HALIFAX -- On Thursday, Admiral Art McDonald was appointed Canada's new chief of the defence staff – taking over from General Jonathan Vance, the longest-serving in the position in modern day. Having been born in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, his Maritime roots are evident; but mystery also surrounds his ties to the region.

Originally from the seaside Cape Breton community of New Waterford – a community of just over 6,000 people – Canada's new top military man was born in the town in 1967, according to his military biography. However, beyond a birth year and a place of birth, there aren't many details of McDonald's life in the region.

On Saturday morning, a few residents of the town spent the morning at a local coffee shop trying to uncover and make sense of McDonald's Maritime connection.

"This is all second hand, but I know he grew up on Irish Brook Road. I think he moved to P.E.I. eventually," says former New Waterford councillor Lowell Cormier, who has done some digging into McDonald's family tree.

"His uncle was Francis MacKinnon, the former town clerk," says Cormier. "He has another uncle, father Art MacKinnon, who was murdered in the Dominican Republic, and I think Art is named after him."

Regardless of the details of his past, McDonald is now tasked with leading Canada's military into the future.

On Thursday, during his virtual swearing-in ceremony, he apologized to victims of racism or discrimination while serving. The Prime Minister has said McDonald's first major task going forward will be to help lead the country's fight against COVID-19. His appointment to the position makes McDonald the first naval officer to hold the top military job in 25 years.

"This is a tremendous achievement for Art McDonald; it's a prestigious position," says Cormier. "And the whole community, because he's a native son, is delighted."

While New Waterford is mostly known for its mining history, the community has a proud military history as well. And even though McDonald hasn't lived in the area for a long time, many in the region see his tenure at the top post as part of the next chapter.

"We'll claim him for sure," says Cormier. "We'll definitely claim him."