I’ve learnt that some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made were made because I assumed. I assumed things were the way they appeared, and I didn’t look beyond what was in front of me. This is a misery pit many of us can fall into while researching our family tree.
One of my pitfalls was assuming that Lewin’s Cove had always been called Lewin’s Cove. It wasn’t and this stalled my research. When I found it had been previously named Loon’s Cove, this opened the door for further research.
Finding a previous name for a location is much easier today with the Internet. The Community Name Changes Listed by District on Newfoundland’s Grand Banks Genealogical & Historical Data website lists dozens of places that have changed names. Some have been drastically changed. For example, Rose Blanche was once known as Caine’s Island, and Bridgeport was called Chance Harbour Head, and Lumsden was Cat Harbour.
Some places have had only minor changes. For example Capelin Cove was known as Caplin Cove, and Chanceport was called Chance Harbour, and Jamestown was called James Cove.
Some names were changed to give a community its own identity. This is true for Pasadena which was once referred to as the Settlement near South Brook, as well as, Sandringham which was the Settlement 4.5 miles west of Eastport, and Crabbes West which was known as the Railway Station Between Crabbe Brook and Highlands.
In other cases, name changes occurred to avoid confusion from other places with the same name. For example, Seal Cove, Bonavista Bay was changed to Princeton, while Seal Cove, Friday’s Bay was changed to Hillgrade. Another Seal Cove located in Trinity South became New Chelsea and Seal Cove near Stephenville Crossing became Rothsay.
It is no surprise that some unflattering names were changed. Turk’s Gut was transformed into Marysvale. Bloody Bay became known as Alexander Bay. Nobody wanted to live in a Muddy Hole, so it was renamed Musgrave Harbour.
However, some were so interesting, that they should have stayed. Lark Harbour may be nice, but Blow Me Down would certainly be remembered by all who passed through. Similar, Bumble Bee Bight has more rhythm than today’s Pilley’s Island.
Burnside was assigned its name in 1921, bringing the three settlements of Squid Tickle, Hollett’s Tickle and Hollett’s Cove under one name.
After reading about all the changes in location names, I discovered my favourite Newfoundland place name has remained the same: Come by Chance. It evokes thoughts of travellers stumbling upon something wonderful.
Knowing the proper name of a location being researched is vital when looking for census and church records, land grants and cemeteries, so don’t assume. Run a check to see if a location had a different handle at one time.