So, from what part of France did the majority of
the early settlers of Acadia originate?
Good question. Since Charles Menou d'Aulnay
was in charge of Acadia during the 1640's ... when many of the early Acadian
settlers arrived, it is thought that they were recruited by his men. Since
d'Aulnay's family owned property south of Loudun in France (see Poitou map, right), it has long
been assumed that the colonists were common folk from near his home. The
exact origins have been the subject of several studies.
LaTour was also known to have brought workers
to Acadia. Except for LaTour, the earliest Acadian names probably
date back to Razilly's group in 1632 ... though we don't have a list.
Since Mathieu Martin was considered the first born in Acadia (1636), the
business of settling down and raising a family might not have really begun
until after Razilly's death in 1635.
Church at La Chaussee
|| One of the most famous is Genevieve Massignon's
work, Les Parlers Français D'Acadie. In this
work (done in French), she seeks to establish Acadian origins based on
linguistics. She makes the argument that many of the Acadians come from
the Poitou region, south of Loudun. To put it simply, the words that
the Acadians used were found to be in the Poitou area of France at the
time. She also found a number of records in that area that bore surnames
found in early Acadia. Some of the villages in the area include Martaize,
Aulnay, and La Chaussee.
Another work is Les
Origines Francaises des Premieres Familles Acadiennes by Nicole
T. Bujold & Maurice Caillebeau. Also in French, it looks into the possible
origin of the Acadians. This work also identifies Loudunais as the source
for a number of the Acadians. Maurice's son Philippe has a website on the subject. I believe that the Centre d'etudes acadiennes plans
to do some research on Acadian origins as one of their future projects.
Benjamin Sulte, in “Origin of the French
Canadians” (1906), p. 99, says that their the Acadian dialect would place
their origin around the Bay of Biscay and at the mouth of the Loire River.
Massignon (in Les Parlers Francais) suggests that they came
from the Loudunais area in NE Poitou (northern section of today’s Vienne
Another idea of the origins of the Acadians has
recently been presented by Michel Poirier. He says that they might
have come from Baie de Bourgneuf (about 40 km W of Nantes). His ideas
are presented (in French) at the St. Pierre & Miquelon website.
Some details that he cites to support his theory include:
- the location of the monastery of the Assumption
(on the island Chauvet), which was regularly attended by Richelieu and
was the property of his brother, Alphonse.
- Port-Royal and the church of St Jean-Baptiste
- salt-water marshes in the area were drained ...
much like the dyke system utilized in Acadia
- it was a zone surrounded by Protestants and enclosing
| Of the
pre-1632 Acadians, the only one that seems to have left descendants in
the area is LaTour. Over the years, people from other countries made
a home in Acadia. Some, such as the Grangers, may have come with the English.
We don't know exactly how most of them arrived, due to the lack of ship
lists. The core of the settlers in the 1650s may have come from
Razilly’s 1632 group, who were mainly from Britanny and Touraine. [Lauvriere, La Tragedie, 1, 63]. In addition,
both d'Aulnay and LaTour had also brought people to Acadia from 1635 to
Scottish names may be Peselet (from Paisley),
Coleson, Caissy (from Casey), Pitre (from Peters), and Melanson (Lauvriere, La
Tragedie, 1, p. 63). Current scholars say that perhaps only
Caissy was English (actually Irish). [Clark, p. 101]
that has been surrounded by confusion has been the Melancon/Melanson family.
Melancon is an English name, so early researchers believe they were English
or Scottish. Further research has found that the Acadian Melancons
were sons of Pierre La Verdure. He married Priscilla Mellanson around
1630 in England or Scotland. He and his family arrived in Acadia
with Sir Thomas Temple on the Satisfaction in 1657.
One son is thought to have stayed in New England. One son, Pierre,
a stonemason, was born in 1632 and married Marguerite Mius d'Entremont
around 1664 in Port Royal. One son, Charles, was born in 1642 and
married Marie Dugas in 1663 at Port Royal. The Melancons were some
of the first settlers of the Grand Pre region.
name is English (or Scottish), it is now thought that their father was
a French Huguenot. The 2 Melancons who settled in Acadia took their
mother's surname. Check out Mike
Melanson's website for more information on the Melancons. NOTE: Archaeologists in Nova Scotia having been working on excavating the
Melanson Settlement in recent years.
It is now a national historic site.
below lists some of the other surnames and their nationalities.
acadiens by Stephen White