Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem

Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem
Fier d'être acadien - Proud to be acadian

Sunday, October 23, 2011

From one to another

There is an unusual oral tradition Acadians have used to define their ancestry back to the very beginnings of the colony. In some areas, it is still in use today. The unbroken chain, both paternal and maternal, allows the listener to know from what family and what area of Acadia the speaker is describing. In one string, I can be transported from 2011 New England, to the Village of Memramcook, New Brunswick after Le Grand Dérangement, to Needham, Massachusetts during the exile, to a mid-1600s farm on the north side of the Rivière Dauphin near Port Royal, Acadia.


Sign near Monument-LeFebvre in Memramcook

Between each first name is the French word “à” which in English translates as “to”.

Rob à Norma à Alda à Placide à Amable à Israël à Simon à Jacques à François à Jacques à Daniel LeBlanc. This one-from-the-other linguistic tradition can be applied to any of my Acadian lines, but not without looking at my notes first. I was surprised the first time I actually heard it in practice. My cousin was speaking with a distant relative of ours at a funeral. He is the son of Thadée LeBlanc and Domithilde Boucher. 

I had never met the man before, but within moments he knew how we are related. And it still amazes me today. 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Longfellow's Evangeline was a blessing and a curse

"This is the forest primeval.” These are the opening words to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline - A Tale of Acadie. It has been a staple in American public education for generations. The poet from Harvard did well to describe Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, travels down the Mississippi River, and Louisiana's bayous considering he never travelled to any of them. He wrote the epic poem from afar, utilizing stories retold, accounts written by others and his own imagination.

Evangeline was a blessing because it gave North Americans an accessible, romantic tale to capture the tragic events of Le Grand Dérangement - the forced expulsion of Acadians from their homeland. It could be argued that without this epic poem, the story of the Acadian Diaspora would have been just a footnote in history. The eternal love story of Gabriel Lajeunesse and Evangeline Bellefontaine has inspired many to learn more about the "home of the happy".

The story became so well known that it was immortalized in plays, Hollywood movies, and numerous songs.  Today, tourists travel The Evangeline Trail through the Annapolis Valley along the North coast of Nova Scotia. In front of the replica church at Grand Pré National Historic Site is a statue depicting Evangeline.
Statue - Grand Pré National Historic Site
There is also the Longfellow - Evangeline StateHistoric Site in St. Martinville, Louisiana along Bayou Teche. During Mardi Gras, the City of Lafayette, Louisiana crowns King Gabriel and Queen Evangeline to reign over the parade.

With the accolades and esteem heaved upon this fictional character, you may be wondering what the curse could possibly be. Here are my reasons for choosing to describe the popular poem in this way. Conveniently, Longfellow did not include the large part the New England Colonists played in forcibly removing the Acadians from their homeland. Poems, by their nature, are not historically accurate. Without further research, the reader is led to believe the British authorities banished exiles to Louisiana. This is entirely incorrect.

Le Grand Dérangement started in September of 1755. Louisiana was not a British Colony. In fact, it was under French control. Acadians were sent to British Colonies all along the Atlantic coast. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia received ships carrying 'French Neutrals' - Acadian exiles. The Governor of Virginia refused to accept the exiles. They were then shipped to England and imprisoned.

In September of 1762, the Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed ceding control of Louisiana west of the Mississippi from France to Spain. The first documented Acadians to arrive in Spanish Louisiana were 21 exiles from New York in 1764. Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil then led a group of nearly 200 who had been imprisoned in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A large number of families exiled to Maryland soon followed. The largest group to sail to Louisiana, nearly 1,600, was those exiled from Acadia to France or imprisoned in England until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, then repatriated to France. In 1785, these Acadians boarded seven ships from Nantes, France at the urging of the Spanish Crown.

Today, we have historical information available to us on laptops, tablets, and smart phones yet the myth persists. You can find it perpetuated in newspaper articles, magazines, and on television. “Cajuns were sent to Louisiana by the British”. Ummm, mon cher ami, no. They were not.

“MANY a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pre,
When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed,
Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile,
Exile without an end, and without an example in story.” (Evangeline, Part the Second, I)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recommended reading list for Acadian Genealogy

I was asked to compile a one page reading list to be used as a hand out for those interested in Acadian Genealogy Research. Narrowing down the many available resources to a single page proved to be a challenge. The final list is my 'best guess' for what most beginning family historians will find useful in what can be a difficult area to research.

The chosen books are from the more than 350 available in the Acadian section of the American-French Genealogical Society (AFGS). Wanting to reach the broadest audience, I decided to leave biographies, family books, church histories, and periodicals off of the list.

Some of the books are written in French. An inexpensive French-English dictionary usually provides enough information for a fair translation. As with most genealogy reference books, it is a good idea to read the introduction and explanatory notes before trying to decipher the abbreviations and codes used by the author.

Microfilm copies of many original records are available at the library for those needing primary source material.
Recommended reading list of Acadian resources available at the American-French Genealogical Society (AFGS) library:
Bold print indicates the best available source to date.


“Finding your Acadian Ancestors…”                                      ACA 347
By Léa Normandeau-Jones                                                    Published: 2001

“Les Mariages Acadien du Québec”                                       ACA 001, ACA 152, ACA 153
By Albert Ledoux                                                                    Published: 1978

The “Acadian Descendants” series                                        ACA 003, ACA 029, ACA 036, ACA 037, ACA 038, ACA 039, ACA 101
By Janet Jehn                                                                         Published: 1984

“Histoire et Généalogie des Acadiens”                                   ACA 016
By Bona Arsenault                                                                  Published:1955, republished: 1978

“Corrections & Additions to Arsenault’s                
 Histoire et Généalogie des Acadiens                                 ACA 033
By Janet Jehn                                                                         Published: 1988

“Acadian Church Records”                                                     ACA 031                 1679-1757
By Winston DeVille                                                                  Published: 1964

“Acadian Church Records”                                                     ACA 028    Port Royal  - Vol. 4 1716-1729, Vol. 5 1730-1740
By David Reider & Norma Gaudet Reider                                Published: 1983

“Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes”               ACA 242, ACA 243      2 Volumes 1636-1714
By Stephen White                                                                                Published: 1999

“English supplement to the Dictionnaire
généalogique des familles acadiennes                         ACA 243A
By Stephen White                                                                 Published: 2000

New Brunswick Parish Repertoires:                                      ACA 269 – ACA 274
By Lois (LeBlanc) Graham

Barachois & Saint Anselme                                                    1812-1870
Grand Digue & Scoudouc                                                       1800-1875
Shemogue (Cap-Pelé)                                                             1812-1899
Memramcook                                                                           1806-1870
Cocagne                                                                                  1800-1870
Bouctouche                                                                             1800-1870

If your ancestors were exiled to Massachusetts Bay Colony during Le Grand Dérangement

“An Index of the French Neutrals of Massachusetts, 1755-1766”                                         ACA 124
Extracted by Elaine Comeau                                                                                                   Published: 2003

“Documents Concerning Acadian Deportées in Massachusetts Towns, 1755-1766”           ACA 339, ACA 340
By Paul Cyr                                                                                                                             Published: 2005

Microfilm copies of the original documents are available at the library.


“Scattered to the Wind – Dispersal and Wanderings of the Acadians, 1755-1809”              ACA 160
By Carl Brasseaux                                                                                                                  Brief History, 70 pages

“The Acadians of the Maritimes”                                                                                             ACA 162
By Jean Daigle                                                                                                                        Published: 1982

“The Acadians of Québec”                                                                                                     ACA 266
By Pierre-Maurice Hébert, Translated by Rev. Melvin Surette                                                Published: 2002

“A Great and Noble Scheme”                                                                                           ACA 333
By John Mack Faragher                                                                                                      Published: 2005
This is an in-depth look at Acadian History.

The library has over 350 books in the Acadian Section. This list is far from complete, but should help get you started.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Lucky 37

Many who are researching their Acadian lines are familiar with Centre d'études acadiennes genealogist Stephen A. White, especially his two volume set Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes (DGFA). It is, by far, the most thorough and fully documented research about the early pioneer ancestors of Acadian families. The difficulty most face is 'getting back' to before 1714, the date Mr. White chose as a cut-off for the Dictionnaire.

Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes

There is a lesser-known research article named "La généalogie des trente-sept familles hôtesses des Retrouvailles 94" also written by Stephen White. It appeared in volume 25, numbers 2+3 of Les Cahiers, the periodical of La Société Historique Acadienne. The 1994 Congrès mondial acadien/Acadian world congress was held in nine localities; Bouctouche, Cap-Pelé, Dieppe, Richibouctou, Rogersville, Shédiac, Saint-Antoine, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Louis de Kent and Saint-Thomas. If you are lucky enough, like me, to have Acadian relatives who settled in southeastern New Brunswick, this can be a valuable resource for connecting back to your early ancestors.

The 37 host families:
Bastarache dit Basque
Bordages  (Bourdage)
Devarennes  (Gaultier de Varennes)
Goguen  (Guéguen)
Haché dit Gallant

This article can be hard to find in print, but is widely available on the internet. It is in the Acadian collection of the American-French Genealogical Society ( - call number ACA 123. What an easy number to remember, eh?


Friday, September 2, 2011

40 Years of Imagination

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Le Pays de la Sagouine for 40 years of storytelling, music, food and fun. To promote the celebration, a photo contest was held. Cynthia Basque Melanson, Moncton, NB was the first contest winner of a lifetime family season pass.
The winning photo
 Le Pays de la Sagouine is based on a play by Antonine Maillet first published in 1971. Renowned for her portrayal of the lead character is Viola Léger who returned at the age of 80 reprising her role as La Sagouine.

"This is a true story. The story of La Sagouine, a scrubwoman, a woman of the sea, who was born with the century, with her feet in the water. Water was her fortune: the daughter of a cod fisherman, a sailor's girl, and later the wife of a fisherman who took oysters and smelts. A cleaning woman also, who ends up on all fours, with her bucket in front and her hands in the water." -Antonine Maillet

A long winding wood walkway leads to l’Île-aux-Puces – the location of a small replica fishing village. If you are L'Age d'Or, there are carts available for a chauffeured ride to the island. The cast invites guests into the buildings to hear the story of the washerwoman, La Sagouine.  Interacting in French or English (depending on the audience in front of them), the characters explain how they live, work, laugh, and most importantly, gossip about La Sagouine.
There are several music venues at the site. Each year several house bands are chosen to perform multiple daily shows. I saw the group Borlico perform a few years ago. 
Borlico performing at Le Bootlegger
Recently rebuilt after a fire is l’Ordre du Bon Temps. A large covered deck provides patrons an opportunity for outdoor dining while listening to local bands. 

The menu at La Sagouine offers traditional southeast New Brunswick Acadian food such as poutines and fricôt. A gift shop is available for something to remember your trip to Bouctouche.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Ahhh... A day at the beach

Where is the beach with some of the warmest waters north of Virginia? Would you be surprised if I said New Brunswick, Canada? Parlee Beach Provincial Park is just north of the town of Shédiac. Due to the narrowness of Northumberland Strait and the shallow water, it is quite warm.
Please keep off the dune grass.
Unlike Maine - No rocks underfoot
You can learn more about Parlee Beach here: Parlee Beach Provincial Park

While you're in Shédiac, I suggest you try the fried clams at Chez Leo or rappie pie at the Acadian take-out on Main Street.
The Acadian take-out is easy to spot.      

Shédiac calls itself the "Lobster Capital of the World". Every July, there is a large festival promoting the king of delectable crustaceans.
Mon cousin Alan atop the statue.

Summers are short in L'Acadie. As Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."


Friday, August 12, 2011

Monday is National Acadian Day

August 15 is National Acadian Day. 
This National Feast Day was chosen during the first Convention of Acadians in Memramcook, New Brunswick June 20-21, 1881. About 5,000 people attended the convention. This particular day was chosen to coincide with the celebration of Our Lady of Assumption. By January, 1938, Pope Pius XI proclaimed, "Our Lady of the Assumption" as the Patroness of all Acadians.

Statue of "Our Lady of Assumption"   
The holiday is today is celebrated throughout Atlantic Canada. The largest celebration is usually the Tintamarre held in Caraquet, New Brunswick, CAN. 

A Tintamarre is a traditional parade through Acadian communities with noise makers and instruments. It demonstrates unity and strength of the people. It also lets the world know that Acadians are still here.

The holiday is also celebrated in Louisiana by Cajuns.

Even the smallest communities recognize it as a significant event. See the article below from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, CAN.

If you want to keep your neighbors guessing and feel an inner pride, fly an Acadian flag August 15th.

For more information:

Fier d'être acadien - Proud to be acadian!

Friday, August 5, 2011

As tough as her ancestors

I recently was asked to be ‘interviewed’ for an elementary school project by my 9-year-old niece, Sophie. It was a family history project, so she chose her Grammie’s Acadian heritage. To make it a little easier for her classmates to understand, it was titled Nova Scotia - Acadia.

She will have time to learn about Le Grand Dérangement. It was decided that we would leave that cataclysmic event out. It is hard to think of Acadians without thinking of the exile, but it is not what defines us.

She did some research online and read “Evangeleine for Children” borrowed from the local public library.


She drew a large map of the area for the center of her story board.  Around it, she placed pictures of food, customs, the flag, and an interior of a typical farm house. Some of the food included fricot au poulet (chicken stew), têtes de violon (fiddleheads) and poutine à trou (dumpling with a hole).
Fricot au poulet

têtes de violon
poutine à trou

She also made a shoebox-sized vignette of a typical Acadian kitchen including people made of clay which were later painted. It was easy to see the effort she put into the project.

When the day of the ‘interview’ arrived, she was not feeling well. Struggling through, she asked questions, listened to my answers and took notes. After a doctor’s visit the next day, I learned why it was so difficult for her. She had walking pneumonia and a temperature of 101.

She wrote down what she wanted to say on index cards for her presentation. Her Mom helped her practice it aloud. She was out of school for a few days, but was eager to give her speech in front of the class. It was a warm day. The teacher was running fans. Sophie’s voice was timid at first, but when it came to the question and answer period, she perked up. She knew her stuff. “Yes. 1604, the Acadians came before the Pilgrims”. As I sat in her classroom listening to her, I could not have been prouder.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

34th Annual Acadian Festival

It's claim to fame may be "The Most Northeastern Town in the USA", but Madawaska, Maine proudly hosts an annual Acadian Festival in August. Some of the planned events are family reunions, quilting shows, art exhibits, parades, musical groups, a bed race down Main Street, and a classic antique car show.

The fun begins Thursday, Aug. 11 and runs through Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. The full schedule and links for accomodations can be found here:

The Town of Madawaska in the St. John River Valley has been home to Acadian families since about 1785.

The Town's website welcomes vistors in both English and French:


Monday, August 1, 2011

Beyond Images

Josée Vachon played two free shows at the opening of the Beyond Images travelling exhibit from Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada. The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH is hosting the exhibition for a limited time. The information is provided in both English and French. If you would like to learn more, please visit

Josée played Partons la mer est belle, a traditional Acadian song.

click here for a sample of the song 

Partons la mer est belle

Amis, partons sans bruit;
La pêche sera bonne
La lune qui rayonne
Éclairera la nuit.
Il faut qu'avant l'aurore
Nous soyons de retour
Pour sommeiller encore
Avant qu'il soit grand jour.
Friends, let us leave without sound;
The fishing will be good
The moon that shines
Will illuminate the night.
As it must before dawn
Let us return on our way
To sleep again
Before it is daylight.

Partons, la mer est belle;
Embarquons-nous, pêcheurs,
Guidons notre nacelle,
Ramons avec ardeur.
Aux mâts hissons les voiles,
Le ciel est pur et beau,
Je vois briller l'étoile
Qui guide les matelots!

As we leave the ocean is beautiful;
We embarque, fishermen,
We guide our small boat,
We row with great heart.
On the masts we hoist our sails,
The sky is pure and beautiful,
I see the star shine brilliantly
Which guides the sailors.

Ainsi chantait mon père
Lorsqu'il quitta le port.
Il ne s'attendait guère
À y trouver la mort.
Par les vents, par l'orage,
Il fut surpris soudain,
Et d'un cruel naufrage
Il subit le destin.

And that is how my father was singing
While he left port.
He just barely noticed
And that is where he found his death.
By the winds, by the storm,
It was surprising and sudden,
And in a cruel abandoning wreck
He suffered his destiny.


Je n'ai plus que ma mère
Qui ne possède rien;
Elle est dans la misère,
Je suis son seul soutien.
Ramons, ramons bien vite,
Je l'aperçois là-bas,
Je la vois qui m'invite
En me tendant les bras.

I have nothing more than my mother
She possesses nothing;
She lives in poverty,
I am her only support.
We row, we row quickly and well,
I can see that one over there,
I can see the one who invites me
As I reach my arms out.

The song is included on Josée's Collection - Volume 1.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Last Space Shuttle mission + Acadian?

Yesterday morning was the final landing for Space Shuttle program.

Space Shuttle Atlantis as seen from the International Space Station

Why would I include this under Acadian Heritage News? There is a musician from from Prince Edward Island (now living in Nova Scotia) of Acadian descent whose music made a trip aboard the Shuttle Endeavor in 2009.
At the suggestion of Canadian astronaut Julie Payette, the CD "When we get there" by Lennie Gallant, was brought along for the ride.

Julie Payette, Astronaut

The music on the album is sung in English. He has also recorded two CDs in French. If you would like to hear samples of his music, follow the link below.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Le village historique Acadien -- The Acadian Historic Village, Caraquet, NB

I’m sure many of you have been to Old Sturbridge Village or Plimouth Plantation. There is a similar living history museum in northern New Brunswick, Canada. If you thought understanding the Olde English at Plimouth was difficult, imagine the ancient French spoken by the Acadian role players in this village.

The link below is video tour of the various buildings and actors showcasing their crafts.

It’s about 10 minutes long.
The music:
Le monde a bien changé by the group 1755.
La vielle bross en Acadie by the group Suroît.
Le jardinière du couvent by the group 1755.

The official web site of the Village is below:

s’amuser – have fun!

French music at The Greater New Bedford Summerfest

The Greater New Bedford Summerfest - An International Folk Music and Arts Festival was held July 2nd + 3rd at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, Downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts.

There were over 50 musical groups performing over the two days.
Le Vent du Nord from Québec and Vishtèn from Prince Edward Island performed on the largest of the 7 stages at the festival.

The Acadian group Vishtèn on the Custom House Stage.

Also performing was singer/dancer Benoit Bourque from Québec.