From Acadian to Cajun: Part 9 – Dupuis/Dugas
These installments can be pretty tricky to write. I want to be as accurate as possible, but that is really difficult to do when there is conflicting information out there. Human memory is very much influenced by belief and the passage of time. The Grand Derangement happened 265 years ago in another country where a different language was spoken. A lot of turmoil was going on when it happened. When the people eventually settled in a place to call home, they just wanted to get their lives together.
What has survived are a few old church documents and some Censuses before and during the Exile. One of the treasured items from back then are the Declarations of the Acadians at Belle-Ile-en-Mer in France. The Acadian Exiles in this area were interviewed and asked to tell about their family histories. Many of the people were able to give information about their families back to the time of the founders of Acadie in the 1600s. Of course most of this was based on human memory, so some errors were present in their statements
The Declaration that I was most interested in was that of Marie Josephe Dupuis on February 27, 1767, at the Village of Parlavant. I don’t descend from her, but I do descend from her younger brother Joseph Dupuis. He is the main person I’m writing about in this installment. Marie Josephe was the oldest of eleven children of Antoine Dupuis and Marie Josephe Dugas. Antoine and Marie Josephe were married around 1719 in Riviere au Canards, Acadie. Their first child (Marie Josephe) was born in 1721.
Like I said, she was the oldest of eleven children. They were born over a period of 20-25 years. That included two sets of twins. Joseph and his twin brother were one of those sets. According to their older sister, they were born in 1745. Their parents Antoine and Marie Josephe died around 1747. It looks like some of the older children were caring for the younger ones after that time. Some of them were adults with children of their own. So when the Grand Derangement happened in 1755, the family was split up even more.
So when Marie Josephe Dupuis (Theriot) made her declaration in 1767, she hadn’t seen some of her siblings for over 20 years. Sadly, some of them had passed away. From what I can tell, six of her siblings had died since their Exile from Acadie, yet she was only aware of one of those deaths. Marie Josephe and a younger sister named Ozite (and their husbands and children) were originally Exiled to Virginia in 1755. Like other Exiles sent to Virginia, they were deported the following year to Falmouth, England, where they were treated with neglect. Many Acadian Exiles died in 1756 from the smallpox, including sister Ozite, Marie’s husband Pierre Theriot, and several other Theriot family members.
Evidently all that Marie Josephe knew about her other siblings is that they had been “transported to New York.” There was another sibling (Anne Marie – the twin of Ozite) that “passed with their family to the Mississippi” and was never heard from again. According to other sources, she died before 1767. So that would mean that eight siblings were “transported to New York.” Yet all other sources say that Joseph’s twin brother Jean Baptiste was Exiled with Marie Josephe and Ozite and he ended up in France as well. Yet Marie Josephe clearly states that Joseph and Jean Baptiste were “transported single” to New York. If he was with her in France, she would surely know about it. She may have overlooked Jean Baptiste when talking about the twins.
So that leaves seven siblings that were transported to New York: Joseph, Magdeliene, Antoine, Simon Pierre, Marguerite, Euphrosine, and Charles. But they didn’t actually go to New York. They went to Connecticut. See how difficult it is to figure out what happened back then? Even the ones that were living back then didn’t know what was happening. Of course if those in charge didn’t care if the Acadians lived or died, they certainly weren’t concerned if they knew what was going on with their families. You can only tell the truth if you know the truth. So we can forgive Marie Josephe for any errors in her Declaration. She went through a very traumatic time and she meant well.
So let’s see what happened to Joseph and his siblings (and their families) that were sent to Connecticut. It looks like at least seven ships left the shore of Acadie with over 1000 individuals who were forcibly removed from their homeland. They left sometime in late 1755 and arrived during the month of January 1756. I haven’t seen information about where they stayed or even if they were all in the same place. What I have found is that his sister Magdeliene died in Connecticut in 1762. There is no more information on his other older sister Marguerite, so I’m thinking she probably died between 1756 and 1762. His younger brother Charles survived and somehow he and some of their sisters’ children made it back up north and settled in Quebec. So that left Joseph with Antoine, Simon Pierre, and Euphrosine.
Toward the end of the Seven Year War (in 1763) French officials were encouraging Exiles to relocate from English colonies to French-owned Sainte Dominque (now Haiti). There they would be used as laborers on a naval base on the island with the incentive that the Exiles would be given land grants. Joseph and his other three siblings joined a group of 180 Acadians from New England ports who headed to St. Domingue in August 1764. It was not the best situation. The officials sent them to Mirebalais (near Port au Prince) and did not give them the land that was promised. The Acadians did not fare well and many of them died from malnutrition and tropical diseases.
Joseph had not married yet, nor did he have any children, so we know he survived. How else would he become my ancestor? But his siblings were not as fortunate. Simon Pierre and his two older sons Francois and Firmes died within a month or two of arriving in their tropical environs. (His wife had died in 1760 in Connecticut.) On January 4, 1765, his younger sister Euphrosine passed away at Mirebalais. She had become a new, young mother the previous year, but her son had died a month before she did. Then in August his oldest brother Antoine died as well. Antoine’s wife and three of his seven children had died in September and October of 1764 in Mirebalais as well.
And then there was Joseph. When I saw his name on the Wall in St. Martinville where the list of Acadian Exiles in Louisiana is shown, I noticed a few names under his. I didn’t know who the other people were, but later found out that they were his niece and nephews. “Hmm,” I thought, “That’s interesting.” But now that I’ve found out the details of his life in Exile, I have to say that it is more than “interesting.” It’s very touching.
Joseph was an orphan when the Grand Derangement began, but fortunately he had several older siblings who were willing to help him through those terrible times. As they went from Acadie, to Connecticut, and then on to Sante Dominge, their numbers were decreasing. Yet if it weren’t for them, he may not have survived. So when he found out about a chance for a better life in Louisiana, Joseph Dupuis took action.
There was a ship of Acadian refugees that docked at Cap Francais for over two weeks. The ship was The Virgin. It came from Maryland and it included my Landry ancestors who had spent their exile there. Joseph made his way across the island to meet up with the ship. He took along the surviving four children of his brother Antoine. It’s what family does.
The Virgin arrived in New Orleans on July 23, 1767. Joseph settled with the other Acadians in St. Gabriel. At the end of Installment No. 4, I talked about Anne Marie Hebert being at the right age for marrying in 1769. Her family had settled in St. Gabriel in July 1767 as well. Her father and her brother owned property next to each other. And the property next to her brother’s was owned by none other than our Joseph Dupuis. She evidently came to the conclusion that he was good marriage material, because they were married on March 27, 1769.
In the 1777 St. Gabriel Census, it shows Joseph and his wife Anne Marie with their two young sons. His nephews Jean Baptiste and Simon lived nearby.
For other installments of the “From Acadian to Cajun” series, click on the following links: