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By Ryan Taylor

Most of the researchers using the website of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick are genealogists. Genealogical archivist Lucy Jardine says that ninety-five percent of the hits are from family historians. In-person queries at the archives, on the other hand, are split fifty-fifty with other kinds of researchers.

As a result, PANB emphasizes genealogical records on the website, with indexes and records we can use. The most spectacular of these is the Land Grants Index, prepared in conjunction with the University of New Brunswick.

From the home page, it is one click to use the index. Researchers can specify the family and given names of the grantee, and the county, but even a search as general as using a family name only will work. It is also possible to search using the Soundex method, which enables you to bypass any spelling errors in the documents. Hits include all the names that sound or look like the one you are searching for.

My search for Turcotte using the Soundex resulted in hits for Thurston, Tristram and Targett as well as Turcotte and Turcot. The entry for Leon Turcotte's grant in Restigouche County gave the date, the volume and grant number in the government records, the acreage and the microfilm on which the grant can be seen.

Unlike other provincial archives PANB has none of its finding aids online. "They are time consuming to prepare," says Jardine, "And there is a greater interest in vital statistics."

Indexes on the website are divided into government records, private records and cemeteries. The vital statistics are governmental and an easy search screen offers access to births after 95 years and marriages and deaths after fifty years. Jardine says that not all available records have been indexed as yet, but they are working on it.

A Soundex search for Leon Turcotte in the birth records brought a single hit, for Leontine Turcotte, daughter of Leon, in 1908. The information was given in summary form, including birthdate, place, parents' names and the record number and microfilm number where the original registration could be seen.

As with other archives, PANB is offering more digitized original records, but it is a slow process. Much of the work is done by volunteers or summer employees, with staff archivists verifying the results before they are added to the online offerings.

One advantage of the PANB site is that the county genealogical guides, prepared by the archives and a boon for researchers, are all available online. They can easily be downloaded for more extensive consultation. The only weak point is that they are not updated often.

Among the private records online are guides to biographies and family histories, lists of Irish famine emigrants, and directories covering 1861-1871. The famine emigrant records vary in content, but may include names, ages, place of origin in Ireland, name of ship and name of Irish landlord. There is also a cemeteries database, with information in a summary format.

There is no indication where the information comes from, but it can be used as a guide for more complete research. My search for Leon Turcotte yielded no hits.

Unlike all other provincial archives, PANB offers a long list of publications for sale, which include materials published by genealogical societies and private individuals as well as their own books.

The New Brunswick archives clearly has genealogists in mind in designing their website and in the services they offer. Jardine invited me to send queries to the archives via e-mail, noting, "And I'm the one who answers!" The welcoming atmosphere on the home page is reflected in her happy attitude to any questions that come her way.

You can find the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick on the Web .

Posted June 12, 2003
Column copyright © 2003 Ryan Taylor

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