The ACADIANS of LOUISIANA: A Synthesis [work in progress]


 The “Synthesis,” as the name implies, attempts to unite narrative history with genealogy in telling the story of the Louisiana Acadians.  Its temporal scope runs from the beginnings of French Acadia through the Acadian diaspora, with emphasis on the Acadian experience in South Louisiana from the 1760s through the 1860s.  The “Synthesis” consists of a dozen parts, or “books,” some of which are narrative history, others genealogy, and most a combination of the two.

Before the “Synthesis” came the study called Acadians in Gray, devoted to the role the Acadians of Louisiana played in the struggle for Southern independence.  Before such a study could begin, however, several questions had to be answered:  Who are the Acadians of South Louisiana?  Which families of the region are Acadian, and which are not?  And what exactly is a Cajun?  The attempt to answer these questions led to the creation of dozens of webpages devoted to the families who emigrated to Louisiana from greater Acadia.  But something else was needed:  an historical context for Acadian genealogy.  This led to more questions:  Where is Acadia?  When was it created?  Who created it?  When did the first European families go there?  How long did it endure?  And what of British Nova Scotia and the thing the Acadians called their Grand Dérangement?   Where did the British send them?  How long did they stay there?  When and from where did some of them come to Louisiana?  For the past 10 years, since I retired from the classroom, I have attempted to answer these questions.  The result is the “Acadians of Louisiana:  a Synthesis,” the “books” of which are described below: 

Book One, entitled “French Acadia,” mostly narrative history, begins with the European exploitation of North America and ends with the British acquisition of French Acadia in 1713.  The only genealogical component of this book is an introduction to the European families who came to French Acadia from the 1630s to 1713 and built a world for themselves on the Bay of Fundy. 

Book Two, entitled “British Nova Scotia,” is a history of that colony from 1713 to the French and Indian War.  Its primary focus is on the Acadians’ attempt to maintain a precarious existence as “French Neutrals” during the decades-long struggle between their British overlords and their French compatriots in Canada and Île Royale.  The book also details the Acadians’ “golden age” from the 1730s into the 1740s. 

Book Three, entitled “Families, Migration, and the Acadian ‘Begats’,” is, except for brief sociological analyses, purely genealogical in form.  It offers outlines of hundreds of families who made a home in greater Acadia from the 1630s to the 1750s.  It consists of two major parts:  family outlines of the colony’s socioeconomically elite, and family outlines of the aboiteaux builders of the Fundy basin—in other words, the rest of us.  Each of the two sections is organized chronologically by arrival date of the family’s progenitor. 

Book Four, entitled “The French Maritimes,” is, in its first part, a history of the French Maritimes colony of Île Royale, which included Île St.-Jean, today’s Prince Edward Island, from 1713 to the 1750s.  Interwoven into the history of the colony are short histories of island families—considered to be “Acadians” in this study--who lived only in Newfoundland and on the Maritime islands, some of whom emigrated to Louisiana.  The second part of the book consists of a detailed narrative of De La Roque’s survey of the Maritime islands in 1752, with additions and corrections.  Here one can find details not only of Maritime families, but also of Acadian families from Nova Scotia who moved to the islands before 1752. 

Book Five, entitled “The Great Upheaval,” is a detailed history of what Acadians call their Grand Dérangement.  The narrative focuses not only on the Acadians who were deported to British colonies and to France, but also on the Acadians who escaped the British and fled to Canada and the Gulf of St. Lawrence shore.  The book also details Acadian resistance to British conquest during the Seven Years’ War.  Individuals and families will make their appearance, but the book is largely narrative in form. 

Book Six, entitled “The Acadian Immigrants of Louisiana,” is the genealogical supplement to “The Great Upheaval,” detailing the experiences of the dozens of Acadian families who came to Louisiana from 1764 into the early 1800s.  The families are arranged alphabetically without regard to size or arrival times. 

Book Seven, entitled “French Louisiana,” is a history of the colony from its beginnings until the Spanish cession of the early 1760s.  The earliest years of the colony under Iberville and Bienville are highly detailed.  Also highlighted are the colonials’ relations with Native peoples, the introduction of African slavery during the Company period, and the evolution of Louisiana’s French Creole culture beginning in the 1730s.  The primary purpose of the book is to provide an historical and cultural context for the strange new place hundreds of Acadian exiles would soon call home. 

Book Eight, entitled “A New Acadia,” details the arrival of the Acadians and their assimilation into the polyglot culture of Spanish Louisiana.  Emphasis is placed on the expeditions from 1764 to the 1780s that brought exiles to Louisiana from Georgia, Halifax, Maryland, French St.-Domingue, France, and Newfoundland.  Also highlighted are the communities the Acadians created on the lower Mississippi, the southwestern prairies, and the eastern bayous of South Louisiana.  Hundreds of families and individuals appear in the narrative, but the book is largely history, not genealogy. 

Book Nine, entitled “The Bayou State,” is a continuation of the history of the Acadians of Louisiana from the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 until the coming of civil war in 1861.  Emphasis is on the “Americanization” of Louisiana’s Acadians and the evolution of the state’s unique Cajun culture.  Again, families and individuals, including biographies of prominent Acadians, appear in the narrative, but the book is largely narrative history. 

Book Ten, entitled “The Louisiana Acadian ‘Begats’,” is the genealogical supplement to Books Eight and Nine and the largest book in the series.  The first section includes genealogies of the 55 Acadian families who came to Louisiana but did not create lasting lines.  The second, much larger, section focuses on the 101 so-called “foundational” families who created enduring agnatic lines and whose descendants are legion in South Louisiana.  The families in each section are arranged alphabetically. 

Book Eleven, entitled “The Non-Acadian ‘Cajun’ Families of South Louisiana,” supplements Book Ten with sketches of non-Acadian families of the region who intermarried with Acadians and helped create South Louisiana’s Cajun culture.  Inclusion in this book is based on the number of times members of a non-Acadian family took Acadian spouses from 1766 through 1861.  The families are arranged alphabetically. 

Book Twelve, entitled “Acadians in Gray,” as anyone who frequents this website knows, is its original focus:  a history of Acadian—or, more accurately, “Cajun”--participation in the struggle for Southern independence.  This book, like six of the others, is largely narrative history that includes many individuals, both prominent and humble, who played a part in this nation’s deadliest conflict.


Here are suggestions on how to make the most of the family genealogies and histories in the “The Acadians of Louisiana:  a Synthesis”:

First, throw together a five-generation ancestor chart.  If you’re not a Baby Boomer, you might want to push it back six generations.  This is because the histories and genealogies in the “Synthesis” end about 1870.  Anything after 1870 you likely will not find in the “Synthesis.”

Once you have determined who your ancestors are back to 1870, go to the Acadian family’s page.  The information on the family pages also ends essentially at 1870.  Once a family's "begats" are completed in Books Three and Ten, and the family’s travails during the Grand Dérangement in Book Six are done, hyperlinks on the family page will take you to the family’s places in those books. 

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Copyright (c) 2017  Steven A. Cormier