Acadian Roots and Creole Heritage
Nonfiction, Biography / Memoir
September 23, 2022
Three women—mother, daughter, cousin—set out on an ancestor quest, inspired by their aunt who lived to 102 years old. Their research went back 14 generations to original French settlers in 1600s Acadia. These families have provided generations of leaders in politics, government, and education in South Louisiana. Their ancestors arrived from Acadia (Nova Scotia) and France in the early 1700s, and descendants have lived for seven generations in upriver parishes just above New Orleans. This book tells the stories of these remarkable families in narrative nonfiction. Based on extensive genealogical and historical research, each generation is described in context of their times, places, societies, and events that took place in their lives.
Three women—mother, daughter, cousin—set out on an ancestor quest, inspired by their aunt who lived to 102. The genealogical search reconnected them with relatives living in the upriver parishes, primarily St. John the Baptist and St. Charles, 30 miles north of New Orleans. It led back 14 generations to original French settlers in 1600s Acadia (Nova Scotia).
When the Acadians were forcefully expelled by British conquerors in 1755, this Diaspora scattered them across seas and continents. This exile of politically neutral Acadians is now considered violation of international law and ethnic cleansing. Many journeyed for years and some settled in the rich riverbottom land along the Mississippi River, where they rebuilt their lives and preserved their culture, eventually becoming Cajuns.
The Vial-Martin family has lived for seven generations in upriver parishes. Their ancestors intermarried with French and Spanish Creoles and lived through the Louisiana Purchase, statehood, Civil War and aftermath, and two World Wars. Descendants became leaders and major landowners, and eventually forgot their Acadian roots. The quest for these roots revealed the family's transition to mainly Creole heritage, a family feud that splintered the Vial and Martin branches, and some curious and notable relatives. Now as the family reconnects, its contemporary members reaffirm their abiding love for place and people with tangled roots and colorful, complex heritage.
". . . tremendous amount of research . . . very thorough explanation of Louisiana and St. Charles Parish history and culture . . . The story of this Acadian to Creole transformation is the genealogy of so many families in Louisiana."
– Jay Schexnaydre, President, German-Acadian Coast Historical and Genealogical Society