Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Place Names of New Brunswick: Where is Home? New Brunswick Communities Past and Present

Community name search   

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     People find fascination in community place names, and in New Brunswick there are more than 4600 of them for people to ponder. These are the communities, from the merest wayside clusters to our energetic little cities, where New Brunswickers have lived. They are the places where dreams were born, hopes sometimes dashed, where people engaged in the great human drama of living their lives.

     The word for the study of place names is toponomy, and in New Brunswick it reveals a rich story. It tells of the Aboriginal roots of names, of names brought from the Old Country by a host of immigrant groups who, proud of their new surroundings and perhaps not a little lonesome, invoked the ancient towns and regions from which they came. It tells of the influence of religion on the province’s community nomenclature, as evidenced by our 159 variations on the theme of Saint, and also of the occasional influence of nearby areas, as revealed by the 32 places in Madawaska County that have the French prefix “Rang des,” meaning “range of,” followed by a family name, as in Rang des Bourgoin. The practice comes from adjacent Quebec, where it was used to designate land grant settlements.

     The Post Office had a major role in naming communities (it needed official names to deliver the mail), and so did the railways, which needed names for the places their trains stopped at—stations, sidings, or remote points where people could simply flag them down. Some names celebrated the feats of men and others their follies. Most poignant of all are the names of communities that have utterly disappeared, either because of changing fortunes or through expropriation.

     This database will interest determined researchers and the merely curious. It is comprehensive and inviting. For each of the 4710 names, geographical locations in relation to nearby communities are given, as are specific coordinates, derivations of the names, and highlights of the communities’ histories. Links are provided to 4784 land grant and other maps, photographs of 489 of the communities (a total of 960 photos), and approximately 600 documents about the founding, incorporation, or development of 144 of the communities. Place names, like language, are constantly evolving. Forces that have come into play in New Brunswick over the years include, for example: the early settlement of a 589,000-acre tract by the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company, which brought into existence several communities near Stanley, north of Fredericton; the Free Grants Act of 1872, which produced more communities in the province’s interior; the provincial government’s Program of Equal Opportunity, which in the mid-1960s resulted in a restructuring of local government and the amalgamation (and name changes) of many communities; and four major expropriations—Camp Gagetown, Fundy National Park, the Mactaquac Dam, and the Kouchibouguac National Park.

     For almost as long, researchers have been investigating the toponomy of New Brunswick, and their collective efforts are represented in the database. They include W.F. Ganong, scientist and historian, Alan Rayburn, whose 1975 publication, Geographical Names of New Brunswick, was a landmark achievement, and William B. Hamilton, who brought the subject to the popular market in 1996 with his Place Names of Atlantic Canada. Robert Fellows, a long-time employee of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, undertook the project of compiling material for the database, to which several other archivists have contributed supplementary research and materials. Valuable additional sources were The Post Offices of New Brunswick, 1783-1930 by George MacManus, the Canadian census of 1911, Hutchinson’s New Brunswick Directory for 1865-66, Lovell’s Province of New Brunswick Directory for 1871, and McAlpine’s Newfoundland and Maritime Gazetteer for 1898 and 1904.

     The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick wishes to acknowledge the funding support for the project from the Canadian Culture Online Program of Canadian Heritage, Library and Archives Canada, the Program on the Provision of Official-Language Services, New Brunswick Department of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Canadian Council of Archives.