Historical Maps

Historical Maps of the Eastern Shore

All map files have been provided in PDF.

Historical maps can provide a wealth of information but they do need to be reviewed with caution, especially older maps that are not as accurate and comprehensive as more modern maps. Keep in mind that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence! The selected maps included here cover the area from Lawrencetown to Ecum Secum, from the 1600s to the 1950s. Note that many maps were re-published with updates so the nominal date of the map may include later information.

Most of these maps are not part of the Eastern Shore Archives Collection. After the title of each map, a set of letters will indicate the original source. Please see the bottom of this page for links to the original map sources.

Key to Map Sources:

LAC – Library and Archives Canada
BNF – Bibliothèque nationale de France
LOC – Library of Congress

MAC – McMaster University
NBL – Norman B. Levanthal Map Centre
McG – McGill University

GSC – GeoScan (NRCan)
ESA – Eastern Shore Archives
CLIMC – Crown Land Info Mgmt Centre

Various Cartographers (1612-1755)

Bayfield’s charts included skillful vignette illustrations of the shoreline from the ocean, among some of the first visual depictions of the Eastern Shore published in Europe.

Recent research by Dr. Sara Spike has clearly demonstrated that the Eastern Shore, especially the archipelago of 700 or so islands between Jeddore Rock and Wedge Island, was well known to Europeans by the early 1500s, and that a map, dated 1554, by Portuguese cartographer Lopo Homem, identifies the B. de Isles, or Bay of Islands. Subsequent maps over the next two centuries use the Bay of Islands as an unmistakable sailing landmark for the Eastern Shore and a useful contemporary reference point for identifying early names for other features of the Eastern Shore, such as its harbours and headlands. Collectively, these maps and associated documents show that it was not just the archipelago that was well known but what it offered in terms of opportunities for trade with the Mi’kmaq, fish processing locations, good supplies of bait for a successful fishing industry and occasional opportunities for naval ambush.

Various Cartographers Map Files (pdfs)

J.F.W. Des Barres (1764-1765)

Using the latest surveying techniques, he produced the first detailed depiction of the region.

Engineer J.F.W. Des Barres was assigned by the British Admiralty in the early 1760s to carry out a detailed survey of the coastal areas of Nova Scotia. He began his work at Beaver Harbour in June 1764, and surveyed as far as south as St. Margaret’s Bay that summer. The following year, in 1765, he surveyed from Beaver Harbour to Canso. These are the first maps to clearly document the Eastern Shore’s geography and to assign more than just a handful of names to that geography. In some cases the names assigned were already in use and continue to be used today. But in many cases, Des Barres assigned names to headlands, harbours, islands, etc., which were intended to flatter his superiors, but which were never actually used locally. Note the identification by Des Barres of a few areas of occupation, likely summer season fishing establishments.

J.F.W. Des Barres Map Files (pdfs)

H.W. Bayfield Coastal Charts (1853-1857)

Bayfield’s charts included skillful vignette illustrations of the shoreline from the ocean, among some of the first visual depictions of the Eastern Shore published in Europe.

Throughout the 19th century, the British Admiralty maintained a series of official nautical charts of the British Empire, including Atlantic Canada. In the same way that Des Barres surveys were state-of-the-art in the 1760s, so too were the Nova Scotia coastal surveys undertaken by Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield for the British Admiralty in the 1850s. The resulting charts were very accurate, documenting countless placenames along the coast that were in use at the time, most of which are still recognizable today. The charts also note the locations of buildings, such as houses, churches, wharves, lighthouses, and bridges. The charts were accompanied by sailing directions that made note of prominent landmarks. For example, for Popes Harbour, Bayfield notes “the steeple of a church, which stands more than 100 feet up on the grassy hill in rear of Bollong Point, can be seen from distances of many miles out at sea.”

H.W. Bayfield Coastal Charts Map Files (pdfs)

A.F. Church (1863-1865)

In 1862, the Nova Scotia government decided to procure quality topographical maps of the province. The commission for this work went to Ambrose Church, who would spend more than 20 years on the project.

Church was not a government employee; he undertook the project as his own commercial enterprise, with a prior agreement that the legislature would purchase hundreds of copies of the finished maps. Whereas Bayfield included buildings, Church added names, creating a remarkable visual census of the province, identifying business owners and household heads in their specific locations within communities. However, it is important to recognize that there are errors and omissions on these maps. The coastline is imprecise and at times entirely fictional, which means the locations of buildings and residences are approximate. The map of Halifax County was the first to be published in August 1865 with information presented collected in 1863 and 1864.

A.F. Church Map Files (pdfs)

Geological Survey of Canada (1884 -1907)

The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) maps were created in the late 1890s to early 1900s by the Survey’s own cartographers, documenting the geological and mineral resources of Canada.

The surveys of the Eastern Shore were carried out during summers between 1884 and 1890. Like the Bayfield and Church maps, the GSC maps provide a distinctive historical record of the built heritage of the Eastern Shore and the islands, showing the locations of roads, bridges, homes, outbuildings, wharves, businesses, churches, and community institutions such as post offices, schools, and halls. Bayfield’s Admiralty charts were copied for the coastal outline and many other features were also reproduced from them onto the GSC maps. The differences between Bayfield and the GSC therefore reveal the development of settlement over three decades from the 1850s to the late 1880s, and the transformation of the Eastern Shore during a substantial period of growth and expansion.

Geological Survey of Canada Map Files (pdfs)

Crown Land Index Maps (1720-1950)

The Crown Land Index maps were started in the 1930s and completed in the 1950s, with the goal of documenting the boundaries of all of the grants in Nova Scotia.

The earliest British land grants in Nova Scotia were made in the 1720s, with the number of land grants increasing dramatically from 1749 onwards, following the founding of Halifax. The peak years for land grants occurred between 1759 and 1800. By 1900, the granting of land had slowed significantly with the last grants for homesteading given in the 1930s. These maps generally provide a name and registration number for an individual grant that can be used to determine the specifics of the land grant, often providing genealogical clues about grant recipients through their petition to the Crown. While the Eastern Shore Archives has some local grants within its holdings, the Crown Land Information Centre in Halifax can provide assistance in finding any available information about a specific grant.

Crown Land Map Files (pdfs)

Original Map Sources & Additional Links

Use the following links to access the original sources of the maps shown above, as well as additional links to other historical map sources.

Library Archives Canada (LAC)

Search the collections and access their materials through one of their many databases.

Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF)

The BnF Shared Heritage Collection aims to bear witness to the connections between France and the rest of the world over time.

Library of Congress (LOC)

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, films and video, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections.

Norman B. Levanthal Map Center (NBL)

Discover the digital collections of the Leventhal Map & Education Center and partners.

McMaster University (MAC)

McMaster University Library Digital Archive provides access to digitized special library collections, mostly from maps, research collections, and general book collection.

McGill University (McG)

View the McGill University Bayfield Charts Collection.

GeoScan (Natural Resources Canada)

GEOSCAN is the bibliographic database for scientific publications of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

Crown Land Information Management Centre (CLIMC)

The CLIMC provides information related to parcels of Crown land administered by the Department
of Natural Resources (DNR).