Scavenger genealogy  

Getting sidetracked often leads to exciting family finds
Reports on the Accounts of the Corporation of the City of Saint John


 Cliff and I were down at the brook skipping flat smooth stones when we heard Mum calling us to come to the house. We wondered why we had to stop our play as it wasn't mealtime. When we arrived at the back door, Mum and Dad were waiting for us.

Dad had been mending fences and misplaced his hammer. We knew he really had lost it but was too proud to admit the fact. After getting the details of where he had last been using his favourite hammer, we took off out the driveway and into the pasture behind the church.

Maybe he dropped it as he crawled through the pole bars? We looked all around there, but no luck. Our next bright idea was the spring. Could he have leaned down to get a drink of water and forgotten it? Cliff yelled, "The last one to the spring is a rotten egg!" and he took off running. When I caught up to him, he was sitting on the ground on one of the boards from the old well house that had housed cans of cream in years gone by.

I turned one of the old grey boards over and to my surprise there was something hiding under it. We both stood there with our mouths open, gaping at this strange thing. It looked like a miniature black alligator with bright yellow spots on its sides. What could it be? We had never seen anything like this before. Cliff spotted a rusty tin can and with a stick pushed the creature into it. We ran as fast as our legs would go to show this tiny dinosaur to Mum.

As usual, Mum shared in our excitement. She explained it was a salamander. It liked to live in cool damp places. We wanted to keep it, but she insisted we return it to its home to be with other members of its family. In all the excitement of finding a salamander and learning all about this reptile, we forgot about the errand we had set out to do. Probably that hammer is still hiding today where Dad lost it.

Getting sidetracked can often lead to genealogical discoveries too. Harold was making the rounds of yard sales and brought me home a  book. As he handed it to me, he said, "I thought you might like to look at this book. It has information about the Young Monument in King's Square."

I glanced at the title, "Reports on the Accounts of the Corporation of the City of Saint John, For Year Ending 31st December 1891 and Reports of City Officials with Sundry Accounts."

My mind was racing, "What would an account book have to do with the Young Monument?"

I turned to the page he had marked and sure enough, there it was in black and white ­ $15 had been paid to William Jones for floral tribute funeral obsequies, J. Fred Young. There was also a mention of $100 paid to Frederick T. Dodge as a public recognition of his attempt to rescue J. Fred Young and Fred Mundee during storm of Oct. 30, 1890.

Really no need for me to look further in this book as there would be no information of a genealogical nature.

Gee! What a surprise I got. I'll share some interesting tidbits with you:
I. Augustine was paid $5 for pick handles
Joseph Bell, blacksmith ­ work and shoeing $17.05
John McDonald, Rack No. 1 City Market $25
Sylvester Wright, whitewashing (police) cells $11.35.

I decided to go to the Saint John Free Public Library and take a peek at some older city account books. I found that in 1843 more than 100 tavern licenses were issued. One of them was to a Margaret Robertson on Mill Street. Eighty four licenses for drays were sold that year.

These lists of names were fascinating, so I rolled the microfilm to the year 1863. In this year, more than 200 tavern licenses were issued ­ one of them being to Timothy Cusack on Clarence Street for $30. George Wade paid $10 for his tavern license on Pidler's Alley. Several ladies were named as being granted a tavern license.

The city sold auction, cart, dray, coach, omnibus, express cart, express wagon, hand cart, lumber wagon, exhibition, fresh meat, fish hawker's, pedler's and dog licenses. In fact 455 people are named as buying a license for their dog.

One section, named Chamberlain's Accounts ­ Scavenger ­ really intrigued me. I assume a scavenger was a street cleaner and many people are listed as being paid for this type of work.

One must be a dedicated and patient researcher to search these reels of unindexed material, but great dividends of genealogical information could be paid for this labour of love.

The books are on microfilm at the Saint John Free Public Library, Market Square. The library and archives of the New Brunswick Museum also have the books on their shelves.

If you have the patience of a scavenger to search through the "Accounts of the Corporation of the City of Saint John," they can account for locating information on thousands of residents.


Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.

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