New England planters

Charles Lawrence proclamation_2
Charles Lawrence’s 1759 proclamation

In my last Vita Brevis post, I wrote about some of the best sources to help identify your Loyalist ancestors. But before the Loyalists fled to Canada after the American Revolution, another important group settled Maritime Canada: the New England Planters. This often overlooked group of New Englanders (and others) left a cultural and political impact on Canadian history.

After the expulsion of the Acadians in 1750s, the British government was eager to resettle the area. In the fall of 1758, the Governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, published a proclamation in the Boston Gazette welcoming proposals for the settlement of the now vacant lands. Just a few months later, in January of 1759, Lawrence published another proclamation, detailing the terms of settlement. Essentially, each settler would receive 100 acres of woodland and an additional 50 acres per member of the household. No person’s grant could exceed more than 1,000 acres. In return, after ten years, settlers had to pay one shilling sterling per 50 acres per year. Attracted by thousands and thousands of acres of empty and fertile farmland, about 8,000 people left New England for Maritime Canada between 1759 and 1774.

Moses Shaw, my ancestor, was a Planter and settled at Granville Township in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, sometime in the 1760s. A descendant of John Shaw of Plymouth, he was born in 1741 in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and was the father of eleven children. A short biography of Moses Shaw appears in Esther Clark Wright’s Planters and Pioneers, considered to be one of the best New England Planter sources.

If you have eighteenth century Canadian ancestry, but are having difficulty tracing your family via Loyalist sources, try examining Planter sources. Here at NEHGS, we have great New England Planter sources, including some early township books on microfilm.

Here are just a few sources to get you started. Good luck!

Esther Clark Wright, Planters and Pioneers

Planter Studies Series:

Judith A. Norton, New England Planters in the Maritime Provinces of Canada: A bibliography of primary sources

Daniel C. Goodwin and Steven Bligh McNutt, Checklist of Secondary Sources for Planter Studies

Planter Studies Centre at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The Planter Studies Centre offers a digital archive of sources, including their journal, Planter Notes. There is also offer a great, searchable database of Planter documents available on their website.

Township Records at the Nova Scotia Archives: A Searchable Database

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

About Sheilagh Doerfler

Sheilagh, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, received her B.A. in History and Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests include New England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Westward Migration, and adoptions.

20 thoughts on “New England planters

  1. great article Sheilagh, especially the list of sources. I too am a Shaw descendant and have many other family connections to the Planters, most from Chatham area.

  2. Sheilagh, my maternal grandfather is a descendant of many of the NE Planters who settled in Kings County. Thanks for highlighting this fascinating group. I spent two weeks in Nova Scotia last year, one with NEHGS in Halifax and the other in Kings County. As you mentioned, NEHGS is a great source for Nova Scotia records, including the New Englanders in Nova Scotia database and several manuscript collections focused on Nova Scotia. Another interesting aspect is that many of these NE Planters are descendants of the Mayflower families. Karen

  3. This is fascinating and will be ever so helpful. I have a Starr ancestor who was in Nova Scotia for a time, but was in Massachusetts by the time the Revolution started, and I never knew why he moved north, or how to begin researching to answer that question. Thank you so much for the push to “get going” on this.

    1. Janice, I have some information on Samuel Starr (1728-1799) born Norwich, CT and died Kings County, NS and his brother Daniel Starr (1742-1831) if would be helpful. Karen

      1. My Ancestor (John and Ruth (Holton)Atwell lived right across the river from Starrs Point. The house they built (Now called Kents Lodge is still there on the corner of Cherry then called Ferry Street where the crossing was made.) They came from the very same area of Connecticut (North Parish of Montville) Now the Mohegan Indian Reserve just south of Norwich. Likely in life they knew each other.

  4. Esther, the wife of Moses Shaw (a 2C8R of mine) was Ann Phinney (1738 – 1780). Her mother was Jane Taylor (1709 – 1787). There seems to be a lot of confusion about her parents and grandparents (especially her grandfather, Edward Taylor: the data appear to be mixed for two different men). Do you have insight about her line?

    1. Robert, there is a fair amount of information on Ann Phinney’s ancestors, at least on the Phinney line.If you start with Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, vol.19, she is listed on page 209 (daughter of Jabez Phinney and Jane Taylor, married to Moses Shaw). This line takes you to Thomas Rogers, passenger on the Mayflower.

      Ann and Moses Shaw are my 5th great-grandparents.

  5. Sheila – Do you know if there is information about Planters in Newfoundland in any of the resources you mentioned, or in other resources at NEHGS? I have been stumped by my Russell ancestors in Newfoundland, and someone suggested they may have been Planters who went to Newfoundland from southeastern Massachusetts. Thanks – Kathy

  6. Thank you, Sheilagh, for the references for “The Planters”. I had never heard that my New Hampshire (briefly) ancestors were in that group. They definitely were in that time period, and also were in the group of early settlers to go to Nova Scotia. Every bit of information helps to tell the story. Keep up the good work!! Best regards.

  7. Thanks for the list of resources. I have many ancestors from the Granville area who were planters. I found the people at the Annapolis Royal Heritage Society to be very helpful when I visited that area several years ago.

  8. Great article Sheilagh. My wife had always been told that her grandmother’s family were Loyalist, but when I looked into her genealogy I found that her ancestor, Capt, Moses Perry immigrated to Chebogue, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia from Sandwich, Massachusetts on June 9, 1761.

    1. Harold, my ancestors also arrived in Chebogue among the first planter families (Jonathan Crosby and others) … and my family still owns property in Chebogue. My parents also bought a Shetland pony from the Perry family—descendants of Moses who still live right there—back in the 1960s. Hello to your wife, a cousin of mine one way or another!

  9. Thanks for the list of resources! I am a descendant of John Olney of Rhode Island, who I thought moved to Sackville, Nova Scotia/New Brunswick when he was given land in payment for military service as an officer during the French & Indian War. You didn’t mention payment for military service as a vehicle for migration, though, so I wondered if I had understood incorrectly?

  10. Great article and very helpful. My family settled in that area in the early 1600s. My mother side of the family is French-Canadian. My father’s family came with the Puritans as part of the Winthrop fleet. I am tracing both of them. I have all the names and dates and places now I’m looking for more stories. In this case I’d like to find information on these events but from a French-Canadian point of view. So far I everything I found including illustrations have clearly been from a British viewpoint. Please let me know where I should be looking?

    1. Sam, There is a tour in Annapolis Royal that focuses on Acadian history. it was featured on the CBC show Land and Sea. On the CBC website there is a twenty minute video. Check for Acadian Treasure , Land and Sea. Sorry I do not have the exact link.

  11. Is the new england planters same as conn. Mass and rhode island? Im doing john mullins 1740 hes said to be part of the conn. Planters but born in Rhode island, but refered to as a new englander also. Maybe they are two separate meanings totally separate locations. If someone can explain or point me where to research the meaning of different state planters. I wanna say new england was before the war which became separate states….long shot being this is an old post but I’ll keep my fingers cross… By the way great references to start learning the history of all the families as a whole Im getting a feeling of how people lived life in this era and it’s fascinating thanks in advanced

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