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Autograph Books, Diaries and Death Certificates

Carefully I opened Aunt Ethel's belated birthday gift, an autograph book with gold letters on the cover. Each page inside was a different colour.

I asked Dad if he wanted to be the first to write in it. He reached up to find a pencil behind the clock on the shelf, then set about writing.

He wrote: "Two in a hammock attempted to kiss when all of a sudden they went like this." The word "this" had been written upside-down.

Aunt Sadie took the book and added: "When the golden sun is setting/And your mind from care is free/When of others you are thinking/Will you sometimes think of me?"

Greta wrote: "I thought, I thought, I thought in vain/At last I thought I'd write my name."

She passed the book to Aunt Ethel, who in her best school marm penmanship wrote: "Good, Better, Best. May you never rest, until your good is better and your better is best."

Gram then asked Cliff to go upstairs to her bedroom and bring down the miniature chest.

She reached inside and took out her autograph book of many years ago.

When cleaning out the personal belongings of others, autograph books are often overlooked for the genealogical information they often hold.

I am very fortunate to have Gram's autograph book. At least one argument was settled with the information it held. Gramp's sister had written a verse and signed it, "Nellie of Brookside Farm." This proved my point that the farm had a formal title.

Sometimes it can be interesting to take the names of the writers of the verses and do some research as to their connection to the owner of the book.

Mum's birthday book is filled with information that I probably could not find elsewhere.

Diaries can also give that personal touch of looking into the life of those who have gone before.

The Diary of Azor Hoyt, Ice Out Past My House, reveals many details of life in Kings County.

Mary Huestis Pengilly drew back the curtain on depression and what it was like to be placed in an institution in Saint John in the 1880s, as well as telling about several of the patients, in her diary.

Fortunately the Government of New Brunswick kept a Vital Statistics Diary. Many of the births, marriages and deaths can be found on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website  - either as an index or as a digitized copy.

It might be said that Death Records until 1919 were just one-liners. In 1920 new regulations came into being. The Death Registrations were recorded on individual, printed forms and usually contained the following information: name, age, sex, residence of the deceased and place of death, profession, date of birth, marital status, name of parents and their birthplace, place and date of burial and undertaker and the name and residence of informant with relationship. The date of death, cause of death, signature and address of the physician is found on the Medical Certificate section of the card. An Index to deaths and some digitized copies can be found on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website.

As of May 5, several scanned images of the New Brunswick death certificates can be viewed at with no requirement for a membership. From 1920 to 1938, one can search by surname of the individual, parents, spouse, informant and place of residence.

Genealogical research involves seeking many sources - sometimes to verify facts and at other times turn those facts into a window to see a bigger story.

Query 1800
: Catherine Gray was possibly born in 1851 in New Brunswick. At the age of four, she was abandoned to an orphanage. In 1892, she married Adolph Richard. They had three sons, one of whom was Polycarpe Richard. There was also an adopted girl living with them named Mary Louise Gavin. Can anyone help with Catherine Gray's line?

Contact: Celeste Cottrell, Ky., email

Query 1801
McAfee-Spence: Hugh McAfee and Magnus Spence, both lived and died in Saint John. William J. McAfee went to Minnesota with spouse circa 1867. Last known relative in Saint John was Will Spence, alive in 1930s. Interested in locating any living Spences and McAfees and details on origins.

Contact: David Forney, email

Query 1802
McCann-Daley-Flynn-McCarthy: John McCann of Ireland, born circa 1828, married Mary Daley of Ireland (unknown date and unknown place). Their first child, Ellen, was baptized in Halifax in Sept. 1856 at St. Mary's Cathedral (RC) and their second child, John, was born in New Brunswick in 1858, baptized in Saint John on Aug. 15, 1858, witnessed by Edward Flynn and Ellen McCarthy. This family was in Massachusetts by 1860. I am interested in knowing the names of John and Mary's parents (and siblings) in New Brunswick. Contact Christine B., email

Query 1803
Monahan-Hayes: Patrick Monahan, born circa 1861, in Saint John, married Julia Hayes, born 1869, died 1912. They had several children, most of whom went to orphanages and later moved to the U.S. One who didn't was Ronald, born 1912, who was adopted circa 1916. His adoptive parents named him Joseph. Interested in any information about this family. Contact: email

Query 1804
Hanselpacker: Phillip Hanselpacker (born 1750, died 1819) emigrated to Fredericton after the American Revolution as a Loyalist in 1783. He was a Hessian-Mecenarie from Bergen County, New Jersey. He received his land grant in Ripples in 1787. Between 1783-1784 he built the Oxford House which stood between Alexandra and Beaverbrook Street. It was likely demolished around 1995. I would like any information, pictures, et cetera, of this early Fredericton Loyalist property. Contact: Doug McKinley, email

Query 1805
O'Brien - Sears: I am seeking the names of the parents and the burial location of William O'Brien, born circa 1800 in Halifax and died April 3, 1863 in Cookville, Westmorland County, N.B. He married Lucy A Sears on June 7, 1827 in Westmorland County. They had 12 children - four boys and eight girls. Contact: email,

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query as the subject. For more information on submitting queries, visit

Ruby contributes a "Family History" column to the Telegraph-Journal on the third Saturday of the month.

New and Used Genealogical and Historical books of
New Brunswick for sale.

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