Anyone with Acadian ancestors knows that the Acadian families were forcibly deported from Nova Scotia beginning in 1755 by the English military in retaliation for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the British king. This event was known as the Grand Derangement or Expulsion, along with other terms, I’m sure. You can read more about the expulsion, here, and view an Acadian timeline, here.
The expulsion began with the destruction of farms, burning of homes, and murder or “arrest” and deportment of the Acadian residents. Families were intentionally and cruelly separated, often permanently with no idea where other family members had been taken, or even if they were still alive. Questions about what happened to their family members and where they were taken haunted the survivors for the rest of their lives. It’s only through combing through historical records, and DNA of course, that we can post-humously reunite some of them today.
What Did Happen to the Acadians?
Many of the roughly 13,500 Catholic Acadians whose families had lived in this region for almost 150 years were simply killed outright.
Ships with captive Acadians were sent to the 13 American colonies, Britain, France, and the Caribbean. People were deposited a few at a time in unfamiliar places – broken and left at the mercy of people who didn’t want the burden of refugees who had nothing and couldn’t support themselves.
Other families hid in Quebec, where about one-fifth of those refugees died during a smallpox outbreak in the winter of 1757-1758.
Some found at least a temporary reprieve in New Brunswick or on Prince Edward Island.
Some hid in the woods among the Native Mi’kmaq people with whom they had a good relationship and in many cases, were related.
Another group found their way to little-known Camp d’Esperance where roughly one-third would perish from starvation.
A decade later, some families made their way to what is now Louisiana, founding the Cajun culture. Others melded into the communities where they found themselves or somehow, miraculously made their way to Quebec.
The Ancestor Hunt
For descendants, figuring out what happened to our ancestors during this period of upheaval is quite challenging.
- In some cases, we can trace our genealogical lines back to our ancestors were where they resettled a decade later. That’s how we discover we have Acadian ancestors.
- Sometimes we know who their parents were in Acadia – but we have no idea what happened to the rest of their family, or where they lived during the decade or so between 1755 and 1765.
- In other cases, we know who their parents were, but have no idea what happened to the ancestors found in Acadia. The trail simply goes cold which suggests they may have been killed or died during the 10+ years they were in exile.
- In yet other instances, we can only find one or a few of their children. Families were often scattered, so finding their children might not tell us where those ancestors were, assuming they lived past the original depredations. However, it might also be a breadcrumb.
It would be another decade before the Acadian families could resettle in other locations. Some returned to different portions of Canada. Some stayed where they were, and yet others set sail for new horizons like Louisiana.
If you’re thinking to yourself that Acadian genealogy is complex and confusing – you’d be right! Plus, there’s that same name thing going on along with those “dit” nicknames.
Let’s look at an example of tracing our way backward.
In one of my Acadian families, the parents were “remarried” by the priest after they eventually made their way to Ste. Marguerite de Blairfindie, a small village known as L’Acadie in Quebec.
Acadians were Catholic and didn’t have had access to a priest in “New England” where various records state that this family was living before arriving back in Canada.
The good news is that combing through the children’s records tells us that they were born in “New England.” The bad news is that not one record tells us where.
The parents’ records often tell us when they were born and sometimes identify their parents – allowing us to find their baptism records back in the Acadian homeland.
The Forgotten Refugees
One group of Acadian families left Nova Scotia, but settled, at least for a while, on the Miramichi River, north about 250 miles overland but much further by water. On the map below, today’s Annapolis Royal was Port Royal during the expulsion.
Recently, the blog of the Association des Acadiens-Metis Souriquois published an article accompanied by a list of known refugees who sought shelter to the north.
- “The Acadian Refugee Camp on the Miramichi, 1756-1761” by Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc (January, 2018)
- “List of Refugee Acadian Households at Camp Espérance on the Miramichi, 1756-1757,” appendix to “The Acadian Refugee Camp on the Miramichi, 1756-1761” by Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc English translation & glossary of place names by John Estano DeRoche, published with the author’s permission.
Please click here to view the article, list, and blog.
The first link is the historical article authored by Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc. I strongly recommend reading this well-written and heavily sourced paper if you have history anyplace in this region.
The second document lists households in index format for easy access. They are in alphabetical order, but searching with your browser search finds spouses surnames and such.
The group of Acadians who spent the winter, hungry and cold at Camp d’Esperance (Camp Hope) numbered about 1,700. About 400-500, including “all the (nursing) children,” perished due to the grim challenges they faced – the primary of which was food and shelter, followed by the scourge of smallpox that ravaged the survivors again the following year.
The Acadians and their Native allies ate moccasins, hides of deer, cattle, beaver, and dogs. The meat had already been consumed months earlier. They were down to anything that could be digested. Many still succumbed to starvation.
The winter of 1759-1760 ushered in another food shortage as severe as the winter of 1756-1757 had been.
This bay where the camp was located sure looks peaceful today. It was much different during those horrific winters.
In Acadian research, we have a saying, “If you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.” The Acadian community was founded by a small group of French families who settled on the Island of Nova Scotia beginning in 1603. They intermarried for the next 150 years, with each other, the local Native population, French families and soldiers who arrived later, and probably with a few English soldiers stationed at the fort.
Fortunately, for the most part, the Acadian families have been successfully reconstructed, thanks to Catholic church records, tax lists and some very dedicated researchers.
Karen Theriot Reader, a professional genealogist, has compiled an extensive genealogy, complete with sources, and made it free to all researchers on Geneanet, here.
You can find Y DNA and mitochondrial information about Acadian ancestors at the Acadian Amerindian project at FamilyTreeDNA, here. One of our goals is to document each Acadian paternal Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA line. Both of those are critical to identifying which ancestors are Native American. For European ancestors, these tests help track the lines back to their origins overseas.
If you don’t carry the Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA of Acadian ancestors, that’s fine. We want to reunite all Acadian descendants. Everyone, males and females, can take the Family Finder test or transfer an autosomal test from another vendor and join the project. Please do! You probably have lots of cousin matches waiting!
Creating a Chart
I created a chart of my known Acadian ancestors who would have been alive in 1755 when the expulsion began or born during the shadow decade or two following the expulsion. I completed as much as I know about where they lived in Nova Scotia, during the deportation purgatory decade (or so), and where they resettled later.
The deported Acadians would not have traveled directly to L’Acadie up the St. Lawrence River as drawn on the map above. They were first deported to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and other places further south. I added reference locations on the map that are mentioned in the chart, below.
Please note that my research is not extensive, so I recommend confirming this information if these are your ancestors too.
After completing the chart, I then checked to see if they are on the Camp d’Esperance list.
Note that Acadia means someplace in the Acadian region on or near Nova Scotia, but the exact location is unknown. L’Acadie, noted as a resettlement area, is slightly southeast of Montreal and about 25 miles north of the Vermont border.
|Name||Birth-Death||Comment||Nova Scotia||Deportation Location||Resettlement Location|
|Jacques dit LaMontagne Lord (Lore, Laure, L’Or)||1678-1786||Born Port Royal, NS, died Nicolet, Quebec||Port Royal||New York in 1755||Quebec about 1766|
|Marie Charlotte Bonnevie||1706-1758||Born Port Royal, died at sea, married to Jacques Lord||Port Royal||Died at sea (I can’t help but wonder where they were taken from and to in 1758.)|
|Francoise dit d’Azy Mius||Circa 1683-?||Born Acadia, mother Native, death unknown, mother of Marie Bonnevie||Port Royal||Unknown, death not shown before 1755|
|Honore Lord||1742-1818||Born Port Royal, died St. Luc Parish, Quebec, father of Honore Lord born 1766||Port Royal||Married c 1765 in New England, possibly New York||St. Our, Quebec before 1771|
|Appoline dit Hippolyte Garceau||1742-1788||Born Port Royal, died L’Acadie, married to Honore Lord born 1742||Port Royal||Married c 1765 New England||St. Our Quebec before 1771|
|Daniel Garceau||1707-1772||Born Port Royal, died Yamachiche, Quebec, father of Appoline Garceau||Port Royal||Apparently, New England where Lore family was living||Yamachiche, Quebec, probably before 1768|
|Anne dit Jeanne Doucet||1713-1791||Born Port Royal, died Sorel, Quebec, married to Daniel Garceau||Port Royal||Apparently New England||St. Our, Quebec before 1771|
|Rene dit Laverdure Doucet||Circa 1678-?||Born Port Royal, death unknown, father to Anne Doucet||Port Royal||Unknown death not shown before 1755|
|Marie Anne Broussard||Jan 1686 – ?||Born Port Royal, death unknown, married to Rene Doucet||Port Royal||Unknown death not shown before 1755|
|Honore Lord||1766-1834||Born New England, died L’Acadie, father of Antoine Lord (Lore)||New England||New England||St. Ours by 1771, then L’Acadie by 1777|
|Marie Lafaille||1767-1836||Born New England, died L’Acadie, married 1789 L’Acadie, to Honore Lord born 1766||New England||New England||L’Acadie by 1788
|Francois Lafaille (Lafaye, Lafay)||1744-1824||Born Acadia, died L’Acadie, father of Marie Lafaille||Acadia?, parents unknown||Pledged their troth on Nov. 10, 1767, in the colonies||L’Acadie by 1788 when children baptized by a priest|
|Marguerite Forest (LaForest, DeForet, Foret, Forais)||1748-1819||Married to Francois Lafaille 1767, remarried in 1792 in L’Acadie by a priest, died in L’Acadie, married to Francois Lafaille||Port Royal||Pledged their troth on Nov. 10, 1767, in the colonies||L’Acadie by 1788 when children baptized by a priest|
|Jacques Forest||1707-?||Born Port Royal, death unknown, father to Marguerite Forest||Port Royal||In 1763 on Connecticut census|
|Marie Joseph LePrince||1715-?||Born Port Royal, married in 1734, death unknown, married to Jacques Forest||Port Royal||Husband on 1763 Connecticut census|
|Jean LePrince||Circa 1692-after 1752||Born in Acadia, died after July 3, 1752, father of Marie Joseph LePrince||Acadia||Unknown, died after July 3, 1752|
|Jeanne Blanchard||Circa 1681-?||Born Port Royal, possibly deceased Port Royal, married to Jean Leprince||Port Royal||Unknown, may have died in Port Royal|
Please note that the people listed as born in “Port Royal” were baptized there. They could have been born elsewhere. I know the priests did travel, but I don’t know how extensively, or how often.
Well, crumb, none of my ancestors are on the Camp d’Esperance list. However, I should check their children or siblings who aren’t my ancestors – especially if their siblings/children were old enough to be married.
Clearly, my ancestors might have been separated from the rest of their family, but then again, maybe not. Gathering every shred of evidence is always a good thing and the effort is never wasted – even negative evidence. Now I at least know where they weren’t.
What about you? Do you have Acadian ancestors? Where were your ancestors during and after Le Grand Derangement? Are they found at Camp d’Esperance?
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