The Anglican Church has had a presence in New Brunswick since 1768 when the Rev. John Eagleson was sent by the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to minister to the people living in the Tantramar area of New Brunswick/Nova Scotia. That initiative has developed over the past 230 years into the Diocese of Fredericton with 90 parishes in all parts of the province.
In that period much church history has been made and recorded at the Parish, Deanery and Diocesan levels. (The large number of parish histories currently being published bear testament to interest in our past.) Have you ever wondered what has happened to all that history? Some of. it has disappeared; some of it is to be found in churches, rectories and peoples' attics; quite a bit of it has' made its way to the Diocesan Archives where it is arranged, described, made accessible and given longterm storage.
Though the Diocesan Archives was only founded in the 1960's, interest in preserving Church Registers pre- dates the founding by at least eighty years. In 1887, the Committeee on Safe-Keeping of Parochial Registers reported (to Synod) of having "under consideration a scheme for the preservation of Registers." Nine years later, the report to Synod given by the first Registrar, C.E.A. Simonds, indicated that early records, other than Registers were also being preserved. He noted that he had "examined the archives in the possession of the Bishop" and he then included a catalogue of 92 Land Conveyances and 188 Deeds of Consecration of Churches and Burial Grounds, 1826-1895, found therein. Noting that there are also "petitions for consecrations, letters, accounts and papers relating to patronage of rectories etc.". Simonds explained that "all these documents are contained in a box deposited in a vault at the Bishop's residence." In 1908, a fire-proof vault was built at Christ Church Cathedral and church records were collected and preserved there. Some of the key documents mentioned below (i.e. Diocesan Church Society records and Synod Journals) and also Church Registers and other parish records began to be placed there.
In the 1960's, through the foresight and initiative of now retired Archbishop Harold Nutter, who built upon the early interest and efforts made towards preserving Anglican records, the Diocesan Archives, as we know it,.was formally founded. In June 1963, Dean Nutter, the chairman of the Sub-committee on Archives, sent a letter to all the clergy of the Diocese, requesting that they complete a survey of their Parish's records. His letter also announced the establishment of the Diocesan Archives:
With each year the records of the life of the church in this Diocese increase in age and importance, not just to historians, but also most vitally to the whole Church. All are aware of this, and many are aware too of the problems of preserving such material. With this in mind the. Executive Committee of the Diocese has sanctioned the establishment of a Diocesan Archives which will serve as a repository for both Diocesan and Parish Records.
The following year, Synod delegates were asked to bring their Parish's historic records with them to the Synod meetings for deposit in the new Archives, where organizing and filing was expected to begin immediately. A Diocesan Archives Committee was set up and in. 1981, Canon IX was passed by Synod, formally establishing the position of Diocesan Archivist. In the early years, archival duties were handled by Dean Nutter, Professor Earl, Archdeacon A. B. Craig and Canon Draper.
Until 1988, the Archives was located in the Cathedral Hall and the Cathedral safe. In that year the Diocesan Synod and the Provincial Archivist signed an Agreement, with the Provincial Archives agreeing to provide "long-term maintenance, preservation and reference services" for the Synod's Archives in exchange for an annual grant. The Diocesan Archives is now located in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (in the Bonar Law-Bennett Building on the University of New Brunswick Campus) in a climate-controlled environment, and supervised by professional staff. The Diocesan Archivist serves as liaison between the Diocese and the Provincial Archives.