OLD MAPS MAY BE GENEALOGY TOOLS (July 7/00)

The mention of Acadian cellars in this column prompted a reader to call and ask about old maps. Lydia Phinney, Wolfville, asked me if I was familiar with a map showing the location of Acadian cellars in Grand Pre. The map indicated that the cellars were along the railroad track near the old Grand Pre D.A.R. station.

Ms. Phinney told me that the map came from Acadia University. Her daughter brought the map home while studying at Acadia and it was probably material related to a course.

I am aware that such maps exist but have never seen the one pertaining to Grand Pre. The late Ernest Eaton once showed me a hand-drawn map of an area near the Canard River in Upper Dyke that indicated possible Acadian homestead sites. Using old documents, Eaton had searched for the sites and apparently found areas where several cellars were visible.

I saw the Eaton map over 40 years ago and have no idea if it still exists. The map Ms. Phinney’s daughter showed her is probably still extant. I understand that this map was used for some amateur digging at the indicated sites of the cellars but without success.

Old maps are valuable historical records and in some cases are genealogical tools. Maps such as those produced by Ambrose F. Church in the 19th century, for example, not only show old roads but are also directories. The Church maps indicate where families lived along 19th-century roads, and include the name and occupation of the head of the household. Some of the Church maps also contained advertising for merchants, blacksmiths, carriage makers and so on.

Recently a friend showed me a series of maps he discovered in some discarded furniture. Actually, they are copies of maps that were probably used for geology courses at Acadia University. While they are of no great monetary value, the maps are interesting since they show the effect of Minas Basin tides on the shoreline, and on Boot Island in particular, during the last century.

One of the maps shows the shoreline along Long Island, Evangeline Beach and the Boot Island area in 1759. What was to become Boot island is part of the shoreline in this period. The Guzzle, the present channel between Evangeline Beach and Boot Island doesn’t exist at this time. An accompanying map, dated 1780, indicates that time and tides have had their way and the Guzzle is nearly carved out.

A map of the same area, dated 1963, indicates where the shoreline was in 1759. The Boot is now an island and a legend reads “Guzzle forms circa 1800 AD.” Also indicated on this map are the locations of old oyster beds (dated “3700 yrs BP”) and the remnants of an ancient forest with the date “4400 yrs BP” (before present).

A similar map can be found in the Blomidon Naturalists Society publication, A Natural History of Kings County. This book indicates that the old forest off Boot Island is comprised of hemlock and white pine that were “covered by rising sea levels 4500 to 3500 years ago.”

Included in this series of maps are two rough sketches of Wolfville harbour, dated 1959 and 1973. While of little interest compared to the shoreline maps from the 18th century, these sketches indicate the location of ancient clam shells – “750 years old” – near the mouth of Wolfville harbour.

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