Might actress Cate Blanchett include Eagle Lake in her 2014 vacation plans to meet her Blanchette cousins? Would famed Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry seek out his Acadian cousins at a gathering in Van Buren? Will the Doucette brothers who are the mainstay of Cajun music group Beausoleil feel the pull to join a family reunion in Grand Isle?
Perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who leaves her post shortly, will take the time to seek out her relatives at the Gagnon and Hebert reunions in Maine during World Acadian Congress 2014.
The World Acadian Congress, which has drawn as many as 50,000 participants to Cajun strongholds such as Louisiana, has signed up reunions representing more than 100 Franco-American surnames during August next year.
Thanks to the annual newsletter of the Ste. Agathe Historical Society, we know that six family reunions will be held in that Aroostook County town during Congress 2014, scheduled for Aug. 8-24, 2014, throughout portions of New Brunswick, Maine and Quebec.
According to an article by Richard Lyness, assistant coordinator for the event in Maine, the six Franco-American families holding their reunions in St. Agatha — also known as Ste. Agathe — will be: Ayotte, Guerette, Michaud, Morneault, Picard and Talbot-Gervais.
If you are thinking that some of these names don’t sound Acadian to you, you’d be right. These six are French-Canadian surnames, representing families whose immigrant ancestors settled along the St. Lawrence River, and particularly in the Quebec City area.
But it was the intent of the World Acadian Congress to include reunions of French-Canadian families as well as of Acadians such as the Cyr, Guidry and Theriault families, a few of the surnames that came to this continent first in L’Acadie — what we now call Nova Scotia. The Acadians were dispersed during the Grand Arrangement of 1755, when the British forced them out.
Many were deported to places along the Atlantic coast and into Louisiana, but some family members crossed the Bay of Fundy to Saint John, New Brunswick. They were forced to move up the St. John River by the British until they landed at St. David, just outside Madawaska, in 1785. In the coming decades, they were joined by French-Canadians who had moved up the St. Lawrence, many of them to parishes in the county of Kamouraska before settling what would become the Frenchville and Fort Kent areas.
The beautiful Acadian Cross was erected some years ago on the 1785 site in St. David, and families both Acadian and French-Canadian who have held reunions in recent decades have placed monuments to their families there.
Certainly there are Franco-Americans whose ancestry is either 100 percent Acadian or 100 percent French-Canadian, but I think it makes perfect sense for the World Acadian Congress to include reunions for families from both French groups, which have intermarried frequently during the past couple of centuries.
My husband’s grandparents, for example, were Saucier, Theriault, Chamberland and Chasse — three French-Canadian names and one Acadian name, Theriault.
After reading Richard Lyness’ article, I visited the World Acadian Congress 2014 website at cma2014.com/rencontres-de-familles-prog to see which other Franco-American families have scheduled reunions, and where. I have organized the list by reunion location, so read all of it to find out if your family is included.
Cyr Plantation: Deveau, Lajoie.
Eagle Lake: Blanchette.
Fort Kent: Belanger, Bouchard, Levesque, Theriault/Terriot.
Frenchville: Paradis, Roy.
Grand Isle: Beaupre, Carrier/Carriere, Corbin, Cote, Doucet/Doucette, Gendreau, Lizot/Lizotte, Moreau/Morrow.
Madawaska: Caron, Chevarie/Chavarie/Cheverie, Cyr, Daigle, Deschaines/Deschenes/Miville, Lagace/Lagasse, Martin, Picard.
Portage Lake: Beaulieu, Boutot, Dubois.
St. Agatha: Ayotte, Guerette, Michaud, Morneault, Picard, Talbot-Gervais.
St. David: Daigle, Lavertu.
Van Buren: Gauvin, Guedry/Guidry/Labine/Petitpas, Madore, St. Pierre, Violette.
Town not listed: Chasse, Dugal, Dumont, Gagnon, Hebert, Marquis.
Baker Brook: Baker.
Drummond: Caissie, Godbout.
Edmundston: Belliveau, Bourgeois, Broussard, Cormier, Fournier.
Grand Falls: Rioux.
Lac Baker: Nadeau.
Riviere Verte: Therrien, Thibodeau.
St. Andre: Poitras.
St. Basile: Maillet, Soucie/Soucy.
St. Francois: Landry.
St. Hilaire: Ouellet/Ouellette.
St. Jacques: Babineau/Granger, Charest, Leger/Legere/Trahan, Roussel.
St. Joseph: Lalancette/Savoie, Sirois.
St. Quentin: Querry/Turcotte, Savoie.
Town not listed: Gaudet, Mallet/Mallais/Mallry, Mazerolle.
Degelis: Raymond, Turcot/Turcotte.
Notre Dame du Lac: Boudreau.
St. Eusebe: Pellerin.
St. Juste du Lac: Dube.
St. Louis du Ha Ha: Lavoie.
St. Marc du Lac Long: Pelletier.
St. Michel du Squatec: Arsenault.
Riviere Bleu: Landry.
Temiscouata, Quebec: Girouard, Hachez/Hache/Achee, Lejeune, Richard.
No location listed: Allard.
If you visit acadian.org, a genealogy website not officially affiliated with the Acadian World Congress, you will find early contact information for each reunion, plus information on ordering items such as a CD with genealogical information pertaining to that family.
Three points I want to make about this site:
1. CDs are available for more families than just the ones who will have reunions.
2. The families included are French-Canadian as well as Acadian.
3. Many of the CDs on Acadian families are marked that the information is consistent with research done by Stephen White. Stephen A. White, (originally Leblanc), the author of resources such as “Dictionnaire Genealogique Des Familles Acadiennes,” is one of the most highly regarded researchers in Acadian genealogy.
If you look up the Congress host towns in an atlas, you’ll see that they cover a circular area with Madawaska at the center. The hope is that families wanting to attend more than one reunion will be able to do so, especially since the reunions will last a few days each, not two weeks.
Some of these families already have held a reunion in recent decades in conjunction with the annual Acadian Festival in Madawaska. These were traditionally in June, but beginning in 2011, the Cyr Reunion moved its gathering, as did the Acadian Festival, to August.
This year’s family gathering will be the Hudon/Beaulieu Reunion, scheduled for Aug. 8-11 during the Acadian Festival, set for Aug. 8-15 in Madawaska. The festival has its own website at acadianfestival.com.
Information on the reunion also is available at greatermadawaskachamber.com, the website of the Chamber of Commerce in Madawaska.
Family Ties will follow up as we learn more about the World Acadian Congress 2014. Between now and August 2014, at least one of the reunion families will be highlighted each month.
P.S. Information on Hillary Clinton’s Franco-American ancestry can be found in “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s French-Canadian Ancestry” by Gail Moreau-DesHarnais and Dianne Wolford-Sheppard, chosen by the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan as its Best Article for 2007 and available to read at http://fchsm.org/pdf/Clinton.pdf.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An earlier version of this story requires clarification. The official website for the World Acadian Congress is cma2014.com, and a list of participating Franco-American families and their reunion locations may be found at cma2014.com/rencontres-de-familles-prog. Genealogy website acadian.org is not officially affiliated with the World Acadian Congress.