Prince Edward Island Acadian Records
The area comprising today's New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island was once known as Arcadie. Eventually the name became Acadia. The area was first settled by the French, who established Port Royal (present-day Annapolis) in 1605. The territory passed back and forth from French to English hands many times: 1632 (French rule), 1654 (English), 1667 (French), 1690 (English), 1697 (French), and 1713 (English). In accordance with the Treaty of Utrecht, France ceded the Nova Scotia peninsula and the New Brunswick area to England. England did little to settle the area and the French-speaking Acadians were the majority until about 1750. France still retained Ile Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island) and Cape Breton Island (now part of Nova Scotia), where Louisbourg became the capitol.
A large number of the Acadians were deported by the English from 1755 to 1760. To escape deportation, many fled to Québec or to what is now New Brunswick. In 1759 the Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island areas fell to Britain and the settlers were deported to France. In 1763 France ceded most of its maritime lands to England and the area became known as Nova Scotia.
In 1769 a separate province, Saint John's Island (Ile St. Jean), was established. It became Prince Edward Island in 1799. In 1784 the New Brunswick area also became a separate province. About this time many Acadians who had been deported agreed to sign the oath of allegiance to England and were allowed to take up lands in the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). They worked primarily as farmers and fishermen. For the most part, they continued to speak French and uphold their Roman Catholic faith.
Because of this great dispersion, the Acadian records are complete only for the early years of settlement. There are some good church registers from the late 1600s to 1755. Registers exist for Port Royal only for the earliest years.
The most important remaining sources for Acadian research are:
Parish Registers. Most of the remaining registers are housed in the Centre d'archives de la Capitale in Sainte-Foy and in Le Centre d'études acadiennes (Center for Acadian Studies) in Moncton, New Brunswick. (See the “Archives and Libraries” section of this outline for addresses.)
Census Records. See the “Census” section of this outline for information about Canadian censuses.
Land Grants. These can be found at the Archives des Colonies in Paris, France, as well as on microfilm at the National Archives of Canada.
Notarial Records. Most of these records have been lost or destroyed as a result of the exile of the Acadians from Canada. There are, however, some records for 1687 to 1758. These are available at Le Centre d'études acadiennes (Center for Acadian Studies) and the National Archives of Canada.
Other Records. Several sources exist which are primarily Acadian records. These are lists of deported Acadians, Acadians in transit, and Acadians in the British Colonies; petitions of Acadians in Massachusetts; and allegiance lists. These may be found in periodicals published by various historical and genealogical societies. Good sources for research are Placide Gaudet’s Acadian Genealogy and Notes and Archange Godbout’s genealogical collection. They are both located at Le Centre d'études acadiennes (Center for Acadian Studies) and the National Archives of Canada. Another good source for Acadian research is Histoire & Généalogie des Acadiens, by Bona Arsenault (Family History Library film 873863.)