Copyright 1999 Col. John B. Devoe - firstname.lastname@example.org
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INTRODUCTION: This posting is unique on the Register in that it deals almost exclusively with ancestors of the first Acadian DeVaux to settle on what is now Prince Edward Island. I am the author of the 175 page Devoe-deVaux Family History 1691-1991 which I published in January of 2000 (see Book and CD’s on the Register for a review of this book). My goal in the preparation of that family history was to trace a particular branch of this Acadian family from its beginnings at Beaubassin, Acadia, around 1691 to its eventual settlement in Little Bras d’Or, Cape Breton through the 19th century. The research, begun in 1962, produced enough material for me to write the most accurate and comprehensive early history of this family as had been previously prepared, and includes a number of significant corrections to the errors found in the earlier accounts. I have no plans to record the histories and lineages of other branches of the descendants of progenitor Michel DeVaux of Beaubassin as I have done for his son Pierre, my ancestor…but thought to provide here the origins of this Acadian family, for Pierre’s brother Jacques was the Pioneer of the family on PEI. The somewhat limited information I have on this branch will be included at the end of my material on Michel; it should provide a beginning for one in pursuit of the family of Jacques.
(Deveau, Deveaux, Devost)
THE ORIGIN AND SPELLING OF THE NAME: It is a very old French name, pre-dating the Norman Conquest and is derived, as are many surnames, from topography. The very old French plural of "valleys" was "vaux" and thus "deVaux" may be understood to be "people of the valleys" and the expression (extant to this day) "par mon et par vaux" i.e., "up hill and down dale" is evidence of its meaning. It is said that a Robert deVaux, son of Harold deVaux, Lord of Vaux in Normandy made the 1066 voyage with William. The immediate origin (in France) of the Acadian family cannot be established and the suggested area from which progenitor Michel may have come is not Normandy, but the old province of Dauphine, thus no suggestion of kinship with Robert is implied nor should any be inferred from the above. While no Acadian family is entitled to an armorial, I have used a 12th century coat of arms of the name "(de) Vaux" from the old province of Dauphine as a decorative icon on the cover of my book; again, no implied connection with the Acadian family. The earliest record in Acadia of Michel (the census of 1698) gives his name as "DeVaux" (in France, likely "deVaux") and he and his son "signed" an oath in 1729 with that spelling. The early church registers used an "au" or aux" ending as well, but later church and civil records came up with the misspelling "DeVeau", or later more commonly "Deveau" possibly in the belief that the name came from the French word "veau" meaning calf…though few surnames derive from domestic animals. The most common "French" spelling today in the United States and Canada is likely "Deveau" and the most common anglicized version "Devoe" or "DeVoe". The reason for the decades of the misspelling of names a century or more ago (throughout the world of Europeans, whether here or across the pond) was because all spelling was held with some indifference and, of course, most individuals were not literate, depending upon the "officials" to spell their names. Many of these scribes lacked both accuracy and consistency, as we all have observed in our search of records.
PROGENITOR OF THIS ACADIAN FAMILY IN NEW FRANCE: Michel, b. ca. 1663 in France, parents and location not likely possible to trace. He m. Marie-Magdeleine Martin, dau. of Pierre and Joachine La Fleur, probably at Beaubassin, Acadia, in 1693. Marie was b./bap. 29 JUN 1666 at Sillery, Quebec (now) Province and was the widowed second wife of Guyon Chiasson (see more below on M-M-M). Michel is referred to in some records as Michel DeVaux dit Dauphine or as simply Dauphine. This sobriquet or nickname may hold a clue as to his origin in France, there having been a province of that name in the 17th century. In the 1698 census his age is given as 35, Marie’s also 35 (she would be 32). Children are listed as: Angelique, 14; Marie, 7; Anne, 6; Pierre, 4; and Magdeleine, 3 mos; the first three of Marie-Magdeleine and Guyon, the last two of Marie and Michel. In an earlier census (1693) Marie-Magdeleine "Mitron" (Martin) is listed as a widow at Beaubassin, Anne apparently not yet born. She could have been with child when Michel married her, he likely assuming other holdings of Guyon as well. The census indicates the family owned 12 cows, 6 sheep, 1 pig, had 2.4 acres of land under cultivation, 1 fruit tree, no guns. The census indicates there were 178 souls in the community at that time. The census of 1700 lists Michel as having family, 11 cows, 11 sheep, and some 10 acres cultivated; a year later 15 cows, 11 sheep, and 1 pig. The recensements of 1707 list him simply as "Dauphine" and records his livestock totaled 10 cows, 12 sheep, and 10 pigs. The last census for that period was taken in 1714 and simply lists he and his wife and children Pierre, Jean, Jacques, Cecile and Augustin, his step-children apparently having moved on. The population of Beaubassin was now about 350 individuals. Based on the census reports, the year of birth of the children of Michel and Marie-Magdeleine are as follows: Pierre, 1694; Magdeleine, 1698; Jacques and Jean (twins)1699; Cecile 1701; Augustin, 1710.
The last record we have of Michel is in the year 1727 when he, his son Pierre, and other Acadians signed (most, including Michel and his son, with an "X") the following Oath of Allegiance: "Je promets et jure sincerement que Je serai fidele et obeirai veritablemant a Majeste Le Roy George Second. Ainsi Dieu me soit en aide." The officer Governor Armstrong sent to Beaubassin for the administration of the oath gave the Acadians many concessions in writing, but not contained in the oath. These included the promise that they would not be obliged to fight against the French or Indians, and that they would have the right to practice their Roman Catholic faith. At Annapolis Royal the British council declared the oath null and void. By virtue of this extant document we are confidant that Michel and Pierre were still living in Beaubassin proper and not across the Missaguash River to the west in French territory. The river had been the defacto border between French and British Acadia since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, albeit Greater Beaubassin, the community and parish, had years before spread across that "border" of sorts. At the time of the signing of the oath Michel was 64, his youngest son Augustin 17, children Pierre, Jean, Jacques, and Cecile were married. We do not know when he died, but he and his wife Marie are likely buried in the unmarked cemetery that was located next to the last of the three Beaubassin churches; the subsequent site of Fort Lawrence. This cemetery was identified as such, unfortunately, only in the late 19th century when the building of the railway cut through the south end of the Fort Lawrence Ridge, disturbing the resting place of many of our Acadian ancestors. The remaining portion, as yet not publicly identified as a burial ground, it is located on the Trenholm farm and afforded a degree of respect by the owners of that land.
ORIGIN AND ANCESTRY OF MICHEL: I have seen no evidence that refutes the generally held view that Michel came directly to Acadia from France and was not a resident, elsewhere, in New France. I place his arrival as between 1698 and 1691, a time when few new colonists arrived and thus suspect he may have been one of the thirty soldiers arriving at Port Royal aboard the frigate La Frippone. A number of sources suggest that a "dit" name associated with a French province betrays a military background thus Michel could well have been a disbanded soldier. I have no knowledge of a list of the names of the soldiers aboard the frigate. Virtually every male between the ages of 15 and 80 (sic) in France was subject to a draft during the French and Indian War and by decree, every military man was required to carry a dit name and it most often indicated the province from which he came. Michel’s ancestry presents a problem which is not likely to be solved, for there are no Beaubassin marriage records extant for the time period. He had no known siblings this side of the Atlantic which might furnish other clues as to his parentage and finding a Michel born in Dauphine Province in 1663 in any records there would prove nothing. Any researcher dealing with this family name should be aware that prior to the arrival of Michel of Beaubassin there were at least two families of the name established in the Quebec area some thirty years before, but nothing in the available information on these contain any possibility of a kinship to the Acadian family. One should be aware as well that during the Deportation members of the Acadian DeVaux family escaped to the Quebec area and remained there; many 18th century records from that province identify them as Acadian.
ORIGIN AND ANCESTRY OF MARIE-MAGDELEINE MARTIN: Though the Acadian MARTIN family is a very large one, Marie-Magdeleine was not descended of that family. As has been said, she was born in Sillery Quebec and her father Pierre was b. ca. 1643, son of Louis and Sebastienne Coutande of Ste Verge, Poitiers, Poitou, France. Her mother Joachine was b. ca, 1642, dau. Of Charles and Jeanne Gachet of La Chataigneraie, Lucon, Poitou, France and came to New France as a Filles du Roi. Pierre and Joachine were m.11 FEB1664 at Sillery, Quebec and he d. 9 OCT 1713 at St-Augustin, she d.10 FEB 1698 at the same place. Marie-Magdeleine "became" an Acadian by virtue of her first husband, the widowed Guyon Chiasson whom she m. 7 OCT 1683 in Quebec at age 17. Guyon had lived at Beaubassin and the couple returned there shortly after their marriage. Guyon’s first wife was Jeanne Bernard by whom he had eight children. He d. in 1692.
P.E.I. DE VAUX PIONEER, JACQUES: Twin to brother Jean, b. Beaubassin ca. 1699, m. 17 OCT 1719 Marie-Anne Poitier, dau. of Jean and Anne Poirier. His father and her father were witnesses at the marriage at Beaubassin. According to the 1752 LaRoque census he states he has been on the Island 28 years, suggesting an arrival in 1724. His first appearance in a census was in 1728 at Havre aux Sauvages. In the 1730 and 1735 recensements he is found in the Havre a l’Anguille listing.
The 1752 census lists a Germain Henry m. to Cecile "DesVeaux" listing his age as 66, hers as 51, likely Jacques sister; they are at Port La Joie. The 1752 document also lists Jacques’s sons Michel and Pierre married with children at Rivier du Nord and he and his son Jacques Jr. at St. Pierre du Nord (essentially at the original location). Jacques’s age is given as 50, wife and three children (Jean, 25; Joseph, 22; Marie,18) living with him, 6 oxen, 5 cows, 2 heifer, 2 bulls, 3 calves, 28 wethers, 12 pigs, 50 fowls. He had been granted land 4 arpents by 40 arpents "on the west side, Havre Sauvages" in 1736.
"We did upon pretenses not worth a farthing, root out this…innocent, deserving people, whom our utter inability to govern or reconcile gave us no right to extirpate..."
- Edmund Burke (1729-1797), British statesman, author, on the Acadian Deportation
A cataclysmic denouement befell the Acadians of Nova Scotia in 1755 with the Deportation. With the fall of Forts Beausejour and Louisbourg the ugly deed was repeated for those Acadians on Isle Royal and Isle Saint-Jean. Of the some 4,500 on the Island it is estimated that approximately 3500 were captured and deported, the remainder escaping by crossing over to the Chignecto Isthmus and on to the St. Lawrence, or to the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Dozens of the descendants of Jacques Sr. were dispersed, none ever again to return what became Prince Edward Island*. After 1863 when the Acadians were allowed to return to what had been Acadia, Jacques Jr. settled in lower western Nova Scotia and is the father of the families who are found there. His brother Joseph was one of the two DeVaux founders of Cheticamp, while some of the children of brother Jean are found in Montreal as early as 1762. A number of family members were deported, some lost at sea in the course of that action.
NOTE: The parish registers of Isle Saint-Jean record the marriage of a Pierre DeVaux dit Dauphine, b. ca. 1700, son of Jacques and Marie Forget of the parish of Saint-Louis, diocese of Vienne, Province of Dauphine, France. He married, 6 AUG 1722 Jeanne LaBrue, dau. of Jean and Marie-Anne Pigeau of the parish of Saint-Sauveur, Rochelle, France at Port La Joie. They had one child, Olive b. ca. 1723; Pierre d. there 22 NOV of that year. No known connection between this man and the Acadian DeVaux family has been established, though it is of interest to note that he came from the Province of Dauphine. The 1734 census of the Island lists a Jean "Dufaux", a separate family, not another variation of the spelling of DeVaux.
*In The Acadians of Prince Edward Island 1720-1964 (J-Henri Blanchard, 1964) the author lists the surnames of those Acadians who settled on P.E.I. after 1763 and the name DeVaux (or any of its many variant spellings) does not appear. While any Acadians of the name now living there are surely descendants of Michel of Beaubassin, it does not follow that they are descendants of Jacques Sr. Perhaps what I have presented here, outlining the origin of this Acadian family, will prompt an interested cousin to investigate and provide the Register with additional family history.