Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

1,109 records available in this database
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This site presents, in a searchable database on the Provincial Archives website, some of the research done by W. D. Hamilton on Miramichi history, biography, and historical genealogy. A list of his books is found at the end of this introduction, but this database presently only consists of the 2013 update of his Dictionary of Miramichi Biography (1997) which contains 1,109 biographical sketches.

The Dictionary profiles men and women from many walks of life who were born before 1900 and spent at least part of their lives on the Miramichi. They include business people, politicians, military men, sports figures, clergymen, doctors, lawyers, teachers and hundreds of others whose lives were notable or interesting. While the book is scholarly in its approach, the writing is clear and presents the details of the subjects’ lives in a lively and interesting style.

The author, Willis D. Hamilton, is a native of the Miramichi, where he was born in 1936, and where his parents and all of his grandparents and great-grandparents were also born. He is an educator by profession and was the director for many years of the University of New Brunswick’s Mi’kmaq-Maliseet Institute. In this period, he published extensively on First Nations’ topics including, his best known work The Julian Tribe, on the Mi’kmaq people of the North West Miramichi in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Professor Hamilton was granted a Distinguished Miramichi Educator award in 1991 by the former Miramichi school district and a Governor General’s 125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal in 1992. He was appointed a Professor Emeritus of U.N.B. in 1993.

In retirement, he has concentrated on writing, editing, and publishing – his two main works being the Dictionary of Miramichi Biography (1997) and a “25th Anniversary Edition” of his 593-page book, Old North Esk on the Miramichi (2004). He has also written entries for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, some of which may be accessed at the D.C.B. site

Professor Hamilton insists that, because of faulty sources, transcription, interpretation, and other problems, works of biography or genealogy cannot be expected to be flawless in every detail and should always be viewed as works in progress. It is in the spirit of continuing to improve on work published previously that he has prepared the update of his Dictionary featured at this site. In his words: “The update includes a number of corrections, additions, re-interpretations, and changes in wording, but no detail in it should yet be assumed to be fixed, or final.”

That having been said, the Dictionary is not only, or even primarily, of importance for the details it records on individual lives. When the sketches are considered in total, the book is a veritable history of this distinctive and important part of New Brunswick, providing insights into the origins of the people, their institutions, occupations, religious practices, cultural values, and much more.

Books written and edited by W. D. Hamilton on Miramichi and aboriginal subject matter

Source Materials Relating to the New Brunswick Indian, ed. by W. D. Hamilton and W A. Spray (1976).

Old North Esk on the Miramichi, by W. D. Hamilton, in three editions (1979, 1987, 2004).

The Julian Tribe, by W. D. Hamilton, in two editions (1984, 2010).

The Federal Indian Day Schools of the Maritimes, by W. D. Hamilton (1986).

Memories of a Micmac Life, by J. Richard McEwan, ed. by W. D. Hamilton (1988).

Memories of a Miramichi Lumberman, by Arnold J. Somers, ed. by W. D. Hamilton (1994).

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography, by W. D. Hamilton (1997).

Ships of Miramichi, by Louise Manny, rev. ed., ed. by W. D. Hamilton (2000).

Memories of the Miramichi, by William C. Gaynor, ed. by W. D. Hamilton (2000).

Footprints, by Gordon Thomas Whitney, ed. by W. D. Hamilton (2004).

Little South West Miramichi Photos, ed. by W. D. Hamilton (2005).

Sportfishing on the Northwest Miramichi in 1888, by David George Smith, ed. by W. D. Hamilton (2006).

Black River and Its First Settlers, by A. W. Macdougall, 2nd ed., ed. by W. D. Hamilton and Margaret A. Macdougall (2010).

The Reverend James Thomson of Auchtergaven & Miramichi: His Ministry...etc., by W. D. Hamilton, with the assistance of Richard W. Turner (2010).