Genealogical Research

Begin at home! The first step is to collect all family papers such as old letters, wills, deeds, scrapbooks, passports, photographs, diaries, and other family documents. If there is an old family bible, examine it carefully to see if there are pages where names, marriages and birth dates are recorded. These pages are usually in the center of the book between the Old and New Testaments.

The second step is to contact older family members and relatives. Plan your questions in advance, and as well as asking about birth marriage and death dates, be certain to ask about places: where your ancestors were born, where they were married, and where they died. This is often the key to doing further research.

Finally, organize your findings on standard charts.

Here are three basic rules about charts:

1) they should not appear too cluttered when filled in;
2) the numbering system should be simple and clear; and
3) the printing or writing should be neat and legible.

The Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University has Cape Breton census, vital statistics, church records, cemetery records and old newspapers on microfilm, as well as historical works and a file of local genealogies. All are gold mines of information for us to explore.

Another good source of information for you is tombstones. Most have the date of birth and death of the deceased as well as the name of the spouse or parents. If you know where your ancestors are buried, make certain that you visit the graves and copy all the data available to you.

These sources should give you a good start on your family tree. Good Luck!

Useful Sources:

Census Records available on microfilm:

1) 1861 (Lists only head of household), 2) 1871 (Lists all members of household), 1881 (Lists all members of household), 3) 1891 (Lists all members of household), and 4) 1901 (Lists all members of household).

Biography & Genealogy Files:

B &G files are referenced in the card catalogue and arranged by surname. Please email us with any questions.

Vital Statistics:

Cape Breton MG 14, 207 – MB #78 & MB #80, divided into counties, available on microfilm. Our microfilm reels cover similar years to those that were first posted by Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management on the website. Our microfilm has not been updated.

Other sources (please inquire):

These include Church Records (various churches), Cemetery Listings, and Directories. You can read about some of our holdings in our Genealogy Guide.

Obituary or Newspaper Research

A staff member will print an obituary or newspaper article at your emailed request, whether the newspaper is housed at the Cape Breton University Library or here at the Beaton Institute. We will let you know if the obituary or article is more than one page in length, as the cost of printing as shown below would increase.

The fees are as follows:

  • For an obituary or article request, one page in length, with the date of publication, the fee is $18.40, including HST.  A small additional fee will be charged if the obituary is to be mailed. We ask that you email us first with your request, so that we can confirm the date of the obituary or article.
  • For more obituaries or articles, with dates of publication, we will charge a portion of our $30.00 hourly fee, plus printing and mailing if applicable, and HST. Please email us for a quote.

If you live in the local area, you are more than welcome to visit the Beaton Institute and the Cape Breton University Library to research early Cape Breton newspapers.

Genealogical Research Links


General Inquiries
CE-267 (Student, Culture, and Heritage Centre)

Phone: 902.563.1329

Catherine Arseneau
Director, Cultural Resources

Office: CE-271-A

Phone: 902.563.1326

Jane Arnold
Archivist, Beaton Institute

Phone: 902.563.1690

Anne Connell
Archive Assistant, Beaton Institute

Office: CE276

Phone: 902.563.1425

Anne Marie MacNeil
Archival Research Assistant, Beaton Institute

Office: CE267

Phone: 902.563.1329

Christie MacNeil
Digital Archivist, Beaton Institute

Phone: 902.563.1692