reference work, Geographical Names of New Brunswick (1975), together with two interesting essays by W.F. Ganong on “place nomenclature.”
Dr. Ganong’s second paper examines the names the aboriginal inhabitants gave to places in New Brunswick, and notes those that remain in use. European settlers could not pronounce some of these names, but they were not very imaginative in finding new names. Alan Rayburn has four entries for “Salmon River” plus two for “Salmon Creek.” The Mirimichi River has many branches and it is easy to confuse the Southwest Branch with the Little Southwest branch. Rayburn’s book notes that the Little Southwest Mirimichi River flows east into the Northwest Mirimichi River, while the South Branch of the Southwest Mirimichi flows into the Southwest Mirimichi River. Confusing?
In other words, this is a book you should know about and use when you have to identify just where some early settler received a land grant, or what river he fished in, or drowned in. It is also useful in pinning down changes of name, at least up to 1975. More recently, the introduction of 911 emergency service saw more changes and additions. Robert F. Fellows has compiled Community Place Names in New Brunswick, Canada (Fredericton: Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, c.1998), and this should cover the more recent alterations.
Rayburn’s entries will alert you to Acadian place names in translation or with variant spellings, such as “Bouctouche: See Buctouche” (page 60), and “Cape Bald: PO 1879-1903 and 1906-1947 at Cap Pelé” (page 70); it includes all the rural Post Offices, like one Mrs. Boudreau ran in a corner of her kitchen where she also baked and sold bread and rolls; the best smelling Post Office I have ever entered.
A recent gift to genealogists is a reprint of Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America 1873 by Global Heritage Press in 1999. It lists cities, towns, villages and small post offices, as well as places like “Harvey Station” and “Painsec Junction” which came into existence when the railway went through. It tells which railroad, and gives the population, says if there are any shops, banks, hotels, whether a newspaper is published, and other useful information, some taken from the 1871 census.
Used in conjunction with Alan Rayburn’s 20th century information and excellent map in Geographical Names of New Brunswick, it should not be too difficult to locate most ancestor’s post office. Older road maps from the 1950s to 1970s, if you can find them, usually have most small communities marked, but modern tourist road maps are not much help.
- Fellows, Robert F., Researching Your Ancestors in New Brunswick Canada (1979), pages 253-254, has a map showing Parishes and Counties of New Brunswick. The same map is printed in Generations, Issue 48, June 1991, pages 12-13, with an explanation of regional governments; and it is posted on the Internet through the New Brunswick GenWeb Project.
- Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Gazetteers and Maps (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Gazetteers_and_Maps_%28National_Institute%29.