All things history and genealogy.

All things history and genealogy.

Who’ulda Thought Headstone Hunting Could Be Such Fun?

Although my husband and children all enjoy hunting moose, headstone hunting is about as far as I’ll go.
headstone hunting at Melanson Community Hall
Melanson Community Hall in the town of Melanson. My mother’s maiden name is Melanson.

About six years ago, we decided to take our one and only big family vacation – a three week driving trip from central Ontario to Acadian territories in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Although this was a planned vacation, it was an opportunity as well to teach the kids something of their Acadian heritage and see the area in which my mother, her family and ancestors lived for generations.

Melanson Mountain Sign, across from the Melanson Community Hall while headstone hunting.
Melanson Mountain Sign, across from the Melanson Community Hall.

We did a lot of sightseeing in places like Moncton to see the tidal bore of the Bay of Fundy, and the Hopewell Rocks where I got a wonderful picture of Erin and Stuart against the rocks at high tide. I’ve since had several people accuse me of having ‘photoshopped’ the photo, but that’s not the case at all.

Other sites along our journey were:

  • Fort Edward and Fort Beausejour, where several of our ancestors were imprisoned during the Acadian Expulsion;
Grand Pré Chapel while headstone hunting.
Grand Pré Chapel.
  • Grand Pré, the site of the meeting in which Acadian men were informed of their imminent expulsion;
  • Melanson village and mountain, the site of the settlement of one original Melanson brother and pioneer, Pierre Melanson and his descendants;
  • Melanson Settlement, the historic site where our ancestor Charles, the other pioneer brother, settled;
  • Fort Anne, where we had the experience of a lifetime, experiencing the highly entertaining ‘Graveyard Tour‘ hosted by Alan Melanson, a distant cousin; our unexpected discovery of an original ‘aboiteau’ from the Melanson Settlement site, a hollowed wooden log with a hinged valve at one end which was used to drain the water from the fields (it had been in storage at North Hills Museum and she took us to see it when she heard me talking about it); and a visit to Ste. Anne University, where the students and staff were very knowledgeable and amazingly helpful, finding a great deal of documentation for my research.
The mysterious aboiteau used by the Acadians found on our headstone hunting trip.
The mysterious aboiteau used by the Acadians to control the water on the marshes where they homesteaded and farmed.

Our most unexpected discovery was at a tiny, charming Catholic church in Argyle, near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

When driving through we spotted a graveyard with hundreds of headstones right along side the road, noticing right away that there were some very old headstones in the mix. At my request, Mark stopped the car and we got out to have a look.

Ste. Anne Catholic Church in Argyle, Nova Scotia - headstone hunting trip.
Ste. Anne Catholic Church and graveyard in Argyle, Nova Scotia – where we spent one Sunday morning headstone hunting.

Our plan was that Mark would have the camera, I would have my notebook to write hard-to-read transcriptions, and Erin and Stuart would be the scouts, running ahead, raising their hands and shouting to let us know they’d found a ‘Melanson’ or ‘Fougere’ headstone.

Now this was a really quiet, cool, damp day and we were just waiting for the rain that appeared to be imminent, but that didn’t deter us. We made short work of the task, and went through the vast graveyard in great speed.

It wasn’t long after starting though, that I noticed the cars driving by slowing right down to check us out and see what we were doing. Some actually came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Upon reflection, I realized how odd we all must have looked – especially the kids, running from headstone to headstone, raising their hands and shouting. Did they think we were playing some kind of game?

As silly as we must have looked, it was a great deal of fun and it’s a trip we all talk of to this day. We’d all love to do it again.

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