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GANS has launched a new collection of local history books for sale, both straightforward histories and historical novels. There is a mix of topics and genres, suitable for different interests and aptitudes. These books can give the reader more context about the social character of the Nova Scotian society of the past than can be gained from genealogical records alone. Some of these books will also provide access to colourful events or personalities of past generations.

We have just selected a sampling of the contemporary publishing output about local history, but if this proves of value to our membership, we will be happy to expand this to a broader inventory. If you have any suggestions for topics or themes you would like to see, please don’t hesitate to let us know by sending an email to
We will add items from time to time so please check back often. We hope you enjoy looking through this collection.
Please note:  Shipping fees are waived if you pick up your order at GANS.  If you wish to do so, please do not order through the website.  Send an email to listing the items you wish to purchase.  We can confirm they are in stock and you can make arrangements to make your payment and pick up your order in the GANS office.
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  • Prices are in Canadian dollars.
  • Shipping costs within Canada and the USA are $9.99/item.
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Listings: 1 to 21 of 21

A Better Life:  A Portrait of Highland Women in Nova Scotia A Better Life: A Portrait of Highland Women in Nova Scotia
Author: Teresa MacIsaac
Publisher: Cape Breton University Press

MacIsaac interviewed nearly 100 descendants of Highland Scots women and provides this heart-and-soul treatment of the lives of Scots immigrants from women’s perspective. She includes an extensive look at women in teaching, nursing and religious congregations. This is an exploration of the traditions and experiences in the lives of Highland Scottish women – in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and in the eastern counties of Nova Scotia where so many of them settled (Pictou, Antigonish, Inverness and Victoria counties primarily). In A Better Life, oral accounts obtained from descendants, enriched by written sources – precious archival collections and rare books – offer insight into the influences central to the cultural, religious, working, caring and devotional lives of Highland women: the dreams and realities of a better life if Nova Scotia.

Price: $22.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

A Wholesome Horror A Wholesome Horror
Author: Brenda Thompson
Publisher: SSP Publications
Brenda Thompson’s poignant treatise on the treatment of the poor in Nova Scotia and the evolution of private and government-subsidized poor houses. None of these 32 buildings remain. This is a very important book that makes us pause and ask serious questions.
Price: $15.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

All Call Iona Home, 1800 - 1950 All Call Iona Home, 1800 - 1950
The first two MacNeils who came to Cape Breton followed their deceased father's instructions for finding the best site on which to start their settlement. Donald "Og" MacNeil, from Barra, Scotland, took part in the siege of Fortress Louisburg in 1758 and was much impressed by the beauty of Bras d'Or Lake. He met an early death in Quebec in 1759, but his sons fulfilled their father's wishes, emigrating more than fifty years later to Pictou and thence finding their way to what is now called Iona, Cape Breton.
Author S.R. MacNeil, Donald "Og" MacNeil's great grandson, was curator of the Highland Village museum at Iona and answered many requests for family histories from visitors. In response he compiled this very thorough collection of genealogical data on the families who first settled in Iona.
The book begins with MacNeils, and continues with many familiar surnames including Campbell, MacKinnon, MacKenzie, MacLean, and MacDonald. Since it was first published in 1979, this genealogical study has been useful to many thousands of descendants who have traced their roots to Cape Breton immigration in the early nineteenth century.
Price: $19.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Black Loyalists Black Loyalists
Southern Settlers of Nova Scotia's First Free Black Communities
Author:  Ruth Holmes Whitehead
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
During the American Revolution (1775-1783), the British government offered freedom to slaves who would desert their rebel masters as a way of ruining the American economy. Many Black men and women escaped to the British fleet patrolling the East Coast, or to the British armies invading the colonies from Maine to Georgia.
After the final surrender of the British to the Americans, New York City was evacuated by the British Army throughout the summer and fall of 1783. Carried away with them were a vast number of White Loyalists and their families, and over 3,000 Black Loyalists: free, indentured, apprenticed, or still enslaved. More than 2,700 Blacks came to Nova Scotia with the fleet from New York City.
Black Loyalists is an attempt to present hard data about the lives of Nova Scotia Black Loyalists before they escaped slavery in early South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and after they settled in Nova Scotia to bring back into our awareness the context for some very brave and enterprising men and women who survived the chaos of the American Revolution, people who found a way to pass through the heart, ironically, of a War for Liberty, to liberty and human dignity.
Includes an insert of 20 historical images and documents.
Price: $29.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Burial Locations of Ship Hector Passengers Burial Locations of Ship Hector Passengers
Researched and Compiled by
Brenda Hutchinson
Ship Hector Descendants Project
Price: $17.73
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Genealogical Research in Nova Scotia Genealogical Research in Nova Scotia
Author:  Terrence M. Punch
Publisher:  Nimbus Publishing
This popular resource for amateur genealogists and history buffs is the best package for finding out more about the people who populate the province.

Terry was the first president of GANS, from 1982-1988, and was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in 1990.
Price: $30.00
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Highland Settler:  The Classic Portrait of the Scottish Gael in Cape Breton and Eastern Nova Scotia Highland Settler: The Classic Portrait of the Scottish Gael in Cape Breton and Eastern Nova Scotia
Author:  Charles W. Dunn
Publisher: Breton Books
At the core of Charles W. Dunn’s pioneering work with the Canadian Gaelic-speaking community in the twentieth century, Highland Settler is the story of immigration, rural settlement, and the later dispersion to the industrial world–a thoughtful and entertaining history of an extraordinary people.
Dunn’s extensive interviews and the informed warmth of his approach make Highland Settler an essential book in the discovery of Cape Breton Island. Drawing on delightful storytelling, and local songs and poetry that settlers composed and loved, Dunn achieves a Gaelic settlers’ self-portrait as well as the historian and folklorist’s insight into the culture.
Price: $18.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Historic Black Nova Scotia
Authors:      Bridglal Pachai & Henry Bishop
Publisher:    Nimbus Publishing
The history of Nova Scotia’s black communities is a complex story of triumph and struggle, intertwined with the many stories of ancestors, destinies, and challenges. The knowledge and insight of veteran authors Bridglal Pachai and Henry Bishop provide welcome guidance to the mosaic of Nova Scotian black history in Historic Black Communities. Presented in the engaging format of an Images of Our Past book, this readable history book is interspersed with ample black and white photos, providing a visual link to the stories of the past.
Eleven chapters explore the African presence in Nova Scotia, and range from topics such as the influence of the church and the African United Baptist Association (AUBA); pioneers in publishing, law, politics and business; the legacy of Africville; heroes of sports, military, arts, and volunteer activism; Historic Black Communities provides a comprehensive, but always accessible entry into the many realms of black influence. Above all, the many photos and stories of this historic tribute salute the dignity and achievements of the resilient black community in Nova Scotia, and provide an unshakeable optimism for its promising future.
Price: $22.00
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Letters Home:  Maritimers and the Great War, 1914-1918 Letters Home: Maritimers and the Great War, 1914-1918
Author:  Ross Hebb
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
With personal letters gathered from public archives and the relatives of those who fought in the First World War, historian Ross Hebb tells the story of Canadian soldiers, from recruitment to deployment to return, in their own words. Letters Home is a collection of the correspondences of 20 people shipped overseas from across the Maritimes, asking about their homes and farms, wondering at the girls in Britain, and leaving keepsakes and life advice for their children.
Organized chronologically, the letters describe crossing the Atlantic, training in England, the confusion and anticipation leading up to combat, and for some, the journey home. Includes 20 photographs of the letter writers, their families, postcards, and memorials.
Price: $17.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Mabou Pioneers Volume 1 Mabou Pioneers Volume 1
A Genealogical Tracing of Some Pioneer Families Who Settled in Mabou and District
Compiled by A.D. MacDonald
Publisher:  Formac Publishing
This book is a genealogical record of some of the pioneer families who settled in the Mabou and District area of Cape Breton.
In addition to genealogies of Mabou families, the book also offers biographical sketches of prominent ecclesiastics, a history of the Parish of Mabou, and a brief reflection on the compiling of genealogies.
Mabou Pioneers is an indispensible reference to the genealogy of this remarkable Cape Breton community.
Price: $49.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Mary Kaulbach's Normal School Diary 1892-1893
Editors: Melanie Ballard and John N. Grant
Publisher: Little White Schoolhouse Press
In 1892, Mary Kaulbach came to Truro to attend the Provincial Normal School. Her diary provides a glimpse into the life of a young woman in Victorian Truro and at Normal. She was an interested observer and an active participant in both communities. Mary was not unaware of the potential value of her diary, writing: “it would be so interested to the coming generation.” She was right. Mary wrote well and her gentle bemusement by life is reflected in her diary.
Price: $24.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Naughty Little Book of Gaelic Naughty Little Book of Gaelic
All the Scottish Gaelic You Need to Curse, Swear, Drink, Smoke, and Fool Around
Author:  Michael Newton
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
There are many good and useful books that provide a wide range of Scottish Gaelic vocabulary to express many aspects of daily life – except, for the most part, the topics covered in this book.
Scottish Highlanders, and their descendants all over the world, are no better and no worse than any other people where “sinful” behaviour is concerned. Standards of morality and social conventions changed dramatically during the 19th century – and most of the people engaged in recording and commenting upon Highland life and tradition were puritanical ministers and priests who left out the racy bits. So, while there are many useful books that provide a wide range of Scottish Gaelic vocabulary to express many aspects of daily life – for the most part, they leave out the naughty bits.
Price: $9.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Nova Scotia and the Great Influenza Pandemic, 1918-1920 Nova Scotia and the Great Influenza Pandemic, 1918-1920
A Remembrance of the Dead and an Archive for the Living
Author: Ruth Holmes Whitehead
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
The definitive academic resource on the Great Influenza by the celebrated historian behind Black Loyalists in time for the pandemic’s centenary.
It could kill in as little as ten hours. Extremely high fever, bleeding from eyes, nose, and ears, terrible pain, especially in the head and the joints, delirium—and then its victims literally drowned in their own fluids. Fifty to 100 million people worldwide died in this global pandemic in the early twentieth century.
The Great Influenza first entered Nova Scotia through ports. (Sydney, Cape Breton, received five hundred sick American troops in a single day.) For three years, the province coped with this vicious epidemic as it spread like wildfire. Local economies ceased functioning; fishing fleets, banks, and apple-canning factories reported all staff were suffering from the flu.
The heart of this book, however, is its human element. Oral histories, family memoirs, newspaper articles, and provincial death records tell, county by county, stories of those who died. Accompanied by 20 photographs, Nova Scotia and the Great Influenza Pandemic, 1918–1920 chronicles both provincial and personal efforts to cope during this most perilous time.
Price: $32.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Nova Scotia's Ethnic Roots Nova Scotia's Ethnic Roots
Author: Alfreda Withrow
Publisher: Glen Margaret Publishing
During the past two hundred and fifty years, numerous ethnic groups have emigrated to Nova Scotia from their homelands.  In this book, the reader will discover why the various immigrants decided to settle in this province, what happened to them during their flight and where they decided to put down their roots.
Every group, including the Mi'kmaq (who had been residing in Nova Scotia long before the arrival of these settlers), have an interesting story to tell.  Included are the reasons that the Acadians were expelled from their homes, why the Loyalists remained loyal to the British Crown, and the actors that led to the arrival of the French and German Protestants.  The atrocities that took place in the treatment of the Blacks, Irish and Scots are also examined.  It is fascinating to see how our ancestors' surnames may have changed over time and how we can research the history of our family's ancestry.
Price: $20.00
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Nova Scotia's Lost Communities Nova Scotia's Lost Communities
Author: Joan Dawson
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Beaubassin was once a prosperous farming community at the head of the Cumberland Basin; Africville was the vibrant home of Black Nova Scotians who struggled to make a living and found spiritual solace in their church. Both are now gone, one a casualty of long-ago colonial warfare and the other a victim of misguided urban renewal.
In this fascinating book, author Joan Dawson (A History of Halifax in 50 Objects) looks at 37 of Nova Scotia’s lost communities: places like Electric City, Indian Gardens, and the Tancook Islands. Some were home to ethnic groups forced to leave. Others, once dependent on factories, mills, or the fishery, died as the economy changed or resources were depleted. But they were all once places where Nova Scotians were born, married, worked, and died, and they deserve to be remembered. Featuring over 60 archival and contemporary photos and illustrations, Nova Scotia’s Lost Communities preserves those memories with fascinating insights.
Price: $21.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Oak Island and its Lost Treasure Oak Island and its Lost Treasure

Authors:     Graham Harris and Les MacPhie
Publisher:   Formac Publishing Co.

Oak Island poses two different challenges for these treasure seekers. First, there is a deep mine shaft — the Money Pit — at the bottom of which the treasure lies. This book offers evidence that this treasure came from the wreck of a seventeenth-century Spanish galleon. Then there is the elaborate flood tunnel which links the mine shaft to the ocean. Construction on this tunnel would have been complex and expensive, requiring a labour force of over 100 men, and it would have taken almost two years to complete. Discover the previously untold story of the British military who commanded this labour force in building the underground structure. The island's Money Pit and the tunnel, combined with adverse geological conditions, have ensured that all efforts to uncover the treasure have been unsuccessful to this day.

Civil engineers Graham Harris and Les MacPhie spent over a decade investigating the enigma of Nova Scotia's Oak Island. In this book, they draw on the documentary record to present a compelling and historically accurate description of two centuries of treasure hunting on Oak Island.

Price: $24.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Righting Canada's Wrongs:  Africville Righting Canada's Wrongs: Africville
Author:  Gloria Ann Wesley
Publisher:  James Lorimer & Company Ltd.
Beginning in the 18th century, Black men and women arrived from the U.S. and settled in various parts of Nova Scotia. In the 1800s, a small Black community had developed just north of Halifax on the shores of the Bedford Basin. The community became known as Africville and grew to about 400 people. Its residents fished, farmed, operated small retail stores and found work in the city. Jobs for Black people were hard to find, with many occupations blocked by racist practices. Women often worked as domestics and many men were train porters. A school and a church were the community’s key institutions.
The City of Halifax located a number of undesirable industries in Africville but refused residents’ demands for basic services such as running water, sewage disposal, paved roads, street lights, a cemetery, public transit, garbage collection and adequate police protection.
City planners developed urban renewal plans and city politicians agreed to demolish the community. Residents strongly opposed relocation, but city officials ignored their protests and began to seize and bulldoze the homes. In 1967, the church was demolished ― in the middle of the night. This was a blow that signaled the end of Africville.
In the 1970s, some community members organized and began working for an apology and compensation. In 2010, Halifax’s mayor made a public apology for the community’s suffering and mistreatment. Some former residents accepted this; others continued to campaign for restitution. This new edition documents the continued fight for compensation by community members and their descendants. The spirit and resilience of Africville lives on in new generations of African Nova Scotians.
Price: $34.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Tent Dwellers Tent Dwellers
Author: Albert Bigelow Paine
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
(Trade Edition)
Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937) was an American novelist, biographer, and editor. He was the official biographer and literary executor for Mark Twain.
Albert Bigelow Paine’s account of his three-week fishing adventure in the wilderness of Nova Scotia is a true classic. For over one hundred years, the adventures of the author and his companions, Eddie, Del, and Charlie, have been enjoyed by fishers, canoeists, and armchair travellers alike. Written with an unassuming wit, this nimble narrative captures the camaraderie of the journey and the appeal of life in the woods. Paine’s observations on the art of fishing conveys the elements of meditation, competition, and obsession familiar for those who practise, and enlightening for those who do not. His humorous and poetic depictions of campfire meals, tenting, navigation, encounters with wildlife, and assorted triumphs and blunders are as engaging and entertaining today as when The Tent Dwellers was first published in 1908.
Price: $17.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

The Harvest Train The Harvest Train
Author:  A.A. MacKenzie
Publisher:  Breton Books
One of Canada’s great adventure stories, when young men went west to work on the booming grain farms of the Prairies. Here are some of the stories and tales.
Price: $16.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

The Mystery Ships of Nova Scotia in the First World War The Mystery Ships of Nova Scotia in the First World War
Author:  John N. Grant
Publisher: Breton Publishers
They sailed into harm's way, dressed as ordinary fishermen, seeking to be attacked by German submarines. This armed team faced danger, frayed nerves, and boredom. Because their mission was secret, they could not explain their service to Canada in the First World War. In this brisk, readable and respectful history, John N. Grant tells the long-buried story of Canada’s Mystery Fleet. He names men who tried to lure U-boats into range, and then sailed into anonymity—until now. Many historic photographs.
Price: $16.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99

Threads in the Acadian Fabric Threads in the Acadian Fabric
Author: Simone Poirier-Bures
Publisher: Pottersfield Press
Threads in the Acadian Fabric tells the story of the author’s paternal family, her line of ancestors that stretches back nine generations to the first Poirier who arrived from France and settled in Port Royal in the 1640s.
Poirier-Bures follows her nine father-grandfathers from Port Royal to Beaubassin to Port Toulouse, through their fugitive years during the Deportation, then to Isle Madame, and finally to Halifax, where her generation, the tenth, was born.
In creating more than a family history, Poirier-Bures places the lives of each ancestor and his family in the context of the political and historical events of the time. She provides insight into the collective Acadian experience and explores how critical historical events affected individual families.
The first part of the book focuses on the four generations who lived, suffered and thrived in old Acadie until 1755, when the Deportation began. The second section focuses on the next five generations who all lived on Isle Madame, Cape Breton. Two ancestors became sea captains who travelled to Brazil, Ghana, Portugal and the West Indies during the golden age of sail. The last section narrates the life of Arthur Poirier (1890-1964), a veteran of WW I, who participated in the Antigonish Movement and lived through a time of great transition in the Acadian community. Part history, part biography and part memoir, the book is a fascinating, moving, and informative read.
Price: $21.95
Shipping / Handling: $9.99