On the Trail of Your Acadian Ancestors: A Visit to Grand-Pré National Historic Site


Already, when I planned on going to Grand-Pré National Historic Site in Nova Scotia, I could bet my visit would prove quite significant. I must admit I never expected that I would be moved the way I was though.

My paternal great-grandmother Philomène Leblanc was of Acadian ancestry. The whole time I was there, I couldn't help thinking of her great-grandfather Joseph Leblanc deported from Acadia when he was barely 15 years old. I suddenly realized my family had more than fun facts to disclose: it also made history.

In Grand-Pré, you are at the centre of the Acadian Settlement of the area of Les Mines on the Mines Basin. It is besides wherefrom approximately six thousand Acadians were deported and deprived of their land in 1755.

When you enter the Interpretation Centre, you can watch a 20-minute film on the deportation as well as attend an exhibition on the history of Acadians. Despite that all along the deportation, the British had burned the church and the houses, numerous artifacts were retrieved (such as a 1720 pair of shoes, tools and dishes) and are on display, telling about the daily lives of Acadians. Two iron pots were discovered inserted into one another, stuffed with bark and moss to protect the glass bottles with their expensive French tin-glazed earthenware holders. It is heartbreaking to see that some owners were hiding their valuables, actually hoping to return.

Exiting the main building at the rear end, you then walk towards the statue of Evangeline and the commemorative church (more or less on the site of former Catholic Church Saint-Charles-les-Mines), the former parish cemetery, and the wonderful landscape of the grand pré or large meadow. As mentioned on an informative panel,"it was one of the largest reclamation enterprises of its type. Recent research suggests that the Acadians dyked hundreds of hectares there before their deportation in 1755".

Grand-Pré—no wonder—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast panorama before your eyes from the View Park, on Old Post Road, lets your imagination run wild and go back in time.

Clearly, my visit paid off owing to Joseph and his family's destiny as they will be the topic of a new chapter in the family history. Indeed, I had only one thought in mind: set myself to work on my tree and document the lives of my Acadian ancestors. If these five families were all living in Saint-Jacques-de-l'Achigan (Quebec) around 1768, they went through different experiences. Following the deportation, the first one was sent to England and to Saint-Servan in France later on; the second and the third were deported to Massachusetts; the fourth, to Connecticut; and finally the fifth was in Acadia and then in Saint-Jacques-de-l'Achigan, but where they were in-between, I still have to find out.

Shortly after my return, I was able to establish that Joseph Leblanc, his siblings and parents were in Nova Scotia's Isle Royale (Cap Breton Island) in 1752. I guess I will have to pack my suitcase once again—genealogy makes you travel, that's for sure!