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With the Acadian World Congress or, in French, Congreś Mondial Acadien (CMA) underway, many Arsenaults are preparing for a massive reunion.
The family reunion of one of the most prolific Acadian names is set for Aug. 14, in Abram-Village.
One Arsenault going has her roots deeply planted into the Island’s history.
Kim Allen’s grandfather was a former premier. Aubin-Edmond Arsenault held the title in 1917 and was the first Acadian to become premier on P.E.I.
Allen was born in Vancouver and resides in B.C. today, but she did get the chance to meet her well-regarded grandfather in 1964.
“My family and I visited the Island when I was a child, and my grandfather would’ve been 94 years old at the time. We were quite impressed and surprised how well known he was around town. Anytime we arrived anywhere, people would open car doors and say ‘hello, Judge’ and ‘How are you, Judge.’ He was a bit of a celebrity to the people.”
Allen has been to P.E.I. periodically through her life but is particularly excited about this year’s visit.
She and a few members of her family will be attending the congress and hope to reconnect with family members here on the Island
“There was a feeling to come and learn more, and it’s an excuse to gather our family from near and far: some from Montreal, from B.C., some who live right here on the Island and even a (Gallant) cousin from France is coming.”
Although Allen wasn’t raised directly in the Acadian culture, she has pride in her family history.
“We have such deep Acadian roots here. When we think of mom’s side of the family, we think of her mom, too. She was a Gallant, so I guess we have solid roots in P.E.I. I’m very proud of my Acadian side. We all embrace it in my immediate family.”
To display her Acadian side, Allen has been working on a piece through her rug-hooking hobby.
“It’s of this wooden chair, with the Acadian flag in the background with the gold star. It’ll have the letters A and G on it to display my Arsenault and Gallant sides.”
Another Acadian who is attending the reunion is a recently discovered Arsenault.
Susan Casey and her family have a rich history within the rural parts of Nova Scotia, with her father’s maternal side living mostly in Joggins, N.S.
But her father’s parental side had always been a bit of mystery to her family, with her grandparents raising her father, as his mother had only been 15 years old when she gave birth to him.
“There had always been this rumour about my dad’s father; that he was older and from P.E.I and that his name was on my father’s baptismal certificate. I never really believed it, like someone had just written a name to make the priest happy,” said Casey.
As the years went by, Casey and her sister developed an interest from genealogy and decided to investigate her dad’s paternal history.
In 2017, she called the church where her father had been baptized and was given a copy of the certificate.
“It was clearly written. My father, Joseph Barclay Casey, illegitimate son to Philomene Casey and Angus Arsenault".
Casey and her sister dug deeper, using an ancestral site to find the potential Angus.
“I looked up the name and a date of birth 10 years older than my grandmother and the first result popped up for attestation papers for Canadian expeditionary forces in World War I. It was an Angus Arsenault born in 1893 in Abram-Village, P.E.I.”
She also discovered Angus had received the military Medal of Conspicuous Gallantry and Devotion.
Through Angus’s paper trail with the military, Casey found out he was a miner and had enlisted in Halifax rather than P.E.I.
“It started making sense. At first, I doubted because I couldn’t understand how a young girl like my grandmother from Joggins could’ve gotten involved with someone from the Island. But his occupation was listed as a miner, and Joggins had coal mines back then. To me, it said a lot.”
With the help of Georges Arsenault, an Acadian historian in P.E.I., they found Angus’s obituary.
“He died in 1950, under his birth name Joseph Augustine Arsenault. It listed his siblings, and I was able to contact some people to see if we could use DNA to match,” said Casey.
In 2017, one of her sisters matched with a grandson of one of Angus’s brothers to a level of DNA that would be considered a second cousin.
“For me, that clenched it. Second cousin is about as close as were going to get since it’s been such a long time. But for me, that’s enough.”
One aspect of the Arsenault reunion exciting for the Casey sisters is the fact their grandfather’s house is directly across from the fairgrounds.
“It’s a fun thing. We'll be able to see where he was born and where he grew up.”
The sisters plan to also attend the Casey reunion happening in Grand Digue, N.B., where their maternal grandmother’s family was originally from.
“We’re going to be able to visit the home parish of both sides of our families, which for us, is kind of special.”