Friday, March 13, 2009

St-Charles-des-Mines Cemetery, Grand-Pré

Dear Cousins,

Today Grand-Pré stands not only as an historic Acadian site but as a memorial to all of our Acadian ancestors. Though all are important to us, there is no Acadian historic site that represents better who we are all the while connecting us with the spirit of our ancestors whether they lived here or in the villages of Port-Royal, Beaubassin, Pisiguit.

If you have not been there, Grand-Pré is a very special and the spirit of our ancestors is alive in this place.

For the past several years, archeological digs have been taking place under the leadership of Jonathan Fowler - it is hoped that the original location of the church will be found as well as the graves of the many Acadians buried in the St-Charles-des-Mines cemetery. The exact number of Acadians buried in this cemetery cannot be determined as some of the parish registers were lost or destroyed at the time of deportation or thereafter. The registers that did survive had been carried into exile by an Acadian who kept them through his exile turning them over to a parish priest when he and his family resettled in Louisiana so many years later. These original registers are held by the Diocese of Bataon Rouge. A copy of the originals registers was eventually deposited with the Diocese of Halifax.

My ancestors buried in the cemetery of St-Charles-des-Mines: André LeBlanc and Marie Dugas, Jacques LeBlanc and Catherine Hébert. Their brothers René and Antoine are also buried here with their wives.

Their children born at Grand-Pré and baptized in the church of St-Charles-des-Mines would not necessarily be buried here alongside their parents for it is the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our first ancestors who suffered through the deportation and years of exile and/or imprisonment that followed

So you can see the importance of the digs going on at Grand-Pré. There is an excellent article on the Acadian Ancestral Home website recently written by Sally Ross who co-authored with Alphonse Deveau The Acadians of Nova Scotia. She has researched and authored other books as well and has translated many books to English for other Acadian authors. Susan Surette-Draper co-authored this article with Sally. Susan wrote the booklet Return to Acadie in 2004.

Details of the on-going digs at Grand-Pré can be found the the Grand-Pré website.

In ending, I would just like to share a special moment that took place here during CMA2004. One afternoon the schedule included a special sharing time out where the remnants of the willows planted by our ancestors hundreds of years ago stand. The willows are located near the fields whre the Acadians would have been working to bring in their crops when the deportation was began.

At a particular moment as we sat quietly reflecting on the Acadians who had lived here, a gentle breeze passed over us and the leaves in those trees rustled. Everyone there present said they felt the presence of our ancestors at that very moment. It still gives me goose bumps when I think back on that special time. Whenever I have visited Grand-Pré I must admit that I have always felt that presence and it is our ancestors who beckon for us to come visit this special place so representative of our Acadian roots.

Whether or not you had ancestors at Grand-Pré, it is an Acadian historic site you will want to visit. When I go to the Maritimes there are not many times I have not made my way to Grand-Pré.

In my next blog, I will talk about other Acadian historic sites such as the cemetery discovered while land was being excavated to build homes at Falmouth, Nova Scotia. Falmouth was once the large village of Pisiguit!

Until then, wherever you live in this world, be happy. We are only passing this way once so make the most of it.


You cousin Lucie


jonruss56 said...

Great job here Lucie! I was glad to find out that my ancestors Rene leblanc and Anne Bourgeois
are buried here at Grand Pre.I loved visiting there years ago.At that time I did not know I had anyone in my family there.Then came StEphen White's books.

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

I paid a brief visit to Grand Pre about 20 years ago. At the time I knew that Theriault and Leger were Acadian names - and a bit of the history - but not much more - yet I still felt deeply moved.
I've always wanted to go back and visit now that I have a deeper understanding of my past and the information that would allow me to visit many sites that connect to my Theriault heritage.
Evelyn in Montreal