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Sainte Famille Cemetery recognized as provincial heritage property for Acadian history

Halifax Armdale MLA Lena Diab (front right) cuts the ribbon with the help of Lucille Amirault (front left) of Les Amis de Grand-Pré. Looking on are other members of Les Amis de Grand-Pré: Felix Amirault (back left), Sally Ross, Ken Belfontain and president Susan Surette Draper.
Halifax Armdale MLA Lena Diab (front right) cuts the ribbon with the help of Lucille Amirault (front left) of Les Amis de Grand-Pré. Looking on are other members of Les Amis de Grand-Pré: Felix Amirault (back left), Sally Ross, Ken Belfontain and president Susan Surette Draper.

FALMOUTH, N.S. — When the Acadians were expelled from this region in 1755, many things were lost, including the knowledge of the final resting place of their loved ones who lived and worked on the land.

However, in 1996, as a result of work in Falmouth, an Acadian burial ground with approximately 300 graves was discovered following an archaeological dig by the Nova Scotia Museum.

On Sept. 18, 2017, the Province of Nova Scotia officially recognized the Sainte Famille Cemetery as a heritage property.

Halifax Armdale MLA Lena Diab, the minister of Acadian Affairs and Francophonie, unveiled a heritage property plaque at the Sainte-Famille Cemetery in Falmouth on behalf of Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine.

“This monument reminds us of our longstanding Acadian history and heritage,” Diab said. “It also reminds us of the resiliency and spirit of the Acadian people. A people that continues to share its vibrant culture, its language and its traditions with all Nova Scotians and contribute greatly to making Nova Scotia the strong, diverse and dynamic province we all love.” 

The Sainte-Famille Cemetery is maintained by the community organization Les Amis de Grand-Pré.

“The designation of the Sainte-Famille Cemetery as a Nova Scotia heritage site is a crucial step in the long journey towards the preservation of this Acadian site that was discovered by accident in 1996,” said Susan Surette-Draper, president of Les Amis de Grand-Pré.

Sally Ross, historian and secretary of Les Amis de Grand-Pré, said the unveiling was a significant moment for Acadian history in the region.

“It’s the only pre-deportation Acadian cemetery in Nova Scotia that now has official heritage status and has been saved, except of course the one at the Grand Pré national historic site,” Ross said. “It gives it the recognition it deserves.”

The name of the cemetery, Sainte Famille, translates to ‘holy family.’ The parish served the area known as Pisiquid, now Falmouth, which was established in 1698.

The cemetery continued to be used until the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 by the British Empire. The church on the site of the cemetery was burned to the ground in 1756.

Ross said, as is the case for many Acadian parishes throughout the Maritimes, the registers have been lost to time.

“We don’t know who exactly was buried there, but we certainly know the families that lived in the parish of Sainte Famille,” she said. “Various names like Landry, it was on Babin land, Thibodeau, a number of Acadian names, which are known from deportation lists.”

All members of the Amis de Grand-Pré were at the ceremony along with provincial Minister of Acadian Affairs Lena Diab and West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian.

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