Irish Studies

Annotated Bibliography of Source Material of the Irish in Nova Scotia


The origins of this bibliographical project lie in a speech to The Charitable Irish Society of Halifax on St. Patrick’s Day 2004 by Pádraig Ó Siadhail, holder of the D’Arcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax. He lamented the absence of a research project on the history of the Irish in Nova Scotia, noting that, despite the presence and encouragement of the Chair of Irish Studies at Saint Mary’s University, few historians and scholars were actively engaged in work on aspects of the Irish contribution to Nova Scotia.

I interpreted Pádraig Ó Siadhail’s comments as a challenge, an opportunity and a call to action. While accepting the validity of his statement about the paucity of work that is being done at present on the Irish in Nova Scotia, I decided to approach the issue from another direction. The history of the Irish in Nova Scotia is one segment of a shared story in the wider history of the Irish in Atlantic Canada. Great strides have been made in recent years to document the contribution of the Irish in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Though the Irish have been involved in the development and growth of Nova Scotia from its beginning as a colony of Great Britain to its present day status as a province of Canada and though there is an abundance of documentation on the Irish contributions and experiences there, including significant pioneering essays (such as the work of Terence Punch) and biographical studies of some of the important Irish figures in Nova Scotia history, there has never been a single comprehensive list of the sources available. I would compile a comprehensive annotated bibliography of source material on the Irish in Nova Scotia, documenting the literature that is available. Such a bibliography would be of interest to various constituencies: from members of the Nova Scotia Irish community to students working on projects on the Irish in Nova Scotia, from family historians to academic researchers. Moreover, a bibliography would encourage scholars to undertake new research on the Irish contribution to the development and growth of Nova Scotia. If somewhat indirectly, the bibliography would further the goal of a coordinated project on the Irish in Nova Scotia.

At an early stage, the Irish Studies Programme Committee at Saint Mary’s University and the compiler identified four criteria central to the success of a bibliography. The research and data must be reliable. The methodology used in preparing the bibliography must be sound. The completed work must be widely disseminated. And by Irish Studies agreeing to host the bibliography on its web site as an electronic document, the public worldwide would have full and free access to material that would be regularly updated.


The Annotated Bibliography of Source Material on the Irish in Nova Scotia seeks to provide an accessible and searchable database listing relevant literature in the area of study. The Irish in Nova Scotia are defined as individuals born on the island of Ireland or descendants of Irish born who lived in or spent part of their careers in Nova Scotia. Citations in the Bibliographyare historical in nature and cover the period 1713 to 2009. The earlier date represents the beginning of Nova Scotia as a British colony and the latter date is simply the date of the most recent material cited. While Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick formed part of the geographical entity we now know as Nova Scotia until 1820, and while the early history of the Irish in this area occurred throughout the larger region, the Bibliographyfocuses on Nova Scotia as prescribed by its present boundaries. Citations are limited to published works that deal directly or indirectly with the Irish in Nova Scotia in virtually every segment of life, including settlements and community development, migrations, integration, nativism, religion, occupations and professions such as law, government and business, military personnel, the arts and education. The Bibliography includes citations and references from published bibliographies, monographs, articles in journals and magazines, pamphlets, component parts of edited works, theses and dissertations compiled from sources in public, university and military libraries, archives, and special collections throughout Nova Scotia. In addition, it draws on several on-line sources, including the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online andAmerica: History and Life database. The Bibliography is not a primary source of material for genealogists. However, it includes references to Irish family genealogies when an individual or a family were founding members of a community in Nova Scotia.

A project that relies on a single compiler inevitably has its limitations. Due to time and financial restrictions, for example, it was not possible to comb exhaustively government documents. However, as the Bibliography is in electronic format, it is planned to update it regularly, making corrections to the current contents as necessary, and adding in new material as it becomes available.

The scope of the Bibliography is not entirely limited to Nova Scotia however.Users of the Bibliography doing research relating to other topics in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada will find the Bibliography a useful means of access to the wider Inventory of primary source material and a Bibliography of published works on the Atlantic Region by means of a direct link from each citation to the Atlantic Canada Portal of the University of New Brunswick.


Users of the Bibliography will know that there is no single “ correct ” method of documentation to reference the source of material used in writing papers and in compiling Biographies. The style of documentation used varies within the disciplines and often with individual Institutions and preferred practices of teachers as well, and I reviewed several manuals of style before I selected Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, Sixth Edition, 1996) for use in the Bibliography because it is simple to apply in an electronic publication and it is widely used in the Social Sciences and Humanities. With one exception , namely biographical sketches on Canadian historical individuals that were sourced from the Canadian Bibliography Online which I referenced using their suggested citation style.


Publication data for each citation in the bibliography may be accessed by linking to the Atlantic Canada Portal heading which is located at the base of each citation.


Users can search the database under ‘Simple Search’, one highlights author, text title or keyword which lists over 370 subject headings; and an alphabetical listing of over 165 biographical sketches of significant Irish individuals.

Setting up the subject headings, or keywords for the Search process involved an examination of several lists of standard subject headings, including those used by the Library of Congress. These listings were too generic, however, and therefore not sufficiently appropriate. As much of the material in the bibliography contains specific references to the Irish experience in Nova Scotia, a broad subject heading does not cover it. Further, since this is the first bibliography on the Irish in Nova Scotia, it was important to provide the user with as wide a choice of subject headings as possible. It entailed a considerable effort to review the source material and to assign headings unique to its content but the result is a set of subject headings specifically tailored to the Irish in Nova Scotia.

The Biography section of the bibliography presented challenges of a different sort. The first issue was to undertake a systematic search of existing material, then to select the criteria for inclusion, and finally to prepare sketches of the selected individuals. These sketches draw on a range of sources, including the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, the Bibliographical review, books, journal articles, and special files in the Nova Users of theBibliography doing research relating to other topics in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada also have instant access to the wider Inventory of primary source material and a Bibliography of published works on the Atlantic Region by a means of a direct link to the Atlantic Canada Portal.

The result is a collection of biographical entries largely weighted — as reflected in historiography until recently — in favour of males active in the professions, specifically law, medicine, politics, the military, religion and the arts. These sketches cannot claim to be fully representative of the Irish in Nova Scotia. Nor do they claim to be definitive in their assessment of the individuals concerned. Where appropriate, the user is directed to sources that examine an individual’s career in detail.


This project would not have been possible without the support of the D’Arcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies at Saint Mary’s University, especially Dr. Pádraig Ó Siadhail in his role as Coordinator of the Irish Studies Programme (2005-2008). I wish to acknowledge the contribution of G. Douglas Vaisey, Librarian for Reference and Research, the Patrick Power Library at Saint Mary’s University, for his invaluable assistance, generosity with his time, his expertise in project design, for suggesting research directions and techniques, and his willingness to review the progress of the project. Sandra Murdock, Ph.D candidate provided editorial assistance and helpful comments which were especially helpful in preparing the material for recording in electronic format. I have a special debt of gratitude to the Atlantic Canada Portal of the University of New Brunswick for hosting the data base and to the Electronic Text Centre of the University for hosting the data base . Thanks are also due to librarians and staff at libraries and archives in Nova Scotia: in particular, Mrs. Leanne Howell, the Cambridge Military Library (Halifax), Lois Yorke, Gail Judge, Philip Hartling, Angelia Vohra, Gary Shutlak, Barry Smith and their colleagues at the Public Archives and Records Management (Halifax), Anne McNeil at the Beaton Institute in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Duncan Pulsifer, a graduate student in History who reviewed the material in the Celtic Collection at St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The staff of the Centre for Academic Technology, Saint Mary’s University, provided technical support in designing and maintaining the database while Tom Crowell, Dave Crawford and Predrag Rajnis, from Saint Mary’s University Information Technology Systems and Support, brought everything together on the Webpage: all their expertise was essential in an electronic publication that will live online. The technical and technology people are modern day Merlins, magicians who see things that the rest of us do not; who use a language only they understand, who wave their electronic wands over the ingredients that are bubbling away in a cauldron of sorts, from which emerges through the smoke and fire, the end product that is a Webpage with colour, pictures and text all complete. I remain amazed by their accomplishments and their achievement.

I wish to thank Saint Mary’s University for appointing me as an honorary Research Fellow for the period 2006-2008 and making available editorial assistance, office space, a computer and material support. Mr.Allen Marble provided photos of members of the Archibald family and the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management provided the remainder of the photographs. The Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture kindly gave me permission to reproduce them in the bibliography. I am grateful to Dr. Kenneth Donovan, Parks Canada, Fortress Louisburg, Cape Breton for permitting me to include as part of the Bibliography a video, produced and narrated by him, on the Irish in Cape Breton.

Finally, projects of this scope are expensive to mount. The financial assistance generously provided by The Charitable Irish Society in Halifax, An Cumann/ The Irish Association of Nova Scotia, the Patrick Power Estate, Halifax, and Dr. Brian O’Brien has enabled me to meet these expenses.

Ronald G. Beed. B.Comm. MA.
June 2009