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Index to Halifax Poor House, 1802-1811

List of Paupers in the Halifax Poor House

Among the records from the Halifax Poor House, Halifax Municipal Archives holds admission registers (series 102-33A) that are an important source for genealogists, social historians and those interested in the health and social welfare of past-Halifax. A newly-created index to the earliest extant register (1802-1811) is now searchable on-line, thanks to hundreds of diligent volunteer hours by Joanne McCarthy O'Leary.

Working from photocopies of the microfilm of the original volume, McCarthy O’Leary transcribed each of the 2370 hand-written entries. The index does not include all columns from the original register, so researchers may want to consult the original for the fullest record of each resident`s experience. A Guide to the Index explains what information is available and how to use the index.

In the words of transcriber, Joanne McCarthy O’Leary:  The Poor House of Halifax Register, which spans from 1802 to 1811, offers a fascinating glimpse into an early Colonial port community struggling with poverty, crime and disease prior to the War of 1812. It also provides a rare glimpse of individuals from Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotia communities not normally captured in records of this time period.

Halifax Municipal Archives is extremely grateful for the hundreds of hours Joanne put into this transcription, and for the care she took in making it an accurate and useful tool for researchers.

Plan of the City of Halifax

The Halifax Poor Asylum dates back to 1752 when a building on what is now Spring Garden Road was used as a workhouse to care for the city’s unemployed and criminal. In 1758 the Poor Asylum, also known as the Poor House, was formally established and quickly came to house the aged, orphaned children, mental patients, sailors, and medical patients, in addition to the poor.

E.G. Fuller’s 1851 Plan of the City of Halifax shows the location of the original Poor House(F), Jail(D), and Correction House(E) at Spring Garden Road and Queen St. (Excerpt also shows St. Mary’s(N) and the Methodist Church(O).

A full copy of the Fuller plan is available at: CR 10-021
Halifax Poor House
Concrete sewer blocks made at the Halifax Poor House, 1899. Photograph attributed to J.M. Margeson (HRM Archives CR6-042) Note that in 1867 the city and province cooperated to build a new Poor Asylum which opened in 1869 and was located between Morris, Robie, and South Streets. After that building was destroyed by fire in 1882, the above building was constructed on the same site. The asylum’s name was changed to the City Home in 1907.

At the same time that our earliest Poor House register is more accessible, we are delighted with a recent donation of the last City Home registers. Thanks to the Medical History Society of Nova Scotia, registers for 1941-1965 are now preserved in the Municipal Archives.