One Family’s Mythology and Quest for the Truth

In the pre-internet era, when information was more scarce and not so easily uncovered, people readily relied on oral history to preserve the family story. Stories passed on from generation to generation in this way are mutated in the process, with a kernel of truth preserved, but the story blurred at the edges with dimmed memory, exaggeration and embellishment. In the Primeaux family there developed a family oral history in which two young brothers were caught up in Le Grand Derangement and separated from their family. One, Pierre, was the progenitor of our family. The other brother’s name escapes me now. According to the family legend, the boys were taken under the protection of a priest, who even nursed Pierre through a bout with a dread disease, perhaps yellow fever, and shepherded his charges to Louisiana. The priest kept the boys in his care until they could make their way in the world. Since Louisiana at that time was Spanish country, Pierre became known as “Pedro” – Pierre “Pedro” Primeaux. The other brother went off to fight in some battle under one flag or another and was killed.

That myth sustained us for many years. It was the best we could do to understand our background until Walter Primeaux, Jr. began his quest for more substantial information. He soon found that he did not have enough time to visit all of the parish churches necessary to develop the birth and death information while at the same time meeting the demands of a business and his family. His quest languished until an eventful day when he encountered a distant cousin, Eloi Primeaux, who had done considerable research of his own. Walter, Jr. shared his information with Eloi, until he finally surrendered the whole package to Walter, Jr., before he died. Eloi’s information was extensive but incomplete and ended with our family’s arrival in Louisiana. Many years later Walter, Jr., encountered James Henry Makovec of Idaho through internet research. Makovec’s mother was a Premeau, and he is a descendant of our earliest known ancestor, Francois Primaut. Walter, Jr. was able to provide Makovec with Eloi’s information, which filled in gaps in Makovec’s research, and with the information Makovec provided, Walter, Jr., was able to fill in gaps that he had, as well as to extend our quest all the way back to 1667. With the complete information, our quest for the family story is complete.

This, then, is our family lore. It is the story of how we stand on the shoulders of a dozen generations before us. If you read carefully between the words and look for what is unwritten in the blank spaces between the lines, you may just see hard working French farmers toiling in their fields, brave women giving childbirth in a hovel on the prairie, a fierce sea storm and a shipwreck, people wrestling against poverty and lack of education to establish themselves in a new land, and even yourself. It is your story – one that extends back nearly 350 years.