Black Loyalist Refugees, 1782-1807- Port Roseway Associates

A Black Wood Cutter at Shelburne, Nova Scotia

The Records

During the American Revolution, the British and Loyalist forces evacuated New York in 1783. Hundreds of Loyalist refugees joined as the Port Roseway Associates with the intention of finding new homes and creating a new settlement together in Nova Scotia. These Loyalists, with their families, servants and slaves, founded the community of Port Roseway, shortly renamed Shelburne. The free Blacks amongst the Loyalists formed a separate enclave known as Birchtown.

Library and Archives Canada holds the Shelburne historical records collection (MG 9 B9-14). The collection consists of records relating to the community of Shelburne including the minute book of the Port Roseway Associates, 1782-1783; several muster rolls of Loyalists, 1783-1784; proceedings of the Court of Quarter Sessions, 1784-1860; and a register of writs, 1787-1807.

The collection is divided into three sub-series:

  • Port Roseway Associates
  • Capture of the schooner Eliza
  • Shelburne County Court Records

The collection is available on microfilm reel H-984.

The Port Roseway Associates sub-series contains the minute book of proceedings of the Port Roseway Associates, 1782-1783 (volume 1; pages 1-218), including a list of the Associates and muster roll of free Blacks who settled at Birchtown in 1784; a petition from the overseers of the poor to the magistrates of Shelburne for the relief of Blacks, 1789; and a "Sketch of Shelburnian Manners" attributed to a Mr. Fraser of Miramichi, 1787.

The Database

This database provides access to 1,498 references to the Muster Book of Free Blacks who settled in Birchtown held at Library and Archives Canada.

Information from the muster book was input into this database and the muster book was digitized.

The content of the database entries reflects the original language used in the documents. This information was not translated.

Important note: Given that some of the original documents are very difficult to read, some information in the database may be incorrect and/or incomplete.

The search screen allows you to search by:

How to refine your search in the result page

As a federated search engine, “Collection Search” allow users to search multiple collections available to the public at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) from one starting point. Besides the advanced search, you can refine your search results is by using the facets (also called filters) found in the left-hand menu of the results page.

Facets can be selected or deselected. The results list will adjust itself to your actions. If you select a specific facet, other options within the same tab will no longer be visible. You will see a red “X” next to the facet selected. To remove or deselect this facet, you just need to click on the “X”. You will then be able to see the other options for the tab again.

Basic facets let you define your search based on elements common to all records in “Collection Search”:

Found in

This facet lets you choose which subject to explore based on the datasets that contain results generated by the keywords you used. If you select the tab “Genealogy”, you will see the broader subjects of interest (e.g. “Military”, “Census”, etc.). In the case of the “Archives” tab, you will see the datasets containing your keywords (e.g. “Fonds and Collection”, “Orders-in-Council”, etc.).


You will see the decades corresponding to the search results. Click on a decade to see a list of results by year.

Type of material

This facet will list the type of format available. For example, if you are interested in videos, select “moving images”. If you want to concentrate on written documents, click on the option “Textual material”.

Hierarchical level

This facet will indicate the number of results per level of archival classification (fonds, sous-fonds, series, sub-series, files, items, component, etc.).


This facet lets you choose records available online.


This facet can limit your results to records coming from a government archival fonds or a private source.

Specific facets

You will notice that some datasets have unique facets to provide a better search experience. For example, under census records you will find facets for province, district and sub-districts. These might be the key to your research, so it’s a very good idea to watch out for them!

How to Interpret the Results

Search Results Page

The results list contains the following fields:

  • Item Number
  • Given Name
  • Surname
  • Age

Item Page

The item page has a digitized image of the original record available in JPG format and contains the following fields:

  • Given name(s)
  • Surname
  • Age
  • Year
  • Volume
  • Page Number
  • Record Title
  • Microfilm Reel Number
  • Reference
  • Item Number

You can view the corresponding page by clicking on the image.

To suggest a correction, click on the Suggest a Correction link to access an electronic form.

To return to the Search Results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.

How to Obtain Copies

You can print the images or save the images on your computer. You can view the complete microfilm reel H-984 on Héritage.

How to Access Library and Archives Canada Records.

Other Resources

Other Loyalist records exist. Consult Loyalists for more information about these records.

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