Prince Edward Island's history is relatively young compared to other areas of Canada as well as the United States, its neighbor to the south. The first permanent settlement was founded by the French in 1720. The French remained in control of the settlement on the Island of St. John until 1758 when the Acadians were deported by the British. For the next five years, the first British settlers were the 200 men garrisoned on the island.
In 1763 the island was annexed to Nova Scotia. It was not until 1799 that the name would be changed from the Island of St. John to Prince Edward Island. And in that interim time, much would take place. And it was not until 1873 that the island became of a province of Canada.
Understanding the history of an area, such as Prince Edward Island, can be essential to successful research.
Under British Control
Once the British had control of it, they needed a plan to encourage settlement. So, the island was divided into three counties and 67 townships. Unlike many other areas, the land was dispersed using a lottery system to those who were deserving of "Royal patronage." Thus the land has always been referred to as Lots. However, even with this system, settlement was slow.
Despite the deportation back in 1758, there were still a few Acadians that remained. And after the American Revolution, those who sided with the English, about 800 or so, decided to make the island their home.
Genealogical repositories are found in the capital of Charlottetown. Many of them are within walking distance of each other. If you are able to visit in person, you will want to plan on visiting the Public Archives and Record Office (PARO). This archive was established in 1964 with the goal of preserving primary source documents. Among the holdings of the PARO you can find:
- Early maps
- Land rental and lease records
- Marriage licenses and bonds
- Census records
- Church records (on microfilm)
One of the best indexes available for records of Prince Edward Island is the "Master Name Index" which contains over 500,000 cards in alphabetical order. The names that appear in this index have been extracted from a number of different sources, including:
- Gravestones (prior to 1970)
- Most extant Prince Edward Island census records
- 1881, 1891, and 1901 Canadian census records
- Passenger lists
- Marriage bonds and licenses
- Many different church records
This index is available on microfilm from the Family History Library through your local Family History Center.
If you wish to contact the archives, you can write to them at:
Public Archives and Records Office
PO Box 1000
To request vital records, you will want to see the forms available in Thomas J. Kemp's International Vital Records Handbook published by Genealogical Publishing Company . Keep in mind that official registration of vital records for Prince Edward Island did not begin until 1906. Church records will need to be consulted for research prior to 1906.
Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is an award-winning author of several genealogy how-to books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, The Genealogist's Computer Companion, and Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at email@example.com.
See more advice from Rhonda in her columns Expert Tips, Tigs and Trees, and Overheard in the Message Boards.