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The Cyr Family
of Madawaska




This is the forest primeval;
but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers --
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed...
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.

-- Evangeline,
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The first member of the Cyr family in the New World was probably Pierre Sire/Sirre/Cyr, born in France around 1644, perhaps in Tourraine-en-Loire. A gunsmith by profession, we know he was in Acadia around 1668, living in Port Royal.

Pierre married Marie Bourgeois on April 10, 1670, in Port Royal. She was the daughter of Jacques Bourgeois, who had been a military surgeon and who had become by that time a merchant and trader along “La Baie Française,” now called the Bay of Fundy. Her mother was Jeanne Trahan.

On June 18, 1670, Pierre “Sirre” signed an agreement with the parishioners of Port-Royal concerning the construction of the new church and the guidelines for “official weights and measures” in the colony. We also know from the 1671 Port Royal census that Pierre, a 27-year-old arms manufacturer and his wife, Marie Bourgeois, 18 years old, have a three-month-old son, Jean. They have 11 cattle, 6 sheep and do not have any land in cultivation.

Some time around 1672, Pierre’s father-in-law Jacques Bourgeois decided to establish a new colony -- the Bourgeois colony (Beaubassin, in Chignectou). The settlement was at the lower end of “La Baie Française” near the modern border of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and its name meant "beautiful bay". The first dwellings were built on a height of land along the southern bank of the Missaguash River. The new colony prospered, and Bourgeois quickly build a flour mill and sawmill (with the equipment shipped from Boston in pieces).

In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pre
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides....
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.
Strongly built were the houses, with frames of oak and of chestnut,
Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries...

-- Evangeline

In 1676, their second son, Pierre, is born in Beaubassin. Three years later, a third son, Guillaume, is born there as well.

Later that same year, in 1679, Pierre died and was buried at Beaubassin. His young widow remarries the following year, to Germain Girouard, and has three more children. In 1686, Marie again becomes a widow. She spends her final years living with her son Guillaume. She dies in Beaubassin, on March 3, 1741, with her sons, Jean-Baptiste (I) and Pierre, present at her burial. Her death certificate lists her as 88 years old.

Jean-Baptiste (I) married Francoise Melanson in 1692 in Beaubassin. They would have nine children: Jean-Baptiste (II); Pierre; Julien; Marie; Marguerite; Michel; Paul; Anne; and Francoise. Jean-Baptiste died in 1741 and was buried in Beaubassin.

By the early 1700's, the tensions between the "French Neutrals" and the English were rising daily, and finally -- on September 5, 1755, under the order of Lieutenant Governor Lawrence, the British Governor of Acadia -- the expulsion of the Acadians began. With the beginning of Le Grand Derangement, the Cyr family would be scattered across North America.

Only along the shore of the mournful and misty Atlantic
Linger a few Acadian peasants, whose fathers from exile
Wandered back to their native land to die in its bosom...

-- Evangeline

Jean-Baptiste (II) would settle in the area of Sainte-Anne-des-Pays-Bas (modern day Fredericton, New Brunswick), which had been the scene of one of the only major victories by the Acadians against the British. The only Deportation ship ever captured by the Acadians, the Pembroke, and its settlers fled to the St. John River community in New Brunswick, under the protection of Boishébert. The Acadians cleared land and settled down, hoping to have their land grants approved by the British government after the war with France was over.

In 1784, English Loyalists, fleeing the United States in the aftermath of the American Revolution, would forcibly evict the Acadians from their new homes. Jean Baptiste would sign a number of petitions sent to the officials of Quebec and New Brunswick asking for redress, to no avail. Jean-Baptiste Cyr dit Croque is reported to have said: "My God, can it be true that you have made no lands for the Cayens [Acadians]?" In 1785, the Acadians sent a petition to the officials of Quebec and New Brunswick, to obtain land in the Madawaska area. Twenty-four Acadians and Canadians signed the petition for land grants a mile-and-a-half south of the Madawaska River Falls. The Acadian petitioners were: Louis Mercure, Jean Martin, Joseph Daigle Sr., Joseph Daigle Jr., Daniel Gaudin, Simon Martin, Paul-Francois Cyr, Joseph Cyr Jr., Pierre Cyr, Jean-Baptiste Cyr, Firmin Cyr, Alexandre Ayotte and Francois Martin. The Canadian petitioners were: Pierre Duperry, Jean Lizotte, Pierre Lizotte, Augustin Dube, Robert Fournier and Louis Sansfacon. Another petition in the Canadian Archives, was addressed to the Governor-General of Canada, and was signed by Jean-Baptiste Cyr, his wife Marguerite Cormier and his nine sons, Pierre, Olivier, Francois, Antoine, Paul, Jacques, Joseph, Firmin and Jean-Baptiste Jr., as well as Alexandre Ayotte, Zacharie Ayotte, Joseph Daigle Sr., Joseph Daigle Jr., Olivier Thibodeau and Louis Sansfacon.

After receiving the promise of land grants from the British authorities, Jean-Baptiste Cyr called for a meeting at his home, where it was decided that half of the colony would go to the Madawaska and the other half would be divided among Amon, Memramcook, Miramichi, Tracadie, Caraquet and Bathurst. Jean-Baptiste would not make the trip. He died that same year, and was buried at "Crock's Point".

Determined to live free of further English interference, these families traveled up the St. John Valley, beyond Grand Falls -- where the British ships could not follow -- to the area called "the Madawaska", the Native American word for "the Land of the Porcupine..." They settled in June, 1785, on the banks of the St. John River. The Acadians has finally found a new home. By 1790, the British would finally affirm the land claims for the Acadian families on the banks of the St. John.

By the time of the 1831 Maine survey, Jean Baptiste's son Antoine Rotatine was recorded as living on the south side of the river.

"Almost all of [the Madawaska settlers] tan their own leather, make their own shoe-packs and Canada boots, and make also their implements of husbandry... The females manufacture the wool and flax of the raw material, until it is made into garments to wear, or other articles for domestic use. They also manufacture large quantities of Sugar from the rock-maple. Many hunt in autumn. The men appear to live easy and work only a portion of the time, which must be attributed to the productiveness of the soil. The women appear in all the houses to be spinning, weaving, preparing the cloth, and making it up for use..."

-- Deane and Kavanagh Report, 1831

On August 16, 1792, in St. Basile, N.B., Antoine marred Marie Genevieve Violette. Marie Genevieve was the daughter of Francois Violette and Marie Luce Thibodeau. They had eleven children: Marie Salome; Marie Rose; Victoire; Genevieve; Elizabeth; Marie-Louise (Lizette); Marie-Luce; Scholastique; Marguerite; Jean Germain (Jeremie); Marguerite (II); and Desire.

Their daughter Marie-Luce was born on May 24, 1806, in St. Basile. She was named for her grandmother Thibodeau, and on July 16, 1792, she married Francois Martin in St. Basile. They would have at least two children: Julie and Damase.

I haven't put up all the Cyr charts yet, so these are just broken links for the moment. Sorry!
Mary Luce Cyr's Family Chart
Mary Anne Cyr's Family Chart
wife of Jean Baptiste Daigle (I)
Anastasie Cyr's Family Chart
wife of Jean Baptiste Daigle (III)

I am still searching for information on these families,
so please contact me if you have anything to share!


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