March 9, 2009

Searching for my Acadian Roots

Mémère Lévesque

Dear Cousins,

Time flies and that old song keeps running through my mind "As time goes by.." and it certainly does.

There is plenty going on with our family just now.  Our youngest daughter will be married in May.  We have a bridal shower coming up and before we know it the big day will be here!

With all of that going on, it does not mean that I've not been busy about many things and those many things have much to do with Acadian & French-Canadian genealogy.

The other day I was thinking about how I first became interested in  history and in particular, family history - our family's history.

One day when I was in sixth grade (I won't say how long ago that was... ha!) our teacher gave us an assignment that remained with me to this very day.  She said "I want you to write an essay on your family.  Go talk to your grandparents and asked them about your family, where they were from and so on."

Right after school I dutifully went to visit Mémère Lévesque.  She was the only grandmother I could interview as my father's parents passed away when he was young so I never knew them.

Anyhow while talking with Mémère she told me that there was someone in the family who had married an "Indian Princess" - well that was of great interest to a wide eyed eleven year old.  She gave me little tidbits here and there just enough to make me curious - a curiosity that would keep me collecting little pieces of information here and there over the years until as a young adult I realized that though I thought I had gathered enough information, I began to realize that there were gaps that needed to be filled.  Mémère had not given me the information I really needed such as the names of her parents of and of Pépère's parents and all the pertinent information that goes with it all.

So for many years I've collected information but that information was entirely for my mother's side of the family.  My mother's family was French-Canadian and my grandparents had come to Massachusetts as teenagers.  Of course, as time passed and I found all of the family genealogy I realized that, as I had heard, everyone was related in one way or another.

But what of my father's family?  I recalled only one conversation with my father in which he told me the names of his parents and how  young he was when they died.  My grandmother died at age 44 and though I've never found a death record for my grandfather, I believe he died around the age of 66 just a few  years after she died.  This was a second marriage for my grandfather and he was older.  Between the two marriages seventeen children were born.  It would be several years after my father passed away when I decided I needed to know more about his family.

I joined the American-Canadian Genealogical Society of Manchester, New Hampshire and my quest began.  After three trips to the society I had pretty lost hope of finding anything there on my grandparents.  That day I decided to come home but as I was about to leave I glanced over to one side of the library where odds and ends used to be placed on shelves.  I strolled over there and looking through these papers and things saw a thin booklet with the title "New Bedford Births".  Well when my grandparents migrated from New Brunswick, the went to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  My father George and three of his siblings were born in New Bedford.  I looked at that booklet for a few moments and thought "I'm foolish to think it could be this easy!"  In spite of myself, I opened this typewritten booklet and there was an index in the back.  I looked at the index and among the surnames were many entries for the name LeBlanc - there were no given names.

I picked a page number and could not believe my eyes when I saw my father's name, George Charles LeBlanc and especially the names of his parents, Damien S. LeBlanc and Odille Doiron, whom I'd never known.  I must tell you a few tears were shed from shear joy and awe.

Now I had the names of my grandparents.  I began to look for their marriage and did find both marriages for my grandfather first in the Blue Drouin as we call it.  However, my grandfather's parents were not mentioned in either marriage record that I then found in the New Brunswick microfilmed records.  Drat!

From census records that I could now access I searched for my grandfather's birth record based on the age given in the census.  Well it was not meant to be that easy.  There were two (!) Damien LeBlanc born in the same year.

I decided to write to Stephen White and sent him all of the information I had found as to the children from each marriage, etc. People at the society told me he was so busy that I'd never hear from him.  I was so  happy when only two weeks later I received a response from him.  He was able to tell me where he was born and who his parents were but he had not found the record.

Having scoured the microfilmed records as I had, when I read his letter I knew immediately where to find his baptismal record and I was finally on my way to getting to know my Acadian roots.

From that point on I was able to find my LeBlanc line and my grandmother's Doiron line and I've been at it ever since!

At one point I had so much data that I thought it was a shame it could not be shared to help others.  With the encouragement of our daughter  who was in college at the time, I decided to give it a try.  That was 12 years ago and with time I have been able to share much information though my website, the Acadian Ancestral Home.

Before I go, let me say that I never found an "Indian Princess" on my mother's side of the family.  First of all, there is no such thing as an Indian "Princess" (and just about all Acadian and French-Canadians families have told their children there was one in their family); secondly none of the records to date have pointed to a Native woman in our Lévesque or Dumais and collaterate lineages.

On the otherhand, I did find one on my father's Acadian side of the family.  Marie Christine Aubois who married Jean Roy dit Laliberté in the 1686s.

So there is a moral to my story:  to anyone and to all have are still hoping to find that or those elusive ancestors, don't stop digging.  Sometimes they turn up when you least expect them to as they did for me that Wednesday afternoon in Manchester, New Hampshire!


Cousin Lucie

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