Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History

History of the Cajuns

Cajuns in the 18th Century
Other Nationalities in Louisiana
     When the Acadians arrived in the mid 1760s, Louisiana was inhabited with about 7,000 people.  Most of the population was French.  In the first couple of decades, Louisiana seemed to be a dumping ground.  It was difficult for France to get people to settle in Louisiana so it sent prisoners, prostitutes, and its poor peasants to the colony.  As the years went by, French soldiers, entrepreneurs, and settlers decided to make Louisiana their home.  Some French surnames often considered Cajun include: Lirette, Crochet, and Bonvillain. 
     In the 1720s, John Law brought Germans to the colony.  They settled along the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish and later St. John the Baptist Parish.  This area became known as the German Coast.  Some of the German surnames often considered Cajun include: Haydel, Oubre, and Matherne. 
     There were also a number of French-Canadians who made their way to Louisiana ... some by ship and some down the Mississippi River.  Some of the French-Canadian surnames often considered Cajun include: Chauvin, LeBoeuf, and Brunet. 
     A number of Spanish settlers made their way during the Spanish colonial period in the last four decades of the 18th century.  The largest group of Spanish settlers came from 1778 to 1783 when over 1,000 Canary Island immigrants arrived in Louisiana.  They were placed in four major settlements: Valenzuela, Neuva Iberia, Galveztown, and Terre-aux-Bouef.  The most interaction between their population and Acadians may have been at Valenzuela (present-day Plattenville).  This settlement was located on Bayou Lafourche, just down river from Donaldsonville.  Many of the Acadians that arrived in 1785 settled along Bayou Lafourche from Valenzuela on down.  Some of the Spanish and Canary Island surnames often considered Cajun include: Domingue, Castile, and Segura. 
     American Indians had been in Louisiana for thousands of years.  By the time the Acadians arrived, their numbers had diminished greatly.  The Acadians in southwest Louisiana found Chetimacha Indians, while the Acadians in the Lafourche area found a small group of Houmas Indians.  It is probable that some intermarriage occured.  In the case of Indians, it was a case of them taking on another name, Acadian or otherwise.  Of the people that call themselves Houmas Indians today, you will find some French surnames that come from people who married into the tribes long ago.  Some of these names are: Billiot, Parfait, and Verdin. 
     One group that came here, but against their will, is the African-American. Slaves had been brought over from Africa decades before the first Acadians arrived.  As time went by, there were a certain number of free blacks.  When blacks and caucasians married, they produced offspring that were known by several names, including mulatto.  While there was some intermarriage with the Acadians, it was a small percentage.
     Many of these other nationalities intermarried with the Acadians.  In most cases, the Acadian culture prevailed in the family.  You will find many people today with non-Acadian names that consider themselves Cajuns.  Although their surname may not be Acadian in origin, the chances are that they do have some Acadian blood.
Copyright © 1997-09 Tim Hebert