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Local Research And Bibliographic Sources

The following documents and sources were consulted in the course of research for the Heritage Resource Study.

Registry of Deeds

The Registry of Deeds at Bridgewater was a primary source of documentary information. A careful search of certain chain of ownership of a building would often lead directly to its first owner. Early deeds usually mention the amount of money exchanged for the property, or the value of a mortgage and often refer to the existence or non-existence of buildings. Utilizing this information, it would often be a straightforward task to document the construction date and the history of the ownership of a building. 

Sometimes, however, the task would not be so easy. Gaps in the ownership chain, unregistered deeds, complex family relationships, transference of property by will, and poor or erroneous property descriptions, would all contribute to a “dead end.” At this point, the current owner could often help to solve the problem. Perhaps he or she would have a missing unregistered deed in his or her possession, or could remember a pertinent name, or could clarify a confusing family relationship that might enable the puzzle to be solved.

Also, there were several knowledgeable individuals in the Town who were very interested in the progress of the research. The sharing of registered deed information with these individuals would often trigger memories of other people and property relationships that would sometimes enable dead ends to be solved.

Space limitations prevent the listing of complete deed information within these pages of this inventory. [Our current electronic database now has the capacity for more information.] However, the Heritage Resource Study files contain detailed information on all old properties in Town, including the Book and Page Number reference for the registered document, the names of Grantor and Grantee, the monetary consideration, and the property description, along with any pertinent cross references.

The Church Map

The A.F. Church Map of Lunenburg (c1864-83), which is shown on the following page, was a valuable source of information. The annotations on the Map and the Subscribers Business Directory which is included with it, proved to be valuable points of cross-reference, which could be correlated with registered deed information. Copies can be obtained from the N.S. Dept. Lands and Forests.

The Bird’s Eye Views

The 1879 and 1890 Bird’s Eye Views of Lunenburg [abbreviated to BEV in this text] are also shown on the following pages. These graphic representations of the town were used to determine the early character of the town’s surviving old buildings and to discover the extent to which they have changes since then. Comparison of the Bird’s Eye Views with the present-day fabric of the town makes a fascinating study and the artists Ruger and Bollinger, although now long since departed, are still to be congratulated on their remarkably accurate and historically invaluable work.

Insurance Plans

Another invaluable source of information was a series of information was a series Insurance Plans of the Town published by the now defunct Underwriters Survey Bureau Ltd. The dates of these plans were as follows:

  • 1893 revised to 1897
  • 1906 revised to 1914
  • 1906 revised to 1924
  • 1939
  • 1945
  • 1959

The Plans, generally at a scale of 1 in. = 50 ft. show buildings in great detail; indicating, among other things, the number of storeys, gambrel and mansard roofs, additions and ells, porches, and building use.

Except for the 1893 Plan, which was photocopied from the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, the Insurance Plans used were all original copies. Revisions to the original copies are posted on and, by holding them up to the light, it was often possible to see the earlier unrevised plan of any given building. This often enabled researchers to pin down quite accurately in time those architectural changes that occurred around the early part of the 20-century.

Old Survey Plans

Also on file are several old survey plans, most notably the original survey plans for the New Town and other areas subdivided from the Common Land (1862) and a plan of waterfront property ownership (1880), as well as subdivision plans for various other miscellaneous properties. Many of these old plans have penciled names upon them indicating early property owners and prices, and they were often extremely useful in solving otherwise unsolvable deed searches.

Assessment Records

The Assessment Department maintains records on all buildings in Town. These records list an exact year of construction for some buildings while for others simply indicating that’s they are “75+” or “100+” years old, etc. The exact source of this information is unknown to the present generation of assessors and it is presumed to have been gained from oral sources at some time in the past. In some cases, our research corroborated the Assessment’s Dept.’s estimations of age, in others the dates were proven to be inaccurate.

Fire Department Records

The records of the Lunenburg Fire Department date back to 1886 and indicate the month and year of each fire, its location, the owner of the property that burned and the amount of damage. Again, these records were useful in determining the architectural history of certain buildings.

Historical Photographs

Another primary source of information was a small collection of old photos of the Town mad available by Wilfred L. Eisnor of Knickle’s Studio Ltd. These photos are a portion of what remains of the work of Lewis Hirtle, a Luneburg photographer who was active in the late 19th century.  Most of the photos are of individual houses, but there are several that show streetscapes and general views and which, once their date had been determined, proved to be very useful in pinning down construction dates

Newspapers

Back issues of the [area newspaper] Lunenburg Progress Enterprise [Published currently as LighthouseNow] proved to be great value in relation to the history of business, through advertisements and promotional articles. In particular a Business Directory, published in 1888 when the Town was incorporated, provided a great deal of information on merchant of the day their business premises. A similar Directory was published by the Lunenburg daily News in 1923 showing photos of houses, business premises and the businessmen themselves.

Historic Brochures

In 1886, W.A. Letson, the editor of the Lunenburg Argus newspaper, published a small brochure entitled Historic Lunenburg, which contained photos and biographical profiles of some of the more notable personages of the day and their residents along with various general views of the Town.

A similar brochure was published for J.M. Anderson and J.J. Kinley about 1910 entitled Lunenburg, Nova Scotia the Gloucester of Canada. [Even today these two sister cities continue to enjoy their annual dory race competition, two per year with one in each town.]

Also, in 1953, a booklet entitled Lunenburg’s Bicentennial (was published by the Town’s Bicentennial Committee. It contains articles on various subjects including the founding of the town, the History of the Fishing Industry and the history of educational and community facilities.  

Published Histories

The History of Luneburg County by M. B. DesBrisay, originally published in 1870 and revised in 1895 is a valuable source of information on the early history of the Town and contains many biographical profiles of early historic personages.

The Diary of Adolphus Gaetz, 1855-73  published by P.A.N.S. [Public Archives of Nova Scotia] paints a vivid picture of the political, economic religious, and social history of the Town in mid 19th century and is a valuable source of information on property and building history.

The Foreign Protestants and the Settlement of Nova Scotia by Winthrop Bell is a scholarly treatise that describes the events leading up to the settlement of Lunenburg and its earliest period of development. It is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the German settlement in Lunenburg.

Unpublished Histories

  • A Chronological History of Lunenburg, 1753-1902, H. W. Hewitt gives a sequential listing of events from the history of the Town over this 150-year period. It is concerned mainly with social history and gives extensive listing of deaths in the community, however, there are also numerous references to property auctions, sales, and building-related events.
  • The Diary and Reminiscences of J. Moyle Rudolph, covers the period 1851-97. The first part of this Diary is concerned with Rudolf’s life as a sea captain. The second part covers the period of his retirement from the sea, when he worked as a bank and insurance agent in Town and it gives many details of his own life and property transactions. The Diary also provides considerable information on the Rudolf family.

Cemetery Inscriptions

The two-volume set of Cemetery Inscriptions for Lunenburg, Queens, and Shelburne Counties published by the South Shore Genealogy Society also proved in valuable in the course of research, particularly where properties on by unrecorded inheritance. Often unresolved deed searches could be solved using this document. The documents give complete alphabetical listings for the Lunenburg Hillcrest Cemetery as well as all other cemeteries in the area.

Lunenburg County Directory 1914

This Directory, part of the McAlpine’s Directory Series, gives alphabetical listings of names, addresses and occupations and was a valuable point of cross reference in the process of deed research.

Church Records

The five Lunenburg churches all maintain historic records giving details of the history of the church buildings themselves and their parishioners. Of particular value was the History of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, compiled by Mr. James Flett, which contains considerable amount of well researched biographical information.

Seagull Magazine

This annual publication of the Lunenburg High School contains valuable biographical profiles on many Lunenburg residents particularly from the early 20th century period. The Lunenburg Heritage Society maintains a set of these publications.

Lunenburg Heritage Society 

The Lunenburg Heritage Society maintains an archive that contains a variety of information, documents, and memorabilia related to Lunenburg History. There are some business records, notably those of the Bluenose Schooner Company, Ltd., [The company that built in Lunenburg the famous Bluenose sailing vessel.] and various historic photos, items of genealogical interest, family Bibles (several of which are in German), photo albums, and schoolbooks.

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Of particular note is a compendium of photographs entitles Some Lunenburg Buildings that was compiled in 1879 by R. H. Campbell. In this work, Lunenburg buildings are classified according to their roof type and ornamentation and there are 180 photos in all.

Other photographic works held by the Society include the Corkum Scrapbooks that contain a number of scenes of Lunenburg Harbour around the turn of the century.

The Lunenburg Heritage Society has also purchased two books that give the reader a good general introduction to the history and architecture of the Town. A Walk Through Old Lunenburg guides the reader on a walking tour through the Town and contains old photos (from the Knickle Studio collection) and historical references. Understanding Lunenburg’s Architecture is a basic introduction to the main architecture forms to be found in the Town, based on the roof type and ornamentation and illustrated sketches.   

P.A.N.S.

The Public Archives of Nova Scotia [P.A.N.S.] maintain extensive collections on Lunenburg (as they do for most other communities as well). There is a considerable amount of manuscript material including the ledgers and account books of various businesses, newspaper clippings, diary extracts, census material, family papers, photographs, and a comprehensive alphabetical index for everything from Lunenburg houses to the 19th century temperance movement. There is also a vast amount of genealogical information and maps and plans collections.

C.I.H.B.

The Canadian Inventory of Historic Buildings (C.I.H.B.), under Parks Canada, carries out a survey in 1973 of some 450 Lunenburg buildings built prior to 1880. The survey results are contained in a coded computer printout that lists data on the architectural character of the buildings, any historical associations that may have (very few historical associations are actually listed), their builder or architect (again, there are few listings) and estimated year of construction. Like the Assessment Records, the C.I.H.B. estimates of construction dates were based on oral sources alone and were frequently found out of date.

Other Studies

Information was also gained from several other studies that were carried out in recent years.

In 1973, the Lunenburg Heritage Society sponsored an L.I.P. project that documented the history and architecture of a small number of houses. The study was not comprehensive, however, and the amount and quality of information varied widely from house to house. For most buildings, the only information gained was the C.I.H.B. estimated year of construction. That study unfortunately did not culminate in a final report and only rough working notes were available.

In 1974, Christopher Mc­Curdy produced a short unpublished booklet entitled Historic Glimpses of Lunenburg which con­tained photos and historical notes on 30 buildings, again based largely on oral sources.

In 1982, at the same time that the primary research for the Heritage Resource Study was being carried out, a study of the history of the businesses on the Lunenburg waterfront was carried out by the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. This study generated a chronological listing of all waterfront businesses dating back to 1760 and provided detailed information on a few of the more successful and out­standing of them. This study is available through the Fisheries Museum.

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