The Origins of the Nova Scotia Gerrard Family
-compiled by Philip Gerrard
The Gerrard surname, as it pertains to this family, appears to be of English origin and references to it can be found as far back as medieval times. At present, it has not been possible to connect the medieval English Gerrard (or Gerard) name to the family who settled in Nova Scotia in the late eighteenth century.
In Nova Scotia, the Gerrard family name has an early association with an island located between Pope's Harbour and Spry Harbour, about fifty miles east of Halifax. There are a number of unresolved issues concerning the Island, the first of which revolves around the actual name itself. On current maps and navigation charts, it is identified as "Gerard Island," and that is its (legal) geographical name, according to the Geographical Names Board of Canada. However many of the earliest generation and most of the current generation who live there locally, refer to it as "Gerrards Island" (i.e. "the island where the Gerrards live / lived"); with the surname spelled using two 'r's and a possessive 's', without the apostrophe.
The earliest known reference to a single 'r' Gerrard in this Nova Scotia family (i.e. "Gerard") appears to be Isaac Gerard (born 1840), the son of William Benjamin Gerrard and Mary Prest. Earlier primary sources show the surname spelled with two 'r's, such as the marriage bonds for Nancy (Ann) Gerrard (1785), Henry Gerrard (1801) and Lydia Gerrard (1837). (1)
However, mis-spellings of the name were common and variations occurred even within legal documents such as the marriage bonds. Some of the names incorrectly cited in the marriage bonds for known family members include; Gerratt, Gerret, Jerrett and Jerret.
Some confusion still exists over the spelling of the Gerrard family name. Most of the current generation in Canada, seem to have adopted the double -'r' version of the name, Gerrard. However, many New England descendants use the single -'r', (i.e. Gerard) spelling of the surname. Both spellings of the name have been used throughout this document, in accordance with their original source material.
Further confusing the matter is the fact that there was another contemporary family in the same area, the Garret's (with all of its variant mis-spellings), who inter-married with various branches of the Gerrard family. The "Garrets" appear to be a pre-Loyalist family from the Lunenburg area, whose name was anglicized from its original German form of "Gerhardt." In addition, other "Garrett"s of English origin arrived as Loyalist refugees from the former American colonies after the Revolutionary War.
The earliest confirmed association of the family name with Nova Scotia is William Gerrard in the late 1700's. He appears to have arrived in Nova Scotia with his wife Ann (nee Huxford) sometime between 1754 (where unconfirmed sources indicate that they were married in Hampshire England) and 1785, when their daughter, Nancy Ann Gerrard, is known to have been married at Christ Church in Halifax. William and Ann's eldest son, Henry Gerrard, was apparently born in England in 1756. This would mean that the family did not arrive in Nova Scotia until sometime after that date.
Another source indicates that they may have settled there as early as 1769, since a grant map for Taylor Head dated 1769 apparently shows Gerrards Island and actually uses that name. However, the primary source for this document has yet to be confirmed. Interestingly, Henry and his younger brother John Gerrard (incorrectly spelled "Gerhard" in the document) petitioned and eventually received a "Licence" (2) to occupy the Island "during pleasure" in 1802, thirteen years after their father, William's death in 1789.
There are also records of a Gerard (Gerrard) family at Greenspond in the Bonavista Bay area of Newfoundland in the mid-1800's. Records exist there for the baptism of five children of Benjamin and Mary Anne Gerard at St. Stephen's Anglican Church. This family should not be confused with the contemporary family of William Benjamin Gerrard and Mary (nee Prest) Gerrard of Nova Scotia. Any association with the Nova Scotia family has yet to be confirmed.
1. Marriage bonds form part of the Nova Scotia Deputy Registrar-General's fonds, which can be accessed at the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture website at www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/gene/ . Marriage bonds were only prepared in cases where the marriage was by licence. They required the groom to enter into a bond with one or more people who knew him and who were prepared to guarantee to the Crown, that no legal impediment to the marriage existed.
2. N.S. Department of Natural Resources, Provincial Crown Land Record Office - Lib. 5, folio 325