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Due to the uniqueness of our ethnic history, with all of its tragic events, its remains a wonder that Acadians everywhere can climb their family trees with a great amount of ease and success, even if many of these stop on this side of the Atlantic Ocean and do not connect back into France. Given the events of the Acadian Deportation, the numerous mini-deportations and migrations from region to region, as well as the lack of clergy to keep records of vital events, it is understandable then why many parish registers are either totally missing today or that there exist within their pages, sometimes, large gaps of missing information. Add also to these factors the numerous pages lost to ravaging fires in the earliest churches and rectories of Acadian settlements over the years, as well as the fact that Acadia per se did not have a system of “double sets of records” or many notarial documents (like its Québecois counterpart), and one readily sees the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing the researcher of an Acadian family heritage. But these challenges are not impossible to overcome!
Surprisingly, much still does exist to help one overcome such difficulties – numerous census records (several of which are extremely detailed!); marriage dispensations from consanguinity (blood relationships) or affinity (in-law relationships) in the extant registers (some of these being calculated with meticulous clarity and exactness); further clues to the identities of individuals, hidden within the texts of existing records of vital events… (such as a deceased parent’s “feu(-e)” notation, a sister who acted as a godparent called “aunt or sister” of the child being baptized, or a brother-in-law or son-in-law who acted as a burial witness) and so forth. Add to these perhaps the existence of a civil record somewhere of an event that was lost in the church registers; a gravestone whose information enables us to close the chapter on a certain family by the information it bespeaks; a will naming a person’s heirs; a passenger list giving details of a family in transit (or none at all proving their demise and disappearance); evidence such as these which all teach the aspiring Acadian genealogist or family historian to proceed cautiously, and “one-step-at-a-time” to gather bits of information about their family, until the portrait is complete.
One must also highly value the use of the traditionally-Acadian (and still in use in many localities) system of climbing one’s tree via the string of oral tradition: “Paul à Jos à Fred à Samuel”. Such identifiers are very useful to researchers. Unfortunately, we do not yet have the resources to compile our lineages in a matter of minutes like our Québecois neighbors, but we are getting there. Our information is being amassed and evaluated as this is being written, and there are still many unknowns needing to be questioned and answered.
Some Acadian Genealogical Pioneers
Along the way, there have also been pioneers in Acadian genealogy who have helped and inspired us. One such person was the pre-eminent Acadian genealogist and Canadian archivist, Placide Gaudet, who maintained a vast correspondence with many of the descendants of the exiled Acadians, and who had kept their histories and genealogies alive in their families by way of oral tradition. Mr. Gaudet’s “Notes on Acadian Genealogy”, published in the 1905 Report to the Canadian Archives, forms the cornerstone of much of what we know about our ancestors. His works are often consulted by the experts, so meticulous and detailed was his document source material. In addition to his files of personal letters, census records, collected papers and documents regarding the Deportation and resettlement of the Acadians, many of the initial facts he gathered back in the late 1800s, and which he incorporated into his compilations of Acadian family lineages, still hold true today, supported by further data and newly discovered documentation. By the way, contrary to popular belief, Placide Gaudet was not a priest, but married with children!
Throughout the years, in another arena, more solid research and documentation by several clergy such as Fathers Patrice Gallant, Archange Godbout, Hector Hébert, Clément Cormier, Anselme Chiasson, Donald Hébert and Clarence d’Entremont have all added veritable substance to the body of evidence which comprises much of the reference source materials on the Acadians in different regions. These men were not afraid to ask questions, dig for facts, test new theories, search for origins, nor share their conclusions with hungry genealogists. Through their further research and writings, so much more is now known about the history, traditions and families of the various groups of Acadians from certain regions, be it in colonial New England during the years of Acadian exile there, or the populations found in certain districts such as Miquelon, Cape Sable, Cape Breton, Québec, France or Louisiana. We are indebted to these dedicated Acadian priests, whose contributions have enriched our pool of source materials in the various Acadian archival centers, and who have enhanced our knowledge of our ancestors and their particular roles played in the development of their local communities and parishes in which they lived.
Though riddled with inadequacies and often erroneous conclusions, toward the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bona Arsenault published his “Histoire et Généalogie des Acadiens”, a multi-volume work, which for many at the time was a partial solution of readily available information on the history and genealogy of many Acadian ancestors. Unfortunately, the compilation by Mr. Arsenault, while encompassing a vast geographic area and several generations of people into the early 1800s, it also contained many unproven assumptions, leaving much to be desired from his conclusions, and much work to be done in order to either prove or disprove them. While many have found fault with his research and genealogical work, we should at least give him his credit due for trying to do his best to assemble a tremendous amount of material. One must admit that like Alex Haley, the author of Roots, whose writing inspired a great wave of genealogical research in America and elsewhere, Mr. Arsenault’s published work sparked a whole generation of Acadian descendants into motion on a similar dynamic quest for their Acadian roots and heritage. For such a spark, Acadia and its descendants must be at least grateful to him.
Stephen White’s “Dictionnaire Généalogique”
Finally, we have arrived at the latest, and undoubtedly, the most exciting moment in this long odyssey, marked by the publication of Part One of Stephen A. White’s “Dictionnaire génealogique des familles acadiennes”, the first truly reputable and solidly researched compendium on the origins and first generations of our Acadian ancestors on this continent to 1714. As precious as the genealogical dictionaries of Cyprien Tanguay and René Jetté, the P.R.D.H. and the Drouin Collection of marriage records are to the Québecois Canadians and their descendants, Mr. White’s dictionary when completed is destined to become for the Acadian descendance, the “Bible of our ancestral origins”. Having started all over from the very beginning, consulting each primary source of information once again, and employing newer tools and methods of dissection, as well as a fresh perspective and sweeping command of the other source materials compiled, Mr. White’s work has resulted in countless newer discoveries and conclusions, as well as confirmed with certitude some older conclusions held since the last century. These first two volumes in this ongoing series offer all Acadian researchers, expert and amateur alike, a very solid basis of data with which to expand their knowledge, as well as a very solid foundation on which all may construct their Acadian lineages on all of its many branches. What will also make the future publication of this work even more credible is Mr. White’s skill in dismantling marriage dispensations and the indisputable proof of mtDNA analysis, results of which he is utilizing to prove his lineages and incorporating into the revised and newest texts for this work. We await with anticipation the appearance of future volumes in this vast undertaking by one so dedicated to making known our ancestral past with as much certainty and precision as is possible.
Where Do We Go From Here?
We now offer the following collection of genealogical links to our readers with hopes, that in their usage, they will find some missing pieces to their Acadian ancestral mosaic.
If you know from which Maritime Province or Québec that your ancestors migrated, begin your search of the links from that place. If you don’t, then please continue to do your genealogical homework here in the various United States archival holdings and parishes before proceeding further. Doing this necessary legwork will enable a successful transition to the sources offered across the border via cyberspace. Also, please proceed cautiously, as all information presented at these sites, if not a primary source with images, and although presented as accurately and error free as possible, may contain spelling errors and other transcriptional errors, or lack of vital information and other clues missed by their compilers. Nothing beats the primary sources of information… the actual parish or civil records or censuses themselves. Let these links and web sites, then, be your guides in locating these original materials.

Finally, if you use information from these web sites in your own research, please be mindful of the long hours their authors have spent compiling and making this information available to us all. Don’t forget to document your sources, respect all copyrights, and give credit where credit is due. With regard the dissemination and use of genealogical data, we highly endorse the Standards for Sharing Information with Others as recommended by the National Genealogical Society. Happy ancestor hunting!

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Updated 24 April, 2011

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