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Published March 20, 1998

Research Resource - Published Law Reports, Atlantic Canada
By Sandra Devlin

If your ancestors fought among themselves over a family will or with their neighbors over property, and their legal battles touched on significant principles of law, published law reports (less well known legal sources than probate and land transfers) may prove to be a valuable genealogy research tool.

“While most experienced genealogists are familiar with the value of original court records, few are aware of the value of published case reports,” says Jonathan Davidson, a Halifax legal researcher who keeps a keen eye on genealogy.

Pre-1900 reports are richer in genealogy information than reports of more recent years.

Best of all, published law reports for all three Maritime provinces are indexed, individually by volume. Indexed cases are generally identified by the names of the parties and the year. The citation is given in the form, volume, report page; so the report of McDonald v. McKinnon (1865), 5 N.S.R. 527 will be found in volume 5 of the Nova Scotia Reports at page 527. Each volume is indexed individually. Davidson wrote in a detailed article about law reports in The Nova Scotia Genealogist, Summer 1994 issue.

The principle drawback of law reports is that the presentation of facts is secondary to the presentation of legal principles. So, the community (or sometimes even the county) of residence of the parties may not be specified.

It is important to note, that published law reports represent only a fraction of litigations. Each province has some of its reports published individually, while others are reported collectively.
  • New Brunswick Reports (1825-1929 and 1969-present)
  • Nova Scotia Reports (1834-1925 and 1965-present)
  • Prince Edward Island Reports (1850-1882, overlapping volumes)
  • Newfoundland and P.E.I. Reports (1971-present)
  • Eastern Law Reports (1906-1916)
  • Maritime Provinces Report (1929-1968)

  • Dalhousie Law Library in Halifax, N.S. has a complete set, publicly accessible.
  • University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown has a partial archival set in its P.E.I. collection.
  • University of New Brunswick, Fredericton is also a place to look.

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