Friday January 24, 2014 | 10:00 AM

 “There comes a point when people loose the connection between oral history and particular landmarks and places,” Sara Beanlands, archaeologist.

             A previous blog described how the Thibodeau family, descendents of 17th &18th century French Acadian settlers, who are living throughout North America, participated in an archeology excavation on property once occupied by their ancestors in Nova Scotia.  Thibodeau ancestors lived on property identified as “Thobodeau Village” prior to the 1755 expulsion by the British, a tragedy known as “le grand derangement”.

Subsequently, a Skype discussion with Halifax NS archeologist Sara Beanlands, led to learning about the outcome of the Thibodeau Village excavation, as well as some surprising information about my husband’s possible Acadian ancestors.

Beanlands led the Thibodeau dig last summer on property owned by the Shaw family for seven generations. Their ancestors farmed the property as “planters”, who came to Nova Scotia from Rhode Island, after the Acadian expulsion. “It’s remarkable that this property has remained in the family for so many generations,” says Beanlands.

Beanlands is related to the Shaw family. As a professional archeologist in Halifax NS, and a niece of the Shaw’s, she was able to create a research bridge, spanning over 250 years of culture and history.

Indeed, the oral history of Thibodeau Village was just about at the tipping point of loosing relevance when Beanlands received permission to lead the excavation.

Thibodeau dig in Nova Scotia

Thibodeau Village excavation of a pre-expulsion era building foundation in Nova Scotia, led by Sara Beanlands (who contributed this photo).  

“There comes a point when people loose the connection between oral history and particular landmarks and places,” she said. For example, the name “Old French Road”, running near the farm’s property, has lost relevance because the connection to the oral history is gone.

Beanlands wanted to get to the bottom of oral history she grew up hearing about, on property owned by her aunts and uncles. They are seventh generation descendents of “planters”, the loyalists invited by the British to farm the lands left vacant by the dispersed Acadians, after le grand derangement. 

Pre-expulsion Acadian structure circa early 18th century

An 18th century map identified the Shaw property as “Thibodeau Village”. This map was brought to the attention of the Shaw family by Dick Thibodeau, a part-time resident of Kennebunk, who visited the family in Nova Scotia.

Subsequently, the Shaw’s were gracious to welcome Thibodeau and family visitors, who participated in last summer’s archeology excavation.

Beanlands received permission from authorities and the Shaw family to excavate the remains of the foundation of a structure known as the Old French House. It survived the expulsion and remained on the property for several hundred years. As a matter of fact, she once played inside the building when it was used as a barn. Although the structure collapsed in the 1980’s, a photograph of the pre-expulsion building existed. The massive building was built with long wooden planks, indicative of a forest that no longer exists in the region. Although oral history identified the building as a pre-expulsion structure, probably built at the beginning of the 18th century, there was little if any proof of Acadians having lived there, until the archeology excavation uncovered evidence.

This is a short summary of what Beanlands’ research learned during last summer’s dig:

1.                    After the Acadians were removed (the expulsion) the structure was used by the English. This is new information, because there was no oral history of anyone having occupied the structure after the disbursement.

2.                    Archeology uncovered pottery matching pieces previously identified in Fort Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, as evidence of French settlers once having occupied the Old French House.

3.                    Older than either the French Acadian or the English inhabitants, the excavation also found evidence of a possible ancient Micmac Native American presence on the land.

Moreover, Beanlands offered even more information to possibly connect my husband’s grandmother, Lumina Savoie’s family, with the brutal 1755 le grand derangement, via another archeology site in Bellisle, NS.  It turns out, the Bellisle archeology site was probably settled in 1690 by Germaine Savoye.  Evidence at the Savoye site reveals how structures once on the land were burned, consistent with the history of how the British destroyed Acadian properties after the expulsion. This connection to Savoye is a genealogy link to my husband's grandmother, Lumina Savoie L'Heureux (1965-1945). This is the first time the family has linked their ancestors with the earliest of the Acadian settlers. 

Beanlands will present a seminar about the archeology of the Thibodeau Village at the upcoming August 2014 World Acadian Congress, in Northern Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec Canada.  www.cma2014.com

Information about the project is available by contacting Sara J. Beanlands at sbeanlands@boreasheritage.ca            

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 Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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