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First Acadians (Cajuns) of Louisiana

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The objective of this project is to identify all the profiles that are are ancestors of the first four documented Acadians in Louisiana in 1764, Jean-Baptiste Cormier, Jean Poirier, Jean Richard, and Olivier Landry. These four were followed by Joseph Broussard who lead the first 200 Acadians to Louisiana on February 27, 1765 aboard the Santo Domingo. These are the true Acadiens of Louisiana better known as Cajuns.

From an analysis of church records, Albert J. Robichaux, Jr. identified the four families and 18 of the individuals as (Louisiana Genealogical Register, December 1985 p. 323):

  • Jean Poirier and his wife Madeleine Richard
  • Jean Baptiste Poirier, their son
  • Joseph Poirier, their son
  • Michel Poirier, of unknown relationship

  • Jean Richard and his wife Catherine Cormier
  • Joseph Richard, their daughter (sic)
  • Rosalie Richard, their daughter
  • Jean-Marie Richard, their son

  • Jean-Baptiste Cormier and his wife Marie-Magdeleine Richard
  • Anastasie Cormier, their daughter
  • Marie Cormier, their daughter
  • Marguerite Cormier, their daughter

  • Olivier Landry and his wife Cecile Poirier
  • Jean-Antoine Landry, their son

While it is possible that some Acadians did arrive prior to 1755 and in-between 1755-1764, the first documented group of Acadians [4 families: 20 individuals] arrived in New Orleans in February 1764 from New York after a brief stop in Mobile, Alabama where Jean Poirier and Magdeleine Richard were married on January 22, 1764. The arrival was documented in a letter dated April 6, 1764 from Governor D'Abbadie to his superior in France. They were settled along the Mississippi River in present day St. James in the area of the vacant lands between Verret's plantation and Jacquelin's cow ranch. [Source for location: pages 60 (map), 64 & 68-69 of Vacherie by Elton Oubre]. Note: The early census records use the terms "left bank" and "right bank" of the Mississippi River instead of East Bank and West Bank. This has caused some confusion and some location errors because most persons use North when thinking about East [right] and West [left]. The direction for rivers, however, is based upon the direction it is flowing. The Mississippi flows south toward the mouth below New Orleans so the Left Bank was East and the Right Bank was West! The 1764 group was followed in late February 1765 by a group of about 200 Acadian refugees from detention camps at Halifax via St. Domingue [Haiti] led by Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil. The arrival of this group was reported in a letter dated February 25, 1765 by Aubry [The Acadian Miracle by Dudley J. LeBlanc, p. 318] which read in part:

"Two hundred Acadian men, women and children, repelled by the climate of San Domingo, have just disembarked here and will actually die from want if they do not receive succor..."

Cajuns (pronounced /ˈkeɪdʒən/; French: les Cadiens or les Acadiens, [le kadjɛ̃, le zakadjɛ̃]) are an ethnic group mainly living in Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speaking settlers from Acadia in what are now the maritime provinces of Canada - New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or Prince Edward Island). Today, the Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, and have exerted an enormous impact on the state's culture.

The Cajuns retain a unique dialect of the French language and numerous other cultural traits that distinguish them as an ethnic group. Cajuns were officially recognized by the U.S. government as a national ethnic group in 1980 per a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal district court. Presided over by Judge Edwin Hunter, the case, known as Roach v. Dresser Industries Valve and Instrument Division (494 F.Supp. 215, D.C. La., 1980), hinged on the issue of the Cajuns' ethnicity. Significantly, Judge Hunter held in his ruling that:

“ We conclude that plaintiff is protected by Title VII's ban on national origin discrimination. The Louisiana Acadian (Cajun) is alive and well. He is 'up front' and 'main stream.' He is not asking for any special treatment. By affording coverage under the 'national origin' clause of Title VII he is afforded no special privilege. He is given only the same protection as those with English, Spanish, French, Iranian, Portuguese, Mexican, Italian, Irish, et al., ancestors.