Friday January 03, 2014 | 06:58 AM

               Acadians have another international Congres Mondial Acadien, coming up in August 2014, in Northern Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada, where families can reconnect, 259 years after Le Grand Derangement.

A fascinating story about a former reunion, resulting in an archeology dig and a land trust agreement, came to me from Dick Thibodeau, a Maine native and part time resident of Kennebunk.

What began in 1982, as a Franco-American man’s venture to learn about the Thibodeau genealogy, eventually evolved into an archeology project on land once owned by victims of Le Grand Derangement (the 1755 deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia).

Moreover, on July 22, 2013, the Archaeological Land Trust of Nova Scotia (ALTNS) and the Shaw Family of Poplar Grove, once the site of Thibodeau Village, in Nova Scotia, signed an agreement to protect a portion of the pre-expulsion Acadian site where Thibodeau’s French ancestors once lived.

It started when Dick Thibodeau, a native of Saco, ME and 1952 graduate of Thornton Academy, began to delve into his family’s genealogy. He was 39 years old at the time, living and working in Massachusetts when he traced his family’s roots to the 1755 Acadian expulsion.

Thibodeau was determined to uncover as much as he could about his ancestors. His research finally led him and his wife Therese to find the location where his family’s North American legacy began, in Poplar Grove, Nova Scotia, on a parcel of land called Willow Brook Farm. 

Dick Thibodeau and Therese Thibodeau with Felix Thibodeau (center

From left - Therese Thibodeau with Felix Thibodeau (center), a direct descendent of the original owners of Thibodeau Village and (right) Dick Thibodeau, in Nova Scotia.

Although Willow Brook Farm is the name of the land today, a faded old map dated 1756, identifies “Thibodeau Village” as being the land’s former name. 

Colonial era wars between France and Great Britain resulted in the 1755, forced deportation of the original Thibodeau owners. This event was a devastating and brutal deportation of all Acadian farmers who tried to remain neutral during the conflagrations. Nevertheless, Acadians were forced to leave in a tragic episode known as Le Grand Derangement. It was a terrible situation, immortalized by the Portland, Maine writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “Evangeline”. 

Acadian land was ultimately offered to “Planters”, the selective New England farmers who were loyal to Great Britain. Thibodeau’s farm was ultimately settled by Arnold Shaw, who was a successful farmer in Rhode Island until 1760, when he was convinced, by the British, to relocate to Nova Scotia. Since then, seven generations of the Shaw family have owned and farmed on the property. 

Then, in 1985, Thibodeau’s research put him in personal contact with the Shaw family. They were very gracious about his visit to their property, when he first stopped by to stand on the ground his ancestors once owned, he says.  He and his wife also had a rare opportunity to meet Felix Thibodeau, a direct descendent of the original family.

Fast forward to 2004, at the Acadian World Acadian Congress (Congres Mondial Acadien), an international gathering of Acadians, held at that time, in Grand Pre, the primary site for the Acadian expulsion. Thibodeau ancestors from Canada and the US came together to learn about their family’s history.

Sara Beanlands, a niece of the current property owners, and an archeologist, took an interest in bringing the Thibodeau ancestors together for an archeology dig on the property, once labeled Thibodeau Village. Although Beanlands revered the hard work of her Shaw family in sustaining the Willow Brook Farm, she felt compelled to record the Acadian history of the land. She subsequently arranged for university archeologists with cooperation from Parks Canada and other experts to excavate for artifacts on the suspected site of one of the Acadian dwellings. The excavation unearthed artifacts like cooking and farm utensils, smoking pipes and household items traced to 1749, when the land was occupied by the Thibodeau family. Furthermore, historic research documented that Thibodeau Village was founded in 1690, by Pierre Thibodeau, who was the eldest son of Pierre Thibodeau, Sr., who came to Acadie in 1654, from France.

Thibodeau says about two dozen people from his extended family participated in the dig.  “I was awed to be among all other family members for this once in a lifetime chance to work with archeologists. It was an emotional experience to touch remnants of artifacts we discovered that once belonged to my ancestors,” said Thibodeau.

A future blog will report on the Thibodeau genealogy by retired Sister Yvonne Thibodeau.

A link to the Congres Mondial 2004, Thibodeau family archeological dig story by Ron Thibodeaux, is at the site

More information is also available by contacting Dick Thibodeau at

Congres Mondial Acadien website is 


About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at

Previous entries

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013


October 2013

September 2013

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