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The Melanson Family

Introduction to the Melansons

The Melanson family surname is quite unique in the fact that it is one of the only surnames that's use can be traced to originating with one particular generation.

Melanson family crest: designed by Margaret C. Melanson

The progenitors of all Melansons, Pierre Laverdure and his wife Priscilla, were not known by the Melanson surname but rather by the name, or title, of Laverdure. However, two of their sons, Pierre and Charles, appear to be the first to have begun using "Mellanson" - in well documented, written form.

Pierre Laverdure

The reason behind the use of Laverdure as an apparent surname for Pierre is not known for certain. It is likely that the name was not actually his surname but rather a title or nickname that may have referred to an area of France that he came from, families ties in France or property that he may have owned in France. Since two of his sons went by the Mellanson surname, societal logic would dictate that this was their father's surname. However, no record has been found to put the Mellanson surname with Pierre senior.

Of the Laverdure name, Pierre was not alone in using it in Acadia. There were several men of French origin who also used the Laverdure/La Verdure name, although in these cases the name was clearly a title. A good example is that of Germain Doucet, once the Commander-in-Chief at Port Royal, who was known as "Germain Doucet dit La Verdure". Coincidentally, Germain was the father of Pierre Mellanson's wife's mother, Marguerite Doucet.

In the case of the Mellanson brothers, Pierre Mellanson would become known as "La Verdure" while Charles Mellanson would become known as "La Ramée".

The French recorded such titles and nicknames by using the French word "dit" before the title, i.e.: "dit La Verdure", or in English, "called La Verdure". When referring to a female, the French would use the word "dite". Both "dit" and "dite" are pronounced "dee".

During their time in Boston, Pierre Laverdure, his wife Priscilla and their son John were known by the name "Laverdure". This name was also to be consistently used as a surname for Pierre and Priscilla's granddaughter, Marie Melanson (first child and eldest daughter of Charles dit La Ramée Mellanson and Marie Dugas) who went to Boston to live with her grandmother at a young age. Marie became known as Mary Laverdure until later marrying David Basset.


In regards to Pierre Laverdure's wife Priscilla, we simply do not know for certain what her maiden name was. Many have suggested that it was Mallinson (or a variation thereof) but there are no records to indicate this in any official sense that would serve to accurately enhance any historical or genealogical research. In an effort to present the most factual data available, most professional researchers and genealogists omit any suggestion of a maiden name for Priscilla from their work.

Many spelling variations resembling the Mellanson name did exist in England during the 1500's and 1600's but it seems unlikely that Pierre and Charles, both apparently well educated and obviously literate, would go on to consistently misspell their surname when they settled in the New World. This and other details surrounding the origin of the name has gone on to create many theories and possibilities, but it is not known for certain why or from where Pierre and Charles started to use the Mellanson surname.

Of interesting note is that the Mellanson/Melanson name is not found in England prior to the year 1755. It is only after the 1755 expulsions of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia that the name begins to show up on records in England, where some of Pierre and Charles' descendants had been deported to.

Family Arrival in Acadia

Lands of the Melanson Settlement
A portion of dykeland adjacent to the Melanson Settlement

Of the family's arrival in Acadia, it is widely accepted that Pierre and Priscilla landed in 1657 after sailing from England with their sons onboard the ship Satisfaction. It is also generally accepted that the family disembarked at St. John's fort at the mouth of the St. John River. The family had sailed to Acadia with the newly appointed English Governor of Acadia, Sir Thomas Temple and a group of other settlers. Pierre and Priscilla, however, were to reside in Acadia for only 10 years.

A Boston court document from 1677 (Priscilla's petition of May 3, 1677) recorded Priscilla's late husband, "Peter Leverdure", as being a Frenchman and a Protestant and "Priscilla Leverdure" as being an Englishwoman. This document helped early researchers, such as Father Clarence d'Éntremont, establish a connection between Pierre Laverdure, his wife Priscilla and sons Pierre and Charles. The document also served to clear up the persistent claim that the origins of the Melanson family were Scottish. On the same note, about refuting the claims of Scottish birth (this time for Pierre and Charles Mellanson), a second document, written by John Adams in 1720, decisively describes Pierre Laverdure's son Pierre as being "an aged English Gentleman...".

The petition goes on to state that Priscilla's husband had left "[St.] John's fort to escape the wrath of his countrymen Papists". This latter statement clearly suggests that Pierre was a French Huguenot who might have left France as the Catholic government's tolerance for the Protestant Huguenots began to rapidly deteriorate during the 1620's. Either due to the problems unwinding in France or for some other reason, Pierre ended up in England were he and his Priscilla were married about 1630 (SW).

Ten years before Priscilla's petition the 1667 Treaty of Breda between the English and the French had ceded Acadia back to France. Pierre and Priscilla, both Protestants, were probably unable to fathom the idea of living under a French Catholic government and thus departed for Protestant ruled Boston, Massachusetts, sometime between 1667 and 1770 (Sir Thomas Temple had managed to delay the actual handing over of Acadia to French until 1670).

Pierre and Charles Mellanson

Memorial Chapel at Grand Pré
Memorial Chapel at Grand Prè built on or near the site of the original St. Charles des Mines church

Two of Pierre and Priscilla's sons, Pierre dit Laverdure Mellanson and Charles dit La Ramée Mellanson, having already converted to Catholicism and married Acadian girls, remained in Acadia to raise their families. Pierre and Priscilla's third known son, John Laverdure, either accompanied his parents when they departed for Boston or joined them there at a later date.

Eldest son Pierre dit Laverdure married Marie-Marguerite Muis d'Éntremont, daughter of Philippe Muis d'Éntremont & Madeleine Hélie while his younger brother Charles dit La Ramée married Marie Dugas, daughter of Abraham Dugas & Marguerite-Louise Doucet.

Pierre and his wife Marie-Marguerite would eventually go on to found Grand Pré at Les Mines (Minas), along with Pierre Terriot, where they would raise their family. Grand Pré became a favorite site for many young Acadians to relocate to as it was abundant in prime marshland and it was a good distance away from the central English authorities at Annapolis Royal. Very soon, the population would be thrice that as the population at Port Royal/Annapolis Royal.

Pierre would later be designated the Captain of the Militia, while Acadia was under French control, and was also to be named a seigneurial agent (collecting rents) which placed him in a position of authority in the Minas Basin region. Pierre it seems, was also to become a spy for the French.

Charles dit La Ramée and his wife Marie would establish their family near the old Port Royal habitation in the Port Royal basin at what is today known as the Melanson Settlement (sometimes referred to as the "Melanson Village" in old records and maps). The settlement grew quite large over the years with a total of nine households being located on the land during its peak times.

Charles and his wife Marie seem to have done reasonably well as the census' show their cleared land expanding and their livestock increasing. They also had a large section of dyked marshland along the Rivière Daupin (the Annapolis River) adjacent to their property. It was from this dyke that archaeologists recently retrieved two intact aboiteax, one of which is the largest and oldest aboiteau found to date.

Other archaeological digs at the Melanson Settlement discovered the foundations of many of the homes and buildings that once stood on the site, including the structure that housed Charles Melanson (son of Charles dit La Ramée) and his wife Anne Bourg. The digs within these stone foundations have produced numerous artifacts that include an earthen cooking pot, a sword hand guard, beads, musket shot, and a variety of utensils, all of which are on display at the Memorial Chapel at Grand Pré.

Besides farming, in his elder years on the opposing side of his brother Pierre, Charles became a spy for the English.

Pierre and Charles' descendants would remain on the lands of the Melansons Settlement and Grand Pré until the fateful year of 1755 that saw the Melansons and their families dispersed, along with an estimated 9,000 of their fellow Acadians, to various parts of England, France and the British colonies of New England during the Expulsions.

Of the Melanson Acadians that were deported to or remained in English territories after the Expulsions, the original spelling of the "Melanson" surname was, for the most part, retained. For those that were deported to or otherwise ended up in French territories, the name was widely frenchinized with the "s" in "son" being replaced with a "c" or cedilla according to the french pronunciation of the soft "s" on the word "son".

To continue from here to the first generation of this family to settle in Acadia, please click here.


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