Word to the wise: today's Thursday Thirteen is mammoth in size and scope!
I really enjoy researching my family history. Being descended from Acadians has made this incredibly easy, since a cultural tragedy which happened to my ancestors resulted in most Acadians spending generations searching for one another after the Expulsion in 1755. Acadians refer to the Expulsion as Le Grand Derangement, or 'The Great Disturbance'.
For non-Nova Scotians, the Acadians were the original French settlers of Atlantic Canada, starting in the early 1600's. They attempted to remain neutral while Britain and France battled over dominance in North America in the 1700's.
Because they refused to swear allegiance to the British crown, they were split up, family from family, neighbor from neighbor and deported to the New England colonies. The plan was to assimilate them into English culture. "Numbering some 12,000 to 18,000 total, only 6,000 to 7,000 Acadians were actually expelled on British ships, the remainder fleeing to neighboring regions." - Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture
For the next two generations, the Acadians did nothing but search for their families and attempt to return home to Acadia (modern-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.) In the early 1800's official word finally allowed the Acadians safe return, though not to their original towns which had been resettled by English Loyalists. Many families took up the offer and started new Acadian towns which flourish today, where my ancestors at last called home. By the 1800's however, many displaced families had established themselves all along the eastern seaboard of the United States, most famously in Louisiana. These are the Cajuns (Acadians) whose melting-pot bayou culture became distinct unto itself.
May I now introduce you to 13 of the people in my family tree that collectively figure in the person I am today:
1 - Philippe Mius d'Entremont (maternal grandmother's side) - In 1653 at age 44, the grandson of a former Admiral of France set sail for the New World. Sometimes called Sieur de Landremont, this title of gentlemanly respect indicates he hailed from the northeast of France in the Cherbourg Lorraine region, near the Meuse river. Philippe is also thought to be Francois-Virgine d'Entremont who had to flee from the clutches of Cardinal Richelieu, Minister of State to King Louis XIII. Philippe's grandfather, the Admiral, had been killed by the order of Catherine de' Medici during a massacre she instigated known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. That's when a wave of Catholic mob violence erupted against the Huguenots (Calvinist Protestants.)
Philippe Mius d'Entremont
Once in the New World, Philippe served as a military aid to Governor Charles de la Tour. He was given a barony in southwest Nova Scotia, in the area now known as Pubnico (for those of you following "Canadian Idol", the hometown of singer Dwight d'Eon.) Pubnico is a derivation of the native name for the area, Pobomcoup, meaning 'a place where holes have been made through the ice to fish.' He married Madeleine Helie de Thillet, also originally from Cherbourg, France, and lived well into his 90's. This is my grandmother's line, and she's 92!
2 - An unknown Mi'kmaq woman (maternal grandmother's side) - late 1600's
Daughter-in-law to Philippe Mius d'Entremont, she married his third son, Philippe d'Azy Mius. I find this woman endlessly fascinating. Will I ever find out her true name? There's not even the ever-popular 'Marie', often given to Mi'kmaq wives of French settlers. What I do know is that several men descending from that line have served as Band Chief for the Bear River First Nation in Nova Scotia. This includes current Chief Frank Meuse Jr. (pictured below) who is also descended from Philippe d'Azy Mius and his Mi'kmaq wife.
Watercolor of a Mi'kmaq Woman by Mary R. McKie (scroll down slightly for graphic)
What did she think of the French and their Catholicism? Did she relate to the figure of Mary when the Mi'kmaq think of the earth as the Great Mother? What did her husband think of her own Mi'kmaq spiritual practises? Did the smudging ceremonies with sweet grass remind him of the priest waving the incense in church? Since the Meuse line from this union remained strongly Mi'kmaq, I have a feeling her husband was the one to embrace her life, rather than the other way around.
Together they had 6 children, 4 boys and 2 girls.
3 - Roger Casey (paternal grandfather's side) - This ancestor was the first among my big surprises. My dad's family is from Quebec, but research into the Caissie side showed me that some of my Quebec ancestors were in fact Acadians who found sanctuary with the Quebequois.
Roger Casey was born about 1646 in Ireland and arrived in Acadia somewhere around 1665. "He is said to have been an Irish prisoner of the British who jumped ship while at Port Royal. So whether Roger came to Acadia as a prisoner or crewmember who elected to stay is subject to debate." (source: Vincent Caissie) I personally believe he must have been a press-ganged crew member who saw his chance when his ship stopped for provisions and made a break for it. It would be difficult for a true prisoner to escape but possible for a determined sailor to slip away.
In several census lists taken in the late 17th century by the British, Roger Casey's name is variably spelled Caissie, Caissy, Quessy, Casey or Kuessy. He married Marie Francoise Poirier, ten years his junior about 1668 in Port Royal, now present day Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. Port Royal boasted 68 families when Roger moved his young family along with a group of other Acadians to a new settlement at Beaubassin, in present day Sackville, New Brunswick/Amherst, Nova Scotia area. Here is a photo taken of the area known as Butte a Roger where he made his home.
Considering the census figures for 1680, Roger had the fourth most prosperous farm in terms of livestock and fields cultivated. He had a grove of thirty fruit trees which I love thinking about, as I have a deep love for flowering trees myself. Of course mine is strictly aesthetic - I'm sure his was more practical.
His relationship with his wife is perhaps characterized by this documented observation: "what 'Roger had promised yesterday, today she was un-promising it.' (source: Vincent Caissie) His last appearance in census data is 1715. He does not appear in 1730 documentation. So he lived at least into his 70's in the home he made for himself when he made that decision to reject the king's shilling and take up the plow in the New World.
4 - Germain Doucet (maternal grandfather's side) - Born about 1595, he was a native of Couperans-en-Brie, France. Germain Doucet dit Laverdure ('dit' means 'called') arrived in Acadia in 1632 aboard one of two ships, the St-Jehan and the Esperance-en-Dieu. He served as Captain of Arms for Commander Isaac de Razilly and Charles de Menou d'Aulnay.
He brought his young family with him, including his wife, Marguerite, son Pierre and daughter Louise-Marguerite. My ancestor was their younger brother Germain II, born nine years later in Acadia.
Germain served as captain of the fort at Pentagoet, located in modern-day Maine. The fledgling French foothold in the New World was contested several times by English attacks out of Boston. But the settlers persisted and flourished.
Finally in August 1654, after 20 years in the New World, Germain was forced to surrender the fort to Robert Sedgewick when the force out of Boston caught the Acadians outnumbered 5-1. All military officers were sent home to France, but Germain's children, who had grown up and lived most of their lives in Acadia, elected to stay with the new settlement. When his ship sailed, that was the last he saw of his family.
Remember Philippe Mius d'Entremont, fleeing France and Cardinal Richelieu? Ironically, the commander Germain served - Razilly - was the cousin of Richelieu. After the English took Acadia, it was given back to the French and a new man sent out to oversee the young French king's interests. Louis XIV had been a child when Acadia was first settled, with political decisions still made by his guardians. The man replacing Germain's governor was someone sent by a maturing monarch - and a bitter rival of Acadia's first governor. These two ancestors of mine - Germain Doucet and Philippe Mius d'Entremont - served similar military posts for two arch enemies!
5 - Jeanne Trahan (paternal grandmother's side) - Born in St-Germain-de-Bourgueil in the Loire region of France in 1631, Jeanne was the daughter of Guillaume and Francoise Trahan, two of the original settlers to step off the ships along with Germain Doucet. Jeanne crossed the sea as a babe in arms, growing up as Acadia was built around her from the trees felled and hewn by her father and the other pioneers. Eventually her father became head of the local council for Port Royal, the village they created.
Jeanne was married at the early age of 13 in 1643 to a prominent man in the community, Jacques Bourgeois, ten years her senior. He was the surgeon to Governor Charles d'Aulnay and brother-in-law to Germain Doucet. Jacques set up a flour mill which was pivotal to their community, plus handled coastal shipping and trading with the Mi'kmaq.
They had 10 children, 3 boys and 7 girls. By the census of 1671 she lived on a homestead with 33 cattle and 24 sheep.
She and her husband were doing well enough to give her daughter and new husband 11 cattle and 6 sheep to set up their life together. According to a report made by Sieur de Villebon sent to Count Pontchartrain in France in 1699, "the women, they are always busy, and most of them keep their husbands and children in serviceable linen materials and stockings which they make skillfully from the hemp they have grown and the wool produced by their sheep." Jeanne must have been proud in her later years to see how the village she helped create had grown to 81 families. She last appears on the 1693 census at age 64. Such a strong, resourceful woman she must have been.
'Before Milking' by Horatio Walker, from scenes of historic rural Quebec
6 - Marie Christine Aubois (paternal grandmother's side) - Born about 1665 in a Mi'kmaq encampment called Quicnakagan close to the newly settled Port Royal in Acadia.
By 1632 when the French began to settle in earnest, there was already a 20-year history between the Mi'kmaq and earlier French explorers. In fact an agreement with the Vatican had been signed in 1610 through Jesuit activity in the area. It affirmed the Mi'kmaq right to choose Catholicism, Mi'kmaq tradition, or both. A Mi'kmaq named Pesamoet spent a year living in France where he realized a large number of French people would soon be settling in Acadia. The Mi'kmaq determined to form good relations with them, accepting the Catholic religion and taking St. Anne as their patron saint. A chapel in her name had been established for 50 years near Port Royal by the time Marie Christine married Jean Roy dit Laliberte in 1684.
He arrived in 1671 at the age of 23, but spent the first 13 years establishing himself as many of the male settlers did. He worked as a fisherman for ten of those years before setting up his own farm.
In most of the early Acadian marriages, the groom was in his 30's while the bride was in her late teens, as is the case with Marie and Jean. Because the Capucin brothers had established a school at LaHave for Mi'kmaq children, Marie would likely have been able to interact easily with the French settlers in Port Royal. Compared to early records in Quebec, where Europeans married natives, and their native names are recorded, in Acadia the native names are always replaced with a European name like Marie. This means the French were absorbing the Mi'kmaq into their culture, rather than the frequent Quebec or American West counterpart of European settlers being absorbed into native culture.
Marie Christine and Jean had 9 children, 5 boys and 4 girls.
Birch bark and porcupine quillwork cradle by native Mary Christianne Morris
7 - Honore Boucher dit Villedieu (maternal grandmother's side) - Born in 1716 in Grande Pre, still so named in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. He was the son of Pierre-Jereme Boucher, who moved his family from Quebec to Ile Royale, present day Cape Breton in order to work as a supervising engineer, cartographer and draftsman at the Fortress of Louisbourg.
Port Toulouse, also known as the parish of St-Pierre, was a favored Mi'kmaq encampment near the fortress where migrating Acadians from the mainland joined them. By 1752, 36-year-old Honore lived there with his wife Marie Anne La Sonde, 24. They had two sons and one daughter: Belloni, 8; Marie Joseph, 4; and Jean, 2 (from whom I'm descended). They had two oxen, two cows and four fowl. Their house was on his mother’s Hebert homestead. Port Toulouse was a thriving community of 225 people before the Expulsion orders began on the Acadian mainland.
Three years after the Acadians had been driven from renamed Nova Scotia, the French at Louisbourg maintained an irritating presence in British North America. This was ultimately crushed by the Seige of Louisbourg. On July 26, 1758 the star-shaped stronghold fell after a forty-six day siege to Generals Jeffery Amherst and James Wolfe, and Admiral Boscawen. Thousands of Acadians at Louisbourg and Ile St. Jean (present-day Prince Edward Island) were deported to northern France.
Honore, Marie Anne and their children were able to travel as a family, unlike the Acadians three years earlier. The British thought of Acadians as French citizens and shipped the residents of Louisbourg to St. Malo, France, even though by 1758 most families deported were three or four generations in the New World. Some Acadians escaped during the confusion of boarding the vessels, disappearing into the woods where they were aided by their Mi'kmaq allies. Many others were dragged onboard the vessels.
Nine transport ships embarked together for France, but were soon scattered by a three-day storm which sank several ships and took an estimated 1300 lives. The remainder of the three-month voyage was an endurance test: 300 people or more crowded into a space where only half of the passengers could lie down shoulder to shoulder. Their rations consisted mainly of bread, water and flour. They lacked sufficient clothing for an Atlantic voyage in the middle of the winter. Not surprisingly, outbreaks of smallpox erupted. Somehow, Honore and his family sailed into St. Malo at last along with 2,200 other exiles in November of 1758.
Honore lived his remaining days in France. For the next 20 years a steady influx of Acadian exiles brought news from abroad. The French population was sympathetic and helpful to their Acadian cousins, but the greater percentage of exiles or their descendents returned to North America when it became possible. By 1802 Jean-Felixte Boucher, Honore's grandson had once again made the Atlantic crossing, returning to Acadia and marrying my grandmother's great-great-grandmother in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. This is where my grandmother's people come from.
8 - Marguerite Johnson (paternal grandmother's side) - Listed as born in 1787 in Carlton, Quebec, with the last name of Johnson there is a great possiblity that she was associated with an orphaned child, somewhere in her family line, brought to Canada by Irish parents who died aboard ship. Many Irish children were taken in by French Canadian families. By the time Mademoiselle Johnson married into a French family, she must have comfortably identified herself as French Quebequois.
On August 11, 1817 in Carleton, Quebec she married 4th generation Acadian Thomas Felicien Roy, the great-grandson of Marie Christine Aubois and Jean Laliberte Roy (#6). Thomas was grieving his first wife Marie-Josephte Godin, who died in her early 40's soon after their 10th and last child was born. Margeurite's new husband must have had an indomitable spirit. Essentially he'd been born in captivity as his parents were among the Acadians rounded up during the Expulsion.
Thomas is listed as having been born in Halifax, and his father is on the record books as a prisoner held at George's Island along with his family. My co-workers and I sailed past George's Island on a Halifax Harbour cruise a few weeks ago. I grew up in Halifax and never once heard about Acadians being held on George's Island - I only discovered this by doing my family history research.
Thomas eventually managed to find his way to Quebec, where his second marriage began at age 55. Marguerite and Thomas went on to have 6 children together. Along with the 10 children from his first marriage, there's a difference of 48 years between Thomas's oldest son Joseph and his youngest son, Francois-Xavier!
"Habitants" by Cornelius Kriegoff
Rural Quebequois are called Habitants in French
9 - Magdeleine Aucoin (maternal grandfather's side) - Born in 1776 into the displaced generation, Magdeleine was the 6th of 9 children of Pierre and Felicite Aucoin.
Painting 'Arrival of the Acadians in England' by Robert Dafford
Her parents were deported from the Memeramkook area of Acadia, west of present-day Sackville, New Brunswick. They somehow managed to survive a smallpox epidemic that kept them from landing at the first port they were taken, Williamsburg, Virginia. Sent from there to England, Magdaleine's oldest brother was born in Southampton, where the Aucoin family were held as prisoners of war with other exhausted Acadians. France eventually agreed to take the Acadians off of England's hands, and Magdeleine was born in their new refugee settlement in St. Malo, France. Her parents and most likely the older siblings struggled to support their family, taking any work the French citizens didn't want or performing peasant labor in the French countryside.
In 1803, at the rather mature age in those days of 27, Magdeleine married Louis Doucet, 6 generations descended from Germain Doucet(#4). His family had followed the Aucoin's journey as well, first to Southampton, England, then to St. Malo. Finally receiving word that Nova Scotia would no longer turn away Acadian exiles, Magdeleine and Louis found passage to the former Ile Royale, renamed Cape Breton, where they were recorded in the 1809 census. Both of them were 'returning' to a land they knew only through their parent's stories. Their new settlement was called Le Platin near Cheticamp. This is where my grandfather's people are from. Magdeleine went on to have 10 children, 4 boys and 6 girls, including a set of twins as her last born. Surprise!
Painting 'Acadians at Liverpool' by Robert Dafford / Photo of reinactors in Cape Breton
10 - Hypolite Philippe (paternal grandfather's side) - Born on May 16, 1821, Hypolite was the son of Paul and Marie-Louise Philippe of Carleton, Quebec.
Family folklore gave our earliest Philippe ancestor as Hypolite's great-great-grandfather, a retired French soldier who settled on Ile St. Jean (present-day Prince Edward Island) in the mid-1700's. After the Expulsion, the Philippe line made their way through New Brunswick to the Gaspe area of Quebec along the Bay de Chaleur.
Photo of Perce Rock, Gaspe, Quebec
Hypolite was the 4th generation of Philippe's to grow up in Carleton, Quebec. The second of 11 siblings, he helped his father and brothers logging and trapping in the dense forests.
He married Victorienne LeBlanc on November 9th, 1847 when he was 26 years old. They settled into their own homestead, keeping animals to serve the needs of the family but focusing mainly on logging, trapping, hunting and fishing. Hypolite was expected to pay a tithe for the priest and the upkeep of the church, and paid one bag of flour in fourteen for use of the village mill. After the frozen winter nights, Hypolite and his family looked forward to the maple sugar season in March and April. --Painting 'The Last Road' by F.S. Coburn
This always included a feast made of ham, pea soup, baked beans, meat pie and stacks of pancakes covered in maple syrup. Fiddle music and dancing filled his home with laughter as he and Victorienne went on to have their own large family.
11 - Arthemise Deveau (maternal grandfather's side) - Born on March 20, 1887, Arthemise was the daughter of Charles and Philomene Deveau of Cheticamp.
Settled at the end of the 18th century, this Cape Breton village appealed to the returning Acadians for its remote location away from the nearest English towns. It had also long been used by Basque fishermen, who set up camps there dating from the 1500's. By the time Arthemise was born she was the 4th generation of Acadians to call Cheticamp home.
Her family likely worked in some way for the Robin family who owned the fishery. She may also have participated in rug hooking, Cheticamp's most distinctive cottage industry. Her son Charles, my grandfather, was an exceptional rug hooker. On July 14, 1908 she married Simon Doucet, after the death of his first wife. Arthemise had 6 children with Simon, 4 boys and 2 girls. Traditional Cheticamp recipes she would have prepared for her family include fish cakes, fish chowder and potato pancakes (all dishes my grandmother made frequently.)
Arthemise died of childbed fever in the early 1920's, when my grandfather was only 6. This is the only picture he ever had to remember his mother by. I wonder if it figured in his choice of career as a portrait photographer.
12 - Anne Charlotte Landry (maternal grandmother's side) - Born on November 15, 1845, she went by the name of Charlotte. French Catholics, I've discovered, put their 'second' name first, referred to as the saint's name. She married Jean Thomas Muise, called Thomas, of course. Her husband was the 7th generation descended from Philippe Mius d'Entremont (#1.)
Thomas and Charlotte set up their farm in the Tusket area of Yarmouth County. She had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Her two oldest sons became fishermen, as the area only offers subsistance farming but magnificent fishing. Her daughters and grandchildren were very musical, so she may have been the one to pass this along.
Photograph titled 'L'Ardoise' by Clara Dennis shows an early 1900's French Shore farm in Nova Scotia from the NS Archive online collection
A unique Acadian dish well-known in the area would have been one of Charlotte's frequent dinners to prepare for her family - Rappe Pie (pronounced roppie.) She lived to be at least 80 years old. Charlotte would have been the first generation to see wideswept changes in the way women lived their lives. As a girl, she would have helped her mother gather wool, make it into cloth and sew clothes for the family. As a grandmother, she would have seen motorcars and telegraphs, and would have heard of aeroplanes.
13 - Ignace Ratte (paternal grandmother's side) - Born on October 2, 1888, in Restigouche, northern New Brunswick across the Bay de Chaleur from Gaspe, Quebec.
The Ratte's (pronounced 'rattie' or 'rattay') are not an Acadian line, they're descended from a French ancestor who arrived in New France (now Quebec.) I haven't traced this line all the way back yet. Ignace's marriage unites the two sides of my dad's lineage, the side that migrated north to safety from Acadia, and the side that migrated south from Quebec to northern New Brunswick. For example, Ignace's wife was a Roy (remember Jean Roy dit LaLiberte/#6?) Who knew?
Ignace married Alexandrine Roy in 1906. They had 11 children, one of whom was my grandmother who currently lives in Michigan. She is now 84 years old. My dad remembered really enjoying his visits to Grandpa Ratte's, not wanting the visit to end. So I'll finish my journey through time at Grandpa Ratte's doorstep.
'Wood-cutters' by Horatio Walker
Here are a few lines from a poem marking the flight of the Acadians through the eyes of a fictional couple, Evangeline and Gabriel:
" Half-way down to the shore Evangeline waited in silence,
Not overcome with grief, but strong in the hour of affliction --
Calmly and sadly waited, until the procession approached her,
And she beheld the face of Gabriel pale with emotion.
Tears then filled her eyes, and, eagerly running to meet him,
Clasped she his hands, and laid her head on his shoulder and whispered --
'Gabriel! be of good cheer! for if we love one another,
Nothing, in truth, can harm us, whatever mischances may happen!' "
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 'Evangeline'
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Word to the wise: today's Thursday Thirteen is mammoth in size and scope!