Welcome to the Acadian section of Gregor's Gathering. This section deals primarily with the genealogy of my paternal Melanson ancestors who first settled in Acadia in 1657.
Along with the genealogy of my Melanson line, you will also find other Acadian families such as LeBlanc, Cormier, Landry, Muis, Gaudet, Comeau, Muis, Boudrot, Dugas, Bourg and Bourgeois listed within this section. Each of these families frequently connect to my early Melanson line and also to many of the descending generations that followed.
Rather than reinvent the wheel of Acadian genealogy, I have relied heavily on Stephen A. White's Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Acadiennes, Vol.'s I & II for much of the data regarding the early Acadian settlers and their families that I've included in this site. These two volumes are an incredible source of information concerning the first settlers that inhabited Acadia.
My second most relied upon gem is Michael B. Melanson's book The Melansons of Nineteenth-Century Southeastern New Brunswick ~ A Genealogy. This book is an absolute must-have for anyone researching Acadians and their descendants that ended up settling in Southeastern New Brunswick. Like Stephen A. White, Michael is accurate, thorough and and complete in his presentation of the data regarding the people covered in his book.
For those who are unfamiliar with Acadia's background or for those who would like to learn more, I have included a brief history below.
I welcome any feedback and/or questions and hope that you enjoy this section of the Gathering.
Acadia and the Acadians
Originally inhabited by the people of the ancient Mikmaq nation for thousands of years, the lands and waters in and around Acadia had begun to attract a variety of European fishermen as early as the mid 1400's. Trading in furs and pelts with the Mikmaq had begun by the 1500's and was soon to become a profitable venture. In 1603, the King of France was to set the wheels in motion for the first European settlement in the new world by granting a French merchant, Pierre de Gua de Monts, a vast amount of land that encompassed all of Acadia.
In the spring of 1604, an expedition led by de Monts, Jean de Pourtincourt and Samuel de Champlain set out to establish a colony in Acadia. They sailed into the Bay of Fundy and landed at a small island that they named Île Sainte-Croix. Here they built their first fort.
However, the winter of 1604-1605 was to see half the men of the expedition die of starvation or scurvy due to a lack of available food and fresh water. This prompted de Monts to pack up the fort at Île Sainte-Croix in the spring of 1605 and move across the Bay of Fundy to a location situated in the Port Royal basin, across from Goat Island. This location provided better shelter from the elements as well as an abundance of wood, fresh water and wild game. Satisfied with the new site, the expedition built a fort, or habitation, and named the area Port Royal.
After de Monts had his fur trade monopoly revoked in 1607, the Port Royal habitation was left empty for three years until Poutrincourt returned with more men and financial support in 1610. This group included Charles de Beincourt (Poutrincourt's son), Claude de Sainte-Étienne de La Tour and his son Charles, all of whom would go on to become important figures in the shaping of early Acadia.
The habitation went through several ups and downs over the next three years and was eventually looted and destroyed in 1613 by a military force out of New England. Poutrincourt and the majority of the French colonists then returned to France and the New Englanders claimed Acadia for the King of England. However, Beincourt, Claude de La Tour, his son Charles and a few other men of the former habitation remained behind in Acadia.
In 1621 Acadia was renamed Nova Scotia (Latin for New Scotland) by the English and within six years England and France were at war. By 1629 most of Acadia and Québec was under English control until a treaty between the two nations, signed in 1632, put both regions back into French hands. This treaty was not to be the last as the struggle for Acadia and its lucrative fur trade and cod fish industry was just beginning. Over the next 81 years, Acadia would change hands between England and France many times as new treaties were signed or new attacks took the region by force.
As the decades progressed, a French speaking, Roman Catholic population slowly began to emerge in Acadia. Settlers, laborers and tradesmen, often brought in by successive English and French Governors, were establishing themselves at various locations throughout Acadia and they included people of French, English and Irish origin. All would become known as Acadians.
In 1713, the Treaty of Utretch would see France relinquish complete control of Acadia to the English. Acadia, now firmly in English hands, officially became Nova Scotia and Port Royal, which became the central base of operations for the English, was renamed Annapolis Royal.
Over the next 40 years, the English maintained control of Acadia/Nova Scotia, but not without contest from the French. France had deployed her military forces several times against Annapolis Royal but to no avail. Eventually the English would go on the offensive and subsequently defeat the French forces located throughout the region of Nova Scotia and at Île Royal (Cape Breton Island).
The Acadians themselves, for the most part, had managed to remain neutral to the French and English conflicts that had rumbled through Acadia during the previous 120 years. However, they were suddenly to find themselves in the right place at the wrong time where their neutrality was to work against them. Their demise was to begin in early 1755 when the English once again presented them with the issue of the oath of allegiance. If the Acadians refused to take the oath, the English warned them that they were resolved to forcefully remove them from the their lands, confiscate all of their property and disperse them among the New England colonies.
It's difficult to say why the Acadians would respond as they did but several factors likely played a role in their final and fateful decision:
Whatever their reasoning or thinking, the Acadians steadfastly refused to take the oath. The English were to act swiftly, having earlier developed a plan to quickly detain and deport the Acadians while blocking any potential escape routes. On July 31, 1755, Nova Scotia's Lieutenant-Governor at the time, Charles Lawrence, gave the order to begin rounding up and imprisoning the Acadians pending their immediate deportation to the New England colonies.
Transport ships from New England began to arrive at designated locations where the Acadians, under armed guard, were loaded onboard. Meanwhile, to ensure that none would have shelter should they escape and try to return, all homes, farms, churches and crops were burned and destroyed. All livestock and other possessions were confiscated.
The actual start of the expulsions began on August 11, 1755 at Fort Beauséjour (Fort Cumberland) with the deportation of the Acadians from the Beaubassin region and areas along the Chignecto Isthmus. Those that were deported from Fort Beauséjour were to be followed into exile by the Acadians at Grand Pré, Annapolis Royal and every other Acadian settlement across Nova Scotia. Soon afterwards and in the coming years more would be deported to England while others were deported to France.
In all, over 10,000 Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia, Île Royal (Cape Breton Island) and Île Ste-Jean (P.E.I.) from 1755 to about 1762. This tragic event has become known as "The Explulsions", "The Deportations", "The Grand Dispertion" and "The Great Upheaval".
To add to the tragedy of the expulsions, atleast 1,500 to 2,000 Acadians would perish during and soon after the expulsions. Most of these deaths were caused by starvation, disease and exposure to the elements. Approximately 900 of these deaths would occur at sea when the transport ships that were taking them to exile across the Atlantic floundered and sank.
As well planned as the expulsions were, many hundreds of Acadians managed to escape the troops and transport ships both before and during the deportation process. Most of these Acadians fled into Québec, New Brunswick and areas around the Bay of Fundy. Many were later caught or gave themselves up and were subsequently imprisoned at the English forts (Fort Edward and Fort Cumberland) in Nova Scotia until the end of the Seven Years War between England and France in 1763.
With the end of the war, hundreds of Acadians and their families were released from detention at the forts and many others who had escaped arrest returned to Nova Scotia. These refugees were soon joined by hundreds of others that had decided to leave their places of exile abroad (mainly from New England) and also return home. In order for them to remain in Nova Scotia, they were required to take the oath of allegiance to the British Crown and disperse in small groups.
Many would endure years of hardship, destitution and seperation from family before being able to begin life anew in any fashion that even remotely reflected their former living conditions. Some were able to restart their lives in communities that allowed them to retain certain degrees of their religious and cultural identity while others were assimilated into larger, predominantly English speaking populations.
However, despite the numerous tragedies and deprevations that they experienced and several decades later, the Acadians of old and their decendants would eventually go on to settle new lands with their families and rebuild their communities. Hardships were still to be encountered but they were to perservere and remain steadfast in their goal to obtain a status of equality among others within the communities where they lived, paving the way for future generations to follow.
by A. Gregor Melanson
Sources of Information
1. Arsenault, Bona, History of the Acadians. La Fondation de la Société hisorique de la Gapsésie, Gaspé, Québec, 1994.
2. Melanson, Margaret C., The Melanson Story; Acadian Family, Acadian Times. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2003.
3. Ross, Sally and Alphonse Deveau, The Acadians of Nova Scotia, Past & Present. Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, 1992.
4. White, Stephen A., Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Acadiennes, Vols. 1 and 2, CEA, Moncton, 1999.
5. White, Stephen A. and Brenda Dunn, Acadian Family Names. Les Editions d'Acadie, Moncton, NB, 1992.
6. Welcome to the Fortress of Louisbourg. The Fortress of Louisbourg. © The Louisbourg Institute, 1996 (http://collections.ic.gc.ca/louisbourg/enghome.html).
7. Welcome to the Town of Annapolis Royal. Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. © Parks Canada Agency (http://www.annapolisroyal.com/).
8. Museé Acadien de Université de Moncton. Acadian History 1604 - 1755. Ivan Smith (http://www.umoncton.ca/maum/mainframe_an.html).
9. Blupete.com: History of Nova Scotia; Book #1: Acadia. © 1998-2003. Authored by Peter Landry (http://www.blupete.com/Hist/NovaScotiaBk1/Part1/Ch01.htm).