Parrsboro's Ottawa House hosts genealogy workshop

A weekend of Muddles and Mysteries

Published on August 26, 2014
Ottawa House near Parrsboro recentlly held a two-day geneaology workshop called a weekend of Muddles and Mysteries.
Mitchell Peters -

Parrsboro's Ottawa House was the site of a two-day geneaology workshop designed to give people the tools to do their own family research.

PARRSBORO- Parsborough Shore Historical Society organized a weekend of Mysteries and Muddles, a genealogy and family workshop.

"The reason for the workshop is, increasingly, people are becoming more interested in genealogy. We hope to bring in people from all over Nova Scotia with an interest in genealogy, and to give them the tools to use to do their own research," said organizer Harriett McCready.

The event included a lineup of guest speakers, including Ed Gilbert on the early days of Parrsboro shore, keynote speaker Kerr Canning on geneaology and family history: overlooked and underutilized sources, David Winter on Halifax available holdings, Dawn Josee exploring from research to art, Darlene Strong with a presentation on black history in Nova Scotia, Pamela Wile on ways to jump-start your genealogical research, and a presentation by Lawrence Nicoll on Internet resources.

The first day also included a historical skit written by Bernice Byers in 2010. The skit was of the Arrival of New England Planters in what is now Annapolis Valley. They were given land that the Acadians had been forcibly evicted from. Their descendants began to spread out and they played a significant role in settling the Parsborough shore.

"It is a privilege to be here today and to be able to present to the historical society," said presenter Darlene Strong.

Ottawa House is the perfect place to host such an event because of its strong ties to the area. The house is thought to be of Acadian construction because of the vertical hand-hewn timber, an Acadian style of construction.

The Parrsboro shore was an important place because in the early days of Nova Scotia there was not a very good road system in place, said Ed Gilbert, member of the board of directors and chief carpenter for the genealogy society.

He said British troops wanted a ferry service to move troops back and fourth from Fort Beauséjour, but the ferry service never really took off. The first house built on the shore was by Silas Crane in 1778. He lived without neighbours for two years.

In 1780 a few more settlers arrived and began to build. The first store appeared in Crane's house. That same store was eventually bought by Crane's brother-in-law and was eventually added to the Ottawa House.

Eventually the house was shaped into a hotel as well, before changing ownership again. Interestingly enough, the Ottawa House was not called that until Charles Tupper took ownership and used it as a summer home for himself. Tupper eventually built a wharf for the ferry service and it made it much more efficient and safer to use, said Gilbert. When the last owner of the house put it up for sale the Parrsborough Historic Society was interested in taking it over, to preserve the history.