Tag Archives: Cajuns

Journey to Anne Marie

Marie Rundquist writes about her journey into her family history. Not the history she heard from her mother and grandmother, although it’s part of the story. The story Ms. Rundquist tells starts with a DNA test she took.

View_of_New_Orleans_Under_My_Wings-j-l-bouqueto-de-woiseri-1803
“Under My Wings Every Thing Prospers” New Orleans, J. L. Bouqueto de Woiseri 1803

The test didn’t lead to what, and where, she expected. Instead, it took her on a long journey through US archival history and then to Nova Scotia.

Marie Rundquist lives in Maryland and was born there. She decided to do a DNA test to learn more about herself, and the results surprised her. Some genetic markers didn’t add up with what she’d been told. So she started looking for the pieces missing in the family stories but present in her genes. Her tale is fascinating. I read part of it on the Cape Breton University website.

I am bemused by the popularity of DNA testing. It’s interesting, sure. Useful for medical information, of course. But its value for identity, for who you are? As the memes say, if you need a test to tell you that you are X or Y, you’re not.

journey - The_Acadians_mural_panel_4_Sylvia_Lefkovitz michelle-macneill-wikicommons
“The Acadians” panel 4, Sylvia Lefkovitz 1956, Université Sainte-Anne NS

So I surprised myself when I became engrossed in Ms. Rundquist’s story. Even the scientific bits. She explains DNA testing so that even I can understand it.

The journey starts

Then she starts the story, or stories. One her mother and grandmother told her. The second begins with the mtDNA test. It shows genetics through the maternal line. For Ms. Rundquist, the two didn’t match. Some genetic markers showing place didn’t make sense with the geographic history she had been told.

Acadians_2_Samuel_Scott_Annapolis_Royal_1751 NS art gallery wikicommons
“Acadians” (Inset) by Samuel Scott, Annapolis Royal 1751, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Like a forensic sculptor, she fleshed out the genetic skeleton. Her clay was archival materials and a community of relatives. The relatives weren’t those she knew. They were the list of genetic matches provided by the DNA testing company.

With their help, archives and her mother’s stories, she traced a journey back in time. She found a new history. Some parts intersected, others were way off. But put together, it’s a fuller story. Still not complete, but with new layers that mesh even if gaps remain.

M_S_Kendall-1899-micmac-indian-camp-ns-cropped-private-collection-pd-wikicommons
“Micmac Indian Camp in Nova Scotia” by M. S. Kendall 1899 (private collection)

The gaps are as interesting as the filled spaces in the way Ms. Rundquist writes about what this means for her self-identity. If you’ve ever said “I know I’m X but I don’t know how,” or “I thought I was X but found out I’m Y,” read this.

It shows the beauty of a journey. There are some answers, but best are the loose ends. They invite pondering, by readers as well as the writer, about lost history and the nature of identity.

You can get Marie Rundquist’s books, Revisiting Anne Marie and Cajun By Any Other Name at DNA-Genealogy-History. You can read my DNA Tests for a far less inquisitive look at family origins. Gallery Gevik has more of Sylvia Lefkovitz’s incredible art.

Iry LeJeune

Lacassine-Special-record-earlycajunmusic.blogspot.ca_2014_08_01In James Lee Burke’s novel Cadillac Jukebox, a New Orleans mob guy brings a gift to Detective Dave Robichaux. A jukebox filled with 45s of classic Cajun recordings from the 1940s and ’50s.

‘There were two recordings of “La Jolie Blon” in the half-moon rack, one by Harry Choates and the other by Iry LeJeune. I had never thought about it before, but both men’s lives seemed to be always associated with that haunting, beautiful song, one that was so pure in its sense of loss you didn’t have to understand French to comprehend what the singer felt. “La Jolie Blon” wasn’t about a lost love. It was about the end of an era.’ (p. 198)

Iry-LeJeune-painting-by-George-Rodrigue-1971-wendyrodrigue.com_2011_04I wondered who Iry LeJeune was. With Professor Google’s help, I found his musical significance and traced his family tree. His 5th great-grandparents are Jean-Baptiste LeJeune dit Briard and Marguerite Trahan of Cape Breton. In the 1750s deportation, they went to North Carolina, then Maryland, finally settling in Louisiana.

Ira LeJeune, called Iry, was born in Acadia Parish October 1928 to Agness and Lucy (Bellard) LeJeune. Agness’ parents, Ernest and Alicia, both had the surname LeJeune.

Iry LeJeune Family Tree

Iry-LeJeune-family-tree
Click image for larger view

When a young boy, Iry learned to play the accordion from his cousin, uncle or great-uncle Angélas LeJeune, a well-known musicianIry-LeJeune-wendyrodrigue.com_2011_04. I could find nothing on Angélas’ parents, but I think he may have been a great-uncle on Iry’s grandmother’s side.

In an interview, fiddler Milton Vanicor and his daughter explain their kinship with Iry. Milton’s wife Odile and Iry were double first cousins – a LeJeune sister and brother married a Bellard brother and sister.

Linda, M. Vanicor’s daughter, says Angélas was Iry’s great-uncle but Milton-Vanicor Leslie Westbrook theadvertiser.com 2015:06:07doesn’t mention the same connection with her mother. When I saw Iry’s father’s mother was a LeJeune by birth, I wondered if Angélas might be her brother.

Milton Vanicor died June 5, 2015 at the age of 96. He was one of the last surviving Lacassine Playboys, the band he, his brothers and Iry formed in the 1940s. M. Vanicor was a veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He played fiddle at festivals throughout the United States right up to his death.

Cajun's Greatest album Iry LeJeune
Click for Amazon link

Iry died in October 1955 age 28. Driving home after a gig, he was changing a flat when a passing car hit him. He left a wife and five children. His other legacy was reviving the popularity of Cajun music and making the accordion central to it again.