Column: Place Names May Hold Clue About Our Ancestors

Between today and Wednesday, my genealogy column, Roots to the Past, is available in the following Atlantic Canada newspapers:

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin (Lunenburg County)

Title: Place Names May Hold Clue About Our Ancestors

Snippet: On my travels around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick this summer, I read many road signs. The names I’ve seen a million times—Amherst, Lunenburg, Moncton, Fredericton—didn’t stand out. I have been hearing these names for almost fifty years. They have become as common as the names of the people in my family. Because they are so familiar, I didn’t wonder where they came from.

But when I read a sign post with a name I had never heard before, I often thought about its origins. Who were the people who settled there? Where did they come from? Were they associated with a particular group, such as the Loyalists or the New England Planters? Were the places with ‘union’ in the name (Union Settlement) settled by people from the United States, or was there something strictly Canadian about its origin?

If we look closer at place names, we often find an important piece of history behind them, one that connects to the original settlers and reveals information we may be able to use in our family tree.

The place may bear the name of a resident who played a vital role in the development of the area. Or maybe it was the first settler or the settler whose family name lived there the longest. When I think of surnames that became place names, I think of Nauglers Settlement, Anderson Settlement and Whynotts Settlement.

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