Finding Family

The second day in Neguac, we knocked on the door of the house with the ALLAIN and FORBES signs in the yard.  When a lady answered the door, my husband explained that we were probably related.  He told her who his grandfather and great-grandfather were.  She drew us into the house and we met her husband who was a first cousin to my husband’s father.  We finally figured out later that made him his second cousin.  They were in their eighties and we embarked on a mixed conversation of French and English. 

Jacqueline called her children and sister-in-law to come over to meet the long-lost relatives from the States.  One daughter brought over her grandmother’s diaries and another brought family photos.  The visit continued as we all trooped over to Chez Raymond for a seafood lunch.  Another cousin (second or third?) had been called to meet us there.  Bebert was his nickname and he was the keeper of family memories.  Over lunch, he recited family stories and connections running back for generations to the first arrival from France in the 1600s. 

We drove to several houses after lunch just to photograph the exteriors.  Bebert had identified these as Allain homes, including where my husband’s grandfather had lived before emigrating to the States.  One house was gone and a pharmacy stood on its location across from the graveyard.

Returning to Levis and Jaqueline’s we met more relatives.  Conversation was lively as we all got acquainted and they shared family history with us.  By six o’clock, one cousin asked us over to her home to see photos she had and to have pizza.  Finally as dusk fell, we tore ourselves away to go set up our camper at the campground.  The mosquitoes in Neguac are truly ferocious. 

It took us awhile to unwind after such an exhilerating day of meeting so many new relatives.  The warm welcome will stay in our memories for a long time.


Searching Acadian Roots

My husband and his cousin chose the summer of 2009 for visiting New Brunswick.  This was the year that the World Acadian Congress celebrated Acadian culture and history in that province.  Held every four years in different regions, the Congress triggers major family reunions among far-flung Acadians from Louisiana, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. 

Dennis and Donald hoped to reconnect with the New Brunswick roots.  Although no Allain reunion showed on the official schedule, they made the trip from the United States to the birthplace of their fathers.  The American branch of the family left Neguac in 1923 to settle in Maine where there was work in the mills.  Donald had worked for a few years already on the Allain genealogy and he hoped the trip would connect the dots.

The first day in Neguac, the two cousins visited the graveyard behind the church to check the names, dates and relationships on the Allain tombstones.  Donald took photos of all the stones marked Allain.  There were a lot of them.

Neguac showed its Acadian pride by decorating the yards and houses with red, white and blue.  Families posted name signs in their yards; Savoie, Breau, Hebert, Cyr, LaBlanc, Gagnon, Allain.  We were tempted to just walk up and knock on the door and ask if we were related.

Taken with the idea of having our own red, white and blue flag with ALLAIN across the center, we drove to Tracadie and found the Acadian souvenir shop.  We had to settle for the plain Acadian flag, as the name flags required ordering. 

Back at the van for the evening, Dennis started reading Les Allain, a genealogy book by Fidele Theriault.  We’d found it at the Neguac visitor’s center earlier in the day.  At last he was able to make the link between his great-grandfather, back generation by generation, to the original Louis Allain who came to the colonies in the 1600s.   

In looking back at his grandfather and great-grandfather and following the listings for his grandfather’s brothers and sisters, he made an intriguing discovery.  His grandfather, Benjamin, had a sister Suzanne who had a son Levis whose wife was a Forbes.  One of the decorated yards we passed in Neguac had both Allain and Forbes signs in the yard.  It had to be Levis and his wife Jacqueline.

I’ve compiled a booklist on Amazon for anyone who’s searching their Acadian roots.

Campervan Traveling

We traveled in our Road Trek campervan for the New Brunswick trip.  It’s a very well-made recreational vehicle, actually made in Canada.  I’m amazed at what they are able to squeeze into the small interior (a kitchen, a pull-out table, a bed, TV, a bathroom).  Even more amazing, it almost fits into a regular parking lot space.  We usually look for a space where we can pull-through, so we don’t have to back out with cars crowding us on both sides.

To simplify breakfast, we usually pick up carry-out coffee and cocoa at a fast food place.  In Canada, there are the usual McDonalds, but we looked for the Canadian chain, Tim Horton.  On the third morning of our trip, we had our usual bowl of fresh fruit and a container of yogurt for breakfast inside the van.  Then we parked close to a Ramada Inn so we could pick up their wi-fi in the parking lot.  We’d brought along a notebook computer as a space saver.  It worked just fine for us.

Set out following the lighthouse signs that marked the Fundy Coastal Drive.  The road followed the coast down to Cape Tormentine.  The GPS often couldn’t detect a road and just showed us driving through uncharted forests.  The route followed the coast so closely that the little car icon looked like it had one wheel in the water.


Seafood crepe
Seafood crepe

Reached Shediac by noon, so it seemed appropriate to lunch in a local restaurant.  The small city’s claim-to-fame is its lobster festival, but it might be the campground hotspot for New Brunswick.  Quite a few RV parks lined the coast there.  We picked a restaurant at random and enjoyed a seafood crepe and caesar salad.  Couldn’t resist a photo of the giant lobster sculpture at the edge of town.  The local Rotary Club paid for it and the tourists, including us, loved it.

I had to restrain my on-the-fly photography when it started to rain.  Raindrops on the window interfere with photo ops.  To make things worse, the automatic window chose this time to get stuck.  Riding along in the rain with 63 degree temperatures cured me of lowering the window every time I saw a scenic village church. Finally got the window back up, and left it up.

Found a rustic campground near Escuminac that had wi-fi.  Stopped for the night.  I fixed a rather ambitious meal of ham steak, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables in the two and a half-feet of counter space in the van’s kitchen.  Thank goodness for microwaves and propane stoves.

Through the Windscreen – New Brunswick

Our New Brunswick odyssey took nine days.  The official province map lays out five “routes panoramiques” and they were indeed quite scenic drives.  We started with the Fundy Coastal Drive, then onto the Acadian Coastal Drive, connected to the Appalachian Range Route, and cut across at Saint Quentin to the River Valley Scenic Drive.    This took us counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the province.

That meant we missed the Miramichi River Route which cuts diagonally across the province.  Ah well, it gives us a reason to return someday to take that drive.

Here’s a sampling of photos showing New Brunswick architecture, sweet churches and scenery as seen through the windscreen.  It would have been nice to stop and take better photos of all these, but then our trip would have taken three weeks. 

Sampling New Brunswick Foods

When I travel, I love tasting local foods along the way.  Of course, traveling along the coast of New Brunswick, we made sure to eat plenty of their great seafood.  My first experience with it was in the tiny village of St. Martin’s.  Side-by-side restaurants with a view of the Bay of Fundy enticed us.  We chose The Caves, named after the local attraction, caves carved out of the cliffs by the tidal currents. 

I choose the seafood bake which turned out to be scallops, shrimp, haddock and bits of lobster in a sauce with three kinds of cheese melted over it.  Delectable!  The simple decor of blue checked oilcloth on the tables, white and blue walls were secondary to the superb view and the food.  You could also eat outside on the deck.

St. Martin’s is well worth getting off the divided highway and trekking on the scenic side road.  The village visitor’s center looked like a lighthouse, but if you follow their directions, you’ll see a real lighthouse.  Two covered bridges, adjacent to the visitor’s center, can be captured in one photograph if you align yourself close to the shore.  Then drive on through the one nearest the water to get to the seafood restaurants.

Time your visit for when the tide is out, if you want to walk down to the sea caves.  The visitor’s center has the times posted.  If you go at the wrong time, the Bay of Fundy tide comes in fast and deep so you want to play it safe.  The tide was in when we were there.

Visiting New Brunswick

For the first time, I toured New Brunswick, Canada.  What a delight it was.  We followed the scenic routes recommended on the official map.  Actually I think we could have driven any road and it would have been scenic.  The coastal route gave us stunning views of the Bay of Fundy, then the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and finally the Chaleur Bay as we drove around the perimeter of the province.

Campobello Island view
Campobello Island view

We crossed the border at Campobello Island where we thoroughly enjoyed touring FDR’s summer home.  Called a cottage, it really is a large house with a grand view of the Bay of Fundy.  It exuded a relaxed family atmosphere and the rooms looked as though the Roosevelts could walk right back in at any moment.

Window in FDR's summer cottage
Window in FDR's summer cottage

After seeing the lighthouse, we took the ferry from Campobello Island over to Deer Island.  Drove to the opposite end of that island to catch the free ferry across to the New Brunswick mainland.  Taking the ferries was a treat in itself.  You can get out of your car and walk around on the open deck admiring the views and looking for seals, dolphins and seagulls.  I’m not sure if I really saw a seal or if it was just wishful thinking.  We definitely saw several dolphins come to the surface.

The lighthouse on Campobello Island
The lighthouse on Campobello Island

We camped the first night in a Provincial Park at New River Beach.  It was like a state park in the U.S.  There was electricity at the campsite, but not water, so it was necessary to walk to the bath house for a shower.  The next morning we went to the beach for a quick look around.  It was a lovely wide and sandy beach and essentially deserted.

Two people on the New River Beach
Two people on the New River Beach

Learn more about New River Beach (camping, sand sculpture contest, etc.) on this site.