City of Halifax Genealogical Sources

The following types of records are of interest to those exploring their family history in the former City of Halifax, primarily in peninsular Halifax. Each link leads to fuller descriptions of these records in the Archives Database:

City Home registers 1802-1965

Series 102-33A: Halifax’s Poor Asylum, later renamed the City Home, was a workhouse to care for the city’s unemployed, elderly, orphaned children, mental patients, and medical patients. Registers record resident's name, age, date admitted and discharged, reason for admittance, by whom admitted, and religious affiliation, although completeness of information varied over time. Observations about the inmate are occasionally recorded. Registers are arranged in chronological order by admittance date. There is also a Register of Deaths at City Home, 1914-1947, which records name, date, age, and cause of death.

A searchable index to the List of Paupers in the Halifax Poor House, 1802-1811 gives the name, age, originating community and cause of admission, as well as other indicators such as ethnicity. Thank you to Joanne McCarthy-O'Leary for creating this index from the original hand-written ledger. The Guide to the Index explains important details for researchers.

Board of Health infectious disease cases 1895-1941

Series 102-28D: As the body responsible for the health of the city’s residents, the Board of Health documented infectious disease cases in the City of Halifax. Entries include patient information such as their name, street address, disease, results, fumigation, school, and general remarks. Cases are listed in chronological order.

Board of Health Physicians' death certificates 1894, 1906

Series 102-28E: Death certificates made by physicians for the city medical examiner contain the deceased’s name, date and place of death, cause of death, duration of illness, and the name of the attending physician. Most deaths were the result of an infectious disease. Certificates are arranged in chronological order. Since physicians were required to submit death certificates to the province, these certificates should also be available through Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics.

Tuberculosis Hospital records 1926-1959

Series 102-31: The Halifax Tuberculosis Hospital was intended to deal with the dramatic increase in TB cases after the First World War. Admittance records from 1926-1940 are in alphabetical order and list patient name, date of admittance, age, religion, birth place, friends’ addresses, date of death, and length of stay. Later admittance records are arranged chronologically by admittance date and only include patient name, date of admittance, date of release, and length of stay.

Committee of Camp Hill Cemetery records 1840-1994

Series 102-60: Camp Hill Cemetery in central Halifax replaced the older cemetery on Barrington and Spring Garden (the Old Burying Ground) as the publicly run cemetery. Among records of the governing committee are cemetery lot registers, account books with individuals’ names attributed to them, burial record cards, and administrative records. Of special interest is a list of mariners who died in Camp Hill Hospital, the Halifax Infirmary, the Nova Scotia Hospital, the Nova Scotia Sanatorium (tuberculosis), and were buried at Camp Hill Cemetery (102-60-15). The list of deaths includes the mariner's ship, home port (e.g., China, India, Sweden, England), and cause of death.

There is also lists of soldiers and sailors buried in Camp Hill Cemetery (102-60-7), which identify the grave locations of soldiers and sailors buried at Camp Hill Cemetery, as well as correspondence on care of military graves (102-60-8), which includes correspondence with the Imperial War Graves Commission and its successor the Commonwealth War Graves Commission regarding the identification and care of the graves of soldiers and sailors. The burial record cards in particular provide valuable information about interments, and are arranged alphabetically within specific cemetery divisions. Additional burial information can also be obtained through the municipality’s Cemetery Operations.

Fairview Cemetery records 1884-1994

Series 102-32: Located in northwest Halifax, Fairview Lawn Cemetery contains the graves of many victims of the Halifax Explosion, the RMS Titanic, and the City of Halifax’s poor. Records include burial accounts, burial register index, burial permits, deeds issued, as well as administrative records. Additional burial information can also be obtained through the municipality’s Cemetery Operations.

Halifax Police Department records 1851, 1856, 1871-1998

Series 102-16: Police records are an excellent source of information on those involved with the law, be they criminals, victims, or police officers. There are a variety of records, including duty books, court record books, personnel files, and correspondence. There are also photographs of police officers from training programs, sports teams, community activities, etc.

If your ancestor was a police officer, there is also a Police Staff Register, 1892–1914, an alphabetical listing of police officers noting name, date they joined the force, and notes on their career (series 102-16R.3), and personnel registers, 1894–1946, recording the name, birthdate, place of birth, and religion of officers and non-commissioned police staff such as janitors and secretaries. These ledgers also record the dates the person joined the force, were promoted, reprimanded, resigned, and died, with details about the event. Some entries have a newspaper obituary attached. There is an index to the names in these registers in series 102-16S.

Personnel information for police officers on payroll between 1906 and 1954 can also be found in the Treasurer's superannuation ledger (102-21B), and there are post-1950 personnel files, as well.

Note: To protect privacy, some police records cannot be viewed until 90 years after the date of creation, or 20 years after the death of the identified individual. See details in series description.

The Municipal Archives can also put you in touch with a local association of retired police officers, who have a huge databank of photographs of police officers.

City Prison inmate registers 1854-1957

Series 102-18B: The City Prison (also known as Rockhead Prison) records consist of inmate registries, which contain the inmate’s name, country, crime, sentence length, religion, age, physical description, date of discharge, and other general comments. Registry entries are arranged in chronological order by date of admittance. Some records may be restricted.

Lists of Jurors and those Exempt from Jury Duty, 1898-1905

Sub-series 102-5-2 provides lists of residents eligible to serve as jurors in Halifax and gives each person’s name, residence, and occupation. This series also has lists of exempted employees. Anyone who was resident for more than 12 months and who had property assessed at more than $800 was eligible to be a juror, unless specially exempt. The following occupations were exempt: clerks of the Provincial Secretary, Attorney General, Commissioner of Public Works and Mines, Superintendent of Education and Provincial Engineer, employees of the Victoria General Hospital, Army and Navy, Departments of Customs, Inland Revenue, Post Office and Railways, those operating trains, telegraphs, telephones, or working in chartered banks.

Halifax Fire Department Roll of members 1903-1911

Sub-series 102-111-2 includes employee names, salaries, the fire station and house that a firefighter belonged to, as well as the dates of hiring and retirement or resignation.

Employee Superannuation ledgers, 1906-1954

Series 102-21B: If you're looking for someone who worked for the City of Halifax, these ledgers tracked city employee pension contribution. The ledgers include: employee name, date of birth, date entered into service with the city, address, date of death or retirement, salary, position, and amount contributed to the superannuation fund. Note that only permanent employees contributed to the superannuation fund.

There is a searchable index of names of former City of Halifax employees, 1906-1954, that has over 6,600 names listed. If you find someone you're interested in, just request to view or receive a copy of the relevant page.

This index was completed with the assistance of a work placement through Dartmouth's Solutions Learning Centre.

Oaths of Office, 1888-1994

Series 102-1F: Oaths of office give the name and signature of officials of the City of Halifax. Early volumes include all city officials such as City Marshall, coal weighers and measurers, and board members, while later volumes are primarily Justices of the Peace, by-law enforcement officers, special constables, police constables, and aldermen.

Property Assessment Rolls, 1817-1975

Series 102-19A: Property assessment records for property, school, and poll taxes can give a sense of the location and economic level of individuals. The information recorded varied over the years; however, generally the rolls record the following information for each property owner: name, address, ward, description of property (house, land, shop, etc.), and the valuation of real and personal property. Some rolls also have a section on personal property valuations for tenants (name, whose house they live in, street, ward, valuation, description of property such as furniture, stock, etc.). Entries are listed geographically by street address, so you need to know where your ancestor lived to make use of this source.

Maps, plans, and photos 1762-1996

Series 102-39: The Engineering and Works Department kept thousands of maps and plans of the City of Halifax. Beyond being a source for geographical reference, some plans show property ownership at specific dates for specific locations. There are also architectural plans of buildings and residences. A database available at the Municipal Archives provides access to the plans. A series of 6,000 images taken by planners and building inspectors document buildings and streetscapes in the city from 1948-1982; photographs are arranged alphabetically by street name or geographic location

City directories

Even more than today’s Yellow Pages, old city directories are a wealth of information about what was where and who was doing what at certain times in the region’s history. The directories have:

  • a business directory (by type of business)

  • a name directory (listing people and their profession, business, and organizations)

  • a street directory (what was at every address on every street and which ward it is in)

  • information about city and provincial government and services, including names of senior officials

  • lists of clubs, societies, associations, etc. and names of officers

  • advertisements

The Municipal Archives has:

Digitized versions of McAlpine's Halifax City Directories for 1869-1927, can be searched here.  Halifax Public Library also has city telephone books 1915-present.