The Embarkation was painted by Nelson Surette.
Used on this site with permission.

The Acadians in Exile


The result of the Deportation also called the Great Diaspora was sad in two ways: it deprived the country of Acadia of a prosperous people; it separated families and kin in widely divided places in New England - then known as The New England Colonies - as well as England and France. The Acadian exiles were scattered them throughout the islands of Acadia in places like Miquelon, Ile St-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Ile Royale (Cape Breton)etc.

Acadian History is one of suffering and grief, of hardship and sickness and death. It is a story of children left without parents, and helpless among strangers; of families broken up and scattered. Though impossible to record and retell the journey of each ancestor, nonetheless here and there, in their wanderings wherever they were in exile as well as back to Acadia, we get a glimpse of them in the records of New England, but often only through the increase of familiar Acadian names that returned to various parts of the provinces of what was once Acadia and other parts of Canada do we know of the return of the Exiles. Many of these did not know their own history if they were born in exile, except as one of suffering.

Governor Lawrence and the chief agents in this shameful act received twenty thousand acres of the Acadian land. This was reduced to five thousand by the Lords of Trade. He himself had the handling of the wealth in products and live stock which the Acadians left, and the lion's share of that wealth was his. The deportation was worked out in a most heartless manner, to prevent, if possible, the reunion of families and their return to Acadia. A great many died in a few years, on account of the hardships and privations they had to bear. A small proportion of them found their way back to their homes. The great purpose of the deportation was carried out: their land was offered to English settlers, and finally, six years after, was taken by them (the Planters); the wealth of the Acadians was given to others. When the Planters arrived to take as their own the land of the Acadians, the furniture and all of the items the Acadians had packed and taken with them to the beaches where they would board the deporation ships, were still there - what a haunting revelation of what had once transpired here!

For many years, it was believed that many documents that could throw light on the events of 1755 were lost or more likely destroyed. However, through the years, many documents have been found in Halifax that were thought to have disappeared.

In spite of hidden, lost or destroyed documents, researchers have been able to reconstruct Acadian history from papers recovered in England and France. The finding of such documents and the reconstruction that ensued has changed many opinions as to what truly happened in 1755 and history continues to be written today that sheds light on a piece of history that had for the large part been ignored. Have you ever read about the Acadians in your history books? Have you ever heard of their deportation before you began genealogy research? Not likely.

Only a fragmentary accounting of the history of our exiled and wandering Acadian Ancestors has been written. What we find as we research where our Ancestors were sent during the Deportation years is that: families were separated; the deportees were not expected in some of the colonies and so were more greatly resented; provisions were very minimal so that there was much sickness, poor care and resultant deaths; finally, when the father and/or mother of a family were too ill to work, the children were endentured to British families. Many letters were written by the Acadians to the Government of Massachusetts becrying the fact that their children were nothing less than slaves of British families. For the Acadians who were deeply religious in their Catholic faith, this was an added woe to know that now their children were also forced to practice the religion of the British.

When all was said and done, a grudging justice was in part done to the unfortunate people, our Ancestors, who had suffered so much at the hands of merciless men.

At the time of the Deportation, many Acadians lived in Minas Basin then considered the bread basket of Acadia. The story of an Acadian Minas, once numbering so many Acadian families was prosperous and teeming with agriculture and livestock. Life was good. It was prosperous. The Acadians, always a happy people, could be proud of their many accomplishments and successes in settling this land.

The Fall harvest looked like it would be a bumper crop that day in September when Lawrence's Proclamation was read to the men and boys in the church at Grand-Pré. All that had been a part of Acadian history in Minas ended with the Deportation. Dispersed by the orders of a Governor Lawrence who was bent on annihilating this ethnic group of people, the Acadians were decimated by malady, deprived by spiritual succor and human consolations, received with mistrust and contempt, placed in a desperate situation without any visible way out, crushed under the burden of an overwhelming woe. Could they again become attached to life, set themselves once more to work and resume their former hopes?

Some of the family villages at Minas at the time of the Deportation were as follows:


De Landry - North of Minas or Cornwallis River
Claude Terriau - same location
Des Landry - same location
Granger - same location
Jean Terriau - same location
Comeau - same location
Michel - same location
Aucoine - same location
Trahan - same location
Poirier - same location
Saulnier - same location
Brun - same location
Dupuis - same location
Hebert - same location
Francois - same location
Pinons - same location
Antoine - same location
Claude - same location
Herbert Co ero(?) - same location
Claude Landry - same location

Navie - South of Minas River
Jean LeBlanc - same location
Pierre LeBlanc - same location
Grand LeBlanc - same location
Richard - same location
Pinour (Pinou?) - same location

Melanson - Gaspereau
Michel - same location

De Petit (Gotro) - About Grand-Pré

Landry - (Omitted) Canard
Comeau - Canard
Granger - same location
Pinue - same location
Hebert - same location
Jean Teriau - same location
La Coste - same location

Grand-Pré - Grand-Pré

Gaspereau - Gaspereau

All of the names except those in italics are the names of individuals or families. They are given here as they were listed by Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow who had read the deportation proclamation of Governor Lawrence to the Acadians.

The principal villages on the south side of Minas River, now the Cornwallis, sometimes called Minas or Grand-Pré, were:

Pierre LeBlanc
Grand LeBlanc
Jean LeBlanc
and Grand-Pré.

On the north side of the same river, the villages of the Canard section, sometimes called Habitant and Canard, because the settlements were mainly on the Habitant and Canard Rivers, were named:

Claude Landry


The remaining villages had less than twenty inhabitants.

At Grand-Pré and Gaspereau, and along the south side of Minas, the common names of the Acadians in the order of their frequency were:


On the north side the common names were:


In other parts of Acadia, the Acadians - wherever they lived - met the same fate as those at Minas. Between 1755 and 1763 - it was not a one-time deportation - it is believed that 12,000 to 14,000 Acadians were deported. It is believed that thousands died through grief, destitution, disease and many were lost at sea.

The only Colony that seems to have made provisions for the arriving Acadians - known as French Neutrals in the colonies because they would not sign an allegiance to the king of England if it meant they would have to bear arms against their French compatriots should England go to war again against France - was Connecticut. Records in Connecticut show that in October, 1755 a resolution was passed to receive, take care and dispose of the people. The Governments of others colonies complained that they had not been informed of the intention of Lawrence to send the deportees to them.

Upon the arrival of several vessels in Boston Harbor, a committee appointed to check on the condition of the Acadians, reported that on two of the vessels people were sickly, one from being too crowded with forty on deck, and the other from very bad water. Another had forty lying on deck, and all the vessels were too crowded. They had too small an allowance of food to carry them to their destination. A few were permitted to land.

Only a small portion of the people were put ashore in the northern ports of New England, except at Boston, where two thousand were landed. New York and Connecticut received, respectively, two hundred and three hundred. The remainder of the exiles were distributed in Pennsylvania, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia. In Philadelphia they were at first forbidden to land but after being on the ships for two months, the three overcrowded ships gave up their unhappy freight. The last reference to these is in the city records of 1766, when a petition was tabled which asked for the payment for coffins provided for the French Neutrals. Death had reduced them from four hundred and fifty to two hundred and seventeen.

South Carolina furnished the fifteen hundred Acadians who landed there, with vessels to return. After many hardships and misfortunes, they reached rivière St-Jean (St. John River), on the Bay of Fundy, reduced to half their number.

Those who reached Georgia were again banished. They were permitted to make boats, and in these they made their way back as far as Massachusetts, when an order from Lawrence was given to seize their boats and to make them prisoners again.

In New York, a special act was passed on July 9, 1756, to empower the Justices of the counties of Westchester, Richmond, Suffolk, Kings and Queens to bind out "such of His Majesties subjects commonly called Neutral French as have removed from Nova Scotia to this colony." This now meant that those who would be "bound out" would be nothing less than slaves. Under this act, 110 young Acadians - fifty-eight girls and fifty-two boys - who came in August, 1756, from Georgia with Acadian families, were put out to service. One young man and nine young women, contrary to the Act, being over gae, were bound out to service. For a time a number of them were also detained on Governor's Island, New York Bay, and by August 26, 1756, they were distributed through the counties of Winchester and Orange. Though only 21 year olds and older were supposed to be bound out official records show that at least fifty-five minors were bound out through the county.

In July, 1757, a party of Acadians who had been near Westchester, escaped and were again captured near Fort Edward on their way to Crown Point. In August, the New York Council directed the Sheriffs of the several counties to secure the French Neutrals in the jais of those counties. This order was obeyed. In one county all of the Acadian men were imprisoned by August 13, 1757. On December 19, 1757, a New York merchant offered to pay for the transportation of any Acadians to any place the Council would want to send them. Nothing came of it.

This was recorded for August 25, 1768 - Came on Sloop "Swallow" from quebec, Benj. Bennoi (Benoit), wife, two children, Michael Dugas, Edward Dugas, John Dugas, Peter Dufatt (Doucette).

On April 28, 1756, Captain Andrew Dunning, of a sloop, brought a number of French Neutrals from Cap Sables but was ordered not to land them.

And so these kinds of incidents were repeated again and again.

In Massachusetts State Archives, we find documents such as these:

February 18, 1761 - Francis Robishaw (Robichaud) at the workhouse was taken down with smallpox, and was moved to Dr. Gardner's Hospital. He was able to be moved March 11, 1761.

March 17, 1761 - Joseph Brow, Sr. (Breau), referred to in letter from Hingham, Massachusetts, was not voted an allowance for the charge of his suport at Weymouth. The town then had Peter Daucet (Doucette) ordered to that town.

March 29, 1762 - John Benewoy (Benoit) was taken sick while on a visit to Boston and had to be supported.

September 22, 1760 - The town of Brookline charged by Boston for his care and supplies. Dorchester was also charged with care and suplies on account of Joseph Laune also taken sick while on a visit to Boston.

March 29, 1762 - Marie Theresa Lebeaux assigned to Newton was also taken sick. There are many more such records in the Massachusetts State Archives.

Of the Acadian deportees who landed in Massachusetts, Hutchinson, the historian, says: It is too evident that this unfortunate people had much to suffer from poverty and bad treatment, even after they had been adopted by Massachusetts. The different petitions addressed to Governor Shirley about this time are heartrending. (Two thousand documents can be found at the Massachusetts State Archives dealing with the French Neutrals.) The condition gradually lessened until they were able to leave the state for Canada. Many returned to find their lands occupied by others (the Planters sent from New England colonies). It is said that 200 Acadians traveled on foot through the forests from Boston to the Bay of Fundy. Many made their way into New Brunswick where their descendants still live today. Others now afraid of British rule, settled in the Province of Québec while others went to Miquelon or other places such as Prince Edward Island (once Ile St-Jean), Newfoundland, Cape Breton, etc.

Erroneously, many believe that the Acadians who went to Louisiana had been deported there. This was not true. Actually, it was after the Deportation years had ended that the government of Louisiana - then under Spanish rule - agreed to send seven ships to France so as to transport Acadians to Louisiana to settle the land. Later, the numbers of Acadians who migrated to Louisiana would increse when about 1788 others arrived who had gone to Santo Domingo (now Haiti), Guiana, and ports of New England. From the colonies, Acadians traveled to Louisiana from Maryland. The Acadians became known as Cajuns simply because when they would say that they were A-ka-jin- (spoken in French it sounded like that..) the other settlers of Louisiana caught the ka-jin and soon began calling them the Cajuns.

Virginia refused to accept the fifteen hundred who were to be landed there. They remained on the ships till at length they were taken to England and imprisoned in Falmouth, Liverpool, Bristol and Southampton. It would be several years later before they would be expatriated to France after the signing of the Treaty of Breda. Many died while in prison and many children were born to these families who had managed to remain together while in exile. When spouses died, many remaining spouses remarried and more children were added to these families. It seemed that as despairing as the situation might be, the Acadians would not only *not* be annihilated. Rather, their family lines would increase and continue for years to come.

Of the twenty ships that set sail with the Acadian Deportees, four never reached their destination. One was lost, two were driven by storm to Santo Domingo, and the fourth was taken by the Acadians themselves and returned to Acadia only to be taken prisoners again and returned to exile.

The South Carolina Gazette of November 6, 1755, announced that the Baltimore Snow was due to arrive from the Bay of Fundy with some transport vessels, having a number of Neutral French on board who were being distributed among the British colonies. On the twentieth, more of the people arrived, and so on for several weeks the arrival of the Acadians was reported until one thousand and twenty of them had been brought into Charleston. The presence of the people seems to have created considerable uneasiness in the colony after some months. In February, 1756, two parties of them attempted to escape. On the twelfth they had been brought back with the exception of about thirty of them. A party of five or six had supplied themselves with firearms and clothes, and some money from a house on the plantation of Mr. John Williams, on the Santee, while he was absent, much to the terror of his wife.

Attempts to escape from the colonies and return home were many. However, most would be recaptured and returned to exile.

The exiled Acadians continuously roamed from town to town searching for the spouses or children from whom they had been separated. In fact, searches for separated loved ones continued as late as 1786! It is unbelievable that as long as 30 years after the Deportation that saw children and spouses ripped from the heart of their families that the search was incomplete and perhaps never achieved for some families.

It is such a paradox that only twenty years after the Deportation of the Acadians to the New England Colonies, that these same colonies rose in revolt against England and finally severed their connection with the mother country! During that time, emissaries were sent into Canada to urge the Acadians who had been deported there not that long before, to cast their lot with New England in breaking the tie which held the colonies to England. Their mission was fruitless, however, and the French remained faithful to the British crown though that is difficult to understand.

France and England signed a treaty of peace in 1763 known as the Treaty of Breda; yet as late as 1765 there were Acadian prisoners at Fort Edward - at one time as many as 400. Finally, as other Acadians held prisoners in England had been repatriated by the signing of the Treaty, so at last were these last prisoners released and also allowed to own land.

Inspite of all that befell our Acadian Ancestors, they rose out of their ashes to become a people of determination.. a people that would survive! Today, Acadian descendants number in the millions around the world. The cloth that has woven the past has become the fabric of the lives of the present descendants. Ours is a proud endurance and belief that all adversity could be overcome. The bodies and sometimes the will of the Acadians were broken but never was the spirit broken. This is the heritage our Ancestors have left us!

Sources: The History of Grand-Pré by John Frederic Herbin whose mother was Acadian and who acquired the land where St-Charles-des-Mines Church and cemetery once was sold the land to the Dominion Railroad Company so that it could continue to be developed as a memorial to the Acadians. It is believed that 400 hundred Acadians were buried here in Grand-Pré when the British destroyed the Church and cemetery. Grand-Pré is located in what was known as Minas. It was originally home of the Mik'maq Indians. It was settled in the late 17th century. Today, St-Charles Memorial Church stands here in testimony of what once was thanks to this man's foresight and dream of making it a memorial.

Microfilm records from the Massachusetts State Archives entitle French Neutrals Census records for Acadia researched at the American Canadian Genealogical Society - ACGS - in Manchester, New Hamphire.

© Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home

Please Navigate This Web Site Using The Sidebar To The Left
If You Do Not See A Sidebar Click Here