Prince Edward Island History

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Canada Gotoarrow.png Prince Edward Island Gotoarrow.png History

This information can help you determine significant cultural, ecclesiastical, and political events in the history of Prince Edward Island. You will need some understanding of the historical events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. Records of these events, such as land and military documents, may mention your family.

Your ancestors’ lives will be more interesting if you learn about the history they may have been part of. For example, in a history you might learn about the events that occurred the year your great-grandparents were married.


Some of the significant events for Prince Edward Island include:

  • 1534: Jacques Cartier discovered the island, which the Micmac Indians called Abegweit.
  • 1603: Samuel de Champlain claimed the island for France and called it Ile-St-Jean.
  • 1719: Three hundred settlers from France, sponsored by the commercial company of the Count de St-Pierre, established the first colony on the island, Port la Joie, at the entrance to the harbor of Charlottetown.
  • 1745: The French colony was captured by the British.
  • 1748: France regained the lost colony.
  • 1758: The British occupied the island, dispersed many of the French settlers, and renamed it St. John Island.
  • 1763: France ceded the area to Great Britain. It was placed under the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia. Later, the British divided the island into three counties, each with a townsite and 67 lots (townships).
  • 1764: A survey of the island, the earliest in British North America, was done by Samuel Holland,
  • 1765: Charlottetown was named the capital of the colony.
  • 1767: The island was divided into lots.The lots were awarded to grantees or proprietors who were expected to promote settlement but who were mainly absentee landlords.
  • 1769: The island separated from Nova Scotia and the first governor was appointed.
  • 1799: The name was changed to Prince Edward Island.
  • 1851: The island had its first representative government.
  • 1864: A meeting was held in Charlottetown to discuss regional union.
  • 1867: The Land Purchase Act ended the tenure system of 1767.
  • 1873: The Province of Prince Edward Island was formed and became part of the Dominion of Canada.
  • 1878: Foxes were first raised on a farm near Tignish.

Historical Sources

The Family History Library has some published national, provincial, and local histories. See the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog Surname Search under:

  • A Short History of Canada [1]
  • The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712–1857 [2]

Canadian Sources

Encyclopedias also include excellent articles on the history of Canada. Many books and articles on Canadian history are listed in these annotated bibliographies:

  • A Reader's Guide to Canadian History. I. Beginnings to Confederation. [3]
  • A Reader's Guide to Canadian History. II. Confederation to the Present. [4]

Local Histories

Local histories are some of the most valuable sources for family history research. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of early settlers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.

Published histories of towns, counties, districts or other municipalities, and provinces often contain accounts of families. Many district, county, and town histories include sections or volumes of biographical information. These may give information on as many as half of the families in the area. A county history is also the best source of information about a county’s origin.

The Family History Library has about 300 district histories from the Prairie Provinces and fewer township and county histories from the rest of Canada. Similar histories are often at major Canadian public and university libraries and archives.

Bibliographies that list histories for some provinces are in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:



  1. Morton, Desmond. A Short History of Canada. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1983. FHL book 971 H2md.)
  2. MacNutt, W. S. The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712–1857. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965. (FHL book 971.5 H2mws.)
  3. Muise, D. A., ed. A Reader's Guide to Canadian History. I. Beginnings to Confederation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. (FHL book 971 H23r v. 1)
  4. Granatstein, J. L., and Paul Stevens, eds. A Reader's Guide to Canadian History. II. Confederation to the Present. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. (FHL book 971 H23r v. 2)