Path of a Digital Humanities Project: Story Mapping Loyalists

By Leah Grandy

With a few breakthrough ideas, a group of people with the right skillset at the right place and time, and a dash of serendipity, the project which was to be known as “New Brunswick Loyalist Journeys” came together and became Esri’s story map of January 2018.

In the Microforms Unit at UNB Libraries, we are always trying to invent new ways to showcase how The Loyalist Collection can be utilized by a wide variety of researchers and to engage undergrad students with the depth of primary sources it holds. When we received a Canada Summer Jobs Program Student in 2016, Christine Jack, the Manager of the Microforms Unit, had the idea of creating biographies of loyalists who had settled in York County, New Brunswick.  These biographies would demonstrate how the primary sources found in The Loyalist Collection, which contains microform copies of over 600 records from institutions around the world, can be employed to recreate the life stories of refugees of the American Revolution.


Project team at the time of the launch of the York County, New Brunswick phase of “New Brunswick Loyalist Journeys”. Left to right: Leah Grandy, Siobhan Hanratty, Zoe Jackson, Annabelle Babineau, Lilian Taylor, Christine Jack.

The project was born with the arrival of our grant student, Lilian Taylor.  We first tasked Lilian with compiling a spreadsheet of possible York County loyalists to profile by using the invaluable index found in Esther Clarke Wright’s book, The Loyalists of New Brunswick.  We also were kindly given research time from a Government Documents, Data, and Maps/GIS Unit Student Assistant, Annabelle Babineau, and together, the two students completed initial research on potential candidates for the larger, biographical project. The next step was to have each researcher, including myself, choose a few individuals who “spoke to them” from the compiled list of loyalists who.  Little did I know how vibrant and familiar my subject choices would become for me through the research process!  You can read more about the research steps followed and sources used for the project in a post from Atlantic Loyalist Connections. Continue reading

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“The Unfortunate Acadians” or How to turn Genocide into Tragic Destiny – Part 2

by Chantal Richard

The following is part two of a two-part blog post.

Acadian politics and language

Unlike the Saint John and Sackville papers, The Moncton Transcript tended to focus more on contemporary Acadians, reporting on the Conventions nationales acadiennes of 1881, 1884 and 1890, and on the resulting emergence of a national Acadian identity. Furthermore, there was a great deal of discussion around the importance of the political representation of Acadians, including this statement by The Moncton Transcript that “There is a determination on the part of the English speaking people of this country to prevent, if possible, the unfortunate mistake of last election, when the Acadian representative was left out.” 11 January 1890, p. 2: The choice of words “unfortunate mistake” is somewhat reminiscent of the cruel necessity argument of the Acadian expulsion, and the author avoids pointing fingers, implying instead that no one was to blame.

While this newspaper appeared desirous to include Acadians in politics, there was an important caveat. Acadian politicians who brought up the past were heavily criticized. For example, on 14 January 1887, The Moncton Transcript published the following letter to the editor: Continue reading

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“The Unfortunate Acadians” or How to turn Genocide into Tragic Destiny – Part 1

by Chantal Richard

The following is part one of a two-part blog post. It is inspired from a paper I gave on 4 May 2018, at the Atlantic Canada Studies Conference in Wolfville, very close to historic Grand-Pré, the symbolic epicenter of the Expulsion of an estimated 11, 000 Acadians from 1755 to 1758. [1] This research was made possible by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

In our age of cultural awareness and inclusivity, we know that words matter. They have always mattered, even – or perhaps especially – in an era when most educated people studied rhetoric as part of a liberal arts degree. The portrayal of a minority group by a social majority is not innocent, and can leave lasting stereotypes and prejudices in a society. In this brief summary of a more extensive ongoing analysis, I will examine how Acadians were portrayed in English-language newspapers in New Brunswick at the end of the 19th century.

The Vocabularies of Identity project

In 2013, I launched a project titled “Vocabularies of Identity / Vocabulaires identitaires” along with co-investigators Anne Brown, Nicole Boudreau, Denis Bourque, Margaret Conrad, Gwendolyn Davies, Cécilia Francis, Bonnie Huskins, and Gregory Marquis. The over-arching goal of this ongoing project was to examine the emergence and evolution of collective identity of Acadians and the descendants of New Brunswick Loyalists by analyzing newspaper articles published from 1880 to 1940. With the help of over a dozen research assistants, we have digitized over 1500 articles so far. The open-access database can be consulted here:


Vocabularies of Identity/Vocabulaires identitaires

The search for relevant content for the database was revealing in and of itself. We found that French-language newspapers, while being less numerous (only four compared to ten English-language papers for the same time period), provided a lot more content about the collective identities of these two social groups. In other words, within the French-language papers, there are far more articles about Acadians than there are articles about Loyalists in English-language papers. This may well be linked to the necessity for a minority group to continuously affirm its very existence, and it may be partly cultural, but what is certain is sthat Acadians dedicated considerable print space to talking about their own identity at the end of the 19th century. Furthermore, the word “Loyaliste” is nearly absent from French-language papers (though of course, there are many references to “les Anglais” or “les Britanniques”), but the variations of “Acadie”, “Acadian”, etc. are reasonably frequent in English-language newspapers, almost as frequent as occurrences of the variations of “Loyalist” within these same papers. The interest in Acadian identity was therefore not only prominent among Acadians, but spilled over to the Anglophone population. Analysis of this data is further complicated by the fact that educated Acadians were very often fluently bilingual, and so the authors of these English-language articles may have been Acadians (the articles are not always signed, and when they are, pen names are fairly common). Continue reading

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From to Please Adjust Your Bookmark

Recently the URL of the Labour History in New Brunswick project changed from to Please adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

By David Frank

In a recent post Andrea Eidinger and Stephanie Pettigrew discussed the problem of maintaining legacies in the age of digital history. The title of their discussion was disconcertingly ominous: “Land of the Lost: Digital Projects and Longevity”. Links fail. Websites disappear. Languages change. Projects run out of money. Programmes go obsolete. Servers leave you behind. There are a surprising number of breakdowns on the information highway.

Spoiler alert here. The warning is that this story has a satisfactory ending.

As Andrea and Stephanie pointed out, there can be solutions. The case in point here is the website for a collaborative project on labour and working-class history in New Brunswick. It was one of the Community-University Research Alliances funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The project was active from 2005 to 2011 and involved colleagues at the two provincial universities and ten (later twelve) heritage institutions and labour organizations in the province.



Labour History in New Brunswick

From the outset, the website was one of our major undertakings, and it had some success in promoting interest in the field, both for specialists and also for the wider public. At the peak of usage, the site was receiving as many as 200,000 visits per month. Reviews of the project did not fail to mention the website as a significant achievement.

There is no need here to describe the site in any detail. It has survived beyond the formal completion of the project, and you can now make visits at its new home location.

That’s the good news, and thereby hangs a tale. The survival of the site depended on overcoming  problems that loomed up in the last years of the project’s formal operation. The first obstacle appeared unexpectedly when the university whose server was hosting the site announced that they would no longer be able to support sites such as ours. The reason for this was that their site was being completely overhauled and they would not continue to use the same mark-up language they had used for many years. The option of rebuilding the site from the bottom up was not practical, nor affordable. Continue reading

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Excerpt: Homelands and Empires: Indigenous Spaces, Imperial Fictions, and Competition for Territory in Northeastern North America, 1690-1763

by Jeffers Lennox

The University of Toronto Press has generously allowed us to publish the following excerpt from Jeffers Lennox’s award-winning Homelands and Empires: Indigenous Spaces, Imperial Fictions, and Competition for Territory in Northeastern North America, 1690-1763.

To talk about Acadia or Nova Scotia in the eighteenth century is to engage in an act of imagination. Empires were geographic fictions and the colonies that served as their constituent parts were little more than a collection of pales. Weak forts, hastily constructed trading posts, and small villages dotted the northeast in a land that was thoroughly controlled by Indigenous peoples.


Image 1

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[IMAGE 1] Maps that made, or could be interpreted as making, overt political arguments often led to trouble for the geographer. In July 1755, the French minister for foreign affairs angrily dispatched an agent to “scold” one of France’s most prominent geographers. Their meeting went unrecorded, but the agent apparently chastised Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville for producing maps that supported Britain’s claims to Nova Scotia and Acadia, a strategic part of northeastern North America that France was loath to surrender. Other geographers, even those whose arguments better suited the claims of their imperial officials, also found themselves in hot water. For example, the Robert de Vaugondy family’s 1755 map of northeastern North America was hugely controversial. On it the mapmakers outlined the French and British possessions in the contested region of what Europeans called Nova Scotia or Acadia, but what remained the Indigenous homelands of Mi’kma’ki, Wulstukwik, and the Dawnland. The map saved only a sliver of land for Britain along the Atlantic coast of peninsular Nova Scotia. Gilles and Didier Robert de Vaugondy dedicated the map to Comte d’Argenson, who was Louix XV’s minister of war and secretary of state. When they advertised the map in an issue of Mercure de France, the Robert de Vaugondy family suggested that their map had been informed by papers from the Ministry. Such a claim implied links between official and public geographies and implicated the French government in Robert de Vaugondy’s conclusions. While claims to accuracy based on the latest knowledge were common, the political atmosphere in which this map appeared – at the height of the boundary negotiations –  caused a strong reaction from Britain. Robert de Vaugondy went beyond simply dedicating their map to government officials; they claimed to speak on their behalf.  The following month Gilles and Didier Robert de Vaugondy were forced to issue a retraction in the Mercure de France stating that they had not been privy to any maps from the French government. Continue reading

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Legalized Smuggling: Nova Scotia and American Grain Merchants, 1807-1814

by Patrick Callaway

The slow development of agriculture in Nova Scotia in the wake of the American Revolution created a conundrum for provincial and imperial officials.  The need for provisions linked the colony closer to the American states than was the case prior to the revolution.  With local producers unable or unwilling to meet the demand for grain caused a political problem: the material need for American grain in a political environment designed to eliminate American trade.[1]  Dependency produced a formulaic response: A shortage of grain required imports, which willing American merchants (with the support of an eager American government) supplied combined with acquiescence by provincial officials allowed continuing trade out of necessity for the next 20 years.


George Prevost, by Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy (1778 – c. 1848).

The Leopard-Chesapeake incident and subsequent American embargo changed the calculation.  American authorities, however, could not enforce the law despite deploying military force.[2]  Lt. Governor George Prevost openly encouraged embargo violations by opening Nova Scotia’s ports to trade, which authorities in London deemed “judicious and well timed.”  Prevost’s declaration as it amounts to a de facto abandonment of the Navigation Acts in this case in order to facilitate the flow of provisions into the colony, transforming a reluctant British acquiescence into open encouragement and official American enthusiasm for trade into a crime.

The end of the embargo in 1809 allowed for a resumption of legal trade. The outbreak of war in June 1812 presented another challenge.  Licensed trade persisted, and functioned similar to that issued to Edward Perkins in July 1812.  The license allowed Perkins to “import and bring into the port of Halifax … in any ship or vessel a cargo of flour, meal corn, or provisions of any kind.”[3]  By October, Lt. Governor Sherbrooke reported to London “this province has of late been supplied with flour and other articles of provisions imported from the United States under licenses signed by me….”[4]  War created an odd persistence- merchants on both sides remained willing, while British authorities encouraged trade and American officials (especially in New England) were ambivalent. Continue reading

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Harry Thurston and “the jigsaw of our blue geography”

by Wanda Campbell

The ocean is a central theme of Thurston’s non-fiction including Atlantic Outposts (1990), Tidal Life: A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy (1990), Against Darkness and Storm: Lighthouses of the Northeast (1993), The Nature of Shorebirds (1996), A Place Between the Tides (2004), and The Atlantic Coast, A Natural History (2011), and less obviously but just as consistently in his poetry collections from Gaspereau Press, If Men Lived on Earth (2000), A Ship Portrait (2005) and his most recent collection Keeping Watch at the End of the World (2015). Born in Yarmouth, raised on Saltwater Farm, and still calling Nova Scotia home, Thurston confesses to “an almost congenital attraction to this place washed by the sea, which may explain why like many other Atlantic Canadians I simply could never bring myself to leave” (Atlantic Outposts 5).  Trained in both biology and literature, Thurston is uniquely equipped to piece together “the jigsaw of our blue geography,” as he calls it in his poem “Atlantic Elegy,” and throughout his work he invites us to learn the lessons offered by the ocean in relation to memory, metaphor, and munificence.


Thurston opens section three of “Atlantic Elegy,” the penultimate poem in If Men Lived on Earth, with the line “The sea is memory,” a line influenced by Derek Walcott’s poem “The Sea is History.”  Thurston’s grief is different than that of the Middle Passage explored by Walcott, but his elegiac tone is also defined by the sea. Once, writes Thurston, “every mud creek bed cradled a keel, / every ocean hailed a bluenose captain” but now all that remains is “remembrance, rust, and rot” (135). Thurston begins the final section of “Atlantic Elegy” with the line: “The sea remembers her dead” (136).  As I have argued elsewhere in relation to Thurston’s poetry, memory is a conservationist impulse and “after prodigal centuries, all of us—people and poets, fishermen and environmentalists—now have no choice but to ‘wait for the seas to fill again’” (164). Thurston argues “It is for us to remember the living” (If Men 136),  and there is more to mourn than human loss. According to Lance La Rocque, “In Thurston’s poetry, memory exists in the body and the landscape itself, as the artefacts embedded there by past and present cultures.  Memory exists in the forms mapped out by the sciences and in nature’s own dialects” (116). Continue reading

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TBT: R. James Sacouman’s “Underdevelopment and the Structural Origins of Antigonish Movement Co-operatives in Eastern Nova Scotia”

The blog will be going on a brief hiatus, but we will be back in September with new content. But before our hiatus, here is a Throwback Thursday post. One of the difficulties in editing the blog – perhaps the only difficulty – is choosing which article should be highlighted as a Throwback Thursday post. The challenge comes from the multitude of excellent articles that Acadiensis has published over its 40+ year history. This week, to simplify things, I decided to post the last article I read from the journal – R. James Sacouman’s “Underdevelopment and the Structural Origins of Antigonish Movement Co-operatives in Eastern Nova Scotia“.

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Black Women and the Civil Rights Movement in Nova Scotia

By Claudine Bonner

The 1960s and 1970s was an era of transformation and awakening for many young people, and especially for the African-descended peoples across the Diaspora.[1] To date, most scholarship focuses on how the American Black Power movement served to inspire and support the struggles of African Canadians.  What has yet to be fully explored are the lives of the people within these struggles beyond those most visible within its leadership. Even less examined are the experiences of the women within these movements.

This post explores why African Nova Scotian women, not part of organizational leadership, chose to join community organizations or self-defined Black Power[2] groups beginning in the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. Using oral history data collected from African Nova Scotian communities as well as documentary evidence and eye-witness accounts, this post examines the impetus for participation by these Canadian women.[3] I argue that the contextual particularities of African Nova Scotian history and its geographic location came together to shape a unique social and political consciousness.

In the fall of 1968, a number of events within the province reinforced broader consciousness raising that was happening across the Diaspora.  For example, the local community was shaken when a cemetery commission in Hants County refused to bury a Black child in October.[4] That event articulated long-standing understandings of racial separation that were held in Nova Scotia. Concurrently, the Africville community was in the throes of relocation and would soon be “destroyed, to be replaced by life in an urban ghetto.”[5] Socially, young people spoke of open discrimination in the hiring process, and Blacks were prohibited access in many public places of business.[6] The educational opportunities of students from the Black community continued to be limited, and few students were able to go beyond Grade 7. As a result of these varied experiences, the out-migration of black populations from the province was high. The effects of the historical legacies of enslavement and racial discrimination had adverse implications for the African Nova Scotian population, which was starting to experience many social problems including alcoholism, crime, increasing numbers of single-parent households and delinquency; in addition to this, physical and mental health problems were on the rise in the community.[7] Continue reading

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Based on “On the Edge of Canada: Creating Labrador Identity Within and Against the Settler State”

By Vicki S. Hallett, Ph.D., Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University

As part of a larger project on Them Days that focuses on the story of, and stories in, the magazine as tools of decolonization and reconciliation, I engage with the personal essays, speeches and letters of Doris Saunders who lived from 1941-2006 in Cartwright, and then Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador.  Saunders was the founding editor of Them Days magazine.  First conceived in 1974 by the Labrador Heritage Society and the Old Timers League of Labrador as a book about local culture and history, it quickly developed into a quarterly publication (that is still being published today) due to the tremendous amount of materials collected by researcher, and former trapper, Isaac Rich.  While Saunders was hired as editor for that first issue, she stayed on and her role quickly expanded “to include conducting interviews, research, writing and production of the magazine” (Beaudoin 3-4).  For her tireless and underpaid work of recording, telling, and crafting the story of Labrador’s past for almost three decades, she received the Order of Canada in 1986, and an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Memorial University in 1994.

Them days

Dr. Doris J. Saunders wearing a traditional Labrador silipak, c. 1998. Courtesy Gillian Saunders. From Them Days, 30, 3 (2006). Image source:

Saunders was a woman of mixed Indigenous and European heritage.  Throughout her rich archive of personal documents, Saunders named herself variously as an Inuit woman, an Aboriginal, a Settler[1] (which in Labrador, until recently, referred to a person of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry), but first and foremost as a Labradorian. Reading Saunders’s archival documents through an interdisciplinary lens is an analysis of the personal and political relationships of resistance and resilience that inscribe this place, and the people who make and are made by this place[2].

Through Doris Saunders’ archived personal documents, we get a sense of who she was, what kind of place she imagined Labrador to be, and, in turn, how she constructed a complex, relational identity as a Labradorian, and an Indigenous woman.   This multifaceted identity was defined in part through its opposition to both Newfoundland and Canadian cultural hegemony and colonization, but it also emerged out of what Kristina Fagan has termed the “Labrador literary tradition”, an Indigenous literary tradition that grew in relation to the unique historical, social and cultural milieu of the place and its people. Continue reading

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