Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem

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

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.