Acadian Driftwood

They signed a treaty
And our homes were taken
Loved-ones forsaken
They didn’t give a damn
Try to raise a family
End up an enemy
Over what went down on the Plains of Abraham

Acadian Driftwood – The Band

What’s in a name?

When I meet someone for the first time, I always greet them with a handshake, a smile and tell them my name is Kat (my preferred nickname) and at some point in the conversation I am probably going to tell you that I am of Acadian ancestry. Weird flex right?

Since I was little I was always told that I was Irish, Scottish, (insert pretty much the UK), and Acadian. Most people mishear the last part and question why I would say Canadian when its clear I am, but no, Acadian, like these people:

Source

The people that came from France back in the early 17th century! Then again, they don’t look any different from any other settler during that time…

But I was enthralled with this identity ever since I was little. While I was born in Kingston, my heart feels more at home in the Maritimes, where my family is from. The town where my parents come from is home to a lot of people with Irish ancestry and also Acadian. Next to the Canadian, Irish and New Brunswick flag, you sometimes see a flag that looks like this:

Simply the French flag with a golden start in the upper-left corner. I was obsessed. I learned briefly about the Acadians in elementary school when we talked about New France and the settling of Canada by the Europeans. But, I really had to learn about it from my family members or my own research. Knowing the history, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride that our culture, people and language are still present and thriving to this day. You tend to always feel like you’re part of the community when you visit the Maritimes, but the Acadian community just feels right, it feels like home.

But one day I questioned my identity, I talk about this part of myself so much, what if it wasn’t true? We have genealogical proof of my Scottish and Irish heritage, when my ancestors came to Canada. But, no one has really looked into the Acadian side. So, instead of doing work, I spent 5 hours on a Thursday afternoon searching through Ancestry to prove to my anxiety that I was indeed Acadian.

And.. I found out more than what I expected.


Genealogical Adventures

This isn’t the first time I’ve done genealogical research! Back in the summer of 2016 I had the chance to go with my aunt to help her collect data for her local genealogical chapter. She was definitely the one that got me interested in genealogy! While spending hours in a graveyard, in the dead heat of a Maritime summer wasn’t entirely pleasant (the bugs came for us with vengeance!), I did learn a lot.

I started with looking at obituaries from my grandmother’s hometown (she has the Acadian ancestry) and from there I explored Ancestry’s suggestions and other users’ family trees (yay for crowd-sourcing!) and was able to trace my ancestry back to the early 16th century in France. Now, without going to the archives in New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia or even in France, I can’t the accuracy of the tree 100%, but I feel confident in it, especially after speaking with my grandmother the other week who was able to confirm the names and dates up until a certain point.

As a side note, one of my ancestors according to ancestry looks to have been married to a man named Charles, but after digging through some of Ancestry’s records, Charles is actually a woman.

Jean Guyon was born in Normandy, which was one of the regions of France that Acadians can trace their roots back to. His daughter Marie was born in Poitou, another region Acadians were known to have come from. We know Jean Guyon and his family arrived in Quebec in 1634 which actually corresponds to the timeline of when many Acadians came over to settle the newly founded area. However, Guyon settled in Quebec. But it’s Marie who would actually move and marry Andree Bernard in a settlement known as Acadie. Thus, Marie and Andree raised a family in Port Royal.

My ancestors stayed in Port Royal for a few generations it seemed until an event known as the Le Grand Dérangement in 1755 drove them to move from the settlement they called home.


Le Grand Dérangement

The Acadian Expulsion or Le Grand Dérangement occurred in 1755 and lasted until roughly 1764 and the catalyst was the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. How could a treaty in 1713 only cause an expulsion 42 years later? The treaty made Acadians permanent British subjects and during the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763), Acadians were expected to pledge their allegiance to the British Crown, to which many refused and a year later, the British began to expel them from their homes. [1]

It seems during this expulsion my ancestors went to Quebec, Bonaventure to be exact, which is where many Acadians refugees in Quebec settled. [2] Joseph Bernard son of Marie and Andre died in Bonaventure as did his son and his daughter-in-law.

This information came as a surprise to me as I was always under the impression that once expelled from Acadie, my family fled to New Brunswick and that’s why we are there til this day. Acadians were expelled or fled to many different areas within Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Maine and more famously Louisiana (Cajuns are actually Acadians, if you hear Acadian said properly it actually sounds like Cajun which is where the name comes from!). It was a surprise to learn they ended up in Quebec, but historically, many Acadians did. Bonaventure is home to an Acadian Museum and is now on my travel bucket list.

In 1764 the British government allowed Acadians to return to Acadie. [3] But, it seems my family decided to make New Brunswick their home. Placide Poirier, my 6th great-grandfather was born in St. Basille, Madawaska, New Brunswick. Eventually my family settled in and around the Northumberland County to which my maternal grandparents still reside today (specifically Miramichi).

I am quite content with what I found and I feel that there is proof that I am Acadian and it would definitely be interesting to get more concrete evidence and be able to go through more records and be able to compile a true genealogy of my maternal grandmother’s Acadian ancestry.

But, the Acadian proof wasn’t the only thing I discovered. Take a gander:

One of my tenth great-grandfather’s is supposedly from the Azores, which I thought was pretty neat!


Final Thoughts

This is potentially a topic I might expand on for my final project, GIS mapping my family’s trek from France to Quebec to Acadie to Quebec again and finally to New Brunswick. It may be tough, but I think it would be really cool to be able to share this with my grandmother’s side of the family since no one has done a ton of genealogy on that side yet.

Finally, I was so happy when Heritage Minutes did a minute on the Acadian expulsion. Funnily enough it actually came out the day I moved to London, so I was in the back of the car, on the 407, crying. Take a gander, its really well done!

The only qualm I have with it, is the use of it being “their land” because the Acadians were just as much settlers as those in New France and the English and their isn’t mention of the Miꞌkmaq (who the Acadians had strong ties too). Perhaps someday I could use my public history skills to create another Heritage Minute that explores those relationships, but that is a discussion for another time.

I am going to end this blog post with a picture of a monument, dedicated to the Grand Upheaval. It’s located in a park called the Enclosure, which is recognized for being a site with ties to Acadians, the Scottish and the local Indigenous populations (with research showing that it has been used by the Indigenous population for more than 2000 years). [4] But the monument pictured below contains bricks, all with names engraved into them. A lot of my family members have their names engraved on bricks here. When you die, you can have a brick engraved with your name and laid next to your ancestors, recognizing your Acadian heritage, to which I hope happens when I pass on. It was a surreal experience to see the bricks and all the names of family members and others. The Enclosure in general is really cool as the settlement has been relatively preserved, but the potential mass Acadian burial site makes it also a little creepy to visit, especially with the decaying grave stones. [5]

There’s a lot I could discuss about my Acadian roots! Heck, I have even done linguistic research on Chiac a form of French spoken by some Acadians (it’s a mix of French and English, resembling how Spanglish is spoken). So, its evident how much I am intrigued by the history and community. But, that’s all for today!

Merci buckets!

~ Kat


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