Francine Fortin-Levy – Books for Sale

Francine Fortin-Levy has written three books of historical interest that are  now available for sale in PDF format.  The proceeds from the sale of these books will be donated to the Tancook United Baptist Church on Big Tancook Island. 

To send the funds  please contact and the instructions to make an e-transfer will be provided. When the money is received you will be sent an email with the PDF file.

The books are as follows:

Tancook Baptist Church : 150th Anniversary 1855 -2005     $20.00
Cephas Pearl, my Diary : Assistant Lighthouse Keeper in Nova Scotia Sailing to Europe, the Suez Canal and India 1882-1884              $13.00
My Life on Tancook : Bentie Belle Heisler’s Diary                  $15.00

 B A C K G R O U N D

About the author: Francine Fortin-Levy
(a. k. a. Fran Levy as I am known in Nova Scotia)

Being a researcher in Montreal, to be whole and contented, I needed to be discovering, learning, and sharing. I faced reality and the conclusion was: you can change your life but you can’t transform the person you are. My aim was always researching authentic accounts.

Stories come in different ways; some are created and told for entertainment, others are memories repeated from one generation to the next, and then, there are these truthful stories that are based on facts, documentations and reliable sources. As a researcher my interest is finding and following the paper trail.  Having access to censuses, to deeds, reading the recorded wills and inventories at probate, locating historical maps, checking border-crossing forms, visiting the area where the narrative generated from, and foremost, touching, leafing through the hand written registers, journals, and diaries are important to me.  When I have the opportunity of seeing resources of the past, my craving for learning, for understanding are at their peak.  The investigating, the hunt for the accurate records gives me an intense satisfaction, mostly when the end results produces a book, describing life of bygone days.  I am always extremely grateful to all the people that shared their valued documents and treasures.

T H E   B O O K S

The Tancook Baptist Church, 150th Anniversary, 1855 – 2005

In 2005, when the Church history was published, Nova Scotia had been my new home for 10 years. This book was written first and primarily as a celebration for the congregation that served, guided, and helped the population of the Tancooks, Ironbound and Blandford.  What a thrill to handle the original deeds of the property passed down throughout the years in the care of the trustees for safekeeping.  Turning page after page of the church registers, and reading the clerk’s minutes regarding the resolutions, administration, election of officers, observations concerning the pastors, the construction & renovation; mainly, all the activities of the congregation’s life.  The early years of the church’s formation, as per the records, were the most revealing: names were noted, the cost of salaries or expenditures were in evidence, decision were subject to be included in the minute books. The first 100 years gave a clear picture of the functioning of the assembly. Later on, with the involvement of more committees, it became structured and formal, and the officers are more reserve, discrete and private with what is written in the transcripts.  The families that started, shaped, contributed and supported the church are in evidence through out the book; it is also a testimony of their faith in the institution. These families are: Baker, Cross, Fleet, Heisler, Hutt, Langille, Levy, Mason, Rodenhiser, Slaunwhite, Stevens, Wilson, Young.

The Tancook Baptist Church book could not have been written without the help of many contributors that shared their family pictures, scrapbooks, pictures, and mementos.  Also, the Church officers are to be commended for their vigilance in keeping records, deeds, bills, notes, etc.  The proceeds of this book did help to keep our pastor, Miss René Clark, and our church open another year.

Cephas Pearl, my Diary : Assistant Lighthouse Keeper in Nova Scotia Sailing to Europe, the Suez Canal and India 1882-1884

Usually a church keeps company to a cemetery.  This is where I came across the tombstone of Cephas Pearl.

died at LONDON, ENG.
SEPT.  5, 1884

Who was Cephas Pearl? I knew that Albert Pearl was the first light keeper at Pearl Island/Green Island.  What brought his son to London, England and how did he die??? Cephas who was born on Tancook, was the oldest of 10 kids. He went to the light with his father in April 1874, stayed for almost 9 years before he decided to leave and see the world.

Researching at the NS Archives can be tedious sometimes, mostly when you’re looking at microfilm.  One day, taking a break from such a tiresome endeavour, snooping in the many card indexes, I suddenly stumbled on the name Cephas Pearl. I know that name, who is that man???  I could not remember.

I filled in the request slip, got handed an 1883-1884 original manuscript and a pair of white gloves, silently I read, then my question was answered. The time was too short; I could not examine fast enough.  I was exited and pleased. How can I get a copy??? That was a bit of a problem, but it was resolved, and 12 days later, the mail delivered the first 9 pages.

Cephas’ last words were:

“So ends my first trip away from home, when I go off again it shall be called a voyage.” (Page 11) He had me hooked, where was Cephas going? I wanted more.

The following week I went back to the NS Public Archives and spent the day reading Cephas’ early life on Big Tancook, his working time on Green/Pearl Island.  He was on board fishing schooners, cattle boats, freight and passenger steamers. During his voyages, the atlas guided me while following him along his travels, the Western Banks, the New England United States, from there to Liverpool, England, then on to Spain, Portugal, the Strait of Gibraltar, Italy, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the coast of Africa.  I was amused by his sense of humour, laughed at his trickery and Casanova style.  In one word, I was fascinated. What a sad tragic death. I will always cherish my boy Cephas; my only regret is not having seen him. (No picture available).

I am very appreciative to the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia for granting me the permission of transcribing and editing Cephas Pearl’s story and giving authorization for its publication in 2009.

My Life on Tancook : Bentie Belle Heisler’s Diary

The diary was well received by the islanders; it also went beyond expectations on the mainland.  Surprisingly, many sailors contacted me with words of thanks because it reminded them of their early years sailing.

My dear friend, Mrs. Evelyn (Slaunwhite) Hutt (90 years +) shared with me some of her family papers namely one of her aunt Miss Bentie Belle Heisler written during 1914-1915.

Bentie Belle, as others on the island is no spendthrift, so she makes use of the last half of a school scribbler to document her thoughts. Miss Heisler was 18 and 19 years old when she was writing her diary, allowing us an inside look at every day life on the island.  The goings on, the travelling to the main land, the men at work with their fishing, everyone’s concerted efforts with chores of the land, and the social activities with family and friends.  Her factual notes demonstrate life as it was before, and at the start of the First World War.

Having permission to transcribe the handwritten scribbler, I realized that the majority of the Tancook families were mentioned in it.  My husband, Graham’s great grandparents were noted; and many other names I was acquainted with through my research were present. Other Tancookers also wanted a copy, because their own ancestors were part of it.  This is how Bentie Belle Heisler’s diary came to be.

My thoughts are that Bentie knew that she had limited time and decided to record the daily happenings so she could look back on them when her deteriorating health would not allow her to be part of them.

Oral history is second hand information recounted by the elders.  However, with Bentie’s diary, we have the privilege of reading of an era during the existence of our grandparents, or of some of the people whose residences we now occupy.