Acadians were exiled from New France by the British in 1755, deported on ships back to France, the Caribbean Islands, England, and the British colonies in America. Families were torn apart, and most of their possessions in Acadia were forfeit. Many of the deported Acadians died from disease or drowning. A few Acadians were allowed to remain in their homes, after choosing to swear an oath of allegiance to the British government. Some remained in hiding in the Maritimes. Others escaped to Québec.
After the British persecution of Acadia ended in 1764, some Acadians began to return to the Maritimes, settling primarily in New Brunswick because the British still barred them from resettling in the area that became Nova Scotia. Some of the dispersed Acadians, many of whom had returned to France at the time of exile, chose to start over in Louisiana at the invitation of the Spanish. Descendants of these Acadian settlers in Louisiana are now known as Cajuns, from the French pronunciation of Acadian, a-cad-jin, which became "Cajun." While they share a heritage with their Acadian "cousins," Cajuns also have their own distinct culture developed through adaptation to their new home in Louisiana.
Researching Acadian AncestorsThe tumultuous history of the Acadian people leaves researchers with records, strategies, and even locations that vary by time period. Most Acadian genealogy research is thus divided into several distinct categories:
Post Acadian Deportation & Resettlement (1786 to present)
This is where Acadian research begins for most of us, and also where research strategies and available records will depend upon the area in which your Acadian ancestors settled following the period of British exile. If they remained in or returned to Canada, then you will research them as you would other Canadian ancestors during this time period. Look for a research guide such as Genealogical Research in Nova Scotia by Terrence Punch or an online finding aid such as Genealogy & Family History: New Brunswick from Library & Archives Canada, specific to the area in which your ancestors lived. If they settled in one of the American colonies, then research them in the records of that state.
Le Grand Derangement, The Exile (1755-1785)
During the years of Acadian deportation from 1755 through about 1764, and for the decades to follow, many Acadians were essentially nomads, living in exile from what they felt was their true homeland. Because the Acadians themselves were scattered throughout France, New France, England, and the American colonies, the records of their existence are scattered as well. Look for Acadians who ended up in the American colonies in available census and church records of the appropriate state, as well as in published works such as Norma Gaudet Reider's The Acadian Exiles in the American Colonies, 1755-1768 (1977). For Acadians who remained in Canada, consult church and census records in the area where they settled such as New Brunswick and Quebec. Father Donald Hebert's Acadians in Exile is an excellent starting point for Acadians in the French colonies. Several works by Albert J. Robichaux, Jr. document names of some Acadians in England, France, and Louisiana, including Acadian Marriages in France, 1759-1776 (1976).
For those ancestors who escaped back to France during the exile and then returned to North America, some passenger records are available, including the records of seven ships that brought almost 1600 Acadians from France to settle in Louisiana in 1785.