Marguerite de Forest (1748-1819), Refugee Acadian Grandmother of 99 – 52 Ancestors #405

Marguerite Forest, Foret, Deforest, Deforet, de Foret/Forest or La Foret/Forest was born on January 16, 1748 in Port Royal, Acadia, the 7th of 9 children, to Jacques Forest and Marie Josephe LePrince.

She was baptized the same day at St. John Baptiste Catholic Church in Port Royal which is now Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. Sponsors were Gregoire, with no surname listed, and Marguerite Forest, neither of whom were able to sign their names. I’m presuming here that Gregoire’s surname was also Forest, and they were somehow related to her father, Jacques.

Marguerite was probably born someplace in or near the Rene Forest village, off of present-day Brickyard Road in Nova Scotia. Rene Forest was her grandfather.

We know nothing about Marguerite’s family between the time of her birth and the beginning of the 1755 deportation except that two siblings were added to the family. Marguerite became a “big sister” on February 14, 1750 and again on June 9, 1753.

Le Grand Dérangement

For decades, tensions flared between the Acadians, who had clearly established their neutrality and were known as the French Neutrals, and the British. The Acadians did not want to become involved in the war between two superpowers. Accordingly, they repeatedly declined the request to sign an oath of allegiance to the British crown who held Acadia. The British required such, and when the Acadians continued to refuse, the British took sweeping action.

On August 11, 1755, the British Lieutenant Governor signed the order to remove more than 6000 Acadians, descendants of the original French settlers, taking possession of their land and other property. Some managed to hide with the Mi’kmaq or made their way to other parts of Canada, but most did not. The Acadians had thwarted attempts to displace them before, so if they were even aware of the order, they may have felt that once again, they would survive this attempt. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Le Grand Dérangement, known in English as the Great Upheaval, Great Expulsion, Great Deportation, or Acadian Removal are all terms for the same horrific event.

In the fall and early winter of 1755, Marguerite was 7, almost 8 years old. She was probably looking forward to Christmas, with its joyful hymns and pageantry. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was a big event for Acadian families. Various foods were, and still are, associated with Christmas. Naulet was a large cookie, shaped like a gingerbread man, given to children by their godparents and may have been their only gift. Christmas was a much simpler time. You can see an example here and read a description written by an Acadian historian.

That isn’t at all what happened in December of 1755. Instead, British soldiers arrived and herded the men together while the women and children were told to gather their things and prepare to leave their homes.

Marguerite’s oldest brother, Victor, was 20, and Joseph was 18, so they were probably held with the men. They were certainly old enough to know how to handle a gun and had assuredly been hunting for years.

Marguerite’s four other older siblings probably helped their mother and packed essentials as best they could, not really understanding what was about to happen. We don’t really know what instructions they were given, if any.

Marguerite’s younger siblings, Charles, who would have been five, and Michel, just two, would probably have been under the watchful eye of the older children while their mother, Marie Josephe, frantically scurried around.

No one had many clothes back then – maybe a change if they were lucky, but they probably tried to pack some kitchen items into a trunk. Maybe a Bible, too, and certainly their rosaries.

It’s certainly possible that Marguerite’s mother, just 40 years old, was pregnant again, and due for the next baby. If indeed she was, we have no idea what happened to that child.

Having said that, we don’t actually know what happened to any of Marguerite’s siblings, although we know at least “some” survived for at least a few years.

We know that Marguerite, along with her family, were deported –  because all Acadians who didn’t escape into the woods on the mainland were forcibly loaded onto ships and sent someplace else. The British wanted their land and farms, and simply took them.

Families were rounded up, livestock killed, and farms burned. A brutal message to the Acadians as they sailed away that there was nothing to return to, so don’t try.

The “lucky” families were deported together on the same ship – not separated. Some people never found their family members again. Ships sailed to various British colonies, as well as to the West Indies, England, and France. Some ships sank, some were turned away from their destination ports, and many passengers, living in squalid conditions below deck, died of disease onboard.

The Forest family wound up in Connecticut. As horrible as their fate was, Connecticut was as good as it got.

Researcher Tim Hebert wrote that a total of 731 Acadians were supposed to have been deported to Connecticut, but it’s unclear that all of them made it.

  • One ship with 280 people wound up in Massachusetts.
  • On December 8th, the ship Elizabeth sailed for New London and arrived on January 21, 1756 with 277 people aboard. Three had died on the way.
  • The next day, another 173 people arrived on another ship from Pisiquid, Grand Pre, and Mines. There’s no reason to believe the Forest family was on this ship, given that we know due to baptismal records that they were living in close proximity to Port Royal.
  • The Connecticut Gazette mentioned another ship that left Minas on November 30 and arrived in January with another 173 people.
  • On December 18, 1755, the Dove set sail with 114 Acadians who arrived on January 30, 1756.
  • Yet another group of 278 from Port Royal arrived in May. This group fared horribly, having encountered a violent storm that blew the ship off course, to Antiqua. Many died of smallpox, but the ship Edward eventually arrived in Connecticut on May 22nd with only 180 Acadians. After arrival, their meager belongings were burned so that smallpox wouldn’t spread. It’s doubtful that the Forest family was on this schooner, because in 1763, in the census of families in Connecticut wishing transportation to France, the Jacques Forest family is listed with ten people, which would mean Jacques Forest and Marie Joseph LePrince, plus eight children. We know that at least one of Marguerite’s older siblings is listed separately. If roughly half the people on that ill-fated ship died, and they had been on that ship, it’s unlikely that Marguerite’s family would still have that many members.

Connecticut was at least slightly prepared for the beleaguered refugees and treated the Acadians with respect, not the revulsion that greeted others elsewhere. Connecticut notified their citizens of the impending arrival of the “French People from Nova Scotia” and the legislature provided that the Acadians were “to be taken care of and supported” as though they were residing citizens.

Connecticut towns were designated to receive about 14 people per town and a reception committee was created. A list of towns receiving refugees can be seen here. One of these was assuredly the home of our Forest family.

Unfortunately, we don’t know where Marguerite’s family spent those years, but they were probably as comfortable as unexpectedly destitute refugees could be, given the circumstances.

The End of the War

In August 1763, after the Treaty of Paris was signed granting Great Britain possession of North America, 666 Connecticut Acadians petitioned to be sent to France. Their petition was denied, but some either migrated willingly or otherwise to Saint Domingue, where they were subjected to hard labor. Many died, but some of those settlers eventually made it to Louisiana, founding the Cajun families there. Several Foret/Forest family members are recorded in Acadians in Grey, here, although none appear to be Jacques’ children or descendants.

Marguerite’s Forest family also was not among the 240 people who chartered a boat in 1767 and sailed to the St. John River, nor did Marguerite remain permanently in Connecticut. Other family members may have.

I would wager a guess that the families who settled inland were less likely to have sailed for either St. Johns or Dominique.

Many kind-hearted Connecticut families financed the return journey of the Acadians to Quebec when that became an option after 1766. For example, the Hebert family who lived in Guilford, CT departed for Laprairie in 1771, funded by Guilford residents. The Acadian-Home website has a postcard showing the Acadian home in Guilford.

However, Marguerite and her family didn’t leave then. They remained wherever they were for another 15+ years.

Where did they go?

Quebec, Eventually

We know that on November 10, 1767, Marguerite married French sailor Francois Lafay in the colonies before a justice of the peace due to the lack of a priest. Francois was reported to have left his ship in Boston, but we actually don’t know where they were married, other than in the colonies. I strongly suspect they were in Connecticut based on the 1763 list of families requesting transport to France.

You can see that the route from Connecticut to L’Acadie was almost due north. From Albany, one could follow the rivers through Lake Champlain and then on up the Richelieu River.

The family arrived in L’Acadie, Quebec between 1786 when their last child was born in the colonies and July 1788 when their first children were baptized in L’Acadie.

They rented a farm that September.

Their marriage was rehabilitated in the same church, Ste-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie on June 23, 1792.

Translation from Father John:

Marriage of François Lafay and Marguerite Foret , Ste Marguerite de Blairfindie, L’Acadie, St-Jean, Quebec

On the twenty-third of June, Seventeen Hundred Ninety Two, I, undersigned, received the mutual consent of François Lafay and of Marguerite Foret, who pledged their troth (promis ensemble) before a justice of the peace in the Colonies, for lack of a priest, on the year Seventeen Hundred Sixty Seven*, this in the presence and in the form prescribed by Our Holy Mother the Church of Rome.  The groom signed along with me; the bride declared that she was unable to sign.  /s/ N. J. Lancto, priest   /s/ François Lafay

*On the tenth of November of the said year.

Marguerite and Francois had most of their children in the colonies. Not only that, but they survived the Revolutionary War wherever they lived. Did they support the war in one way or another, harboring deep resentment towards the British and what they did to their family?

Is that why they stayed after 1775?

Why did they leave, probably in early 1788?

One hint was reported by Marguerite’s daughter, Marie Lafay or Lafaille.

Marie told Baptist Missionaries that her elderly grandmother, Marie Josèphe Le Prince, became upset in 1787 that her children were losing their Catholic religion and culture and made the decision to send the family back to Canada. This makes sense, given that her daughter, Marie, had been educated in Protestant schools and clearly was leaning towards the Protestant religion.

Catholicism could not be practiced in the colonies.

Assuming this information is accurate, this tells us that Marie Josèphe Le Prince was still alive in 1787. She would have been 77 years old. Why didn’t she accompany her daughter to Quebec? Did she die before she could?

The 1790 census might hold a few clues.

There are no Foret nor Forest, but there are some de Forest families in Connecticut, specifically in Huntington.

However, none of these names are represented in the Jacques Forest family, and the Dutch De Forest family of New England is well known. These De Forest men don’t appear to be remnants of the Acadian family, but part of the Dutch De Forest branch. Having said that, both lines originated with the same French Huguenot refugee family in the Netherlands. I have to wonder if they knew about each other. They would have been roughly second cousins. Would the Connecticut branch have helped their Acadian cousins?

What happened to Marguerite’s family, and where were they?

I wish we knew.

Life in Quebec

When Marguerite arrived in Quebec, she and Francois had been married for 21 years and she had birthed at least 10 children. Her last child would be born on January 11th, 1789 and baptized in L’Acadie.

Her oldest daughter, Marie Lafay, married Honore Lore on August 10, 1789. Marguerite attended that wedding carrying her youngest child, a babe in arms who was just 7 months old. Her first grandchild was born in March of 1790, just 14 months younger than her youngest child. Those two children, aunt and nephew, probably grew up close – closer than siblings perhaps.

When Francois rented the farm in 1788, he claimed that he was a farmer, so it’s likely they had been farming someplace in New England.

Marguerite’s entire life had consisted of going from one crisis to another. First the Expulsion when she was 7. Living in exile for the next decade. Her father petitioned for transport to France in 1763 when she was 15, which was denied. She married in 1767 when she was 19, then the Revolutionary War erupted when she was about 27 years old. Following the war, the economy collapsed in New England. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

By the time the family made their way to Quebec a decade later, they were probably hoping for a peaceful life among their Acadian kin, in a culturally French community, along with the ability to practice their Catholic religion.

After all, Catholicism had been a big part of what they had fought for, why they resisted the British so steadfastly, and their faith had sustained them during the darkest hours. Even after three decades in exile, they were still unquestionably Catholic.

Unfortunately, a few years later, the War of 1812 would intrude into that hoped-for peaceful existence. In fact, the troops marched right up the Richelieu River, through L’Acadie, on their way from Lake Champlain to Montreal.

Marguerite’s son, Francois Lafay, born in 1776 in the midst of the Revolutionary War, served as a Lieutenant in the War of 1812.

Conflict seemed never far away, and this family had seen far more than their fair share.


Marguerite and Francois had at least 11 children and possibly more. The only children we know about are those who were either baptized in L’Acadie some years after their birth, whose marriage or death records we have or, in one case, who witnessed a marriage for their sibling. If children were born and died in Connecticut or wherever the family lived for 30+ years, we have no record other than a hint represented by a suspiciously long stretch between the births of known children. It would be very unusual for a couple not to lose a few children in that time and place.

  • Marie (Mary) Lafay was born in 1767 in New England, married Honore Lore (born 1768) on August 10, 1789, died August 9, 1836, and had 15 children, three of whom died before their grandmother, Marguerite.
  • Marguerite Lafay was born in 1769 in New England, married Joseph Duphaut, died May 10, 1824, and had 12 children, at least one of whom died before her grandmother.
  • Suzanne Lafay was born March 6, 1772 in New England, married Honore Lore (born 1742), died August 7, 1803, and had 7 children, two of whom died before their grandmother. The youngest child died a month after her birth and just a couple weeks before her mother, Suzanne.
  • Julie Lafay was born in 1774 in New England, married Ignace LaPorte Denis on February 9, 1801, died after 1813, and had 8 children, including twins on August 26, 1813, both of whom died before their grandmother. We don’t have Julie’s death record, but I’d wager that she died not long after the birth of her twins.
  • Francois Lafay was born on September 5, 1776 in New England, married Marie Mercier on February 10, 1800, died on September 5, 1849, and had 11 children, at least one of whom died before her grandmother.
  • Bridget Lafay was born in 1778 in New England, married Pierre Gamache on February 5, 1798, died after 1861, and had 12 children.
  • Angelique Lafay was born about 1780 in New England and signed her sister’s marriage record in 1798. We lose track of her after that.
  • Marie Anne Lafay was born about 1782 in New England, married Francois Lore on June 9, 1806, died on June 4, 1849, and had 7 children, two of whom died before their grandmother.
  • Antoine Hylaire Lafay was born about 1784 in New England, married on February 18, 1811 to Francoise Archange Moleur, and had 4 children, one of whom died before his grandmother.
  • Pierre Clement Lafay was born in 1786 in New England, was married on November 19, 1810 to Archange Tremblai, and had 13 children.
  • Francoise Lafay was born on January 11, 1789, married on October 25, 1813 to Pierre Granger, died December 15, 1829, and had 10 children, two of whom died before their grandmother.

Marguerite had a total of 99 grandchildren, 78 of whom were born before she passed away. I can’t help but wonder how she kept them all straight.

Total children Children born before 1819 Died before 1819 Unknown death date before 1819
Marie 15 15 2 1
Marguerite 12 12 1 6
Suzanne 7 7 2 0
Julie 8 8 2 0
Francois 11 6 1 1
Bridget 12 11 0 10
Angelique ?
Marie Ann 7 6 2 1
Antoine 4 3 1 0
Pierre Clement 13 7 0 3
Francoise 10 3 2 1
Totals 99 78 13 23

Marguerite stood at the side of small graves with their tiny wooden caskets and buried at least 13 grandbabies. I don’t have death dates for 23 grandchildren who were born before 1819, so I suspect that some of those also died before Marguerite.

Additionally, Marguerite lived to know 18 of her great-grandchildren as well, although I don’t have death dates for those children either.

If you total the births and deaths beginning with the first grandchild’s birth, Marguerite was in church for a baptism or a funeral of her adult child, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren about once every 7 weeks. That doesn’t include regular church services, marriages or similar events for friends or other family members. It would be safe to say that Marguerite probably attended church for one reason or another every day or two.

Marguerite’s Death

Marguerite died at 71 years of age on February 16, 1819 in L’Acadie and was buried two days later.

Translation by Father John:

Burial of Marguerite Laforet

On the eighteenth of February Eighteen Hundred Nineteen, I, priest undersigned, buried in the cemetery of this parish the body of Marguerite Laforet, who died two days ago (avant hier) at the age of seventy one years, having received the sacraments of the Church. Spouse of François Lafaille, Present were Eliz Caisse and Michel Tremblay, who declared they were unable to sign, upon inquiry.  /s/ B. Paquin, priest

Marguerite was interred in the cemetery beside the church she attended for 31 years. The church where she would have oh-so-gratefully fallen to her knees in 1788, thankful to be able to worship freely and receive the sacraments once again. She saw her children and grandchildren baptized and married there, and wept at many funerals.

Eventually, the funerals of her children and grandchildren were held inside the familiar sanctuary, and they would be buried in the churchyard, someplace near Marguerite.


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2 thoughts on “Marguerite de Forest (1748-1819), Refugee Acadian Grandmother of 99 – 52 Ancestors #405

  1. Fascinating reading. Both of my wife’s parents have Cajun (Acadian) ancestors on one side and are maybe 12th or 13th cousins.

  2. Pingback: Jacques Forest aka Foret (born 1707), Life on Bloody Creek – 52 Ancestors #407 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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