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Article Published January 1, 1999

Sandra Devlin EAST COAST KIN (Canada)
By: Sandra Devlin, Biography & Archived Articles

"Boston-States" Lured Maritimers In Droves - Part II

In the last East Coast Kin column (Part I) we discussed migration patterns between Massachusetts and the Maritimes, at the suggestion of a reader.

It is a huge topic which I can not claim to have covered fully either in the last column or this. The best I can hope is that some of the following information will help steer researchers in the right direction or give them some valuable clues.

Seafaring provided solid links between New England and the Maritimes. Some sailors went ‘south to the Boston-States’ to settle, others just passed through. On Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, there is the community of Vineyard Haven into which many a Maritime schooner captain sailed in earlier years en route from an even more southerly destination. In this safe harbour they would wait out storms or await favorable winds before rounding Cape Cod. Every such port had a seamen’s bethel, a home away from home for captains and their crews. A bethel was a combination boarding house, church and recreation centre. The Vineyard Haven Bethel, reportedly still in business, has a collection of old photographs and information that might prove useful to anyone with Maritime seafarers in their family tree.

The Boston States was also a haven for Maritimers escaping the bonds of matrimony, as evidenced by the problem of Middlesex County Probate court Judge Adam G. Fullonson in Cambridge, Mass. in 1935. Judge Fullonson was fed up with Maritimers who thought they could get a quickie divorce in his court.

Judge Fullonson declared that in the future he would not consider divorce petitions brought before him by attorneys representing clients who had come to the United States from Canada or who had husbands or wives residing in the Dominion when it was apparent that the petitioner “sought freedom which could not be obtained in the Dominion.” “During the past few years and especially during the past few months our divorce courts have been practically flooded with divorce petitions filed by persons who have left Canada and resided here only the scant three years required by our laws seeking their freedom from mates still residing in Dominion, many of whom are the parents of unfortunate and innocent children and unable to come here and defend their own character".

I want to serve warning to all attorneys and especially to men and women who have been former residents of Canada or who are there and contemplate coming here to secure a divorce, that such cases will not be tolerated by this court in the future. And I hope that my attitude will leak back to Canada, especially to the Maritime Provinces where a great many of these petitioners come from. As far as this court is concerned, and it is my opinion that other courts will follow a like procedure in the near future such petitioners will receive scant consideration in the future.

For generation upon generation the genealogies of Martimers are intertwined with Boston and area.

Definitive settlement patterns emerged in the second-half of the 19th century as old friends and relatives from “back home” became new neighbors in working-class New England towns.

Relatives who stayed “back home” eagerly awaited letters, care packages containing hand-me-down clothes or newfangled gadgets and summer visits from their New England cousins.

Consequently, family researchers are often apt to discover branches of their family trees in printed works from concentrated areas of New England.

One example is Extracts of Franco-American Marriage Records 1873-1911 compiled by the Acadian Cultural Society, PO Box 2304, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 01420-8804. New Brunswick Acadians from Westmorland, Kent and Northumberland counties predominate this 300-page book, but there are a few Spud Islanders and Bluenosers, too. There are scads of LeBlanc/Whites from all three provinces. There are Arsenaults, Cormiers , Gallants and Theriaults from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. And from Nova Scotia there are Gagnons and Melansons. New Brunswick families galore include: Allain, Belliveau, Boudreau, Bourque, Goguen, Gould, Jaillet, Girouard, Landry, Lavoie, Oulette, Poirier, Richard, Robichaud, Roy, Thibodeau and many, many more. Sprinkled among the Acadian names are a few Irish-English Roman Catholic surnames from all three Maritime provinces like : Bennett, Elliott, Finnegan, Lavers, McGrath, Lord, O’Brien, Peters and Sawyer.

Another source, among many others, in New England is the genealogical periodical Le Reveil Acadien, PO Box 53, Marlborough, Massachusetts, 01752.

Probably the best know is the venerable New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Yet another is the Massachusetts, U.S. Gen Web Project at:

For vital records in Massachusetts one source is: Bureau of Health Statistics, Research and Evaluation, Registry of Vital Statistics, 470 Atlantic Ave., Second Floor, Boston, 02210; telephone: (617) 753-8600.
Be prepared with name of subject(s), date of event and, if known, the city or town. The fee for records ordered by phone is $19 (US) per certified copy. Visa, Master Card, Discover and American Express are the only acceptable forms of payment. Telephone requests are sent within two days. Faster service is subject to an additional fee.

Copies of birth, death and marriage records between 1841-1905 are available for $3 from: The Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point, 220 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, 02125; telephone: (617) 727-2816.

Before 1841, birth, death and marriage records are available from the town clerk in the town or city where the event took place. In Boston the address is: City Clerk Dept., 1 City Hall Plaza, Boston, 02108-2102; telephone: (617) 635-4600.

Printed vital records, prior to 1850, organized by town, are available in many research libraries, including the Massachusetts State Library.

For divorce records, indexed only since 1952, inquiries should be made at the Registrar of Probate Court in the county where the divorce was granted.

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
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