Acadian Day was this week here in Canada. I'm not going to get into the long and complicated history of the Acadians in Canada. Long story short, the Acadians were some of the earliest settlers of Canada, settling in what is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. They would become victims of the war between the French and British for control of Canada. The deportation of the Acadian people by the British is one of the darker periods of our history. For a more complete history of the Acadians you can look at the entries in the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Acadian research has definite advantages and disadvantages. The fact that they were French Catholic means excellent religious records can take you very far back. One of the disadvantages is that due to the conflict that led to their expulsion, the records can be far flung and scattered.
Nova Scotia takes great pride in being the original home of the Acadian people. The Nova Scotia Archives (NSA) has a great collection of Acadian resources both online and on site. Go to the main page of the Archive's website, scroll to the bottom to "Some of Our Topics" and click on "Acadians".
There are 8 collections at the Nova Scotia Archives related to the Acadians:
- Isaac Deschamps Collection
This collection does not deal exclusively with Acadians. Mr. Deschamps was traded with the Acadians and local First Nations. Later he was connected to Fort Edward. Among this collection is correspondence of his relating to the Acadians, as well as reports listing French prisoners at Fort Edward. It is available on microfilm onsite. Please note that the NSA does not participate in inter library loan. Also in the collection is a virtual exhibit that has 42 images of some of his correspondence. It also has lists of French prisoners at Fort Edward. One image has the names of the heads of family, along with the number of people in each family. Yes, you read that right. Entire families were imprisoned in some cases.
- An Acadian Parish Reborn
If your Acadian ancestors settled in Argyle, Yarmouth County in the post deportation years, then this collection is for you. Covering the years 1799 to 1849, this searchable database has all the Roman Catholic church entries for this area. This section is subdivided through links on the right side of the page. You can learn about the history of the area, the Acadian familes who settled there, and the churches in the area. At the bottom of the list of links is a name index. Just click on a surname and it will give you all the entries under that particular surname. By clicking on a particular entry, you will get both a transcription and a visual image of the entry. Please note that there is no way to download the image, but you can download a transcript of the whole page.
- The Port Royal Habitation
This is a virtual exhibit outlining the history of Port Royal. As well, it provides details and insights into the rebuilding of the original settlement.
- Acadian Heartland: Records of the Deportation
- Acadian Heartland: The Records of the British Government
This a sister collection to the one above. This particular collection covers the years from 1713 to the Expulsion. It gives great insight into everyday life in this time period. As well, if you managed to find an ancestor who was part of the British military in this place and time period, you might find mention of them here.
- This is Our Home: Acadians of Nova Scotia
This virtual exhibit of photographs showcases 150 years of the original Acadians' descendants in Nova Scotia.
- Acadian Genealogical Sources
This section gives a complete listing of the NSA's Acadian holdings. If you're planning a research trip to the Archives, then this section will help you plan your time there.
- An Acadian Parish Remembered
This last section is my favourite, and I've used it a lot. This indexed and searchable database contains the registers of St. Jean-Baptiste in Annapolis Royal. It covers the years 1702 to 1755. You use it in the same way as you would the " An Acadian Parish Reborn Collection". Unlike the collection above though, you cannot download either the image itself or the transcription. It is still a great resource though. Just look at the information I got for the baptism of Michel Bastarache, my 6x great grandfather, and one of my favourite ancestors. As an adult he caused a lot of trouble for the British military. You can read about him in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography here
Not in the screenshot is an image of the register itself below. This is handy to confirm the information transcribed. As you know, errors can be made. Please note that the original entries are in French. This particular entry is one of 44 entries that pertain to the Bastarache surname. In all, there are over 3500 entries in these registers.
Not listed in the general Acadian search topic is the digitized issues of Le Courier de la Nouvelle Ecosse in the newspapers section. A French language newspaper that is still published today, it is the newspaper of the Acadian culture. The NSA has issues digitized from 1937 to 2002. You will need to have a fairly good grasp of French to read them, but you never know if your more recent ancestor of Acadian descent is going to show up in there. What is neat about this paper is that along with all the usual news items you would normally find, they also have articles discussing Acadian culture and heritage. You can access all the issues available here.
Of course there are many other sources for Acadian research online. But the Nova Scotia Archives is a great place to start delving into your Acadian heritage.