Government Documents

Government services at the parish, municipal, provincial and federal levels are excellent sources of information. Government documents are created by an official agency for official purposes. Historians often have easy access to this sort of document because in general they are systematically preserved and archived. Federal documents can be consulted at the National Archives of Canada, and each province maintains its own government archives; those of New Brunswick are in Fredericton, while those of Nova Scotia are in Halifax. Parish documents are kept in the parishes themselves and in the bishoprics and archbishoprics, but sometimes copies are placed in provincial or local archive centres. To facilitate access by users, large archive centres provide “research tools” that explain how government documents are catalogued and organized. But even with these tools, some of which are available online, finding one’s way in government documents can be a long and arduous task. In the case of small local archive centres or in the actual parishes, documents are often accumulated pell-mell.

The government documents on this website are primarily from municipal bodies. Here one can observe the decisions taken by people who knew Jerome and Gamby. The costs involved in providing care for these two men were paid by county and provincial governments. The requests for reimbursement have left administrative trails in the archives. For their part, parish archives contain information about significant moments in the lives of individuals: birth as signalled by a baptism, adulthood as indicated by a marriage, death as marked by a funeral and burial.

Even though government documents are produced by respected public servants, elected officials and official bodies, historical criticism cannot be avoided. Their authors may have made mistakes or even have lied, as people do. Parish archives are often incomplete because of churches and presbyteries burning down, as is the case for the Stella Maris parish in Meteghan. As for municipal archives, the official versions of the minutes of committee meetings are generally better written, but not always as complete as the draft versions of the same minutes. Moreover, controversial statements are often left out of official reports. Researchers must not forget that public servants and elected officials, for example, do not leave their personal opinions and biases at home and that they are not always objective, nor impartial.