The truth and moonshadows, 2: Of Fathers and Sons

Note:  This is the second of three posts in an extended essay exploring my relationship with my father and my son through the songs of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam.

Of Fathers and Sons

John Alexis Guidry

With the passage of time, everything changed, as it always does. By 2002, Cat Stevens had been Yusuf Islam for 25 years, becoming a Muslim in late 1977 and appearing to disappear from Western public life altogether. During that time across the 1980s and 1990s, my brother and I both grew up. We moved far away from home, and we had sons of our own.  My brother’s was named Joseph, after our mother’s father, Joe Krupa, a Slovak steelworker from the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania.

My son was named after one Noel Matherne, born around 1768 on the First German Coast of Louisiana.  He married a woman named Charlotte Delmer on November 24, 1789, and among their children was one Eugene Matherne, among whose great-grandchildren was my own great-grandmother, Pauline Badeaux, born in 1896 and deceased in 1998.  Pauline married Ernest John Guidry II in 1917.  Their first-born son, Ernest John Guidry III, married Marie Lezina Vicknair on June 7, 1939, and on March 21, 1940, Ronald James Guidry was born.  Ronald married Mary Krupa on September 7, 1963 and on June 3, 1964, John Alexis Guidry was born.  On June 10, 2000, John married Denise Shanks and Noel Shanks Guidry was born on May 28, 2002.

From infancy through his third year, I sang Noel to sleep every night with “Moonshadow,” delighting in the playful exchange of eyes and ears and teeth and hands throughout the lyric.

mall map of Nova Scotia. From Atlas Portatif Universel, by Robert de Vaugondy.
L’Acadie, c. 1749, R. de Vaugondy

This August of 2011, my father, my son, and I are travelling together to Nova Scotia.  We’re going back to the Acadian homeland, called l’Acadie by its first European settlers.  As Cajuns, we don’t really have a European homeland, which sets us apart from most white people in America. Our ancestor, Claude Guidry, was either born in l’Acadie in the 1640s or arrived there from France in 1671 (the records are disputed).  There is no known Guidry prior to Claude, and the path backwards vanishes there.

He is known in the archives as Claude Guidry dit Laverdure dit Grivois.  “Dit” means roughly “said to be” (like “also known as”), and Claude’s other names mean “The Green” (Laverdure) and “Saucy” (Grivois).  “Saucy,” as far as the record indicates, appears to refer to Claude’s and children’s joviality and penchant for living life the way they saw fit. They were outlaw fishermen and trappers who intermarried with the local Micmac Indians and lived with them, thus exempting themselves from the early census of the colony in 1671, which didn’t count people in mixed-race marriages and their children.

We’re going to go to Claude’s old haunts in Lunenburg, LaHeve (Bridgeport), and Annapolis (Port Royale). If Claude was on the ship L’Oranger, which reached l’Acadie/Nove Scotia in 1671, he would have disembarked in Lunenburg, then known as Mirligueche.  If he wasn’t on that ship, then he was already living there among the Micmac. Which story is true isn’t as important to me as simply knowing that I will walk the ground that Claude trod. It’s a dream I’ve had for many years, of standing with my son on the Eastern Coast of Nova Scotia, looking out across the Atlantic Ocean and telling him that our people came from that water, somewhere over there, leaving everything behind, and growing up here, on the land of the New World.

The British and French had both laid claim to Acadie since the early 1600s, and across time this tension provoked an independence in the people there, who preferred to mind their own business and generally refused to sign oaths to bear arms for either side. As it became apparent that the French might not support these renegades, Yankee forces in Boston and the lower colonies formed a plan to expel the Acadiens and repopulate the land with Protestant Scots and Germans, creating a prosperous market for the farms and factories of New England.

“The Great Expulsion” of 1755 was an Eighteenth Century case of ethnic cleansing that dispersed our people throughout the Britain’s Atlantic Empire.  An idealized version of the story is told by Longfellow in Evangeline, a more historical form in John Mack Faragher’s A Great and Noble Scheme:  The Tragic Story of the Explusion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland (New York:  Norton, 2005).

That’s how we ended up in Louisiana.  How Noel and I ended up in New York is another story, but at least we’re not the first Guidry’s to make the move from Louisiana to New York.

Ron Guidry, Yankee Legend

Notes and Credits

The photo of Ron Guidry was taken from the website Josh Q. Public, profiling some great pitchers, including our namesake, the Ragin’ Cajun.

Throughout the 1600s, both the British and French and tried to have the Acadiens sign oaths of allegiance.  For the most part the people refused to do so, preferring to be left alone.  Neither the French nor the British wanted to protect them, and they fit into neither country’s imperial schemes.  Some yielded to the pressure, however, and on August 16, 1695, Claude Guidry signed an oath of allegiance to the British King.  The record in Ancestry.com states,

The Oath read “We do Swear and Sincerely Promise That we will be Faithful and bear True Allegiance to his Majty King William, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. So help us God.” Captain Fleetwood Emes, Commander of the Sorlings Frigate administered the Oath at Port-Royal. In taking the Oath, Claude signed his name as “Claude Gaidry”.

On January 9, 1723, Claude Guidry “conditionally baptized” twin grand-daughters Helene and Marie-Josephe Guidry in Boston.  They were there with other Acadiens who were prisoners and refugees of a war between the English and the Indians that lasted from 1722-25, known variably as “The Three Years War,” “Rale’s War,” “Lovewell’s War” and “Governor Dummer’s Indian War.” This is the last mention of Claude in any historical record.  Not long after he returned to l’Acadie and passed away some time thereafter, among his family in his homeland.

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13 Comments

Filed under ageing, fathers, ideas, life, sons, truth, youth

13 responses to “The truth and moonshadows, 2: Of Fathers and Sons

  1. John,
    I know my American history fairly well, but I must admit that I knew nothing of the 1755 ethnic cleansing, which is not surprising as that is not the kind of thing they used to include in school history books.
    What a fascinating history of your lineage. I envy you your trip to Nova Scotia, the three generations.

  2. melanie paquette

    I have just finished tracing my lineage from my paternal grandmother.. eva labine. It has also led me to Claude Guildry …how fascinating! I am also going to be planning a trip to Nova Scotia. Guess we have many many “cousins” out there! Melanie Paquette in canada.

    • Dear Melanie,

      Greetings cousin! Thanks for reading and for your comment. It turns out that we didn’t make the trip in 2011, due to Hurrican Irene coming to New York. But we finally got to NS this year, for a week at the beginning of July. It was a tremendous trip – my father, my son (who is now 11), and myself. The sight of our family names – Guidry dit LaVerdure, dit Labrador, dit Labine, dit Grivois – on the screen after the movie about the expulsion in Gran Pré brought tears to our eyes. Very moving. And then when we got to Lunenburg, which was the site of Mirligueche where the Claude Guedry lived, we discovered the historcial plaques all over town telling Claude’s story. His children lived all over NS, but Mirligueche was Claude’s area and he lived there with his sons Jean Baptiste and Paul, where they had a farm – “Old Labrador’s farm.” Paul was called “Old Labrador” by the British, an anglicization of LaVerdure we think. Claude and family were well-known boat pilots and had a reputation for piracy as well. Claude’s son Jean-Baptiste, his son, and 3 of their Mikmaw associates were all hung in Boston in 1726 on charges of piracy for taking a Yankee boat. Paul is my direct anscestor among Claude’s sons. Pierre was the son who took the name Labine, and according to Mark Labine, who wrote a book called LaVerdure of Mirligueche, all the Labines come down from Pierre. The Guidrys in NS these days mostly use the spelling Jeddry or Geddry, or some version of that. In Louisiana, Guidry is very common, with pages and pages of us in the phone books.

      We also found out that the World Acadian Congress is going to be held in August 2014 in towns around the spot where New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine meet. There is a scheduled Guidry-Labine-Petipas reunion. Check out this website (scroll down a long time) http://www.acadian.org/congres5.html. This guy is the contact: GUEDRY/LABINE/PETITPAS, Location: Van Buren, Maine; Contact: R. Martin Guidry 225-755-1915. That is a Baton Rouge phone number. So far I am planning to go with my son.

      Thanks for reading. I will post on our NS trip very soon, probably next month, with photos and all, so check back and you’ll see that.

      Cheers!

      John

  3. Howard T Guidry

    Hi John,
    Uncle Howard here. Somehow or another while googling the internet came upon this site. Your father and I met over here about two weeks ago. He gave me some flyers but much more in verbal conversation. Would love to know all about ‘Old Labrador’. Please let me know when you release further info and pictures and or mail me copies or e-mail me . Take care and hope to here from you soon. Uncle Howard..

    • Hi Uncle Howard! I’m sending my father a book by a fellow named Mark Labine. It has a lot of this. Turns out the whole Labine family of Quebec/Ontario and the upper Midwest (MI, WI, MN, IL) are descended from Claude’s son Pierre, who took “dit” name Labine at some point. Also much of the Old Labrador stuff is from the Lunenberg UNESCO Historical Site info. They think “Labrador” is an Englishization of LaVerdure, and Old Labrador is apparently how Adm Wellington in Hallifax knew Paul Guidry in the 1750s during his last days in NS. I think my father had the flyer they showed us. I’ll keep you updated. My email is jguidry.7@gmail.com if you want to contact me directly. –John

  4. Allison Stafford

    Hi John,
    I ran across your website after researching a few of my ancestors and after reading through your wonderful article, I was very pleased to see that we are related through my Grandpa Stafford’s side of the family. All the way down to Ron Guidry! I never knew that until this evening, and to be quite honest with you, it makes sense with all of the sports fanatics we have in our family! Unfortunately, I just read this article and the dates on the reunion have passed. We would have loved to attended that! Just like Claude Guidry’s twin grand-daughters Helene and Marie-Josephe Guidry, we also have another set of twins! My sister and I are the oldest living twins (identical) in our family and we are fascinated with our family history. With the LaRose side and the Stafford side of the family. We would love the opportunity to get in contact with our family and learn more.
    I look forward to hearing back from you!

    Allison Stafford

    • Hi Alison. Thank you for writing. I haven’t been keep up the blog lately so I apologize for not replying sooner. I will tell you that our trip in 2011 didn’t happen until 2013. But then it was incredible in Lunenberg. YOu have to see the plaques in the downtown commemorating Claude and Paul Guidry there. Really great–eerie to see this stuff we’ve been reading about for long become real in another way. Then in 2014, we went to northern Maine for the World Acadian Congress, which I think I’ll start to go to regular – every 5 years it happens. In Maine, we learned that the “Grivois” branch of the family settled there after the expulsion from Nova Scotia. One of Claude’s sons took his Grivois nickname as family and moved up to northern Maine, which never really become part of the US until the 1840s. It was very cool to see.

      Best,

      John

  5. Julie Sothern

    Hi John,

    My middle name is Jon after my grandfather Jon Guidry. I also traced my roots to Claude Guidry. I have been reading a lot about Acadia. I grew up in La. so I always heard, but I never really understood what it all meant until now. I am Cajun on both sides Beudrot or Boudreaux on my father’s side. Guidry was my mother’s maiden name. They were from Montegut, La.
    I just happened up this site and I find this all very interesting.

    Julie

    • Hi Julie. Thanks for writing. We’ve had a couple of great vacations to Acadien sites over the last two years. First we went to Nova Scotia and visited all the sites in the family history. You should go to Lunenberg and you can see a plaque down town at the harbor about Claude and Paul. Paul was one of Claude’s last children and he is my direct forebear. Paul was just about the last Acadien in Lunenberg (which was Mirligueche then). I went with me and father and my son, like I talked about in the post. That was in 2013. In 2014, we went to the Acadian World Congress, which was held in Van Buren Maine and also across the border in New Brunswick. It was great, and there was a Guidry-Petipas family reunion. I had a great time. I should write a piece about those trips, but I got swamped with work… however perhaps soon.

      Best,

      John

  6. Emilie Barriault

    Hi John,

    I found your site while researching my “Mius” side – Nicolas Mius was my 8th great grandfather……I grew up in New Brunswick, lived in Nova Scotia and Quebec and have known my ancestry since I was a child on my great grandmother’s knee (she was born in 1885) and would tell of her grandparents story. So I know what you mean about all the history that is here. My experience was opposite to yours – I grew up knowing of Louisiana and our ancestors who went there… I always equated it to “Heaven” everyone went there but nobody had ever came back to tell us about it. I had heard the stories and the family names and that we probably still had family there. So my first time in Louisiana I had the same experience you had.. this was back in 1986… I had finally been to Heaven and came back to tell my family about it. I was fortunate to do this before all the interest in genealogy and all the “reunions” so meeting people there was quite the experience. Having the gift of gab and story telling like my ancestors I met quite a few people and am still in touch with them – it was interesting to hear the stories they told and how they looked at me like I was from another world. The stories were the same, the songs were the same, and I looked at them the same way. 300 years of separation and here we were…. together… if I don’t stop we’ll be here for another 300 years lol… I am descendent of the Mius/Landry/Basque/Barilleaux … by way of soooo many other families. I just wanted to let you know I knew that feeling… but unlike you…it was by going to your home…

    A Canadian cousin for a long long time ago
    Emilie Barriault (Millie)

  7. Emilie Barriault

    oops…that is Philippe Mius who is my 8th grt-grandfather/// Nicolas is actually on my Barillot side… Nicolas Barillot and Martine Hebert…

  8. Hi Emilie,

    Thank you for your thoughtful words and stories. I appreciate it and indeed share the magical feeling, even in a little email like this. After the trip to Nova Scotia in 2013, we wound up going the next year, in 2014, to the Acadien National Congress, which was held on the Maine/NB border at the northernmost edge of Maine. The Congress was a really wonderful experience. My son loved it and has chosen to study French in high school because of the family connection. Maybe we’ll send him to Quebec for junior year. I find the Muis side interesting. They lived on section of NS away from the farming colony, as did the side of our family headed by Paul Guidry with his dad, Claude. Most of Claude’s children were in the farming side, but Paul was with Claude on the more wild or lawless side of NS. Paul’s wife was a Muis and she was half Micmac – and when one of Paul’s daughters married a French soldier in the 1700s, the French government annulled the marriage when they found out she was 1/4 Micmac, because mixed marriage was apparently against the law. Paul died in or around the expulsion — he was apparently well known to the English governor of Halifax. Paul’s children and grandchildren were sent back to France for 20 years until the Spanish King brought the Acadiens in France to Louisiana in 1785ish. Seven ships of Acadiens rescued from France, where they were living in rough conditions apparently. That’s how our folks ended up in Louisiana.

    Muis had a title, too — is that correct? Were they a “big” family there with some power?

    We’re going back for the 2019 Acadien Nacional Congress which will be in PEI (I think). If you wind up there it would be nice to meet and say hello!

    Best,

    John

    • Millie 87

      Hi John

      Thank you for answering – and so fast – regarding the ‘Muis’ the first to come to Acadie was Philippe Mius D’Entremont who was considered a Baron and was given the Baronie de Pobomcoup which is today’s Yarmouth Nova Scotia. Their story is very interesting especially the first 4 or 5 generations – if you are in the Pubnico area of Nova Scotia the Acadian museum has quite a library.

      To give you some background my husband was in the navy and left for a 6 month trip just after we were married. Although I was working I needed something to keep me busy. So I decided to write down everything I could remember – well I had 5 generations on both sides down within a week – this was 1980 before computers – I now had to prove all my stories…. Needless to say many hours in the library …I still update the info and am now doing the Mius line again revisiting the information I have from many moons ago lol

      As for the reunion in 2019 not sure yet but I’ll be living in Moncton not too far so it would be great but again we are a few off.

      Your distant cousin Emilie

      Sent from my iPad

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