Beyoncé's family tree can be traced back to French colonials from Acadia and down to Afro-Creole survivors of slavery. | BY MIKE BATIE
Beyoncé has become a household name in the United States and worldwide. The multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning artist stuns audiences the world over with her vocals, music videos, live concerts, and acting. What many may not know is that Beyoncé comes from a very unique and mixed ancestry which makes for a fascinating look at her family tree.
Descent from Acadian Forefather
Through her mother, Beyoncé is the 6th great-granddaughter of Joseph Broussard, the legendary leader and hero of the Acadians—French colonists who settled in what is now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada. The descendants of these colonists would eventually migrate to Louisiana.
Beyoncé's line of descent from Acadian hero Joseph Broussard (1702). / Chart by Mike Batie
A map showing the region of Acadia, settled by Beyoncé's French colonial ancestors. / Image via Brittanica
Joseph Broussard—Acadian Leader and Hero
Beyoncé's 6th great grandfather, Joseph Broussard, was born on 19 October 1702 in Port-Royal, in what is today, Nova Scotia, Canada. At the time, this area was a French colony, known as Acadia, and Joseph's father, Jean-François Broussard, came to the New World from France, where he met and married Joseph's mother, Catherine Richard, who was born in the colony. Their son, Joseph Broussard, married Agnès Thibodeaux, a daughter of colonials born in the French colony. Together they would have a large number of children.
Broussard lived in a tumultuous time in the region. In 1713, the French colony of Port-Royal was captured by and ceded to the British. Some of the French colonists, estimated at 30 or more, intermarried with the indigenous population, most notably the Miꞌkmaq. Together the French and the Miꞌkmaq were living under British rule, which you could imagine was not a fun time for all.
In the midst of the aggression between the French and the British, Joseph Broussard participated in several wars and battles, at least eight that we know of. During King George's War (1744–1748), Broussard began resisting the British occupation of Acadia, participating in the Battle of Grand Pré, in which the Canadians, Acadians, and Miꞌkmaq combined forces against the British. Joseph Broussard became known by the nickname of Beausoleil, or translated from the French, "beautiful sun."
In Father Le Loutre's War (1749–1755), Broussard participated in some bloody skirmishes. As wars tend to go, things got pretty sick when the British were offering bounties for the heads of Miꞌkmaq, and the French were offering bounties for British scalps. On 13 May 1751, Broussard led sixty Acadians and Miꞌkmaq on a raid against the British settlement at Dartmouth, killing twenty British settlers and taking prisoners.
During the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the Acadians were forcibly removed and deported by the British. Some of the Acadians were the second generation born in the region and some had indigenous roots. This event became known as the Expulsion of the Acadians, or, the Great Deportation. The British plundered and burned Acadian settlements, and the Acadians were forced to go back to France or elsewhere in the New World.
During this period of deportation, Broussard and his family fled into the woods along with several other Acadian families. Broussard became the leader of an armed resistance that assaulted the British for three years between 1755 and 1758. During this period, a French officer described Broussard as one of the bravest Acadians. In 1758, Broussard and his four sons, armed a ship and attacked the British up and down the bay.
Soon the Acadian families in hiding were reduced to famine and eventually surrendered to the British. Among them were Broussard's family, who became prisoners held at Fort Edward. Later they were held at Halifax, where Broussard was imprisoned for about a year, being released in 1764 after the Treaty of Paris.
Founding the Cajuns of Louisiana
After his release, Broussard chartered a ship to take himself, his family, and many other Acadians to present-day Haiti. The climate and disease killed many of the Acadian refugees in Haiti, and Broussard led a group of 200 Acadian survivors to Louisiana, arriving aboard the ship Santo Domingo on 27 February 1765.
The Acadians settled quickly, and in April 1765, Joseph Broussard was appointed captain of the militia and commandant of the Acadians. Here in Louisiana, the Acadians would come to be known by a corruption of their name: Cajuns. The Cajuns developed their own dialect—Cajun French—as well as distinct music and cuisine that influences the Louisiana region to this day.
Merging of Cajun and Afro-Creole Lineages in Beyonce's Ancestry
Joseph Broussard's 2nd great-grandson, Éloi-René Rosemond Broussard, re-married Célestine Joséphine Lacy, an Afro-Creole woman who may have been formerly enslaved by his father. They were married in March 1873 at the New Iberia Church in Saint Martin. The marriage was a formality, as they had been in a relationship for some time and had already had children together.
Éloi Broussard (left) and his wife, Célestine Lacy (right). They are the 2nd great-grandparents of Beyoncé.
Together, Éloi and Célestine had a daughter, Odelia Broussard, who was born on 15 December 1863. In census records her race is listed as mulatto, an old term used to describe people born of one white parent and one black parent. The term is now outdated and considered derogatory.
Odelia married Eugène-Gustave DeRouen, who was also born of a white parent and a black parent. Together the couple had a daughter, Agnèz, born on 1 July 1909. Agnèz is the grandmother of Beyoncé.
Eugène-Gustave DeRouen (left) and Odelia Broussard (right). These are the great grandparents of Beyoncé.
Eugène-Gustave's surname, DeRouen, was variously spelled DeRouen, Deréon, and Derezen in records, as there was generally no spelling standardization during the time. Today, Beyoncé's fashion line is called House of Deréon in honor of her grandmother, Agnèz Deréon (DeRouen).
Agnèz Deréon/DeRouen married Lumis Albert Beyincé. The surname of her grandfather, Beyincé, was the inspiration for Beyoncé's given name.
We've taken a quick, wild ride following Beyoncé's lineage from France in the 1600s to Canada in the 1700s, to Louisiana in the 1800s, and to the present day. One thing is for sure as we look at the combination of her ancestors: they've got a lot of fighting spirit and don't give up easily. I think the same could be said of Beyoncé, who has worked hard as an artist to get where she is today. The New Yorker music critic Jody Rosen described Beyoncé as "the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century."
About the Author
As a genealogist and family historian, I enjoy researching my own family tree and the family trees of others. It gives me a sense of someone’s background and what makes them who they are today. To see their roots, and where they come from, is inspiring to me. I’m often in awe of the experiences of their ancestors and how they connect to the present. I hope to inspire others to research their own family trees and find out where they come from by sharing interesting insights from the family trees of notable figures.
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