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Community Histories

For genealogists researching family history in Prince Edward Island, community history books represent a treasure-trove of colourful details and anecdotes. The stories contained in these volumes bring to life the bustling communities in which long-passed ancestors lived. During the 1970s and 1980s, community historical societies and Women’s Institutes across the Island undertook the daunting task of recounting the history of their locality. In all cases, these local historians showed great industry and resourcefulness in retrieving old photographs, collecting family histories, and preserving local stories.

Canning LobstersAside from those volumes written by individual local historians, the majority of these books were created through one of two projects. In the early 1970s, the History Committee of the Prince Edward Island Centennial Commission sponsored local communities in the publication of the story of their founding and growth. On the 100th anniversary of Prince Edward Island’s entry into Confederation, these booklets were intended to honour Island pioneers without whose toil and dedication our Island communities would never have endured. Then, during the 1980s, the provincial Department of Health and Welfare, in co-operation with the New Horizons Program, helped organize community members to apply for grants from New Horizons that would help finance the research, typing, and printing of local history books.

Of special interest to genealogists is the significant attention devoted to family histories in these volumes. In some cases, half of a two-hundred-page history will be devoted to the history of the community’s families. These genealogies detail the geographic moves that brought families to the community and, in some cases, away from it.

These community histories typically cover the entire evolution of the community from pre-colonial days up to the present. Many describe the geological origins of the Island and its indigenous fauna and vegetation. Often, accounts of the area’s Aboriginal inhabitants are also presented. The Truckcommunity’s historical narrative then enters the pioneer era, depicting, in great detail, the arrival of colonial settlers and vividly portraying their way of life. Records of traditional livelihoods are thorough, identifying mill and factory owners, merchants, pastors, school teachers, and the like. Maps indicating land ownership, the construction of roads, and the growth of the community are invariably integrated with the narrative. The development of industries, commerce, and services, such as postal, electrical, and telephone, are also chronicled along with key people and secondary characters. Other sections are devoted to sports, local organizations, community activities and festivals, church life, schools, veterans, and local personalities. Many photos, school enrolment lists and organizations’ membership lists also grace the pages of these community chronicles.

Genealogists and curious Islanders exploring their Island heritage are sure to find useful hints and otherwise unrecorded accounts of their ancestors’ lives and how they helped create what has come to be known as “The Island Way of Life.”

To access a list of community history books click here.


Family Histories | Archival Resources | Church Records