A version of this article, written by Sindi Broussard Terrien, author of this blog site, was published in Je Me Souviens, Volume 42, Number 3, July-Sept 2019, pages 30-33, a publication of the American-French Genealogical Society. All photos were taken by the author.
Châtellerault, Saint-Suliac, Nantes, Saint-Malo. These are some of the places in France my Acadian ancestors lived and have recorded baptisms, marriages, and deaths. When I came across these faraway places in Albert Robichaux, Jr.’s Acadian in Exile series, I knew I wanted to visit where my ancestors had lived. Since I did not have the privilege of learning French, I awkwardly tried to pronounce the names of these villages and cities.
Les Voyages DiasporAcadie offered an Acadian Tour de France in May 2019. Claude Boudreau guided the fourteen-day tour which included visiting major cities like La Rochelle, Nantes, and Saint-Malo. Many of the French set sail from La Rochelle and Saint-Malo to North America beginning in the 1600s. The tour included villages like Châtellerault and Saint-Suliac where Acadians settled after the English deported Acadians from Nova Scotia and Ile Saint Jean (now Prince Edward Island). Now that I have been there, I can better pronounce the villages and town names.
When I returned home, I thought about what the best memory could be, the prettiest place, the best experience, the best meal. Here are a few highlights.
First, how I wish I had spent more time with the original parish registry of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption from Beaubassin in Acadia. The registry is now part of the La Nouvelle-France collection at the Archives départementales de la Charente-Maritime in La Rochelle. The church records were saved by fugitive Acadians in 1750 and transported to La Rochelle in 1778. Claude organized a private viewing of the registry for the period 1712-1748. Because the registry was in such poor condition, it had been restored in 2007 in a plastic-like material. Therefore, we could leaf through the pages and try to read the tables to locate an ancestor’s record. Alas, there was not enough time for fifteen or more people to each take a turn to find a record. After we left the archives, I realized that I had actually touched the original documents from the 1700s that had recorded my ancestors’ life events, but I had not fully appreciated the honor because the race was on to find a record. Thankfully, the registry is available in a digital format online at https://archinoe.fr/console/ir_ead_visu.php?eadid=FRAD017_E-Depot-105_520&ir=23107 and I can explore it at my leisure. (See My Many Mothers Resources for more information about the Beaubassin Registry.)
In addition to the Beaubassin parish registry, the Archives has an original edition of Samuel Champlain’s Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France published in 1603 to view under glass. Before going on the tour, I read Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer as well as other books about Champlain. It was a delight to see the original in print.
In La Rochelle we took a ferry to Île d’Aix. In a way, we reenacted our ancestors’ departure from France for the New World. Alongside Rue de l’Armide, we saw the area in which passengers made camp before boarding the outgoing ships while waiting for the tide. We sailed past the gateway of the Saint Nicolas Tower and the Chain Tower where families may have stood to wave their last goodbyes. As we traveled into the Atlantic Ocean, we watched as the towers became smaller and smaller to see La Rochelle no more.
Prior to boarding the ferry La Maline, Claude read Marc Lescarbot’s poem, “Adieu la France,” and translated it for those of us who did not speak French. The poem evokes the feeling of sadness and loss to know you may never return to families or see homeland France again.
Another favorite memory was visiting the town of Châtellerault which became the home of 150 Acadian families after the deportation or “Great Upheaval.” We gathered at the Place de Grand Pre and the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick sang “Grand Pre” written by Angèle Arsenault. Though the song was sung in French which I do not know, and I had never heard before, I could tell it was a poignant song and a story of l’Acadie. Tears were shed by many in the group.
We then took a walk along the banks of the river La Vienne. Here our ancestors boarded boats to travel to Nantes when the Châtellerault project became a failure. My ancestors Zacharie Boudrot, his wife Marguerite Daigle, and sons were in the First Convoy leaving Châtellerault for Nantes on 24 October 1775.Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, 1775-1785 (Harvey, Louisiana, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., 1978) p.27. My other ancestors Bennoni Blanchard, his wife Madeleine Forest and family were in the Fourth Convoy leaving Châtellerault for Nantes from 6 March to 13 March 1776.Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, 1775-1785 (Harvey, Louisiana, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., 1978) p.13-14. Ancestors Andre Temple, his wife Marguerite LeBlanc and family were also in the Fourth Convoy. Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, 1775-1785 (Harvey, Louisiana, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., 1978) p.154.
A surprise in Châtellerault was walking the path of Saint-Jacque de Compostelle, the pilgrimage route to the shrine of the Apostle St. James in Spain. I noticed the scalloped medallions nailed in the road while we walked to City Hall for a reception with the mayor. We also visited the the church of Saint-Jacques.
We visited the village of Saint-Suliac named one of the most beautiful villages in France. Spring flowers were in full bloom. The roses were fragrant. Saint-Suliac was the home of Bennoni Blanchard for thirteen years and where he married. His son, Joachim-Jacques Blanchard, my ancestor, was born and baptized there.Saint-Suliac Baptêmes/Mariages 1768 No. 68, Bap Joachim-Jacques Blanchard, p. 11; Les Archives départementales d’Ille-et-Vilaine … Continue reading
Oh my. Somebody burned a cake and chose to serve it for breakfast anyway! Since the round cake with a blackened crust was partially cut with slices nearby, I wondered what was being served. The inside of the cake was a beautiful mellow yellow and looked tasty. I had to try it. The hotel in Richelieu served le torte fromage for breakfast. This cheesecake was light and delicate. Delicious! I was happy to find the torte being sold at the outdoor market in La Rochelle a few days later and purchased one to share. By the way, it was baked just the way it was supposed to be.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the decadent pastry kouign-amann (sounds like queen aman) served at Seven Stars Bakery in East Providence, Rhode Island. On the ferry to Belle-Île-en-Mer, an island Acadians briefly settled on, I chatted with a lady who was making her weekly visit to the island. She shared the region’s pastry with me, a kouign-amann, with instructions to heat it up for the next day’s breakfast. I did, not knowing at the time that it was the pastry I had in Rhode Island. Kouign-amann in Brittany means cake and butter and there’s plenty of sugar in it. It’s perfectly yummy and I don’t want to know how many calories are in it. Unlike the le tourteau formage, I can run over to any one of the Seven Stars bakeries in Rhode Island for a kouign-amann and revisit my memories of the Brittany region of France. I’m happy to say that Seven Stars Bakery’s kouign-amann is as good as the one I ate in France.
The tour group numbered thirty-nine Acadians and a few Cajuns, most likely all related somehow several to many generations back. This new-found family included Claude Boudreau the organizer, Theirry the bus driver, Anne-Christine the local guide, nine from the United States and twenty-seven from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Isle, and other Acadian provinces. Seven of us spoke only English while everyone else was bi-lingual. For two weeks together we sat on a bus for hours on end traveling from village to town to city just like our ancestors did. The bus represented a packed ship of people. We ate together, we shared our life stories, we helped each other out when we tripped, got sick or had a headache. Then after spending so much time, experiences, and emotions together, we had to say goodbye to each other; just like our ancestors had to tell their friends and family goodbye. Unlike our ancestors, this impromptu family can share photos and stay connected via phone calls, Facebook, and email.
|↑1||Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, 1775-1785 (Harvey, Louisiana, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., 1978) p.27.|
|↑2||Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, 1775-1785 (Harvey, Louisiana, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., 1978) p.13-14.|
|↑3||Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., The Acadian Exiles in Nantes, 1775-1785 (Harvey, Louisiana, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr., 1978) p.154.|
|↑4||Saint-Suliac Baptêmes/Mariages 1768 No. 68, Bap Joachim-Jacques Blanchard, p. 11; Les Archives départementales d’Ille-et-Vilaine (https://archives.ille-et-vilaine.fr/fr/article/visiter-les-archives > Rechercher > Archives en ligne Registres paroissiaux et état civil > enter “Saint-Suliac” and “1768” > Rechercher > choose 10 NUM 35314 79 Saint-Suliac 1768 Baptêmes/Mariages Commune > image 12 of 16).|