ROBICHAUD, VÉNÉRANDE (baptized Hanna-Rachel), collector of patrimonial memorabilia and seamstress; b. 29 Aug. 1835 in Neguac, N.B., daughter of Louis Robichaux and Anastasie Poirier; d. there unmarried 4 Aug. 1936.
Vénérande Robichaud was the eighth in a family of nine children. She is listed in all censuses taken in New Brunswick and Canada from 1851 to 1921. The enumeration of 1851 indicates that the little girl, who was baptized Hanna-Rachel, was already called Vénérande, although her name was inscribed in the records as “Henarande.” The change had perhaps occurred upon the death of her great-aunt Vénérande Robichaux* in 1839. As well, this first name had been common in the extended Robichaud (or, according to the oldest spelling of the surname, Robichaux) family since the 18th century.
Vénérande Robichaud lived her entire life in the home of her father, Louis, despite changes in the property’s ownership. She shared it with several widowed or unmarried brothers and sisters, and remained there even after her younger brother Agapit had sold the property to his nephew, Agapit Godin. It was still her place of residence when she died on 4 Aug. 1936 at the age of 100 years and 11 months. Vénérande declared herself a seamstress in two censuses (1881 and 1911), as did other female members of the household. In 1911 she indicated that she was self-employed and worked from home. Considered in isolation, these details give no hint that the family was very prosperous. Her grandfather, Otho Robichaux*, and her great-uncles were among the founders of Neguac and, like members of subsequent generations, were involved in the retail trade and the lumber business in Quebec and New Brunswick. Together they held important positions in the Neguac region; Otho and others, all landowners, also became justices of the peace or overseers of the poor.
In view of the renown of the Robichaud family, the centenarian’s death did not go unnoticed in New Brunswick. It was highlighted on 13 Aug. 1936 in L’Évangéline, the main Acadian periodical of the province, which reported that Vénérande Robichaud had remained lucid and alert to the end. The weekly also confirmed that she had been a sought-after source of information spanning a century of development of the region and had preserved many objects that pre-dated the expulsion of the Acadians [see Charles Lawrence*]. These include a bone crucifix, a silk bridal shawl, and a remnant of the wedding dress that had belonged to her paternal grandmother, Marie-Louise Thibodeau (Thibaudeau), which, again according to L’Évangéline, had been used to line the inside of the tabernacle of the first chapel built in Neguac.
Of greater significance to historians is the fact that Vénérande Robichaud also preserved her great-aunt Vénérande’s correspondence. This fortuitous act would remain the greatest contribution of these two women to Acadian history. The elder Vénérande had indeed maintained a long correspondence with her brother Otho, the grandfather of the younger woman, and with her nephew Louis, the younger woman’s father. Their ties of affection and their financial links remained strong despite the distances and span of years between them. Of the 18 known letters of the elder Vénérande that were kept by her younger namesake and have been preserved until the present day, 7 were addressed to Otho and 2 to Louis. Placide Gaudet*, a teacher and amateur historian at the time, copied them when he passed through Neguac on 27 May 1878. Letters such as these, written by exiled Acadians, are rare in the 21st century. Although sources describe how Acadians engaged in an impressive correspondence right from the start of the dispersion, only a small number of these letters, which document an entire era and advance the growing body of knowledge about the deported Acadians, still exist. Without the documents preserved by Vénérande Robichaud, the outcomes of research on the deportation would be all the poorer.
Ancestry.com, “1921 census of Canada”: www.ancestry.ca (consulted 24 April 2015). FD, Saint-Bernard (Neguac, N.-B.), 20 mars 1836. LAC, Census returns for 1911 Canadian census, N.B., dist. Northumberland (30), subdist. Alnwick (3): 1; R233-29-7, N.B., dist. Northumberland, subdist. Alnwick: 30; R233-32-7, N.B., dist. Northumberland (44a), subdist. Alnwick: 5; R233-34-0, N.B., dist. Northumberland (184), subdist. Alnwick (A): 16; R233-35-2, N.B., dist. Northumberland (35), subdist. Alnwick (A): 32; R233-36-4, N.B., dist. Northumberland (17), subdist. Alnwick (A): 10; R233-37-6, N.B., dist. Northumberland (19), subdist. Alnwick (A): 14. PANB, RS141C5, 103, F19332, 9 Aug. 1936. L’Évangéline (Moncton, N.-B.), 13 août 1936. Maurice Basque, Des hommes de pouvoir: histoire d’Otho Robichaud et de sa famille, notables acadiens de Port-Royal et de Néguac (Neguac, 1996); Entre baie et péninsule: histoire de Néguac (Néguac, 1991). Corinne LaPlante, “Robichaud, Vénérande II (1835–1936), couturière de Néguac,” Soc. Hist. Nicolas-Denys, La Rev. d’hist. (Bertrand, N.-B.), 12 (1984), no.3: 62. Laura Metay, “Édition critique de la correspondance de Vénérande Robichaud (1781–1831)” (mémoire de ma, Univ. de Moncton, 1997). Donat Robichaud, Les Robichaud: histoire et généalogie (Bathurst, N.-B., ).