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Port au Port, Newfoundland

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1800 [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Duffney LeJeune
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The Port au Port Peninsula, on the west coast of the Island, juts into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus known as Port au Port, or the Gravels. Several origins have been suggested for the name Port au Port. It has been attributed by some writers to French migratory fishermen and translated as 'port to port' or 'door to door' — referring to the placement of the adjacent bays. But others hold that the name is derived from the Basque "Portu" or "Apphorportu". The element portu means 'harbour', but ophor/apphor has been variously defined as 'holiday' or as 'wooden bowl or vase'[1].

Pre-French Settlement

The Peninsula was settled by a variety of peoples. Just off the Peninsula, to the north of the isthmus overlooking East Bay, is a site which was occupied by Dorset Palaeo-Eskimos and later by a group who were probably ancestral Beothuk. These prehistoric groups no doubt exploited the resources of the Peninsula, which has outcrops of high quality chert, useful for making stone tools, and were ideally placed to intercept the annual seal migrations. Small archaeological sites have been locked at Long Point and Gravel Pond, but their cultural affiliations have not been fully investigated. Basque migratory fishermen seem to have been familiar with Port au Port, perhaps as early as the 1500s.

French Settlement

Jacques Cartier is believed to have visited the Peninsula in 1534 and to have landed at what is now the community of Port au Port West. French fishermen began to frequent the area in large numbers by the late 1700s, as the Peninsula had the advantage of access to the fishing grounds of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. George's Bay and Port au Port Bay. Treaties concluded with England ensured French rights to the region. Isle Rouge (Red Island) and Long Point becoming major stations for French schooners.

Several Roman Catholic churches were built in the 1800s. Father O'Rourke was one of the first resident priests. A Church of England church was built at Port au Port East in 1887. In 1925 Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic church was opened at Port au Port West.

Earliest Families

In the late eighteenth century a few fishermen, some of them deserters from French ships, settled on the Peninsula. Between 1825 and 1845, several Acadian families moved from Nova Scotia to St. George's Bay and Port au Port. This includes the Duffney (Duffenais) family from Margaree, John Fredrick and his wife Marie Ann LeJeune. other early French settlers were Henri LeJeune

Subsequently, some French fishermen married Acadian women and settled, and other settlers came from St. Pierre.


What links to this page.

Note that Catholic (mostly French) records aren't available from the usual sources, but you can find many of the early records from the Sandy Point Catholic Church


  1. Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, volume 4, Extract: letter P. pp 384-386. Poole, Cyril F. Cuff, Robert, Harry Cuff Publications Ltd. (1993), St. John's. Memorial University of Newfoundland, electronic collections. Accessed 2020.

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