I discovered my Acadian family line nearly 20 years ago with the revelation of one single word – Blairfindie. Sometimes all you really need is one word. The right word, followed by a LOT of digging.
I’ve chased so many wild hares as a genealogist that I’m now surprised when one actually does pan out.
The Loyalty Petition
In 2008, somehow, I heard a rumor that there was a 1695 loyalty petition of the Acadians that was archived in Massachusetts. Massachusetts? How would it have gotten there? Retained by someone after they were deported, perhaps?
I doubted the petition actually existed, but I wrote to find out anyway.
Does the fact that this document was carefully guarded and included with someone’s meager possessions when they had literally no room on the 1755 deportation ships represent hope that the loyalty petition might yet save them? Would it say to their deporters, “See, we were always loyal? Our ancestors swore allegiance 65 years ago. Let us go home.”
I wish I knew. It was clearly viewed as important. Based on who signed, it probably came from Port Royal, having been renamed Annapolis Royal after being British captured by the British in 1710.
One of my goals is always to find the signatures of my ancestors. The Acadians are particularly difficult because many of the church and other records no longer exist, so any signature is quite rare indeed.
Even if they don’t sign with an actual signature, instead making their mark, you know that “mark” is their signature and they physically made it, then and there. It may be the only tangible thing left of them, except perhaps for fragments of their DNA carried by their descendants.
Consequently, you know whether they did or did not know how to read and write.
You can speculate about how they learned to read and write, perhaps through their church, or why they didn’t.
You know who they stood with when signing this pledge that was given with the fervent hope of avoiding issues and remaining neutral in conflicts between the British Empire and France. Canada and the maritime territories were prize possessions in the wars, but to the Acadians, it was simply home. They didn’t want trouble, simply to co-exist peacefully.
Rest assured that the topic of signing this pledge was hotly debated, probably ad nauseum. No one knew what the future held nor the best course of action. I’m sure there were as many differing opinions as there were people.
The English were opportunists, neighbors to the south with whom the Acadians traded, legally or otherwise, and Protestant. Yes, that relationship was complex.
The Catholics wanted absolutely nothing LESS than to be forced to become Protestant, as had occurred in England beginning with the reign of Henry VIII and becoming worse during Queen Elizabeth’s reign in the second half of the1500s. They were afraid if they pledged loyalty to England that they would be forced to adopt the Protestant religion and be conscripted into the English war machine to fight their French brethren in Canada.
The European wars were reflected in battles, skirmishes, and raids in Acadia, colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. The Acadian answer was to attempt to remain neutral by not fighting FOR anyone.
The Acadians were continuously embroiled in some sort of conflict, most of it not of their own making and almost all of it out of their control or even sphere of influence.
In 1690, the English once again plundered Acadia, killing people and livestock and burning farms.
The Acadians agreed to sign a loyalty oath in order to diffuse the situation and not be viewed as “the enemy.” Not everyone signed, especially not men and families in the more remote areas and outposts. Omission doesn’t necessarily mean noncompliance or opposition. It may simply imply distance. Furthermore, not every signature is legible.
I wrote to the Massachusetts State Archives requesting a copy of this document in 2008. I shared it with other researchers at the time, but now I’m sharing it with all Acadian researchers.
The outside of the petition bears the date of August 1695.
The signatures are contained on one page.
Wee do swear and sincerely promise that wee will be faithfull and bear true allegiance to his Majesty King William King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland.
So helpe us God.
Written in both English and French, courtesy of Christophe.
Nous jurons et sinserment (= sincèrement) promettons
que nous serons fidelle (=fidèle) et porterons vraye (=vraie)
alégeance (=allégeance) à sa maiesté (=majesté) le Roy Guillaume
Roy Dangleterre Décosse (d’Angleterre, d’Ecosse) France et
Ainsy Dieu nous aide.
Note, “marque de” translates to “mark of,” meaning they could not sign their name and instead made their mark.
I had difficulty reading some of these names, so if you can decipher something I did not, or transcribed incorrectly, or know your ancestor to be on this list, please comment on the blog by column and number, and I’ll update the entry.
- Additional information, not contained on the original list, which is provided here, is contained in parenthesis following the person’s name. Please see the comments for more details.
- Courtesy of Karen Theroit Reader, I’m adding the birth and death dates in parenthesis. These dates are clearly NOT in the original document. You can view Karen’s extensive and documented Acadian tree here. Please also see her comments.
- Also, please view the comments by Mark Deutsch for essential context, including that these oaths were not voluntary and were taken in 1690, not 1695. There is additional discussion about this topic and circumstances that are critical to Acadian history.
- Thank you to Christophe from France for assistance with both language and script translation and interpretation.
- Lucie LeBlanc Consentino added some comments on the DNAexplain Facebook page, so I’ll incorporate some of those here as well. Her list appears to have come from here and does add some valuable information, such as dit names, but contains omissions has some challenges as well. Since it’s in alpha order, we sometimes can’t correlate to the signatures.
- It’s also interesting to note that while the names morphed over time and have been standardized to some extent today, the people who signed their own names clearly spelled it “correctly” for themselves at that time. When there is a question about what they actually signed, I’ve included possibilities suggested by experts.
- Thank you to everyone who has contributed. There is such power in collaboration. Please see the comments for additional valuable genealogy information.
- Always remember to research carefully and check original documents when possible. We are all human and make mistakes:)
- Allexandre Richard (1668-1709)
- John Bostorash? (x) La Marque (now Bastarache) (1658-1733, Karen Theroit reports that Stephen A. White (SAW from here forward) has standardized the name to Bastarache)
- Louis Petit, missionnaire faisant les fonctions curiales au Port Royal (the missionary acting as parish priest at Port Royal – see comments)
- Etmanuel Le Bourgnes (possibly Borgnes) (Emmanuel Le Borgue 1676-before 1717, Karen things the other “things” are flourishes to his signature) (Lucie – Le Borgne de Bélisle – the recently deceased seigneur’s son)
- Charles Mellanson (Milanson?)
- Mathieu Martin (1636-bef 1725)
- Margue de (mark) Claude Terriot (1637-1725)
- Marque de (mark) Daniel Le Blanc
- Marque de (mark) Etienne Pellerin
- Pierre Lanoue
- Pierre Commeaux +(mark) (Per Karen, SAW uses Comeau) (Pierre le Jeune Comeau per Lucie ) le jeune translates to “the young”
- Jean Labat (Lucie – dit Le Marquis) – this one is very difficult as it’s under the fold line
- Marque de (+) Germain Savoye (Savoye 1654-after 1729) (Lucie – Savoie)
- Marque de (+) Jacob Girouer (possibly meant to be Girouard) (1621-1693 – SAW uses Girouard) (from Christophe – prononcer Girouère=Giroir=Girouard)
- Bonaventure (+) Terriot (1641-1731)
- Marque de (mark) Pierre le Celier (1647-1710 – SAW uses Cellier)
- Marque de (+) Pierre Godet
- Marque de (P) Guillaume Blanchard
- Marque de (t) Jean Belliveau (1652-1734) (from Christophe – à cette époque les U et les V s’écrivaient de la même manière)
- Illegible between above and below names but does not look to be a name. Karen indicates that she does not feel this is a name given the tight spacing above and below. I’m leaving this number because I feel it’s relevant to future researchers who may question this.
- Marque de Pierre Tibaudeau (1631-1704 – SAW uses Thibodeau)
- Martin (+) Blanchard (1647-after1718)
- Marque de (+) Charles Robichaux (Lucie – dit Cadet”
- Marque de (+) Bernard Bourg (1648-?)
- Jean (+) Corporon
- Alexandre (+) Girouer (1761-1744) (Christophe Griouer = Girouard)
- Marque de (mark) du Puelt (du Puit – 1637-after 1700 – SAW uses DuPuis) (du Puest per Christophe)
- Pierre Guillebaud (Guillebau – 1639-1703 – SAW uses Guilbeau)
- Marque de (+) Pierre Sibilau (1675-before 1703)
- Claude Gaidry (1648-after 1723 – SAW uses Guedry) (Christophe – possibly Guidry)
- Giraud (+) Guerin (Jerome Guerin – about 1665-after 1751)
- Jullién Lor
- Marque de (mark) Pierre Commeaux
- Marque de (mark) Emanuel Hebert
- Marque de (mark) Jean Commeaux
- Marque de (o) Etienne Commeaux
- Marque de (+) Martin Bourg
- Marque de (LA) de Louis Alin (1654-1737 SAW uses Allain)
- Abraham Bourg
- Marque de (+) Jean Babinot (Babineau per Lucie, here at Babinot)
- Marque (+) de Jacques Leger (1663-1751) (Lucie – dit La Rosette)
- Marque de (mark) Francois Broussard (1653-1716) (Christophe – Preullard?)
- (partly illegible) Marque de (+) Pierre Martin
- Alexandre Bourg (1671-1760) (Lucie – dit Bellehumeur, nephew of Abraham Bourg)
- Marque (P) de Jacques Triel (1646-before 1700) (Lucie – dit Laperrière)
- Pierre (+) Landry
- Claude (C mark) Landry
- Jacques (+) Michel
- Martin (O) Richard
- Francois (J or F) Robin (1643-1706 – Karen thinks his mark is an F instead of a J, Christoph interprets as J)
- Claude (+) Dugats
- Pierre (+) Doucet sa marque
- René de Forest (1670-1751 – SAW uses “(de) FOREST”)
- Claude Petitpas
- Denis Petitot (dit Saint-Seine, born about 1662)
- Prudent Robichaux (1669-1756)
- Lourans Grangé (mark) sa marque (1643-about 1701)
- Laurens Doucet
- Bernard Godet
- John Faudel (mark) (his) marque (Fardel/Fredelle, 1643-after 1700) (Christophe – possibly Paucett?) (Lucie – an Englishman whose wife was a Gaudet)
In total, 61 men who were heads of households representing families signed the loyalty oath.
Here’s a second, lighter copy that may help with some signatures. Please feel free to download both.
Four of my ancestors signed this oath, two with their mark and two signed.
Guillaume Blanchard and Pierre Doucet signed with their marks
René de Forest signed his name, although I couldn’t decipher his signature. (Thanks Karen.) I love this man’s R. I should practice and adopt it!
Jullién Lor signed his name, but it’s more than just a name…
Jullién Lor signed his name at the bottom of the second column, giving us a huge clue as to his heritage. In fact, I’d say he secretly gave us the answer.
Can you spot the clue?
First, although there was no standardized spelling at the time, we know he spelled his surname Lor, not Lord as was later recorded, nor Lore, Laur, or any other derivative. Jullien was the original immigrant who was born in the old country. But where was that?
There has always been some question about Jullién’s heritage, especially with a surname like Lord. Lord is not a French word. It’s English.
English soldiers were stationed at Fort Royal at various times, and the English did interact with the Acadians often and in many ways, at least when they weren’t warring.
So, was Jullién Lor English or French? We can pretty much rule out any other nationalities at this point, based on the history of the region at the time he appeared on the scene. He was not in the 1671 or 1678 census, at least not under his own name, but we know he was in the region before 1675 or 1676 when his first child was born.
Do you see that little accent over the e? It looks like this – é. It’s not a stray mark. It’s called l’accent aigu and is unquestionably French. It changes the pronunciation of the e to something sounding like “eh.”
In essence, Jullién just winked and whispered across 328 years that he’s French. Je suis français, mon petit-fils.
Thank you, Jullién, my wonderful six-times great-grandfather! I’m all ears if there’s anything else you’d like to say.
It’s a good thing we have this document, because it’s absolutely the ONLY record of Jullién’s signature that I’ve been able to find. And while we do have a few other hints, nothing is as conclusive as a message from Jullién himself!
I hope you find your ancestors too.
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