Maritimers in the "Boston States"

by E.B. Lapointe

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, many members from both of my father’s and mother’s families went to the Boston States to look for work.

For example, my great-aunt Louise Barclay from Jordan Falls, Nova Scotia, went to the famous Fanny Brown Cooking School in Boston to learn to cook for a living. My second cousin, Walter Hichens, went to Maine, and eventually became a state senator from the area around Bethel.

Other great aunts and uncles also went to the United States to look for work, and although they all became American citizens, they would return home to Nova Scotia every summer, and I would sit in the living room and listen to their stories. Then we would then visit them, and I would see them live their stories in their everyday life and wonder at the excitement of it all.

Thousands of Maritimers went to the Boston States. Nova Scotia genealogists estimate that today there are nearly 4 million descendants of these people — those who travelled the steamships between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Boston, Massachusetts in a day — who live in the United States, and also now around the world.

A good place for research is in the Newspapers Section in the Library and Archives of Canada. Their catalog is online, and from it, pick the microfilm on which appears the newspaper, and have it sent to your local library or archives by inter-library loan. There are many stories in these newspapers of Maritimers who left their homes to go to the “Boston States.”

The website at <> is dedicated to “resources to track families migrating between the Canadian Eastern Provinces, New England, and New York through the Centuries.” The website posts conferences online, they have a mailing list, and links to other websites in New England. They also have links to genealogists who have newspaper columns in local Canadian Maritime and New England newspapers.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of Washington, DC at <> has the Northeast Region archival facility in Waltham, Massachusetts, and it looks after records for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The hours are Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In their genealogical research department they offer -
  • Census records for all states from 1790 to 1930, with indexes for the years 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920.
  • Passenger arrival records for the port of Boston for the years 1920 to 1974, and 1883 to 1943. Other New England ports from 1820 to 1943.
  • Naturalization Records for the New England States only for all Federal and non-Federal courts covering the years 1790 to 1906, and for Connecticut, 1790 to 1940.
  • In the Federal Court Records (U.S District Courts/U.S. Circuit Courts) within the New England States, there are in Massachusetts, the records cover the years 1790 to 1971; Maine, from 1790 to 1955; Rhode Island, the years of 1842 to 1950; Vermont, the years 1801 to 1972; and in New Hampshire, from 1873 to 1977.
  • There is also an index card system of naturalization records from Federal, state, county, and municipal courts in all New England States (except Connecticut) from 1790 to 1906 in which people are listed who have a record on file.
  • World War I Draft Records for the New England States only, and World War II Draft Registration Cards only for most New England States.
  • Passenger Arrival Lists for the people who came to America include Boston (1820-1943); Gloucester, MA (1906-1942); New Bedford, MA (1826-1852), (1902-1942); Portland, Maine (1820-1868), (1893-1943); Providence, Rhode Island (1820-1867), (1911-1943); Baltimore, Maryland (1820-1891); Phildelphia, Pennsylvania (1800-1882); New Orleans (1820-1902); New York (1820-1926); Galvestion, Texas (1896-1951); and Canadian Border Crossings (1895 to c1954).
They have free workshops and free lectures, with many of them being on Canadian topics, as well as an online guide to the archives, which is very helpful. They provide Subject Listings, Record Group Numbers, and Record Group Titles.

They also have a handy and very informative guide, “Sources for Family History”, which can be sent to you by mail from the website.

Special note should be taken of Maritimers who went to the Boston States in the American Civil War (of which 2,100 alone joined the Maine regiments), and the effect which Confederation and the Depression had on Canadians, with over 500,000 leaving the country for the United States.

Be sure to check the Ellis Island database at <> for Canadians as well as the <> database for Canadians in the Boston States.

Americans and Canadians are clearly cousins, with their genealogies so closely tied together over the 221 years since the United States and Canada became two separate entities.

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    "A former newspaper reporter in Canada's capital, Ottawa, I became interested in writing about genealogy when researching my own ancestor, Andrew Barclay, an American Loyalist from Boston, Massachusetts, early in 1990. Quickly, my interest spread beyond my own family, and by 1994, I was editing a genealogy newsletter and by 1997, I was editing the Sourcing Canada series of books. Since then, I have gone on to write "My Ancestor Was French Canadian" and a series of booklets on Canadian genealogy. I love to travel the Canadian and American countryside looking for interesting people and places to photograph and to write about." - E.B. Lapointe

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