In searching for my roots, I began what I believed would be my own personal "Odyssey" or "Journey" into my ancestral digs. I chose the word "odyssey" because as our Acadian Ancestors, I had no idea what this journey would hold though contrary to them, I had great hope that I would touch those threads of life that would connect me to who our Ancestors were; what they had experienced; and how they had found new hope when all seemed lost and so impossible. That's what this page is about. For those of you who may never be able to visit the Land of our Ancestors, lovingly referred to as the Land of Evangeline, I hope this will, in some small way, help you to know the proud and strong roots we have come from. What I have seen ~ where I have walked ~ all speak of the determination of a people subjected to a political power bent on destroying the ethnicity of a people, whether man, woman or child. What happened to our Acadian Ancestors was the act of a madman or the act of a man determined to rule .. in the vernacular: a "power trip". So please come with me on...
~ My Odyssey to the Land of Our Ancestors ~
lovingly known as
The Land of Evangeline
for it is your Odyssey too!
University of Moncton Art
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow forever
immortalized the plight of the Acadians and their Deportation from the lands of their beloved Acadia by the British in his famous poem
My Odyssey began on July 20th, 1998 when with two friends
I left home in Massachusetts and headed for Moncton, New Brunswick. Moncton in the early days used to be referred to as "The Bend" so named by the Mik'Maq Indians who were the first inhabitants of Acadia having lived there for thousands of years before the arrival of any explorers followed by the first European settlers from France.
The Mik'Maq Indians had so named this area "The Bend" because of the
bend in the Petitcodiac River at that juncture.
I expected our drive to Moncton to be uneventful since it was
to be the first leg of our journey. Five hundred and twenty-
seven miles from home we arrived happy and excited about what we were not even certain would unfold in the days to come. We were not disappointed.
Bright and early the next morning, we headed out for Nova Scotia.
The first stop on our agenda was at the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia border - Fort Beauséjour(renamed Cumberland after the British took it over) where Acadians were held prisoners while they awaited deportation. This was to be the first of an overwhelming and powerful experience for me. In my research, I had learned specifically of at least one of my ancestors who had been held prisoner here along with his second wife. In fact, my direct descendant, his son, was only 8 years old when enumerated at the fort. It is believed that children from his second marriage were born there though the whereabouts of this family are actually unknown for a number of years prior to that census. This Ancestor was Joseph-André LeBlanc, son of Claud-André.
From Ft. Beauséjour, we could look out at the great expanse of dykelands and farm lands that once belonged to our
When we arrived at Ft. Beauséjour, we were welcomed by Guides
who quickly told me that there were great numbers of LeBlancs
in the area and that I would feel right at home. They were
right indeed. Turns out that the LeBlancs in Nova Scotia and
New Brunswick are like the Smiths elsewhere so great are our
Leaving Ft. Beauséjour, we continued on our way to Grand-Pré
where I had made reservations at the Evangeline Motel.
Staying here was a wonderful experience. Sheila Carey runs
the Motel and Snack Bar. Her sister-in-law is Angeline LeBlanc and we met. Though called a "Snack Bar", they
serve wonderful meals - all home cooking! All home baked
pies too. I had found this motel on the internet and we were
not disappointed. The units have been renovated - the rooms
were large and very clean. The cost was surprisingly inexpensive.
The toll free number is: 1-888-542-2703.
Best of all, and to my great surprise, the Motel faces the
road that leads to the Grand-Pré (means Great Meadow) National Historical Site. After we settled in it was only 3:30p.m. so we decided to go there to visit. It was an awesome experience and the first of many such experiences for me.
Grand-Pré is on the shores of the Minas Basin, which even
today is reknowned for its tidal marshlands. The Minas
area was the breadbasket of the colony. The Acadians prospered.
1755 is an important date in Acadian History. The Acadians
of the Minas area had their boats and their guns confiscated;
the French Fort-Beauséjour was captured; Acadian delegates
in Halifax to present a petition were imprisoned; the
governor, Charles Lawrence, decided to settle the Acadian
question once and for all. They will be expelled from Nova
Scotia(Acadia) and dispersed among the British colonies to
the south, from Massachusetts to Georgia.
Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow arrived in Grand-Pré with
troops on August 19, 1755 and took up headquarters in the
Church. The men and boys of the area were ordered there on
September 5, 1755 and their fate was read to them.
When you enter the Church at Grand-Pré, on the back wall is a list of the families who lived in the area at that time.
What great pride mixed with great emotion to see my family
name of LeBlanc along with all those other wonderful ancestors
who became part of my family: Arsenault,
Babineau, Cormier, Doiron, Gaudet, Girouard, Hébert, Landry, Thibodeau and so many more.
In an adjacent room, there is a list of all those men and
boys who were held prisoners for a month while the British
awaited the arrival of the ships our Ancestors would be
deported on. While being held prisoners, the soldiers made
a list of the prisoners'names. There were 56 LeBlanc families
who would be deported from this Church!
In 1907, John Frederic Herbin, poet, historian and jeweller, whose mother was Acadian, purchased this land believed to be the site of the church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines so that it might be protected. Herbin built a stone cross on the site to mark the cemetery of the church, using stones from the remains of what he believed to be Acadian foundations.
On the site is also a beautiful statue of Evangeline as she
whistfully and hauntingly looks out over the land. This statue was conceived by Canadian sculptor Philippe Hébert and
finished by his son Henri after his death.
As you leave this area, through binoculars you can see a
large cross erected by Acadians in 1914. This cross marks
the place where our Ancestors waited onshore as the boats
that would take them to the ships sat in the harbor. During the summer of 2003, we were able to go to Horton's Landing. During CMA 2004, we were able to go to the Deportation Cross and Horton's Landing.
Though this Church and what is there is simply a memorial to
what was and what happened here, there is an instant and very
emotional connection to who we are as Acadian and to the
sacrifices, suffering and losses our Ancestors bore.
Have you ever wondered how or why Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
came about to writing his epic Evangeline?
Apparently, one evening Nathaniel Hawthorne went to dine
with Reverend Connolly at Longfellow's. In the course of the
evening, the Reverend Connolly shared stories he had heard
of the plight of the Acadians. Longfellow asked Hawthorne's
permission to write about this in poetry before he would
write any prose about it. Hawthorne agreed and this, one of
the greatest of all the works of the best known of American
poets shed a special radiance around the life of the Acadians
and lead us to desire to know more about the history of
Acadia. It was published in 1847, ninety-two years after the
culmination of the Deportion. I have read somewhere, that
this work gave Acadians a new sense of pride and hope in
After this wonderful experience, I was certainly very eager
to see what the rest of our travels would reveal to us.
That evening, we went to Evangeline Beach in Grand-Pré and watched the sun set ~ what a fitful ending to a wonderful day to watch this setting sun just as our Ancestors had done for so many years!
The next morning, July 22nd, we headed for the Evangeline
Trail along the Bay of Fundy. Arriving at Church Point on
St. Mary's Bay was a great experience! Here stands the
oldest and largest wooden Church in North America St. Marie.
To the back of the Church (an upper sacristy) is housed antique vestments and pictures. The pictures interested me as there were all kinds of LeBlanc priests, bishops, etc. hanging on these walls!
Next door to this Church is Ste-Anne University. One of
my friends was able to have a student do a search of
one of her family ancestors. While here we met Lina Thibodeaux from Louisiana. My goodness it was like a big family
reunion!! She was in a French Immersion course at the university.
Across from the Church is the parish cemetery. What a
feeling to see so many tombstones with the names of LEBLANC,
GAUDET to name just a couple.
When I entered the Church, I prayed for all of our Ancestors
as well as for all generations present and to come.
From here, we continued along the Evangeline Trail... We stopped
at L'Anse des LeBlanc (LeBlanc Cove) where 5 LeBlanc families
and many other Acadian families such as Godet(Gaudet),
Girouard, Beaulieu, Bastarache, Robichaud and so many others
once settled. This Cove had been settled by Charles LeBlanc
and other LeBlanc families. Charles was deported from this land by the British and died in exile. He was a very wealthy man at his death and his fortune was divided among his nieces and nephews. Records show that he left $36,000. There is more information about him in the Pennsylvania Gazette and is posted to this site. Anyhow, younger generations still live in this area.
We stopped at Major's Point after this. Located here is the first Acadian Cemetery. Another very emotional experience for me. When we drove up, we saw 9 crosses in a cemetery with a white picket fence surrounding it and a very small chapel with a large statue of the Blessed Mother in it. The names on these crosses were Pierre LeBlanc, Gaudet and other familiar Acadian names. Because Pierre had settled this place that was once an island, it had been named Piau Island. This is believed to have once been a Mik'Maq Indian burial ground. At one time, it was completely surrounded by water at high tide. That is no longer the case. But there are thousands of stones of all sizes that cover the ground for at least a 1/4 to a 1/2 of a mile as you walk toward the waters of the Bay of Fundy.
What a powerful time of reflection once again - to be where
some of our Ancestors, lived and died. Some who had escaped from
the Deportation, died here. Four to five young children of a Melanson family died here of starvation. Is that not always the result of great oppression?
From there we went on to Digby said to be the scallop capital
of the world. Sitting at a restaurant overlooking the Bay,
I enjoyed both lobster and scallops - fresh catch of the day!
We continued from here on to Annapolis Royal and to Port
Royal and the Habitation. This was interesting but moreso
was the Acadian lady we spoke with at the gift shop next door.
She is an impassioned Acadian who wants the truth about
our Ancestors to be known. She says that the English are
writing our history and filling it with untruths for political reasons. All I know is that as she and all the Acadians
that I met are proud of their heritage and speak with great
passion of our history!
By now it was getting late and we began to head back toward
Grand-Pré my heart filled with so much awe and pride.
Our driver decided to take a side trip to Blomindon ~ tired
and filled with all kinds of emotions, I rode quietly
reflecting for a long time...(I was grateful that my travel-
companions respected this.)
On Thursday, we decided to visit Halifax before heading back
to Moncton. It was an interesting side trip that was not
originally in my plans. I had hoped to go to the Provincial
Archives but once we arrived I determined there would not
really be enough time. I've saved that for another trip.
Friday, July 24th, we headed back to Moncton after another
great breakfast at the Evangeline Snack Bar. Arriving in
Moncton at 12:30p.m., we headed immediately for Moncton
University and the Centre d'Études Acadiennes/Center for Acadian Studies where we would meet with Stephen White(LeBlanc) *the* Acadian Genealogist at this time in our history. It was
our good fortune that Steve was there when we arrived. It
was wonderful to meet him and to chat with him. He has been
writing an Acadian Genealogy Dictionary for many years
now. His first two volumes covering 1600's to 1714 were published in 1999. He allows whoever comes to do research to use his drafts that are in large binders. He told me I could photo-copy whatever I wanted and I copied all the work he had done on the LeBlancs at that point. His historical notes in this work are so very interesting! He also lists godparents and sources. Researchers who have been waiting a long time to have the Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes in hand, have not been disappointed! Stephen told me that his grandfather was a ship's captain without a ship so he migrated to Massachusetts. Stephen hails from Wayland, MA ~ I found it ironic that he has returned to his roots and works at the heart of researching not only his but all of our ancestors.
At CEA, many microfilm records of baptisms, marriages and burials have been printed and are hard bound. I was able to make a copy of my grandfather's and grandmother's baptismal records, some of my uncles and aunts baptismal records, my grandparents' marriage record. Time was short but I now plan to return to Moncton next summer to spend at least three days at the University to copy such important documents. [Note: Since 1998, I go to CEA every summer to do research.]
Friday evening, after eating, my friend Jeanne whose car we
were in and who was driving, decided to go for a short drive.
I could not believe it when we saw a sign for St. Anselme!
My grandfather Damien LeBlanc was baptized here and grew up here.
Jeanne kindly turned around and we went to St. Anselme. I never dreamed it was so close to where we were staying.
We walked through the cemetery as I looked for graves of my
great-grandparents. Many of the old stones cannot
be read - some are disintegrating.. that is sad! But I found
some that I could connect with my database. So many LeBlanc
graves at all of the cemeteries that the best I could do was
to take photos of the oldest ones.. we are related one one and all!
Next day, Saturday, July 25th, we headed for the Acadian
Coastal Drive. We visited Shédiac. My grandparents had
been married here. Some of their children were buried in
St. Joseph's parish cemetery. And it is from Shédiac
that they came to Massachusetts in 1893/94.This was a
very special place for me to be and I savored it.
In the cemetery, I found the grave of the First Acadian
Historian and Genealogist: Placide Gaudet who was born in
1850 and died in 1920. Placide had lived and died in Shédiac. He was the first Acadian Historian and Genealogist to work at the University of Moncton. I am sure that someday we will speak of Stephen A. White with the same reverence we hold for Placide Gaudet... in fact, many of us do already!
Before leaving St. Joseph's Cemetery, we prayed over all
of these Ancestors graves also saying a prayer once again for all
generations to come!
Our next place was Cap-Pelé, and we stopped at Barachois. Here the Church of St-Henri where my grandmother Odille Doiron was baptized still stands, now as a museum. A larger church than when my grandmother was baptized here, the Church is quite a bit larger. Upstairs in the balcony is housed old church artifacts but also a large picture of the first Bishop who was also Acadian: Bishop Edouard
LeBlanc! Made my day.
For some reason, we kept going in the wrong direction
(I think it was fatigue..) so we decided to go to Prince
Edward Island over the new Confederation Bridge. The bridge
crosses from New Brunswick onto Prince Edward Island over the Northumberland Straits. It is beautiful place with red earth and
red clay stones formed by the sea. We didn't go too far for
lack of time but the land is beautiful - farmlands full of
beautiful potato plants - and just knowing some Acadian
Ancestors had lived here when they escaped the deportation
made it special.
On Sunday, July 26th, we resumed our journey along the
Acadian Coast Drive. We went through Grande Digue stopped
at Cape Cocagne. In both of these settlements, some
of my aunts and uncles were born(my grandparents had 17
children - my grandfather's first wife died and he was
left with 8 children and he had 9 more with my grandmother.)
As we continued, we saw a LeBlanc Street - stopped the car
took a picture of the sign and stopped to speak with a couple
taking a walk. I asked them if they were LeBlanc family
members. Turned out his grandparents had both been LeBlancs
as had hers. His mother was a LeBlanc and his father a Leger
Her mother was a LeBlanc and her father a Cormier! When I
told them that my dad was a LeBlanc, my grandmother a Doiron and her mother a Cormier, it was like a homecoming! We chatted for a few moments and I took a photo of them.
On our way to Bouctouche, we passed Cape Caissie and places
with other now familiar Acadian names. At Bouctouche, we
went to Le Pays de la Sagouinemade famous by writer
Antonine Maillet as she wrote stories about growing up here and gave them that title. It was a wonderful experience that no Acadian should miss! The Acadian songs and jigs, the
three act play performed by Acadian actors depicting the
history of the deportation and the memories of an elderly
after all that has passed - as I listened, I was so touched
and my eyes weren't dry I assure you.
We then visited the Convent Museum and cemetery at Bouctouche. In one of the rooms at the museum hangs a picture of
a Cecile LeBlanc who had received a Papal Blessing on the
occasion of her 100th birthday - My friends said that I
looked like her ...(Just hope I don't look 100 years old.. nor quite as serious as this lady did..)
Everywhere I went, I looked for family resemblances. LeBlancs
like the rest of the world, come in all shapes, sizes and
yes.. even color. Many Acadians are blond and blue eyes..
there are those of us like myself who are brunette and brown
Was this an Odyssey for me? Indeed it was! I wish you all
such a journey into our ancestral past and present. It is awesome to truly experience our roots and to be filled with a pride and love untold for those who have come before us and on whose shoulders we now stand as we look into the future of our children and our grandchildren. Please.. please.. do not miss any opportunity
to share your heritage with your loved ones. Sometimes, it
may seem that they don't want to hear it but I assure you
that a day will come when they will remember when
they heard you speak of where they have come from!
I truly hope that this accounting of my Odyssey has
in some way helped you to touch the vestiges of your own
Ancestral link into the past!
Third Odyssey to the Maritimes
I want to share the wonderful resources available
through the Internet or when you travel to these areas.
In Moncton, New Brunswick, the Centre d'études acadiennes [CEA] at Moncton University has just an enormous amount of Acadian data - births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. I don't think I have to go into much detail here as it suffices for you to know that Stephen White is the genealogist at this location.
Should you visit Moncton, you might want to ask for Ken Breau who is one of the archivists at the CEA. Ken is very knowledgeable, very helpful and shares interesting facts in what you might be researching or in work he is doing himself. Paul Delaney is also very helpful and does a good deal of collaborative work with Stephen White.
While in Moncton, I met a LeBlanc "cousin" who researches at the center every Thursday night along with a Boudreau who is married to a LeBlanc. Hector Boudreau has 55,000 LeBlancs in his database that he and his wife have been transcribing from microfilm records at the CEA. They have an enormous amount of data that they have copied from actual records. How fortunate they are to be at the heart of all this Acadian information!
On Prince Edward Island - Invited by Georges Arsenault, well known Acadian Author on the Island, I added this to our itinerary.
Arriving at the Miscouche Acadian Museum, I was warmly received by Cécile Gallant, Director of the Museum who had received a phone call from Georges Arsenault that I would be arriving late morning. We were her guests for the time we were there. One of the highlights of the time at the Museum, was meeting James Perry with whom I have been corresponding! James came with Acadian rapure and french biscuits his wife had made as well as soda/pop/tonic that is made only on the Island. James is very very knowledgeable concerning Acadian genealogy and history on the Island.. he is a great resource and Georges invited him to be a speaker at a forum to be held at Miscouche in November. I am told by Georges that James' talk was very moving.
At Miscouche, I purchased some books written by Georges on the Island Acadians and others.. Anybody wanting to purchase can go to the Miscouche site and email the museum about any books you might want to purchase. Also got a book that was photocopied for the 100th anniversary of the parish at Tignish and again for the 200th anniversary... neat stuff all pertaining to the founding families of Tignish!
At 2:30, I was interviewed by Jacinthe LeForest from the french newspaper in Summerside.
At Grand-Pré again we were warmly received by the assistant director. I purchased the Baton Rouge register for Grand-Pré 1707-1748 that the Acadians had brought with them to Louisiana in 1785. It has been revised. Grand-Pré is a must for anyone searching their Acadian roots. The presence of our Ancestors who lived here and were deported.. many of who were buried here, is felt as we walk through this hallowed place.
After leaving Grand-Pré, invited to meet for lunch in Yarmouth, it was a grand meeting with Pauline D'Entremont, Cyrille LeBlanc, Hector LeBlanc, Denise Comeau Desautels and Michel Belliveau. Pauline is a member of the CMA planning committee for 2004. The others are officers of the individual family reunions that will be held. Hector is the president and presented me and my traveling companion with a LeBlanc CMA 2004 T-shirt. There were many Kodak moments here also. An article will appear in Le Courier, the french newspaper. While here I joined the LeBlanc Family Association.
Cyrille took us on a tour of the Acadian historic sites in Wedgeport. I was very moved by what I saw/experienced! A very large cross marks the historic site where the first Mass was celebrated in Wedgeport where the Acadians had settled post deportation.
We left Wedgeport headed for West Pubnico following Pauline D'Entremont who lives there and who has done a great deal in organizing and running the Acadian Museum in West Pubnico. A cousin, Bernice D'Entremont drove us to all of the points of interest we could possibly want to see.... my eyes saw
the beautiful land... water... sunsets our Ancestors savored. [On the way to W. Pubnico, Pauline stopped to show me where the Tusket county court house is located. This building has a court room, jail and records center. Much information can be found here.]
We also visited the site of the first chapel where Father Sicogne said his first mass... a small cemetery has been unearth nearby and is marked by wooden crosses. There is also an Acadian Village going up - some of the first houses of Acadians who settled the area.
At the Acadian Museum, there are many interesting items that have been donated... of course, my greatest interest was to see what Father Clarence D'Entremont, well known Acadian researcher had left the Museum when he past away last year. The collection of books he left is just awesome.. he also left many maps. It was my great privilege to see some of the *original* documents Father Clarence had that he left the Museum as well as some large
The reason I am posting all of this information is so that anybody on this list whose ancestors came from any of these places might be encouraged to go there to see where their ancestors came from and go to these museums to do research and to support their endeavors.. their resources are limited so
indeed any books or other items purchased as well as donations will help them in the monumental work they are doing to preserve the Acadian heritage
in their parts of the Maritimes.
A debt of gratitude is owed these marvelous Acadian cousins who do th work of preserving our past without making much noise about it but rather forge ahead making the best of the resources available to them. You just would not believe the work they have done nor the museums that are in place
because of them!
To all of our Acadian cousins like Pauline & Bernice in W. Pubnico; Georges, Cécile & James on PEI; Hector, Cyrille, Michel & Denise from Church Point and Yarmouth areas; Jocelyn and Donna at Grand-Pre [who say many new things will be added there], *thank you* from all of us near and
far - you are what we are all about. You help us to touch the lives of our Ancestors ever augmenting that never extinguishing flame within our hearts and our spirits to better know our heritage! Merci and Vive l'Acadie!
And so, the Odyssey never ends when earch year I return to the home of our Ancestors - I return to my roots!