I think I’m my kids’ cousin

I have a new love hobby.

I’m finding my people. I’m finding myself.

You remember what we discovered about Carsten’s condition when we went to the Little People of America Conference, right? Well if you don’t then go back and read it. I’ll wait. Just hurry because I am a bit impatient lately.   🙂

Carsten’s condition is rare in the general population but it is a bit common in Finnish, Amish, and Cajun populations.  This prompted me to do a bit of research. I got a little overwhelmed with all of the genealogy stuff and so my good friend Amy who operates Leaf by Leaf Genealogy stepped up and began uncovering my roots. She didn’t have to dig too far. I’m Cajun and they all just sort of “root” around in one area. Maybe because the soil is good?

All jokes aside this has had me on a roller coaster ride. I have learned things about my heritage that I never knew before. This is stuff our mamas didn’t know about. Our grandparents were some of the last French speaking Cajuns and a lot of the history is gone with them. There is so much I didn’t know.

Flag of Acadiana region of Louisiana

Image via Wikipedia

Sure I knew that I came from two Cajuns (my mom’s parents), a French-Canadian/Irish, and a Scots-Irish (my dad’s parents). I already knew that I was a descendant of Houmas (native Louisiana tribe), Plains Ojibwa (Chippewa), and Canadian Mi’kmaq (Micmac) all thrown in for good measure. What I didn’t know was what it really meant to be Cajun. When Amy started sending me files and sharing the things she was learning about my French Cajun history I became obsessed. I had to know more about who they were and why they came here to Louisiana.

It kind of started when she told me that Carsten’s dad (my late, first husband) and I are fourth cousins, once removed.

*big gulp*

We seriously didn’t have a clue.

Then on some genealogy forum she found a long lost cousin of mine that I didn’t even know was a long lost cousin. And yes he lives in the town I grew up in and still lived in until Ryan and I got married four years ago. This long lost cousin sent more information about our ancestors. Then I found him on Facebook.

Don’t you love Facebook?

Once I got to talking to him it turns out we are likely related – a couple of times. I also discovered that the last name of nearly every boy I ever dated, nearly every friend I have ever had, and about 1/4 of the people I went to school with is in my family tree somewhere so we very well could be related.

  • my first love – check
  • my first long term boyfriend – check
  • my childhood best friend – check
  • my best friend from my neighborhood – check
  • my date to homecoming (2 of the 4 homecoming dates) – check
  • my neighbor that I used to think was a bit crazy – check

I think am related to everyone I’ve ever known: Richard, Guillot, Landry, Bourgoyne, Tullier, Bourg, Bourgeois, Blanchard, Hebert, Boudreaux, Comeaux, Daigle, Granger, Himel, LeBlanc, and Melancon are the names that show up most often in my family tree. I’m so Cajun. I’m so related to everyone I know. I really did get nauseous. I emailed several people and ended up finding some comfort in the fact that over 70% of all married couples have at least one common ancestor within 8 generations back. That made me feel a little bit better.

Okay that is a little lie. It’s okay though because I’m southern. We call it manners here. It would be considered impolite to tell you I was still feeling obnoxiously sick over the fact that I am my kids mom and their like fifth cousin or something. I’m still trying to get over it even though I have seen the percentages and facts that state that most couples have common ancestors. And I know that we are all related anyway and that in biblical days people married their first cousins and it was okay BUT… it is still just very weird.

But I do understand why they did it. Beginning in 1755 my people (the Cajuns) were exiled from the only home they knew.  They had made a home for themselves in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They lived there for more than 100 years. They had homes, farms, shops, and they were prosperous. Then one day it was all taken away. They called it the Le Grand Derangement.

They were herded onto ships with little food or water and sent to places where no one wanted them. Why? Because they wanted to stay neutral in the war between the French and the British. Nearly 10,000 of them died during the voyage or within the first year after. Children were sent to one state while mothers were sent elsewhere. After the seven years war ended most of them finally ended up here in Louisiana but some never did reunite with their families. Children were raised by other families and husbands and wives married others because after years of searching they could not find each other and feared the worst: that their loved ones had been among the dead.

The way they were treated when they arrived is incomprehensible. They trusted no one after all they had been through. I no longer wonder why they married their 2nd and 3rd cousins. It was safe. Heck, they probably didn’t even know they were cousins since some of them were raised by other families.

There is so much more to this story that I am still piecing together. I checked out like 14 books from the library the other day. I feel a real connection to these people I read about on the pages. It is really doing a work on my heart and giving me a renewed compassion for the people here: my people. My attitude is changed. I no longer long for the day when I can leave Louisiana but now I long to learn more about her. This journey has just begun but gosh, what a journey it is.

And just so you know, I’m so glad that Ryan is German & English.

( this is where you leave a comment telling me about all the intermarriage and other crazy things you found in your family tree – hint, hint)

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  1. I’m a cajun now living in Oregon. I have one ancestor that came to Louisiana on one of the five ships that the Spanish government sent to France after the Great Dispersal. The Spanish offered passage to the displaced Acadians that were deported back to France from Nova Scotia. These ancestors were given free land, tools to work the land & livestock. As I’m sure you know, there is a “cajun wall” in St. Martinville with the names of the Acadians that arrived in Louisiana on board these 5 ships. It was a real thrill to go there with my mother before she passed away and locate our ancestor.

    As a child (I’m now 64), I remember people hating to see my grandmother come to their wedding, because she always figured out how the bride & groom were related. No joke!!! By the way my maiden name is Guillot, so we are probably related.

    Because the gene pool of cajuns has been relatively small for over three centuries, it has provided researchers with larger than average number of research subjects for certain genetic conditions. One that I’m aware of is Usher Syndrome which leads to first deafness, then blindness.

    By the way, I love your website!!!

  2. Hi Amy! I’m an Okie born and bred, but my Granpapa was from Assumption Parish – I’ve still got quite a bit of family in southern LA (We may even be related! lol). I just wanted to let you know that there are more near-relatives on the Okie side of my family tree than the Cajuns. The most notable examples being a great-uncle who married his step-sister, and a couple five generations back who were second cousins!

  3. Hi Amy,

    I’m French-Canadian and have also been doing research in genealogy. French-Canadians are mostly descendant of colonists arriving in the 17th and early 18 th centuries so I think it is safe to say we almost all have many ancestors in common. There is actually a website that will show how any 2 people in the system are related….Celine Dion and Madonna? Madonna and Hilary Clinton?

    I am a descendant of Hélène Desportes, one of the first children born in New France. She married twice and I am her descendant through both lines. This actually happens 3 or 4 other times in my family tree. We can tell this mostly because we can trace our family back so many years, 8 to 15 generations in Canada. I am descendant of some couple 5-6 times over. In the 1666 census there are about 3200 people listed and I am a direct descendant of at least 325 of them plus another 30 or so already dead by 1666 and 60 or so proven to have been in the country but not on the census.

    I have not yet completed my Acadian grand-mother’s lineage. Her family (Bourgeois) came to Québec after the Grand Dérangement. I have many of the names you listed in my tree too!


  4. Well since nobody else can give you any stories, I can! I was pregnant with my first child when my great-great aunt said to my grandmother, “Aren’t you related to so-and-so’s?” My grandma got out the genealogy book that she had for our family and it turns out that my older son’s father and I are third cousins once removed. So I am my sons 4th cousin. But my philosophy is, if you can live in a small town your entire life and not know you are related, then you are distant enough.

  5. We are so modern that we think its scandelous to find intermarriage but a historian told me that it was normal a generation ago because many people remained in their sub cultural group, small towns, no transportation, etc. People married who was available and they needed big families to farm the land.

    The thing about history is you can change it with your family. If your family didn’t intermarry then you would not have been created. At least your learning more about your history.

  6. This is soooo incredibly fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kristen SchiffmAan says:

    My grandfather did a ton of family research for us (I loved the process and got way involved!) he had very in depth family trees made up for each of my cousins. My grandparents/families are from Ireland (both maternal/paternal) which I could not be happier about. My whole life has been seeped in Irish culture (and not just Guinness 😉 I was amazed at the things uncovered. I became and still am obsessed myself! So. very. interesting.

    As for you and your ex-husband….deep breaths. It’s going to be okay. 😛

  8. That is just incredible to learn so much about your family! Amy is so talented with the genealogy, isn’t she? (Yay! I typed genealogy and spelled it right the first time!)

    I wish I could know more about my family tree. But it seems so overwhelming, especially with the Korean side.

  9. Granted, I’ve never came upon any stories as crazy as yours (sorry) but I know that many in my family have been married several times. I really think that I would be thrown for a loop on knowing my husband (or ex) was actually my cousin. I think it would be worse if we were still married. Is that why blood test were a requirement for marriage (I know they weren’t). But the history behind you family and the Cajuns is interesting. I’m sure at some point we had something interesting happen in our families. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I haven’t found any marriages between cousins in my family (yet, I’m sure they’re there) but my ancestors turned out to be polygamists (LOL!) not to mention I found out that my family were best friends with my husbands family for 80 some odd years about 100 years ago, and the families never married until my husband and I!

  11. I’m from KY.
    ‘Nuff said.

  12. Hey Amy, my grandmother was from Nova Scotia and her name was Cecile! My cousin has all the family geneology stuff since he lives in the old family home in MA and it’s so interesting. It traces us back to when our family crossed the ocean. =] Amazing!

    Around here, in small town USA, everyone is related and the older ladies love telling me how the families are connected. =] It’s just par for the course cuz until recently not many moved away, not cuz of their history. Just think of the book you could write! Wowzers! =] (In your spare time of course.) =]

  13. Promise not to tell? This is for you, Amy because my husband always rolls his eyes when I tell this story.

    I knew my husband’s family before I ever met him. We went out a lot and had great times. My dad then tells me that his brother married their aunt (their mom’s sister). It was a fun joke, saying we owed each other Christmas presents and that we were cousins, but there is no relation.

    However my husband never heard that part. He meets me, develops a crush, is ready to ask me out and then hears us all talk about us being cousins.

    He was devastated. He finally got the courage to ask for more information and the rest is history. However when we sent the wedding invitation to that shared aunt and uncle, we wondered which side they would sit on. Turns out they never showed 🙂

  14. Just…um…WOW.

    I have no stories like this – but mostly because I haven’t done much research. Fascinating – and CRAZY!

  15. Oh my! Well, FIRST I must say I was totally stunned that you actually found 14 books at a Louisiana library to CHECK out! I don’t think I found 14 TO check out the whole year I lived there! BUT that’s another story.

    I have MANY stories because my parents lifelong hobby has genealogy…like the fact that I am most likely related to Amanda Ferguson from co-op’s husband in BR AND Dianne G. of Bunny Trails’ husband and I might be related! I also have other Louisiana relatives, so we could eventually find out that we are related! My favorite is my Grandmother married a man that was 10 years older than her. He was off at war when she was growing up. Her Aunt (Ella) got married and so she had a Uncle (“Doc”). LATER the man 10 years older came home from war and saw my beautiful grandmother, because Doc was his older brother. They married. So, Aunt Ella and Uncle Doc, became her SIL and BIL! 🙂

    I love this one too… My Mom’s first cousin married a lady who grew up with the name Anita Lot. She heard jokes all the time- “I need a lot and I need a little”…etc. Well, the cousin’s last name is Moore. So, it was then Anita Lot Moore!

  16. My great-grandparents were first cousins. That’s much worse to be only a generation or two removed from than 5th cousin or whatever.

  17. Abraham and Sarah were brother and sister 🙂

  18. Amy you are awesome. Such a wonderful researcher and lover of family.
    I have not found where my husband and I cross yet, but I have found in my dad’s tree where brothers and sisters cross married brothers and sisters. Makes an unusual tree design for my cousins.


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