Roots to the Past

Diana Tibert
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Uncovering the elusive birth date

When searching for an ancestors date of birth, we must prepare for one of three results.

Roots to the Past

When searching for an ancestors date of birth, we must prepare for one of three results.

1. It may take years to discover it.

2. Conflicting dates may be found and a third source will be required.

3. The date may never be found.

Why are birth dates important? Besides the obvious reason - to satisfy our curiosity - they properly place the person in the history time line and help solve other mysteries in our genealogy.

Officially, birth dates are required to receive Canada Pension and other government benefits. If official records (birth certificate/baptism) do not exist, birth dates recorded elsewhere, such as in family bibles, at the time of the event by those who witnessed it, can and have been used.

For example, my Uncle Scott, born in 1906, did not have a birth certificate. When he applied for Canada Pension, no baptism records could be found. My grandmother had recorded the births of her children in the family bible and she sent it to Ottawa as the official record of her sons birth.

To begin the search for a birth date, look for a birth registration. In Nova Scotia, civil registration of births made between 1864 and 1877 are incomplete. Records were not kept for the next 31 years. In 1908, record keeping began again.

Birth registrations normally included surname, given name, date of birth, sex, name and birth place of parents, and date and place of parents marriage (1864 - 1877 only).

Approximately 102,000 records exist for 1864 to 1887 and can be accessed on microfilm at the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM), Halifax.

For records since October 1, 1908, contact Vital Statistics, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations (

If a birth registration cant be found, look for a baptism in the records where the family attended church. Usually, this was in the community where the family lived, but it was common for families to travel great distances to where the parents or grandparents were born to have the children baptized.

The next step is to search for a death certificate. Depending on the year and what was recorded, these will provide either the age at death or the birth date.

Keep in mind the date will be more accurate the earlier it is recorded. Dates on death certificates were provided by informants (usually a family member) without an official record (and one may not have existed) to verify it.

Other sources where birth dates can be found are marriage certificates, newspapers, headstones, census records and military and employment records.

Again, beware; census records are notorious for wrong dates, men lied about their age to enlist in the military during the war years and the occasional grave marker has an incorrect date written in stone.

Researchers File

Who was Barbara Joyce Murphys birth mother? Barbaras mother left Nova Scotia and gave birth to her on December 28, 1954 in Hamilton, Ontario. Barbaras late father was a guard at a large power plant. Contact: Susan R. Leitch, 1710 East Heights, Saskatoon, SK S7J 3B9; e-mail:

Editors Note - Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living at Milford, NS. Submit genealogy queries by writing: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS B0N 1Y0; or email:

Organizations: Canada Pension, Nova Scotia Archives, Records Management

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Hamilton Ontario East Heights Saskatoon Hants County

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