It was another foggy and soggy day in Nova Scotia, but at the end of it I have nothing to complain about. Regardless of how boring or uneventful others might have found this little vacation of ours, it has been the perfect remedy for months of built-up stress and aggravation. I’ve come back to where I came from, and though I came from a lot of different places (in terms of ancestry), this place has had the most to teach me.
My family didn’t realize it was of Acadian descent until just recently. We knew that the Tebos (an American simplification of the proper French surname Thibault) came from Nova Scotia, but we weren’t sure if they were recent arrivals or if they’d been there a while. A chance encounter on the internet last year led me to information confirming what we had sometimes suspected, that they were indeed Acadians, that they had been there since the 1700s, had been through the expulsion (so expertly characterized in Longfellow’s epic-poem, Evangeline), and that they had come back to Nova Scotia when they were permitted.
Today Stephanie and I visited a number of important locations from Acadian history. We visited Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, which changed hands between the British and the French several times during the colonial period. We visited the reconstruction of the French fur-trading settlement at Port Royal, just across the water. Then we broke for lunch at a steak and seafood joint before heading on.
Each of those exhibits was intriguing and the graveyard that sat alongside Fort Anne, where once my ancestors’ graves might have sat before the British destroyed almost all traces of Acadian civilization following the expulsion of 1755, was an emotional experience. But, it was after lunch, when we drove to the Grand pre National Historic site, a stone church that stands as a memorial to the Acadians, that I was truly moved.
In talks with people throughout this day, many of whom might have been distant cousins through either the Thibault or LeBlanc lines of my family, it really occurred to me that this was a piece of my heritage I had not paid enough attention to.
The whole experience of genealogical research and of researching this side of the family in particular, has opened my eyes to history anew. It has personalized history. I mentioned to Stephanie how great it would be if, when our children were having trouble with their history lessons, we could tell them stories of their ancestry. If we could connect the expulsion of their relatives to rivalry between British and French colonization efforts… Wouldn’t that make the subject all the more interesting?
Besides the relaxation and time with my wife that this vacation has afforded me, it has renewed my passion for history, something that high school teachers (save Ms. Scott, sophomore year) drove away and that college professors, despite their best intentions, could not bring back. I have a clearer picture of the type of writing I wish to do. I have so much to say…
But alas, it is time for bed and that will have to wait for another day.