A Distinct Alien Race by David Vermette

Source: Amazon
In the later 19th century, French-Canadian Roman Catholic immigrants from Quebec were deemed a threat to the United States, potential terrorists in service of the Pope. Books and newspapers floated the conspiracy theory that the immigrants seeking work in New England’s burgeoning textile industry were actually plotting to annex parts of the United States to a newly independent Quebec. Vermette’s groundbreaking study sets this neglected and poignant tale in the broader context of North American history. He traces individuals and families, from the textile barons who created a new industry to the poor farmers and laborers of Quebec who crowded into the mills in the post-Civil War period. Vermette discusses the murky reception these cross-border immigrants met in the USA, including dehumanizing conditions in mill towns and early-20th-century campaigns led by the Ku Klux Klan and the Eugenics movement. Vermette also discusses what occurred when the textile industry moved to the Deep South and brings the story of emigrants up to the present day. Vermette shows how this little-known episode in U.S. history prefigures events as recent as yesterday’s news. His well documented narrative touches on the issues of cross-border immigration; the Nativists fear of the Other; the rise and fall of manufacturing in the U.S.; and the construction of race and ethnicity.In the later 19th century, French-Canadian Roman Catholic immigrants from Quebec were deemed a threat to the United States, potential terrorists in service of the Pope. Books and newspapers floated the conspiracy theory that the immigrants seeking work in New England’s burgeoning textile industry were actually plotting to annex parts of the United States to a newly independent Quebec. Vermette’s groundbreaking study sets this neglected and poignant tale in the broader context of North American history. He traces individuals and families, from the textile barons who created a new industry to the poor farmers and laborers of Quebec who crowded into the mills in the post-Civil War period. Vermette discusses the murky reception these cross-border immigrants met in the USA, including dehumanizing conditions in mill towns and early-20th-century campaigns led by the Ku Klux Klan and the Eugenics movement. Vermette also discusses what occurred when the textile industry moved to the Deep South and brings the story of emigrants up to the present day. Vermette shows how this little-known episode in U.S. history prefigures events as recent as yesterday’s news. His well documented narrative touches on the issues of cross-border immigration; the Nativists fear of the Other; the rise and fall of manufacturing in the U.S.; and the construction of race and ethnicity.

Last of Dreamweaver’s Research

These were posts written by Dreamweaver. In 2014 I had kept them in the draft section for future use. I believe in sharing and helping others by finding hints thanks to other researchers.
Feel free to comment.
Thursday, July 15, 2010

With A Little Help From My Kin

In the spring of 2001—about half a year after I began my research—my mother and I learned of an upcoming powwow sponsored by the Bois Forte Band (where we are enrolled) and the Grand Portage Band, both of Minnesota, and by the Lac La Croix First Nation in Canada. Now, powwows occur several times a year on most reservations, but since we now lived in California, it had never occurred to us to try to attend one in Minnesota. But the minute I read about it, the thought popped into my head that Mom and I should attend and also visit the graves of her mother and grandmother. (Mom had been to the funerals but not to the interments and knew that the graves were not in one of the “official” cemeteries.)

In fact, I felt very strongly that this announcement was an invitation aimed personally at my mother and me. I felt an urgent need for both of us to make this trip, and when I brought it up, my wonderful husband agreed instantly to pay for it. I didn’t know exactly why we were going, but I rather thought I’d find out eventually.

What I didn’t expect was that we would make personal contact with ancestors who had long since walked on.

I know this sounds weird, but bear with me and judge for yourself.

The opening day of the powwow found a lot of people huddling together in the chairs encircling the drum canopy and dance area, waiting for the opening ceremony and wishing they had brought winter coats and umbrellas. The sky was dark gray and threatening to unload a real gullywasher on us, and there was a ferocious icy wind blowing off the lake. The folks in charge were looking extremely anxious: theoretically they could move the powwow indoors into the Day Care Center, but there wouldn’t be room indoors for everyone. In fact, everyone looked nervous if not downright gloomy.

Oddly, (and it seemed odd to me at the time), I wasn’t worried at all. I told the others, “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right. We weren’t told to come here all the way from California just to get pneumonia. We could have gotten it there quite nicely.” I felt very, very confident of what I said. Everyone else appeared to think I was a lunatic.

Finally, just as the drummers were settling into place and the dancers were lining up for the opening ceremony, the clouds dispersed, the sun came out, and the icy wind turned into a gentle breeze, just right to keep everyone from getting too hot during what was very suddenly a beautiful warm June day.

This happened in about two minutes, tops. Normally, as I’m sure you know, it usually takes a lot longer to turn foul weather into perfect weather.

And then, just as the drums were about to begin, an eagle appeared in the sky, circling above the hill on the other side of the road from the powwow grounds. Everybody gasped and smiled: for Anishinaabe, an eagle is a messenger from the spirit world, and the sighting of an eagle is always considered to be a blessing, an omen of hope.

And I had the sudden, strong feeling that the eagle was my great-grandmother, Saag-i-ji-way-ga-bo-wiik, who was (I knew) a full-blood Anishinaabe from Lac La Croix famous for her great spiritual powers, and I knew, absolutely knew that she was the one who had summoned us here.

It was a very strange and wonderful weekend. Cousins we hadn’t seen in many years showed up at the powwow, including several who decided to attend only at the very last minute. One of those was my mother’s double cousin, then living in a nursing home and suffering from Alzheimer’s. But she insisted, over strenuous objections from her caregivers, on coming to the powwow. She had no trouble recognizing my mother or anyone else in the extended family, and had perfectly reasonable conversations with everyone. (She died on September 17 of that year, and we couldn’t attend the funeral because the airlines were still grounded after the September 11 attacks. But we will always cherish that one good day we had with her.)

On the last day of the powwow, one of my cousins remembered the exact place where my grandmother Clara and great-grandmother Saag-i-ji-way-ga-bo-wiik were buried and took us there.

The place was the hilltop overlooking the powwow grounds; the eagle had circled directly over this very spot.

I had planned to tell these women (who had walked on long before I was born) that I was researching our ancestry; I found I didn’t have to. They already knew. They were there, invisible to the eye but overwhelming to the mind and heart. I have never in my life felt so filled with a palpable sense of being loved. My mother felt the same thing. Until that moment, she had never been able to talk about her mother without crying; this was the day the crying ended. She has been at peace about it ever since.

Imagination? I don’t think so. I felt their presence, and so did my mother and the others who were there. You can believe what you wish.

The next day, we faced another rainy morning. Our plan to meet with the historian for the Bois Forte Band that day fell through (although we re-scheduled and met with her the following day). This left us with no concrete plans for this day, and we were just beginning to discuss options when I heard a voice in my head saying, as clearly as if the person was standing next to me, “Come to La Pointe”. Not “go”, mind you, but “come”.

I didn’t think that it was feasible, but that voice was very insistent, so we dug out the maps and found that Bayfield (which runs daily ferries to and from Madeline Island, where La Pointe is located) was actually a little less than 200 miles, perhaps 4 hours each way. We could get there, visit the island for a few hours, and still get back to our hotel in Ely that night, and so we set out. It was cloudy, wet and a bit windy almost the entire way, and we could see heavy rainfall off to the sides, ahead of us, and behind us, but we didn’t drive through any of it; the heavy rain ahead always turned to drizzle wherever we happened to be driving. (We later learned that a tornado had touched down not far off our route.)

When we began the final downhill approach to Bayfield, quite suddenly the drizzle stopped, the sky cleared, the blustery wind turned to a gentle breeze, and we had yet another miraculously warm and beautiful day.

We boarded the ferry and visited the island’s museum. The staff (who were of course familiar with the history of the area) were excited to have visitors who were descendants not only of Michel Cadotte and Equaysayway, but also of Joseph Dufault and Julie Cadotte. Most of the rooms in the museum had originally been separate buildings—and we were told that Joseph Dufault had built one of them. It was a remarkable feeling to walk in rooms that had been walked by our direct ancestors nearly two centuries ago.

We felt as if we had come home—and in a very real sense, we had.

After leaving the museum, we visited the old mission cemetery where Michel Cadotte was buried and paid our respects to him, and then we caught the last ferry off the island. As soon as we were back on the highway, it began to rain again, but lightly, and we had no trouble on the road. Once we were back in Ely (around 10 p.m.) and after I had gotten my mother safely inside the hotel and dashed across the street to get some sandwiches for our dinner, then and only then did the really heavy rain hit where we actually were.

Just coincidence that the rain held off just when we needed it to do so? I don’t think so. Personally, I believe we were summoned to La Pointe by old Michel Cadotte so that he could get a look at his descendants, and Big Mike not only made sure the weather was good during our visit but looked out for our safety on the road both ways, until we got back to our hotel.

Before we returned to California, I managed to spend a few hours at the Minnesota Historical Society Library in St. Paul. Here I found, among other treasures, the obituary for Great-Grandfather Vincent’s father Michel Dufault, son of master carpenter Joseph Dufault and Julie Cadotte, who had died “age 90” on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota in 1916. I also found mentions of at least 3 Louis Dufauts/Dufaults in the fur trade, and—the real pearl in the oyster—a photocopy of the photostat of the original baptism register for the La Pointe Mission from its beginning in 1835 up to early 1854.

That register contain not only considerable documentation on the Dufauts, Cadottes, and Roys but also (to my considerable surprise) the 1839 baptism of Simon Forcier and the 1841 baptism of his sister: my great-grandmother Henriette Forcier (wife of Joseph Chosa). Not only that, but their mother, Marguerite “Rémont” was also in the baptism register (age 15) in January 1836 (five months after the mission opened), along with her half-brother Antoine (age 11). Marguerite was stated to have been born at La Pointe, the daughter of an Anishinaabe woman, Julie Ikwesenchich, and of someone—surely a voyageur or fur trader—recorded by Father Baraga as”NN: Rémont” (most likely Raimond, a fairly common surname among voyageurs, with “NN” standing for “Nomen” i.e. “personal name unknown”).

By 1841, when Henriette was born, the fur trade was collapsing due to changes in fashion in Europe, and the American Fur Company had branched out into a profitable commercial fishing operation centered at Madeline Island. The fish (usually whitefish) would be cleaned, salted down, packed in barrels, and shipped east. Henriette’s father Pierre Forcier was, according to the censuses, a cooper (barrel-maker) by trade. That’s how he wound up at La Pointe where his first two children were baptized.

Madeline Island is not a large island. Unquestionably, Joseph Dufault and his son Michel—both carpenters and longtime residents of the island—knew both of Henriette’s parents.

Henriette’s family eventually relocated to Michigan’s Keweenaw Bay area, where Father Baraga had established another mission at Assinins. Baraga later presided at her marriage to Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa at Assinins. And two of her sons eventually wound up in Minnesota, where they married daughters of Great-Grandfather Vincent Dufauld.

In my search for Mom’s maternal grandfather Vincent Dufauld and his ancestry, I had unexpectedly found her paternal grandmother Henriette and her parents as well. Or rather, I had been led to them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rendezvous On Madeline Island

When—thanks to my cousin’s information—I found my great-grandfather Vincent Dufauld with his parents in the 1880 census at Bayfield, Wisconsin, and in the 1860 census at La Pointe on Madeline Island (about 2 miles offshore of Bayfield), I had no idea of the depths that I was wading into now. What I quickly learned was that in a very real sense, Madeline Island is “home” to the Anishinaabe people and played a vital role in the fur trade.

Ancient Anishinaabe oral tradition tells us that our people lived originally on the east coast, near the mouth of the St. Laurence River, but before the arrival of the first Europeans, we were led by our spiritual leaders and by visions to seek our predestined home to the west. Over the course of centuries, we migrated westward until we reached the place where food grows on the water. The food was wild rice, and we first encountered it here, in Chaquamegon Bay and its tributaries, as well as in the nearby ponds and lakes.

Early French explorers established a fort in 1693 at what became Madeline Island, but the fort fell out of use and disappeared. However, for fur traders heading to the far end of Lake Superior and points farther west, Madeline Island’s location still made it an ideal stopping place to get fresh supplies, rest, and interact with one another. By the time of the American Revolution, a Quebec trader named Jean-Baptiste Cadot had set up a trading post on the island with the help of his Anishinaabe wife Equawaice (baptized Marie Athanasie) and her powerful clan. Jean-Baptiste and Equawaice were my 5G Grandparents.

Their son Michel married Equaysayway (Traveling Woman), a daughter of the head of the White Crane clan of Anishinaabe on the Island. Michel and Equaysayway, my 4G Grandparents, after years traveling in the active fur trade, settled at La Pointe during the early 1800s. La Pointe, which was still a major rendezvous point for the fur trade, soon became a company town for the American Fur Company, which relied on Michel’s good will and influence in order to stay in business there.

Like an Anishinaabe high chief (although he never had the formal title of one), Michel had enormous influence with his Anishinaabe relatives and neighbors. Like every good Anishinaabe chief, he was noted for his generosity: he gave away much of what he acquired to others who were in need, and died virtually broke. Among the Anishinaabe he was known far and wide as Kitcheemichene or Gitcheemichene; the “michene” part was the Anishinaabe version of “Michel” (the Anishinaabe language does not have the sound of “L”), while those of you who have read Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” may recognize “kitchee” or “gitchee” from the poet’s name for Lake Superior: “Gitchi-gummi”, “Big-sea-water”.

Modern folks usually translate “Kitcheemichene” as “Great Michael”, as in “Michel the Great”, suggesting the title given to some European monarchs and Popes. I think the appellation has a more literal meaning: Michel had a first cousin who was also named Michael and who from an early age was also active in the fur trade. The cousin was much smaller in size compared to Michel “Le Grand” of La Pointe and was therefore known as “Le Petit”. To the Anishinaabe—and to other fur traders—Michel was simply “Big Michel” as opposed to “Little Michel”. Being his descendant, I tend to think of him less formally, with affection, as “Big Mike”, and so far he hasn’t objected.

In 1830, when Michel was 67 and Equaysayway was about 60, they and all their children traveled all the way to Mackinac Island for the church wedding they had never been able to have. Now, this was a very long journey to make, although I expect the family hitched a ride with an American Fur Company ship as far as Sault Ste Marie instead of paddling canoes all the way. Today you can drive the distance (about 375 miles in a fairly straight line) to St. Ignace and take the ferry to Mackinac, all in about 8 hours. But in those days, you had to go by boat the whole way, and if you followed the coast, the distance at least 500 miles and the travel time very much longer than it is now.

Why did the old couple make such a long and doubtless strenuous trip? To prove their devotion was genuine and not just a relationship to foster fur trade profits? While I like to think so—and it certainly sounds extremely romantic—I’m sure there was a legal consideration involved as well: under the laws of that time, if a couple did not have a legal marriage ceremony (Indian marriages, with or without ceremony, didn’t count) their children could not inherit their property and everything would be distributed to collateral relatives with impeccable marriage credentials. The marriage record specifically states that the marriage act legitimized all of their children, all of whom were present. Before the ceremony, Equaysayway was necessarily baptized a Catholic, taking the name of Madeleine, and the island where they lived was named in her honor.

After the wedding the entire party returned home to La Pointe, and Michel, along with other Catholic inhabitants of the area, began lobbying for a Catholic mission to be established there. (A Protestant mission was established In 1831, but most voyageurs—the men who did the hard work—were French-speaking Catholics.) In 1835, the Catholics succeeded: a Slovenian missionary named Frederic Baraga, who had already established a mission at St Ignace, agreed to establish one at La Pointe. This was extremely good news for the people living or working in that area; it was also good news for their genealogy-minded descendants, since the mission records survived to provide the documentation we would need to connect those ancestors to their families in Quebec.

The lead carpenter on the island was Joseph Dufaut, who had built the Protestant mission as well as the American Fur Company’s expanding headquarters on the island. Joseph, a good Catholic, readily agreed to build the Catholic church and a house for the priest as well. (In 1842-43 he built a larger church to replace the first one, needed because the congregation had outgrown the first mission.)

The St. Joseph Mission opened on 2 August 1835 and was immediately swamped with Catholics of all ages seeking baptisms and proper marriage ceremonies. The second marriage performed by Baraga that day was between my 3G grandparents: the carpenter Joseph Dufaut and Julie Cadotte, daughter of Michel and Equaysayway. And as I later learned, the 6th baptism on that day was for Joseph and Julie’s son Michel, who was about 5 years old at the time and named, obviously, for his grandfather. The same day, Joseph himself was baptized, age 45. (He had surely been baptized at birth, but not by a priest, and therefore there was no official baptism record for him. A conditional baptism was therefore needed before he could be married to Julie in a Catholic church. A distinguished historian and scholar cousin, Theresa Schenck, states that Joseph and Julie had a legal marriage at Sault Ste Marie but for some reason did not get Joseph baptized and have a Catholic marriage ceremony there.)

Michel Dufaut/DeFoe/Dufauld, the only child of Joseph and Julie, became a carpenter like his father, and in due course married Josette Roy, daughter of a prominent fur trader named Vincent Roy (fils). Michel and Josette, my Great-Great-Grandparents, produced at least 8 children, of whom the eldest son was my Great-Grandfather Vincent Dufauld.

None of this information was hard to find; the Cadottes (Cadots on the Quebec side of the border) are not only rather famous but exceptionally well documented. Michel Dufauld’s first cousin, William Whipple Warren (1825-1853), author of History of the Ojibway People, got most of his information directly from his grandmother Equaysayway and from tribal elders. A new edition of this book was published in 2009 by the Minnesota HIstorical Society Press, edited by cousin Theresa Schenck. I recommend it very highly.

Many vital records for Lake Superior voyageurs (including Dufauts and Cadottes) are in the parish registers for St. Ann on Mackinac Island. I purchased a digital copy of the original registers on CD-ROM from the church’s gift shop. (The CD-ROM is still available from that gift shop, although the price has naturally gone up since I bought my copy.) The original St. Joseph Mission registers are no longer accessible to the public, but the marriage and burial registers were transcribed and published by Linda Bristol some years ago and I was able to obtain photocopies of those transcriptions.

Although I still wanted to examine the original records if possible, the entire web of connections was not seriously in question. I had the bare bones of these generations of my Dufauld ancestry fairly firmly established within a few months of beginning my research, and I was feeling rather proud of myself.

I had no idea of the perils that lay ahead.

Meanwhile, Back In The Fur Trade . . .

All the while I was trying to backtrack Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa to his birthplace in Quebec, I was also working on the family of my other maternal great-grandfather, Vincent Dufauld. Vincent was Anishinaabe, a member of what is now called the Bois Forte Band of Minnesota Chippewa. He lived on the reservation at Nett Lake, but there was never any doubt that he had French-Canadian ancestry since his surname was of French-Canadian origin. But who were his parents?

Remember what my Great-Grandfather Joseph said when someone in Michigan asked how his surname was spelled? The family story is that he answered, “You spell it like it sounds.” The trouble was that there are many, many ways to spell a surname like Chaussé. Well, the same is true for the surname Dufauld, in spades.

Great-Grandfather Vincent’s surname was “usually” spelled Dufauld or DeFoe in the records for him and his immediate family. For his kinfolk, the surname was most commonly spelled Dufault in American records, but it also turns up as Default, Dufeu, Dufau, Dufeaux, Dufaut, Dufaux, Defoe, Dafoe, and probably a few other variations. (I eventually learned that Dufaut and Dufaux were the most common spellings in Quebec.) The worst American spelling is Default: you can’t run an effective Google search on Default because it’s a term which shows up in computer technology all the time, so you get thousands of hits, and you can go through 100 or more screens without turning up a single person surnamed Default. But that’s how the surname is sometimes spelled in Amercian vital records.

I found Vincent in the US censuses only because I already knew where he had lived much of his adult life, namely on the Bois Forte Reservation in northern Minnesota. I did, however, have one advantage with him: his first name of Vincent was relatively uncommon (compared to, say, Joseph). In the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses (his surname was spelled Default on both) he was on the Indian Schedules at Bois Forte with his wife and two of his daughters. Those censuses said he was born in Minnesota. However, the census taker recorded that ALL the Indians he enumerated were born in Minnesota, of Minnesota-born parents. (This just goes to show you can’t put blind faith in the censuses.)

When I first set out to trace my mother’s ancestry, I had assumed that Great-Grandfather Joseph had come to the US as a voyageur; that was because I knew very little about the actual patterns of French-Canadian immigration.

However, a little poking around taught me that a very large number of French-Canadian immigrants were farmers like Joseph or skilled workmen (blacksmiths, carpenters etc.). Many without such trades crossed the border, especially from about 1870 onwards, to find work in the industrial mills of New England. Great-Grandfather Joseph had, according to the censuses, supported himself at first by fishing, but as soon as he could, he acquired farmland and from then on was always described as a farmer: clearly it was most likely that he had crossed the border not as a voyageur but to find some good farmland. This in turn suggested that Joseph came from a family of habitants, peasant farmers.

Great-Grandfather Vincent, however, was definitely not a farmer (although he may have had a garden). Like most Bois Forte men at the turn of the century, he made his living by fur trapping, hunting, guiding, and fishing, and he and his family surely harvested and processed wild rice. Nett Lake wild rice is the best in the world (the stuff grown in paddies doesn’t even come close in terms of flavor and nutritional value) and you can buy it online (and no, I won’t personally make a cent off of anyone else’s purchase).

Since Great-Grandfather Vincent lived as he did, he was most likely descended from voyageurs. Knowing this, I joined the NISHNAWBE Mailing List at Rootsweb early on. This was, and still is, a very active list for “anyone researching Native Americans in Michigan and Wisconsin, and the fur traders connected with them.”

This was one of the best decisions I ever made: I learned where fur-trade records were to be found, I learned about numerous valuable sources of information for fur-trade ancestors, and even connected with several other people who had fur-trade ancestors surnamed some variation of Dufault or, in the female lines, Roy and Cadot/Cadotte.

Early on in my research I had made a habit of checking the message boards, mailing lists, and family trees online for names of my known ancestors, hoping to connect with relatives who knew more than I did. And this was one time that habit led to a huge payoff: a cousin of mine (whom I had never met), posted his family tree online. He didn’t know any more about the Chosa-Forcier side of the family than I did, but he had a great deal of information about the Dufaulds passed down to him from his grandmother Annie Dufauld (Vincent’s daughter, and the full sister of my grandmother Clara Dufauld). I never knew Grandmother Clara; she had died long before I was born.

My cousin knew the names of Vincent’s parents (Michel Dufauld and Josette Roy) and of several of his siblings and where they had lived. He even knew the names of Michel’s father (Joseph Dufauld) and Josette’s parents (Vincent and Lizzie). We began a lively correspondence and a good friendship, although we never met in person until last year.

Meanwhile, I was still working with others on the NISHNAWBE list and learned that GGG Grandfather Joseph Dufauld/Dufaut’s wife was Julie Cadotte, daughter of the famous Michel Cadotte and his Anishinaabe wife Marie-Madeleine (Equaysayway), and that Michel was the son of the equally famous Jean-Baptiste Cadot and his redoubtable wife Marie-Athanasie (Equawaice).

With this much information as my starting point, I began to collect census and other records on Vincent and his known ancestors. I needed to confirm and document the relationship—not that I didn’t believe my cousin or the people on the NISHNAWBE list, mind you, but careful examination of the documentary evidence could turn up further clues so that I could prove the connections and take the lines back into Quebec.

Ancestry.com’s search engine, although it has its faults, was able to find Vincent in the 1880 census for Bayfield, Wisconsin, living with his parents (names given as Michel and Julia) and six siblings: Julia age 24, John age 20, Louis age 10, Michel age 8, Peter age 4, and a male age 6 whose name looks like “Vassau” or “Vassim” (neither name seems likely, and it doesn’t look like “Vincent” either). All were—as I expected—stated to be indians. The children had all been born in Wisconsin. Mother “Julia” (an obvious mistake for “Josette”), age 44, had been born in Canada of Canadian-born parents; father Michel, age 54, had been born in Wisconsin, like his mother, and his father had been born in Canada. Michel was a carpenter by profession.

I already knew from family information that Great-Grandfather Vincent had a brother named Peter who was about the same age. Vincent was age 22 in the 1880 census—18 years older than the Peter in the household. However, I had early on realized that census takers did not always list the relationship to the head of the household (as they were directed); in households with 3 or more generations, grandchildren were often listed as “son” or “daughter” when a parent’s name appeared above theirs. In other words, little Peter was “probably” a grandson of Michel and Josette, and his mother was most likely the eldest daughter Julia, age 24. But where was the Peter who was Vincent’s brother and near to him in age?

I found him in Superior, Wisconsin, for the same 1880 census, born in Wisconsin like both parents, age 18. Peter was in the household of Vincent Roy, age 55, a merchant from Canada. Vincent Roy had a wife, Lizzie, age 50, born in Minnesota of Canadian-born parents, and several children (including a Vincent). All were listed as white. However, since my cousin’s information was that Vincent Roy and his wife Lizzie were Vincent’s maternal grandparents, I was reasonably sure that this Peter was Vincent’s brother and that the household members were listed as white because they were living in a town in essentially the same manner as their white neighbors.

So I searched for the Vincent Roy and Michel Dufauld families farther back in the censuses: the trail for both led, as expected, to La Pointe, on Madeline Island, in what is now Bayfield County, Wisconsin, as far back as the 1850 census.

And that’s when some of my fur-trade and Anishinaabe ancestors decided to help me out.

Location, Location, Location

In genealogy as well as real estate, what matters most is location, location, and location.

The province of Quebec is a big place. Good French-speaking Catholic families in Quebec had large families, so in every generation there are many people with the same name, many about the same age. How do you even know where to start looking? That was the problem I faced when I started looking for my great-grandfather Joseph Chosa’s baptism record in Quebec. And that’s when I discovered the value of marriage indexes.

As I mentioned previously, large numbers of the present-day inhabitants of Quebec are passionately involved in genealogical research. I did (and still do) a lot of reading about the history of Quebec and discovered that this is not new behavior.

During the French and Indian War (the North American phase of the Seven Years’ War in Europe), the city of Québec fell to the British in September 1760, and the French Regime effectively ended. The 1763 Treaty of Paris was the legal end of the war, and its terms required France to cede most of her possessions in North America, including Quebec which was taken over by Great Britain. British merchants, British fur traders, and British farmers poured into Quebec and settled there, bringing with them all of their own value systems, including a passionate hatred of the Catholic Church and a passionate belief that everyone who was not English was by definition inferior.

The Brits were not, however, stupid. They had just finished a long and costly major war, and the English colonies to the south of Quebec were clearly growing restive. They realized that the French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec quite naturally felt threatened by the British conquest, so they wisely decided to permit their new French-speaking subjects to continue with most of their accustomed ways, including the conditions of land possession, the French language, and the Quebec legal system.

Naturally, those French-speaking subjects still felt threatened, especially since the British colonists made every effort to get the still-lucrative fur trade and the best lands for agriculture into British hands. There was a major rebellion of the peasants (“habitants”) in 1837-38, which was put down, and the British tried new approaches to persuade these rebellious French-speaking subjects to assimilate or emigrate. They were not exactly successful: many emigrated, but many stubbornly remained, and to this day, there is strong sentiment in Quebec for administrative separation from the rest of Canada or, better, complete independence as a sovereign nation.

One of the way those French-speaking subjects of Great Britain resisted assimilation was to trace the heroic heritage of their ancestors. They, of course, faced the same problem we do: how to pick out which of the dozens of Antoines and Marie-Annes and Jean-Baptistes and Genevièves were their great-grandparents?

The answer: marriage records.

Most marriages nowadays take place where the bride lives; the same was true in Quebec (and France, and Denmark, and probably just about everywhere else), as far back as the records go. Unlike American marriage records, Quebec Catholic marriage records are chock-full of useful genealogical information, including the maiden names of all the women involved.

Before fill-in-the-blank printed forms were available, every priest made his own boiler-plate form for recording marriages; that form consisted of several very long sentences that generally included the following:

First, the date of the marriage, the name of the officiating priest and his authority (i.e. the name of his religious order and/or his status as curé or missionary) that gave him the right to preside at this marriage. Next, a statement that the proper banns had been posted, that no bar to this marriage had been found, and that the priest had duly given the nuptial blessing.

Next comes the real meat of the record: the name of the new husband and his parish of residence; the name of his previous wife if he was a widower and/or the names of both his parents and their parish of residence, along with whether either parent was deceased; then comes the same information about the bride and her prior husband and/or parents.

Next comes the names of witnesses to the marriage (at least two males, one witnessing for the groom and the other for the bride). Often the names of other witnesses of both genders are also listed. Often the relationship of each witness to either the bride or the groom is also given. Last comes the signature of the priest and those of all participants who were able to sign, with a statement as to who declared his or her inability to sign the register.

Occasionally you find marriage records which do not give all the above information, particularly if the families involved are at the lower end of the social and economic scale, but the bare minimum is always the date, authority of the officiant, the names of the groom and bride and the names of their parents or deceased prior spouse, and the two witnesses. Wealthy or otherwise “important” people often got their marriage recorded in larger-than-usual handwriting along with rather more flowery wording.

With all that genealogical information packed into one marriage record, it was only natural that someone would decide to compile it all on a large scale. The first such attempt was Tanguay’s, which I discussed briefly in an earlier post. There are two problems with Tanguay’s work. First, he only goes up to about 1765, the end of the French Regime in Canada. Consequently, he’s not much help if you’re looking for the parents of someone born about 1830. Second, because his work was all done by hand, there are a lot of errors and omissions. Some of these were corrected by Joseph-Arthur Leboeuf’s Complément au Dictionnaire Généalogique Tanguay, published in 1957.

However, Tanguay has one really terrific feature that none of the other marriage indexes has: he lists all of the children—male and female—of this couple for whom he found records. He gives the exact or estimated baptism date for each child, burial date if the child died young, and for the survivors who married, the name of each child’s spouse(s) and the date(s) of the marriage(s). Once you get back into the era of the French Regime, then, Tanguay enables you to look up the marriages of the couple’s known children and connect your ancestor to his or her whole family group.

There are many other marriage indexes, most building on Tanguay and therefore having many of his inevitable errors and omissions. Almost all of these are also limited to the time frame of the French Regime. Jetté’s excellent work ends at 1730; the Institut Drouin has two inventories, one going up to about 1760 and available on CD-ROM; the other, all 113 volumes of it, goes from 1760 to 1935, but frankly, I have no idea where to access it other than buying a subscription at vast expense.

Another, extremely valuable modern research tool for the French Regime period is the PRDH (Programme de Recherche en Demographic Historique) developed at the University of Montréal. The PRDH went back to the original parish records, transcribed them, and created a computerized index of every person mentioned in any record up to 1765, eventually adding not only parish records but censuses, confirmations, recantations (of Protestants, who under the French Regime had to abjure their faith and embrace Catholicism to stay in the colony), ship’s lists, hospital sick lists, and marriage contracts.

The PRDH is accessible online, but not for free; you subscribe and then pay by the hit. Since in any given generation there are likely to be dozens of people with the same name (or variation thereof), you could easily have many hits and still not have your ancestor if the record you’re looking for was in a section of the register which decayed or was lost over the years. On the other hand, the PRDH can locate and identify records which are otherwise very hard to find.

Many people have collected and published, with varying degrees of accuracy, repertoires (catalogs) of all of a particular parish’s records of a specified type (most commonly marriages, but some parishes have baptism and/or death repertoires as well). Generally, these go up to the date of publication, and therefore have relatively recent information, but they still won’t do you much good if you don’t know which parish to investigate. Many of these inventories are out of print; some of them are available for purchase on CD-ROM; others are only accessible at libraries which are all-too-often inconveniently located a thousand miles or more from where you live.

There are, however, two marriage indexes which go well up into the first part of the 20th century: the Rivest marriage indexes (organized by the name of the bride), and the Loiselle card index, organized alphabetically by both bride and by groom. Rivest is quite expensive and, unless you’re rich enough to buy it, available for use only at the Family HIstory Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and at certain other major research libraries. The enormous reorganized and updated Loiselle index is on microfiche and, like the Rivest, can only be used in Salt Lake City or other major research center. However, the original Loiselle card index and its supplement are readily available on microfilms which you can rent for use at your local Family History Center.

I rented the two films (regular and supplemental) which covered the surname Chausse, then renewed the rental twice to keep them indefinitely in my local Family History Center, and it has been worth every penny. I did not learn from them where my great-grandfather Joseph was born. I did, however, learn where Chaussés, especially Chaussé women, were getting married during the period from about 1800 to about 1860. Loiselle told me where Chaussé families (including Joseph’s parents and siblings) were living in that time frame, which in turn enabled me to narrow my search for his family to particular areas.

Now that the Drouin Collection of parish registers are online at Ancestry.com, I would have found Joseph much sooner than I did. A search now at Ancestry.com for Joseph Chaussé born about 1831, give or take 2 years, turns up about half a dozen possibles, one of whom is in fact my great-grandfather. But I had to do it the hard way. (You may have to do it that way too; a search engine is made by human beings, who often have difficulty with the old records. Ancestry’s index is by no means infallible; I have recently found several Quebec baptism records where the index brings up not the name of the baby but that of a godparent. These records are in fact quite legible, so clearly somebody goofed.)

Eight years ago, however, none of this was online, so I had to wait several weeks for every microfilm I ordered to be delivered. Since I wasn’t getting any younger, I took a trip to Salt Lake City for a week, poring through Quebec parish registers at the Family History Library and collecting information on every Chaussé I found (including several Josephs). I had no idea whether any of the Josephs was my great-grandfather, though, because I didn’t have a firm grip on when he was born and had no way of recognizing Joseph when I found him; therefore I took notes but did not invest in printouts (at ten cents a pop, that could quickly add up to a significant amount of money as well as an overweight-luggage fee when I returned home).

The trip was not wasted, however, since I collected many other useful records, including Michigan land records, Indian Census records, and voyageur contracts for my mother’s maternal ancestors, as well as records involving my Danish ancestors and my husband’s family.

I also came home with copies of the birth, death, and marriage records reported to the state of Michigan by Houghton County up to 1875, and by Baraga County beginning in 1875 (when Baraga County was formed out of what had been part of Houghton County). Many of these register pages were black with age, and the page recording Joseph’s death was particularly so: I could tell he had died in October 1919, but could not make out the exact day or the stated age at death. However, I did acquire names and birth/death dates for several of his children who were born and died between censuses. This, although I didn’t know it then, would be crucial in breaking the logjam.

When I got home, I worked on my husband’s family lines for a while, then on my fur-trade ancestors, and after that I went back to my Danes. I wasn’t giving up; I was just taking a vacation from my search for Joseph in hopes that when I came back to him, I would have a fresh perspective and be able to see things I hadn’t seen before.

Everybody needs a vacation once in a while.


Simplify, Simplify . . . If They’ll Let You!

Almost as soon as I started with Great-Grandfather Joseph, I found myself researching Great-Grandfather Vincent Dufauld as well, because two of Joseph’s sons married two of Vincent’s daughters, and a third son of Joseph married a half-sister of the other two women. I also found that I couldn’t separate either great-grandfather from his Native American affiliations.

Great-Grandfather Joseph’s wife was the daughter of an Anishinaabe (=Ojibwe or Chippewa) woman and a French-Canadian voyageur named Pierre Forcier. Great-Grandfather Vincent was also of mixed-blood ancestry, and the mothers of his three children (all daughters) were full-blood Anishinaabe. How I would research that, I had no idea then. But, being a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe myself, I certainly wanted to know about that side of my maternal heritage.

Traditional genealogical practice, as I discussed in a previous post, is to research just one family line at a time, which all-too-easily turns into researching only the males.

Well, I was already a grandmother, and I realized that if I didn’t get a start on all the family lines (female as well as male) in my children’s ancestry, I might die of old age without making reasonable progress on any of them. So I coolly decided to ignore the “one family at a time” mantra and to get a start on all of the family lines at once, including those of my husband (to his delight and the delight of his relatives).

At first, this seemed to be a straightforward, if complex, process. It soon became overwhelming.

You see, I had been given a lot of information about the most recent generations, but I was determined to confirm and document what I’d been told before trying to go farther back in time. I had been trained in research techniques for both literature and history, and I could not ignore that training. Besides, what’s the point of passing on to future generations the story of their family if you’ve researched the wrong family?

Almost every family has legends about earlier generations; I wanted facts. Documents usually gave me facts—although I had been trained to be skeptical about their accuracy. People enjoy exciting family stories about their family and like to think they’re related to famous people with the same surname, but that’s not proof, even if Grandma believed it. In some cases, what I had been told about my grandparents and great-grandparents eventually turned out to be entirely correct. In others, it was wildly off base.

I did follow the standard genealogical practice: before moving backwards to previous generations, I searched for all of the families involved—French-Canadians, Anishinaabe, mixed-bloods, Danes, and Russian and Polish Jews—in every type of American record available: vital records, census records, immigration and naturalization records for all of them, property records, military records, everything I could think of.

My father was born in Denmark, which meant I only had to follow his trail in the USA before looking in Danish records. I had visited Denmark three times and met my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins; I knew their names and where they lived, so I knew where in Denmark to start looking for records and made very good progress with my Danish research. My in-laws cooperated splendidly, so I made good progress with documenting my husband’s family in this country. I also made reasonable progress with my mother’s immediate family and those of her double cousins, and with many younger-generation cousins, who were all quite eager to share what they knew about the Chosa-Dufauld extended clan and to learn more.

I kept a list of all the surnames I was searching and systematically collected huge masses of printouts (later on, digital copies) of all family records I found. I made daily Google searches of the Internet. There were a lot of names, a lot of microfilms, a lot of online searches. I had papers piled all over the place, and every so often I would bung some of them into a filing cabinet.

I was beginning to feel like Lord Ronald in Stephen Leacock’s tale of Gertrude the Governess, who “flung himself from the room, flung himself on his horse, and rode madly off in all directions.”

No, I still did not fall back on the old “follow one family line at a time as far as you can get” rule. There were too many lines and too many crossovers, and I might not get to all of them in my lifetime, especially since I was still determined to document my female ancestors equally with the males.

Besides, I had the very strong sense that my bedroom was becoming very crowded at night, filled with ancestors urging, even begging me to find them and tell their story. You’d think that someone who has been dead for a couple of centuries would be more patient, but no.

Put yourself in your remote ancestor’s place: if no one has spoken your name with affection and a sense of kinship for many generations, it’s only natural to want to be found, to be remembered and cherished again. So when a descendant of yours starts to research her or his ancestry, you pay that descendant a visit during sleep, and point that descendant in the right direction.

I know this sounds weird. Skeptics will say that when I would suddenly wake up knowing—absolutely, positively knowing what I should do to find the records that would solve a particular problem, it was just the product of my subconscious mind which had continued to gnaw away at that problem while I was doing other things. And sometimes, I know that is the case. In fact, I will often deliberately set a problem aside to let my subconscious clarify the issue.

However, I truly believe that in my perception of nightly visitations, there is more at work than an overactive imagination. I believe that we are more than physical entities; we are more than the sum of our physical parts. And, particularly on my mother’s side of the family, the ability to make or keep a connection with one another—living or dead—without physical means is particularly strong. Sounds crazy, yes?

Not in my family. I’m not talking about ouija boards or seances or anything like that. I’m talking about direct communication between living family members at considerable distances, even if they’ve got the whole planet separating them, without using any physical technology. This happened many times between my mother and me (and between her and her siblings) over the years. So one day, when I urgently needed to talk to my adult daughter (who was in the military and stationed in Europe at the time, and who was unreachable by phone because she was on duty), I concentrated on sending a mental message to her to call home.

Half an hour later she went on break and called home. “I just had a feeling that I should call home now,” she told me. Sheer coincidence? I don’t think so, and neither does my daughter.

I’m not going to give you a long recital of other personal examples at this time. I’ll just say that I have witnessed or experienced so many of them at first hand that I have no doubt that the connections are real, both with the living and the dead.

If you believe in any kind of afterlife, it should not be unreasonable to accept the idea that the dead can and do talk to us, if we take the trouble to listen. It is not unreasonable to believe that those who have walked on before us retain their concern for their family, including their descendants. Most of us would like to be remembered, to have the stories of our lives passed down to future generations. I believe that many of the dead have the same desire, because once I began researching my family’s history, quite a number of my deceased kinfolk told me so.

They came to me mostly at night, in my sleep, when the bustle of daytime life was over and I could hear them—lots of them, talking to me not in Danish or French or Ojibwe or Yiddish but in the universal language of the human spirit, and I could understand what they said.

I still get these visitations. Some just come to say hello. Some just want to tell me they approve of what I’m doing or to thank me for what I’ve done. And there are still a fair number, as yet unidentified, who come to urge me to get on with finding them.

It was all rather overwhelming at first, but I certainly wasn’t about to tell my nightly visitors to go away. For one thing, I didn’t want anyone to get annoyed with me for my neglect. For another, I realized that some of them were trying to help me out.

Still, I knew that I couldn’t possibly satisfy all of them at once. I needed to prioritize—somehow.

So I decided that I would work with one extended family for a while—a few days, a week, a month—until I needed to regroup and decide which source to pursue next, or until I hit a brick wall, or until one of my other ancestors woke me up and give me a gentle nudge in the night to point me to where I might find more information about that branch of the family.

Once I made that decision, I started making better progress, and got more frequent nudges. But Great-Grandfather Joseph? Not a word from him—yet.

I still get those nudges, because genealogy is not a closed-end pursuit. You may run out of records, but you never run out of ancestors; everyone has millions of them.

So I hope you’ll believe me when I say that I still hear the voices of various long-dead relatives in my sleep, telling me where to look next to find their records—or giving me a gentle reminder that there is still work to be done on their branch of the family tree.

Making Connections Online

As I discussed in my first post, the first step in my ancestor hunt was the obvious one: to consult with my living relatives to find out what information they had that didn’t get passed down to me. I also screwed up my courage to start making connections with relatives I didn’t know.
Great-Grandfather Joseph and Great-Grandmother Henriette had, I was told, 16 children together. With the help of the census records and the microfilmed early vital records for the state of Michigan, I was able to learn the names of 14 of them; only 8 of them (including Grandpa) had survived to adulthood. I was able to learn a bit more about the others, but not enough to track down their living descendants.
I knew that there were other people from Michigan surnamed Chosa who were clearly not descendants of great-grandfather Joseph; one of them was also working on his ancestry. Thinking he might be a descendant of a brother of my great-grandfather, I sent him an e-mail. No reply. (Years later I figured out that we are in fact related, but the connection was about 5 or 6 generations back, so I don’t hold a grudge against this man.)
None of the relatives I consulted knew anything about whether Joseph had any siblings who also came to the US. So I joined a few useful mailing lists and prowled through the surname message boards at Rootsweb, Ancestry.com, and other main genealogy sites. At the very least, I hoped to find people whose surnames could be variants of Chosa, to learn where their ancestors had settled in this country, and what their descendants knew about where they came from in Quebec.
I connected with quite a number of people researching the same surname or one of its variants. I was able to assist several people who were researching their own connections to various Chosas in my line, and I met a few cousins online who, unfortunately, knew less about my great-grandparents than I did.
Best of all, I connected with a cousin who was descended from Great-Grandmother Henriette’s brother Gabriel. She shared genealogical gold with me: she had seen the marriage record at the Assinins Indian Mission, which was dated 16 June 1855 and which stated Joseph’s age to be 22. Assuming that the age was absolutely precise, this placed his birth sometime between 17 Jun 1832 and 15 Jun 1833. However, I was aware that the age might easily be a year or so off.
I also began searching for the names of all my great-grandparents on the Internet. I still do this regularly for them and for other ancestors, because a Google search may turn up all kinds of tidbits that weren’t there the last time I looked.
Since many, many people from Quebec are extremely passionate about genealogy and tracing their own family history, there are literally hundreds, possibly thousands of websites dealing with Quebec ancestry. I was hoping that one of those researchers might have a gap in his own family tree because no one knows whatever happened to his great-great-grandmother’s brother—who happened to have my great-grandfather’s name and was born in the right time frame.
No such luck.
I turned to the FamilySearch site run by the Mormons (LDS church) Family History Library. Just enter the name and country and a date if you have one, and you’re likely to turn up information from their Ancestral Files, Pedigree Resource Files, IGI (International Genealogical Index), Vital Records Index, SSDI (Social Security Death Index), and censuses. These may turn up leads to vital records for your family.
Unfortunately, some of the LDS records, especially Ancestral Files and the IGI, are just plain wrong: people hoping to retroactively baptize all their discoverable ancestors are like the rest of us: human and easily capable of making mistakes. If you are looking to find the parents (names unknown) of François Pepin, you may not realize just how many François Pepins in the same age bracket there are out there at any given time, and pick the wrong one to inscribe on your pedigree.
Nowadays, Ancestry.com has the Drouin Collection of Canadian records online; you have to buy a World Deluxe membership to access it at home, or go down to your local LDS Family History Center and access the collection from their computers. And unfortunately, Ancestry’s search engine, to put it kindly, does not handle French names very well, especially if you don’t know what area to search. (It has, however, improved considerably since those first Quebec records came online.)
FamilySearch is now indexing its vast collection of genealogical records and putting the original images of those records online, but the indexing stage is still in its infancy. You can, however, browse through images of a fair number of their original microfilmed Quebec parish records at this site, and it won’t cost you a dime. But back then, I had to order microfilms and hope.
I still had no idea where to find Great-Grandfather Joseph’s family in Quebec, but I was learning about the sources available to me, and about the genealogy research process in general. I was connecting with living family members whose existence had been previously unknown to me. Someday, I hoped, I would be able to connect all of us back to the ancestral families who came from France centuries ago to build a new life in the harsh conditions of New France.
Making connections: that’s what genealogy is all about.

Sexism in Genealogy

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, this seems to be an appropriate occasion to discuss the difficulties of tracing our female ancestors and the rich rewards we can find on the distaff side of the family forest.

Not so long ago, sexism was rampant, and genealogical research was done almost entirely by men working from paper documents. It took a lot of time (and money) to travel to the places where those paper documents were kept. Dogma therefore held that it is most “efficient” to concentrate on tracing back just one family line at a time.

In practice, this meant that if John’s parents were George Beasley and Anne Stone, John traced only the male lines of Beasley and Stone. John would note the maiden names of the wives if he stumbled across them, but that was it, unless he had reason to suspect a woman was related to somebody famous. In the “finished” pedigree John would list most of the wives by first names only, as if they were merely adjuncts of their husbands—if he gave their names at all. If he didn’t, his pedigree would read like one of those Biblical “begats”.

To be fair, this wasn’t altogether John’s own fault, since even today there are far too many people who somehow feel that women exist chiefly to satisfy the male sex drive and to be breeders for continuation of the male line. I am happy to say that most researchers today realize that half of their ancestors are female, and that some of their most interesting or notorious ancestors will be in the female lines.

John also had the excuse that it’s often quite difficult to trace the lines of a female ancestor in the USA, especially if she had a fairly common name. Censuses here record only the first names of wives and widows. The farther back in time John went, the less documentation would be available and readily accessible to him. Even a marriage record might give him no information about who his great-grandmother’s parents might have been. In such a case John had to rely on tracing all the people who turn up in other family records in hopes that some of them mention her relatives—if he was willing to make any serious effort at all.

Now that so much genealogical information is available on the Internet, John would have a much better chance of tracking down his great-grandmother’s family. You and I have this same advantage.

Moreover, once we get to the immigrant generation, tracing female ancestors is often much simpler, because in many countries, including Quebec, women retain the surnames they were born with throughout their lives.

My Danish grandmother was called “Fru Jensen” by the neighbors, but in all her records, including the Danish census records, she is listed under her original name of Mette Marie Andersen. Her 5th-great grandfather was a French Count who happened to be a Huguenot, but I’d never have known there was a wee bit of French nobility on my Danish side if I hadn’t made the effort to research her ancestry.

In the same way, the wife of Antoine Lepine of Quebec may be called Madame Lepine in social situations, but all of her records identify her by her maiden name of Marie-Louise Poitvin. If you make the effort to trace Marie-Louise’s ancestry, it would not be unusual if you found that Antoine’s brother François married Marie-Louise’s sister Marie-Thérèse—and that finding their records enables you to get past a brick wall in your direct line. You may also find that Marie-Louise’s branch of the family tree includes celebrities who are therefore your distant cousins.

The fact that women in Quebec are always recorded with their maiden names means that it’s much easier to trace female Quebec ancestors than it is to trace John Babcock’s wife Mary in 1860 Iowa, where the US census that year shows her only as Mary Babcock, born about 1841 in New York. If you can’t find John and Mary’s marriage record, you may never know that her maiden name was Fogarty, therefore you won’t recognize her in the 1850 New Jersey federal census record with her parents Henry and Sarah Fogerty.

Nowadays it has become fairly common for American women to retain their maiden name after marriage (as Hilary Rodham Clinton did), usually for professional reasons. So when Brenda Hazelton, MD, marries Jared Vanderventer, she decides that her legal name will still be Brenda Hazelton. This is certainly a practical thing to do, especially if she is already well established in her medical career. Her descendants who want to research their ancestry will bless her for retaining her maiden name.

But as a genealogist, I find myself asking this: what if Brenda wants to keep her original surname simply because she is an ardent feminist who believes it’s demeaning for a woman to give up her own identity to become an appendage of her husband, and her enlightened groom Jared is equally opposed to sexism? The modern way for such a couple to resolve that issue is simple: combine their premarital surnames, and Brenda and Jared both become Vanderventer-Hazelton (or Hazelton-Vandeventer). Their children are recorded under the double surname.

Meanwhile, across town, Jennifer Morrison marries Michael Mackenzie and become Michael and Jennifer Morrison-Mackenzie. Their children also use the double surname.

I’m waiting to see what happens when Jared and Brenda’s daughter Alicia Vanderventer-Hazelton marries Jacob Morrison-Mackenzie and the happy couple want to do what their parents did. Do the newlyweds become Jacob and Alicia Vanderventer-Hazelton-Morrison-Mackenzie? Or do they discard one or more of those four surnames and thereby alienate the parents whose surnames are eliminated?

If Jacob and Alicia choose to keep all four surnames, what happens when one of their children marries a grandchild of a another double-combined-surname couple?

How will all these people fill out official forms which have, say, sixteen boxes for the letters of the surname? How will they introduce themselves to other people? If all their descendants keep to the practice of Brenda and Jared and Jennifer and Michael, in just another few generations one family’s combined multiple surnames could take up a whole page. Children would have to be drilled long and hard on the exact spelling and sequence of their surnames.

True, future genealogists might have a far easier time tracing their ancestry back to the first double-surname couple, although they might find it difficult to determine in each generation which surname set belongs to which partner, since this is not yet a standard practice. But would it be worth the daily hassle resulting from numerous long amalgamated surnames?

Meanwhile, I observe that no feminist seems to have noticed that her maiden name is either the surname of her father (biological or adopted) or the surname of her grandfather (if the mother did not supply the father’s name for whatever reason). Personally, I don’t see much difference whether a woman keeps her maiden surname or takes the surname of a spouse. Either way, her surname is derived from her relationship to a male, either as his daughter, his granddaughter, or his spouse.

The only non-sexist way to get around that would be for every woman and/or every man (or couple) to create a new surname to use for their family, and genealogical research would become impossible for their descendants.

Perhaps a smidgen of sexism isn’t such a bad thing.


Dreamweaver Research

These were posts written by Dreamweaver. In 2014 I had kept them in the draft section for future use. I believe in sharing and helping others by finding hints thanks to other researchers.
Feel free to comment.
Monday, December 20, 2010

A Woman of Valor

My 5G Grandfather Jean-Baptiste Cadot/Cadotte was a remarkable man. But he would never have become so influential or famous without his Anishinaabe wife, who was born to the powerful A-wau-se (Catfish) clan, giving her husband access to fur-trade wealth wherever her clan had influence—which was the entire Great Lakes area.
Much of what we know about Mme. Cadot comes from the registers of the Catholic mission of Ste Anne on Mackinac Island (Michilimackinac), which include its priests’ occasional forays to the chapels at St-Ignace and Sault Ste Marie, all three of which places were major centers for the fur trade in Jean-Baptiste’s lifetime. And oddly, this woman apparently had several French names, at least if you go by the English translations of the records. She is variously called, according to various respected authorities, Marianne, Catherine, Marie, Annatasie, Athanasie, and Catherine Anastasia.
Now, when I first read about her, I was intrigued by all those names. French Catholic female names are generally limited to two or three at most, so I set out to determine whether all of these names pertained to the same woman. I soon discovered that there are two sets of records for Mackinac and its branch missions at St-Ignace and Sault Ste Marie: one is the original registers made by the French and other Catholic missionaries, and the other is the century-old translation made by the then State Historical Society of Wisconsin (hereafter referred to as the SHSW) under the direction of Reuben Gold Thwaites. Many researchers in the US have naturally preferred the neatly printed English-language version and base their interpretation of the records on that.
The translation is online at the Library of Congress’s American Memory site for Pioneering the Upper Midwest, which you can access here. There is a great deal of fascinating material at this site which is worth exploring in detail if you have ancestors from Michigan, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. You can also go directly to a plain-text version of the SHSW translated Mackinac marriage register or to the plain-text SHSW baptism and burial registers. If you prefer, you can access images of the pages of the original SHSW version of the marriages and the original SHSW version of the baptisms and burials.
Now, translations are nice, but I had learned early on that they can be full of major errors, so the multiplicity of this woman’s names made me deeply suspicious as to the accuracy of the SHSW translation of the Mackinac records. So I purchased a CD-ROM of the registers directly from the original source: Ste-Anne’s on Mackinac Island, which still exists as an active parish today. The CD contains both the digital images of the original handwritten registers 1695-1888 and the SHSW translated version 1695-1821. (The CD is still available at the parish gift shop.) Once I got it, I compared the translations with the handwritten originals.
The translated version of the 28 October 1756 marriage of Jean-Baptiste Cadot and his wife calls her “Marianne, a neophyte, daughter of a nipissing”. What the translation doesn’t say is that in the original French record the name “Marianne” has been lined out and the name “Athanasie” written just above it.
Now, the name Athanasie is an extremely rare one in Quebec before the mid-1800s, possibly because it was a variant of Athénaïs, the personal name of the notorious Madame de Montespan (1641-1707), who had been the long-term mistress of King Louis XIV of France (and mother of 7 of his illegitimate children) and who therefore was clearly not a desirable role model for a young girl from a pious Catholic family.
However, this name does turn up in several records in the Mackinac registers. A Quebec fur trader named Charles Hamelin, who made Sault Ste Marie his headquarters, married there a Sauteuse (Anishinaabe from the area we now call Sault Ste Marie) in 1738. The original first register for the missions decayed so badly by 1740 that the missionary priest at that time transcribed a bare-bones list of the names and dates (and parents or spouse) recorded in the original baptisms and marriages. (The damaged original register no longer exists.) Included in the 1738 entries are Charles Hamelin’s first wife, Athanasie, and their children. Inserted next to her entry is the notation “morte au Saulte le 19 Mars 1745”.
This Marie-Athanasie must have been a remarkable woman and a genuinely devout Catholic, for she seems to have inspired a great deal of respect from the missionaries and devotion from the people close to her. When she died in 1745, she was buried inside the chapel at Sault Ste Marie rather than in the cemetery—a rare and special privilege. How do we know this, when the notation cited above doesn’t give that information? We find it in the mission’s baptism register.
On 11 July 1745, Marie-Athanasie’s sister (specifically so identified, and specifically stating that Marie-Athanasie was deceased) converted to the Catholic faith, taking the name Marie-Charlotte. On the same day a devoted slave (Native American, not of African ancestry), age about 20, part of the Hamelin household, also converted and took her dead mistress’s name Marie-Athanasie “selon les desires de sa deffunte maîtresse” (according to the desires of her deceased mistress). Appended to her baptism record is the notation that the slave “Morte munie de tous les Sacraments le 24 Janvier 1748” (died fortified by all the sacraments on 24 January 1748) and was interred “dans l’Église le jour suivant à coté de sa déffunte Maîtresse” (on the following day in the church at the side of her deceased mistress).
Naturally, Charles Hamelin married again, but not right away, even though he had young children. He waited two and a half years, until after his first wife’s devoted slave had died. However, Charles did not remain celibate during that time: he took up with another Sauteuse woman who bore him a son, Pierre-Charles. Now, Pierre-Charles was not baptized until 6 Dec 1747, but the record states that he was born 15 February of the previous year (i.e. 15 Feb 1746); the conclusion is that the child was conceived sometime around May 1745)—within about two months after the death of his first wife.
The mother of the child is stated to be “une sauvagesse cathecumene sauteuse de nation, fille d’une sauvage infidele nommé mu8us.” The SHSW translation reads “a female Savage called Catherine, of the Sauteaux nation, daughter of the pagan Savage called mouus.” (The 8, sometimes written “∞”, is how the French spelled an Anishinaabe vowel sound which is rather like the “wee” in “sweet”; the number 8 in French is pronounced “weet”). Obviously the translators were all Protestants, or they would have recognized the word “catechumen” (which is written quite clearly in the original record) as being not a weird spelling of “Catherine”, but a word meaning a person who is receiving instruction in the doctrines and practices of the Catholic faith in preparation for conversion.
Poor little Pierre-Charles did not survive long; his baptism record notes that he died a few days later. Interestingly, there is a slash through the baptism record, suggesting that something about it may be erroneous or possibly that it is out of chronological order.
The next record in the baptism register is dated 1 February 1748—ten days after the devoted slave Athanasie had been buried in the church next to her deceased mistress. The SHSW translation reads “February 1, 1748, I solemnly baptized in the church of this mission a female Saulteux Savage about twenty years old, daughter of the savage called Mouus, mother of the child mentioned above, desiring holy Baptism and being sufficiently instructed, who took the name of Marie Athanasie in holy Baptism. Her godfather was Mr d’ailleboût de Coulonge; and her godmother Mde l’anglade.” This time the SHSW got the details right.
Note that both of Charles’s wives (and the slave) took the name Marie Athanasie at baptism. I suspect that the second wife was either a close friend or close relative of the first wife, and chose that name in honor of the dead woman. (Either that, or Charles really grooved on the name and insisted on her using it!)
On 4 February 1748, ten days after the slave had been buried, Charles married the mother of his recently-deceased youngest child. He needed a wife or someone to run the household, since most or all of the children of his first marriage were too young to be on their own: Jean-Baptiste, then age about 7, Marie-Françoise, age about 9, Louis-Charles, age about 11, Jacques, then age about 15, and Marianne, then age about 17. Even the oldest, Joseph, age about 21, was likely to be still learning the fur trade business from his father and therefore living with him much of the time.
The SHSW translators got it right this time: “February 4, 1748, I received the mutual marriage consent of Sieur Charles hamelin, former voyageur, and of marie athanasie, a Sauteux woman Savage recently baptized.”
So why am I going on and on about Charles Hamelin and his wives? Simple: because Charles died sometime in 1748 (there is no burial record, but the baptism record for their daughter Marie-Joseph in December 1748 states that he is dead). His widow Marie-Athanasie the second had given him two children (including the deceased toddler Pierre-Joseph).
In 1756 she married again—to Jean-Baptiste Cadot.
How do I know this is the same woman? Because the original French baptism record for their 2 1/2-month-old daughter Marie-Renée shows that her name was originally written as Marianne but lined out and corrected to Athanasie. The original French marriage record gives her name as Madeleine (possibly Marianne), but again, that name was lined out and “Athanasie” written above it. Charles Hamelin’s widow was by then the only Athanasie around; there is no record of any other female being baptized Athanasie in the register other than those involved with Hamelin. Charles’s widow was clearly determined to use that name. She is described in the Cadot marriage record as a neophyte, which simply means a convert, with no implication as to how recently her conversion occurred. The baptism records for daughter Charlotte and sons Jean-Baptiste fils and Michel all call her Athanasie. The 1767 baptism record for her last known child, Joseph-Marie, calls her Marie Moüet.
Incidentally, I think that the reason the SHSW translated “Marianne” as “Catherine” is that the SHSW people came to the same conclusion I did: that the “Catherine” who was the mother of Pierre-François Hamelin and the second wife of Charles Hamelin was the same woman who later married Cadot. That’s why they ignored the lined-out “Madeleine/Marianne” in the French Cadot marriage record as well as the interpolated “Athanasie”. The Cadot marriage record isn’t that hard to read, and there is clearly no Catherine (or anything even close) in it.
Oddly, in the baptism record for Marie-Renée and in the marriage record for Athanasie and Jean-Baptiste, Athanasie is described as a Nipissing rather than as a Sauteuse. Is this a crucial difference? I don’t think so, even though the Nipissing and Sauteur groups are not the same. The priest who actually baptized Athanasie in 1748 and presided over her marriage to Charles Hamelin was De Jaunay, who was probably the same priest who had prepared her for baptism. However, De Jaunay was absent from the mission at the time the “nipissing” records were made. (He did return and baptize Jean-Baptiste fils in 1762 and Michel in 1764.) The priest who referred to her as a Nipissing was Le Franc, who may not have even met her before, given that he had to correct her name from Marianne and Madeleine in those same records.
A lot of people think that Joseph-Marie’s baptism record proves that Marie-Athanasie had died by 1767 and that Joseph’s mother was another woman, but in fact the name proves the connection between Hamelin’s wife and the wife of Cadot. Father Du Jaunay, the missionary at Mackinac who had learned to use the name Athanasie in the records mentioning her, returned to Canada just before the baptism of Joseph-Marie. A stranger, the Vicar-General of Louisiana, presided over Joseph-Marie’s baptism. The Vicar-General, it seems, balked at writing the long, unfamiliar, and faintly scandalous name of Athanasie and preferred to write just Marie (which was part of her full name Marie-Athanasie). And the surname? Mouet (prounounced moo-ay) is a real French surname, but it’s also a reasonable way to write the name of Athanasie’s father M8us, here clearly used as her surname. Many Native American converts are recorded in the Quebec registers with their father’s personal name (where known) as the surname.
The ultimate proof is the fact that Athanasie didn’t die until 1776 (nine years after Joseph’s birth). She was living in Montréal at the time and was buried in the Chapel-St-Amable in the Basilica de Nôtre-Dame.
Now, I admit that her name was disguised in Montréal in the burial records for both her and her 5-year-old son Joseph-Marie (buried 2 January 1773 as plain Joseph Cadot) by the name of Thérèse rather than Athanasie, but she is identified as “sauteuse de nation femme de … [sic] Cadot voyageur des pays d’en haut”. Athanasie is proved by other documentation to have been living in Montréal at that time, and there is no documentation of any other Cadot anywhere married to a Thérèse in that time frame. Personally, I suspect that the priests in Montréal seized the opportunity to suppress the long and scandalous name “Athanasie” and substitute the saintly, edifying, and shorter name of Thérèse. (To be charitable, they might have mis-heard the name. Most of the other priests who had to record her name did, too. She would likely have been more difficult to understand because French was not her native language.)
Now, Jean-Baptiste could not have had a legitimate son with anyone else until after the death of his first wife! Nor would he have been insane enough to abandon her and lose the enormous business clout that she and her clan provided for him and his sons. The Cadots had ready access to the furs gathered by her clan and their allies, and they were accepted immediately by Anishinaabe who had never met them before as being honest and honorable men (unless, of course, they proved themselves to be otherwise, which they didn’t). The sons Jean-Baptiste fils and Michel, both educated in Montréal, had good standing both in Quebec and in le pays dans l’haut.
Marie-Athanasie’s Anishinaabe name was Equawaice. We know this from the 1826 Treaty of Fond du Lac, where a share of reserved land for mixed-bloods went “To Michael Cadotte, senior, son of Equawaice, one section”. Michel, my 4G Grandfather, had pretty much retired from the active fur trade and settled at La Pointe by 1826, but most of his children had been baptized at Mackinac and he and his children had maintained continuous ties with the Mackinac and Sault Ste Marie areas.
What happened to Equawaice’s children from her first marriage? The first died young; the second child, a daughter named Marie-Joseph, simply disappears from the records. She probably died young, but it is possible that she may have been taken by the Hamelin family back to their home parish of Grondines; no further record for her has been found. In any case, since several of Equawaice’s stepchildren appear as adults in the later Mackinac registers, they almost certainly grew up in the area and Equawaice may very well have looked after them for several years. She may have waited so long to marry again precisely because she was caring for those children. The youngest of them would have been about 15 in 1756, when she married Jean-Baptiste.
By 1757 Charles’s brother Jacques-Michel Hamelin from Grondines was at Mackinac, doubtless to look after family business affairs; he may very well have arrived much earlier. He died at Mackinac in November of that year during what must have been an epidemic which killed far more people than usual that year.
We must remember that many voyageur family births and deaths took place in wilderness areas, possibly hundreds of miles from the nearest church. People living at Sault Ste Marie, which had a chapel but was not exactly next door to Michilimackinac, didn’t get frequent visits by the harassed missionaries there. As with the habitants, the distance was often too great to be in the least practical, so the dead would be buried by whoever was available, prayers would be said, and life would go on. At the missions, the records were of baptisms and burials, not of births and deaths. No burial in a church cemetery by a priest meant no record would be made.
What else do we know about Athanasie/Equawaice?
We know that she was stated to be about 20 years old at the time of her first marriage in 1748, making her born about 1728. This may have been a guess, however, possibly made by Father De Jaunay. Her 1776 Montréal death record gives her age as about 40, suggesting a birth about 1736. Clearly these ages were not precise and Equawaice (like most people in this time) apparently did not keep exact track of her own age. She may in fact have looked younger than her actual age, and the priests in Montréal took a guess as to her age at death.
We know from the writings of Alexander Henry that in her home, everyone spoke only the Anishinaabe language, although her husband and children were also fluent in French and English. As a result, her family never needed interpreters and indeed, were often called upon to serve as interpreters. However, it appears she herself also knew French and English since she was able to converse with Alexander Henry, and there is nothing to suggest that she was unable to communicate in Montréal.
Her great-grandson William Whipple Warren, writing his History of the Ojibway People about 1851, recorded that Equawaice “appears to have been a woman of great energy and force of character, as she is noted to this day for the influence she held over her relations—the principal chiefs of the tribe; and the hardy, fearless manner, in which, accompanied only by Canadian “Coureurs du bois” to propel her canoes, she made long journeys to distant villages of her people to further the interests of her husband.”
We know that the Cadot family settled at Sault Ste Marie (where she and first husband Charles Hamelin had lived); the Sault served as “home base” during Jean-Baptiste’s extensive travels. Equawaice surely accompanied him on many of those travels, as her daughters-in-law likewise accompanied their husbands and as Equawaice herself probably accompanied her first husband. Having her with him would have given both husbands great credibility and trust with the Lake Superior Anishinaabe, especially in the beginning, before the Anishinaabe got to know those husbands. But we know from Warren and Alexander Henry that she also traveled alone on family business.
We know that Jean-Baptiste soon had enormous influence with the Anishinaabe of the Lake Superior area by 1763, when it was his counsel that kept most of the Lake Superior Anishinaabe neutral during Pontiac’s War. We also know from Alexander Henry that in 1763 Equawaice personally helped him escape imminent slaughter after the massacre of the British at Fort Michilimackinac during that war, by giving him a place in her canoe which was taking her home to Sault Ste Marie. She told war parties looking for Englishmen to kill that he was a good French-Canadian voyageur; they accepted her word and let him go.
Under those circumstances, it is not surprising that by 1765, Alexander Henry and Jean-Baptiste Cadot were business partners with exclusive rights from the British to the Lake Superior fur trade; the friendship and partnership extended into the generation of Equawaice’s sons Jean-Baptiste and Michel.
Athanasie always stated that she could not sign her name to the baptism register for her children; however, it’s just possible that she was in fact literate and simply didn’t want to embarrass Jean-Baptiste, who was barely able to print his last name “Cadot” as his complete signature on all signed documents. After all, somebody noticed that her name was recorded wrongly on her second marriage record and the baptism records of her Cadot children, and insisted on the corrections—and it couldn’t have been Jean-Baptiste.
In her article “The Cadots: The First Family of Sault Ste. Marie” in Michigan History for March/April 1988, Cadotte research and noted professor Theresa Schenck states that in 1767, daughters Marie-Renée and Charlotte were enrolled in the Notre-Dame School in Montréal; sadly, Charlotte died there on 16 June 1768. “By 1772, and posibly as early as 1769, Cadot had sent his wife to Montréal to join Marie,” so that their sons could also attend school. Little Joseph, age 5, died there on 1 January 1773. Athanasie and her children boarded for the next 5 years with the parents of another fur trader while Jean-Baptiste continued his travels in the fur trade with Alexander Henry.
Athanasie died on 18 May 1776 and buried in the Chapel of St-Amable near Nôtre-Dame. Her daughter Marie-Renée, now 20, took over the management of the family in Montréal while her brothers attended school, until 1782 when her brothers returned to Sault Ste Marie. Marie remained in Montréal to help with her father’s business affairs there. (Like her mother, Marie-Renée clearly was a capable and fearless young woman who was more than equal to the responsibilities she faced.) She died in Montréal on 9 August 1786, age 30.
Jean-Baptiste Cadot père remained active in the fur trade until about 1796. He was only 53 when Equawaice died, but he never married again (at least, not legally), although he had an Anishnaabe woman named Catherine as companion, and she had several children by him. (One of those children was married to another ancestor of mine, but that’s another story.) Jean-Baptiste remained active in the fur trade until about 1796, when advanced age (he was about 73) and failing health led him to turn over all his property at the Sault to legitimate sons Jean-Baptiste and Michel in exchange for their agreement to care for him for the rest of his life (this was a common arrangement in Quebec families). He died at Sault Ste Marie on 1 November 1800, age 76.
Equawaice/Athanasie was clearly what the Bible calls “a woman of valor”, a woman who took good care of her family, who was fearless and highly competent, and who had great strength of character. She rose to every challenge life presented. Her husbands’ businesses doubtless benefitted greatly from her clan’s influence, but everything suggests that their attraction to her was much more than a desire to improve their trading prospects. I am proud to claim her as my 5G Grandmother and to share her story with you.

The Many-Cadotte Problem, Part 3: Sorting Out the Jean-Baptistes

Like virtually every other Quebec family, the Cadots/Cadottes had several Jean-Baptistes in every generation, including my famous 5G Grandfather (1723-1803). His son Jean-Baptiste fils (the older brother of my 4G Grandfather Michel Cadot/Cadotte of LaPointe) is fairly well documented—up to 1803, when he was ousted from the North West Company on the grounds that he was a perpetual drunkard. (He wasn’t—although there is no question but that he was a heavy drinker at times—but I suspect his real offenses were that he was independent-minded, non-British, and had quaint notions about trading fairly with the Indians.) After 1803, the records are spotty for Jean-Baptiste—although there were at least two Jean-Baptistes active in the fur trade after 1803 who “could be” my 5G uncle. Who were his wife and children? What happened to him?

When I first began my investigation, I already knew that Michel’s brother Jean-Baptiste had in fact married because Michel’s grandson William Whipple Warren (in his History of the Ojibway People) mentioned the wives of the two brothers accompanying their husbands on a particularly memorable trading expedition. This is the sort of inside family information that tends to be true, particularly when it’s only a generation or two from the people involved.

I had been unable to find precise information as to his date and place of death, although everyone was assuming that he was the husband of one Saugimagua, “widow of Jean-Baptiste Cadotte” who with her five children “Louison, Sophia, Archangel, Edward, and Polly” were listed among the mixed-bloods who were to receive benefits under the 1826 Treaty of St. Peter’s. I don’t like assumptions; I wanted real proof.

Poking around online, I found several online family trees which stated that Michel’s brother married in 1776, at Oka. Oka, for those of you who don’t know, is at Lac des Deux Montagnes in Quebec, right along the primary water route from Quebec to Mackinac and the Lake Superior region and therefore an important focal point in getting furs from le pays d’en haut to now-British-ruled Quebec.

Naturally I investigated the microfilm for Oka and found the marriage record. The 1776 bride of a Jean-Baptste Cadot at Oka was an Indian woman named Marie-Anne Ikwesens (meaning simply “young girl”), sauteuse (in this era, this meant Ojibwe). A number of people who found this record instantly assumed that her husband, Jean-Baptiste Cadot, “had to be” Michel’s brother, unaware of or ignoring two inconvenient facts: first, that in 1776 the elder son of Jean-Baptiste père and Athanasie was only 15 and was still at school in Montréal, and second, that Michel’s father and brother were not the only Jean-Baptiste Cadots living at that time. However, by the time I realized this, I had already traced the family of the 1776 Oka couple forward and located the records of their children; I discovered that the couple had wound up in L’Assomption parish in Quebec.

If you look for that 1776 Cadot marriage record online at Ancestry.com, you won’t find it, at least not yet. (Ancestry’s records for Oka begin in 1786.) On the Family History Library microfilm, however, there is a typed transcription of the record which states that the 1776 bridegroom Jean-Baptiste Cadot was the son of Charles Cadot and Denise Thouin, making that Jean-Baptiste a first cousin once removed to my ancestor Michel Cadotte and his brother Jean-Baptiste. Problem solved? Not quite. I still wanted to find the actual records of my 5G uncle and his wife and children.

Now, then, I found another reference online to a Jean-Baptiste Cadotte who in 1808 married at Oka a woman recorded as Marie-Jean [sic] Piquet. The couple are stated to have had a prior civil ceremony at Sault Ste Marie—the place where Jean-Baptiste père had lived (when not traveling on business). (The Mackinac mission registers are spotty at best in this era, but they do include civil marriage records presided over by Justices of the Peace at Mackinac from January 1800-February 1804. Unfortunately, no records of civil marriages at Sault Ste Marie from that era seem to have survived.)

Naturally I looked up the actual 1808 church marriage record. The 1808 Jean-Baptiste is described as being in charge of the (trade goods and furs) warehouse at Oka—an important position—and as the interpreter for the (English) king at St. Joseph. The record does in fact state what the online source said it does. Unfortunately, neither his parents nor hers are named in the record.

There are a number of “St. Joseph” locations which were important in the fur trade at various times, but I rather think this particular St. Joseph was Fort St. Joseph on St. Joseph Island in Lake Huron, in what is now Ontario. Construction of the fort began there in 1796 as a hoped-for rival and/or replacement for Mackinac Island (aka Michilimackinac), which had been awarded to the new United States by the Treaty of Paris at the conclusion of the American Revolution. Fort St. Joseph, which remained unfinished, undermanned, and poorly equipped with out-of-date weapons, was captured and burned by the Americans during the War of 1812. (The fort was undefended because its entire garrison was away capturing the Americans’ Fort Michilimackinac at the time. Odd things happen in wartime.)

But in 1808, Fort St. Joseph was a thriving fur-trade center for Canadian companies in the Great Lakes region. The services of an interpreter were often vital to insure that trade terms at the fort were considered fair by the Indians and thereby to keep the furs flowing from the Lake Superior area and points west into British-controlled Canada. I think this is the St. Joseph where the 1808 bridegroom Jean-Baptiste Cadot worked, and my 5G uncle of that name was certainly well qualified as an interpreter and, equally important, highly respected by the Indians of the Great Lakes region.

Now then: as mentioned above, the 1826 Treaty allocated land for mixed-blood relatives of Chippewa in the affected area, which was eastern Michigan; the schedule included: “To Saugemauqua, widow of the late John Baptiste Cadotte, and to her children, Louison, Sophia, Archangel, Edward, and Polly, one section each.” The treaty does not give any information about Saugimauqua’s husband other than the name and the fact that he had died before the treaty was drawn up. Note, however, that the treaty does not say that all the children are the children of Jean-Baptiste, and in fact, the treaty benefits are to be given to her and her children (as opposed to his children or their children). Most people naturally assume that all of the children were fathered by Jean-Baptiste.

Fortunately for us (although not for the people named in the 1826 Treaty), this portion of the 1826 treaty was never ratified and therefore the land was never allotted. However, two later treaties were made where the mixed-blood relations of the Ottawas and Chippewas living in the affected area were to receive cash payments. The register of claimants for the first treaty, dated 28 March 1836 ( (an outright sale of land) has been transcribed and organized by NISHNAWBE list member Larry M. Wyckoff, is online. Most of that money went to prominent white fur traders and their mixed-blood families.

On 29 July 1837, the US negotiated yet another treaty at St. Peters, wherein the Chippewa of Lake Superior were to cede a large portion of their traditional hunting grounds in the Wisconsin Territory, and again the Chippewa insisted on a share of the treaty money for their mixed-blood relatives. This time a former senator, Lucius Lyons, was placed in charge of vetting the mixed-blood applicants, with payment to be made in summer 1839. He did his vetting beginning in mid-July of that year and the payments were made at the end of September. The applications and the supporting documents have been preserved among the Lucius Lyons Papers in the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Now, I live a long way from Michigan and haven’t seen the originals, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, Theresa M. Schenck (who is also my cousin through this line of Cadottes), has published the 1839 applications, with additional information about each and whether the application was accepted or rejected. The book is All Our Relations (Amik Press: Madison, Wisconsin 2009). And from this genealogical gold mine I was able to sort the family of Jean-Baptiste Cadotte and Jeannette Piquet/Saugimagua.

Theresa has learned that Jean-Baptiste and his wife separated about 1810: he plunged back into the active fur trade, while his wife went back to Sault Ste Marie with her three surviving children fathered by Jean-Baptiste. These were: 1. Marie-Archange, parents living at Sault Ste Marie, born about March 1797 and baptized at Oka in April 1804; 2. Louis-Jean-Baptiste “Louison”, parents living at Sault Ste Marie, born about January 1802 and baptized at Oka in April 1805; 3. Edward, for whom no birth or baptism record has been found. My guess is that he was born shortly before or after his parents separated. (There had been another daughter, Charlotte, born in 1806, but she died at Oka a year later.) These children appear in the 1826 treaty addendum as Archangel, Louis, and Edward.

At Sault Ste Marie, Jeannette (quite legally) continued to use the surname Cadotte, but by Native American standards she was now free to pursue other relationships. These relationship resulted in two daughters by other men. The relationship with Lewis Johnston resulted in the birth of a daughter named Sophia, who is listed in the 1839 Mixed-Blood Register as Sophia Johnston, child of “Louis Johnston and a 1/2 breed Chippewa”. Jeannete’s relationship with one John Drew resulted in the birth of another daughter, listed in the 1836 register as Polly Drew, age 19, “illegitimate child of Mde. (Madame) Plaint”. (In July 1834 mother Jeannette had married Joseph Sauvé dit Plante.) The mother of all 5 young adults also applied, under her new married name of Mrs. Jeannette Sove. Her age is given as 64.

With all this information, it’s pretty clear that the Jean-Baptiste who married Jeannette Piquette at Oka in 1808 is the father of 3 of Jeannette’s surviving children. But was he the brother of my 4G Grandfather Michel Cadotte of La Pointe?

Their father, the most famous of the Jean-Baptiste Cadots, is well documented as having always had his headquarters at Sault Ste. Marie. Sometime before 1800, after his sons took over the business, the old man retired permanently to Sault Ste. Marie, where he died about 1803. Jeannette’s Jean-Baptiste clearly spent a lot of time at the Sault in this time frame; children Marie-Archange and Louis-Jean-Baptist (and probably others who did not survive) were born there.

In 1803, when Jean-Baptiste fils was forced out of the North West Company; he went to Sault Ste Marie to help settle his father’s affairs and to keep an eye on the family business at that end of the Great Lakes. Jean-Baptiste is known to have made a trip to Montréal about 1805—which would have meant passing through Oka. It is extremely plausible that he started his journey in the spring of 1804 and took his family with him to Montréal, stopping at Oka to get his 2 children baptized. On his way back to the US by 1806, it is not unreasonable that he might have accepted a job offer at Oka and resettled his family there. It would appear, however, that settling down permanently was not in his nature; he apparently he died somewhere in le pays d’en haut before the 1826 Treaty of Fond du Lac.

No one has cited documentary evidence of the exact date and place of his death. This does not mean he was abducted by aliens. It only means that he didn’t die near a church and his death therefore wasn’t documented with a burial record. This is not surprising, since from the American Revolution through the early 1830s, missions and missionaries (Catholic or Protestant) west of what is now Wisconsin were very scarce. However, in 1823 Jean-Baptiste’s brother Michel testified in regard to family land rights at Sault Ste Marie that his brother Jean-Baptiste had died “about 1818”. I accept my 4G grandfather’s testimony because he was notable for his honesty and integrity, and was certainly in a position to know about his brother’s death.

But wait! In 1784 (8 years after their marriage at Oka) the older Jean-Baptiste Cadotte’s wife “Marie-anne . . . Sauvagesse” died and was buried at L’Assomption in Quebec. (L’Assomption was a major jumping-off point for recruiting voyageurs and the start of their journey west.) In 1786, Jean-Baptiste Cadot “veuf [widower] de marie anne Squagamikois” remarried, to Ursule Chaput. Isn’t “Squagamikois” the same name as that of the woman Saugemauqua who benefited from the treaty?

Well, yes, I think it probably is (given the fact that there was no standardized spelling of Indian names at the time), but it’s clearly not the same woman. Even though the Jean-Baptiste who married in 1776 also died before 1826, before the treaty was signed (specifically, he died at L’Assomption in 1822), his Squagamikois had died in 1784.

So few people are awarded any kind of benefit at all 40-plus years after death!

Besides, in order to benefit from the treaty, you had to live in the area specified in the treaty. The woman who married in 1776 clearly didn’t, and neither did her children, whose names don’t match the ones listed in the treaty anyway.

I conclude that the fact that Marie-Anne and Marie-Jean Piquet had similar or identical Anishinaabe names is sheer coincidence. If you discover records for two James Smiths who worked in the electronics industry in Los Angeles, one in 1970 and one in 2002, each with a wife named Cathy and several young children at the time, is it safe to say both records are for the same family? Of course not. Very few women have children over a span of more than 30 years, even if they marry young. And neither “James Smith” nor “Cathy” is exactly a rare name.

Which brings us back to the question, is the Jean-Baptiste who married Janette Piquet/Saugimaqua the brother of my 4G Grandfather Michel Cadotte of La Pointe? I think the overwhelming weight of the evidence says “yes”. He’s certainly the Jean-Baptiste whose widow and children should have benefited from the 1826 Treaty of Fond du Lac, and who did benefit from the later treaty. Everything we know about him and about my 5G uncle meshes nicely. He had plenty of ties to Sault Ste Marie at least until about 1806 and his children stayed in that area. Moreover, as Theresa Schenck noted, the house of the Piquette family that lived at Sault Ste Marie was adjacent to the Cadotte property: what more natural but that Jean-Baptiste fils should marry the girl next door?

In short, I believe this Jean-Baptiste is in fact the brother of my 4G Grandfather Michel. Since it is highly unlikely that any other hard evidence about his life and death exists, I’m sure enough about it to enter him in my genealogy files that way.

Was all my time prowling through the parish records at Mackinac, Oka, and L’Assomption a waste of time, then? Definitely not. The family history of the older Jean-Baptiste who married at Oka in 1776 turned out to be critical to identifying my Great-Grandfather Vincent Dufauld’s maternal grandmother. I’m sure of the identification, but Proof Absolute doesn’t exist—simply because she was baptized by Father Baraga at La Pointe instead of by a French priest. I’ll tell you about that another time.

Other Cadotte researchers are still working on other aspects of the Many-Cadotte Problem, looking for Proof Absolute regarding their specific ancestral Cadot/Cadotte. One of these days I expect I’ll get back into that fray. You see, one of the fascinations of genealogy is that there is never an absolute end to the process. You never know when some hitherto-unknown or unnoticed document will turn up that enables you to take one line a generation farther back, or that will cast new light on an ancestor that you’ve already found.

The Many-Cadotte Problem, Part 2: Solving the First Puzzle

With so much material available, sorting out the voyageur Cadottes on this side of the border is not necessarily a huge problem when you’re working in the first third of the 1800s and earlier—especially if you can noodle the information with others working on the same problem, as I did.

No one can deny that the Cadottes are easy to find in the records. In fact, there is an embarrassment of riches: they turn up all over the place. The problem is that there are so many of them with the same personal names active in the fur trade in the same general time frame that you have to figure out which of the four or five Jean-Baptiste possibles is being mentioned or discussed in each record.

I once had gainful employment for several years as a spreadsheet maven, so when I was trying to sort out all the Cadottes who showed up in the mission records at La Pointe I instinctively organized into a great big spreadsheet all the information I and others of the NISHNAWBE list “Cadotte team” had found.

The available information included American census records, sacramental records of the mission churches at Mackinac and La Pointe, the mixed-blood documentation generated by the various treaties, plus bits and pieces gathered from other fur traders (notably Alexander Henry), travelers, and various government records.

I matched lists of children in the treaty rolls against the church records so that I could sort out the family groups. I also had a photo I’d taken at the Madeline Island museum of a list of all the children—with birth dates) born to my direct ancestors Michel Cadotte and his wife Equay-say-way (Madeleine). The original list was in the family account book. (Michel had been educated in Montréal and therefore kept good business records; being a devout Catholic, he also kept good records of family affairs.) Having accurate birth dates was a big help.

Gathering all the information in one place and putting it all into a spreadsheet let me compare family groups from the assorted treaty Field Notes side by side along with the other records. It was then fairly simple to match up which records belonged to which family. Even better, I quickly realized that, statistically, it was extremely unlikely in the 1839 Field Notes (vetting information of Mixed-Bloods) for the 1837 Treaty of St. Peters that there would be three or more men of the same age with the same name who had children with the same names in the same order and of the same ages, the only difference between family groups being the names of the wives/mothers.

I could also see that the wives, although called by different names by different consultants, had to be the same persons (same age, same place of birth); I finally realized that the confusion came from the fact that, like most Anishinaabe, they had several Anishinaabe names as well as one or two Christian names. Marie Catherine, for example, might be called by one consultant Marie and “Catherine” by another, while a third might use one of her Anishinaabe names and someone else might refer to her as Josette. Clearly, the various men who were consulted knew the husbands well enough but didn’t always use the same names for the wives.

I submit that far too many people feel that wives are not all that important, that only the male line “counts”. Translation: it’s easier to trace males because the surname is always recorded in American records, while women generally take their husband’s surname. This is simply not true if your ancestry is Franch-Canadian: the wife keeps her maiden name all her life, so there’s no excuse for not tracing her ancestry.

Being female myself, I naturally noticed that half of everyone’s ancestors are women. Some of your most interesting ancestors will be in the female line. If one of your female ancestors—or her father or brother or uncle—was famous, noble, or important, wouldn’t you want to know about her and her family? Still, sexism was alive and flourishing in the USA back in the early 1800s (and still is!) and we have to deal with it the best we can. In this case, I realized that the “multiple” wives of each Cadotte, Roy, and Dufaut—no matter how someone remembered their names—were clearly the same woman in every case.

Once I figured that out, the pieces of the Cadotte puzzle came together. Putting all the available information in the same place and matching duplicates did the trick. The only reasonable conclusion was that these “different” family groups in the Field Notes were actually one family group as vetted by several different persons. And in fact, the final rolls always showed only one or two adult men with the same name and I sorted out the family groups accordingly; the rolls would record two men with the same name as being father and son or as number 1 and 2 if they were not so related.

Note that if you’re not comfortable with spreadsheets, you can have your genealogy software create and print out Family Group Sheets for each “possible”, or you can write each source’s information on plain index cards or sheets of paper and lay them out on a table (assuming your table is big enough). Any method that lets you compare all the “possibles” side by side should work, provided you remain logical and notice that people rarely marry before they’re out of diapers or after they have perished.

Frankly, once I figured out this approach, it wasn’t particularly difficult to solve the Many-Cadotte Problem in regard to most of the Cadottes who were close relatives of my direct Cadotte ancestors (and therefore of my Dufauts and Roys) and who show up in the La Pointe registers. When I found a Cadotte serving as godparent to the child of a Roy or a Dufaut, I could now say with considerable assurance what the relationship was between them. This in turn helped me sort out the Roys and Dufauts.

It’s the other Cadottes/Cadots who confuse unwary researchers. Chief confusers: the various other Jean-Baptistes, of whom several were active in the fur trade at the same time. And perhaps the most confusing is the marital history of the Jean-Baptiste who was the brother of my 4G Grandfather Michel (“Big Michel”). I’m sure it was no mystery for him, of course, nor for any of his family; but for those of us living some 200 years later who have to rely on not-very-detailed documents, it’s a not-quite-resolved hassle.

Unfortunately, plenty of confused researchers out there were (or are) clearly unaware that there was more than one Jean-Baptiste and more than one Michel in each generation. Worse, there are still too many online family trees which assume that every fur-trade Cadotte was a direct descendant of the famous Jean-Baptiste Cadot (my 5G Grandfather) born in 1723, who entered the fur trade about 1742, married an Anishinaabe woman named Marie-Athanasie at Mackinac in 1756, and was survived by his 2 famous sons, Jean-Baptiste fils and Michel.

Now, I’m not opposed to simple solutions as such, only incorrect ones. A little poking around in the Quebec registers quickly turned up information that my Jean-Baptiste père had several brothers and a slew of male first cousins, many of whom made at least one voyage in the fur trade. This is not surprising since the first Cadot (Mathurin) to come to New France was probably a coureur-du-bois (unlicensed dealer in furs) from 1670 onward before becoming a contracted voyageur in the 1680s. Then he married, started having children, and became a licensed fur trader, continuing to travel into Ottawa territory at least until 1690, when he retired at last and became a farmer. It would be surprising if his four sons had not also gotten their economic start in the fur trade and passed that tradition on to their sons and grandsons.

Naturally, I wanted to determine which Jean-Baptiste Cadot/Cadotte in the numerous contemporary records for men of that name was Michel’s brother and what happened to him after 1803. Undoubtedly, his brother’s fate was important to Michel and his family (including his daughter Julie, also my direct ancestor), and I felt I owed it to my Cadot ancestors to have a go at sorting out that puzzle.

The Many-Cadotte Problem, Part 1: Sources

As I discussed in earlier posts, the naming customs of French-speaking Quebec families led to the modern researcher’s problem of sorting out the numerous persons who had the same name and lived in the same general time frame, as well as to the creation and multiplication of dit names. But it is especially difficult to sort out voyageur ancestors who seldom or never went back to their families in Quebec, but stayed in “le pays d’en haut” until death. Their Quebec siblings and in-laws were not around to act as godparents to a voyageur’s children, and the women available to the voyageurs were mostly Native Americans whose original names were often not recorded. Connecting the mixed-blood children of such men to their paternal families in Quebec is therefore often extremely difficult.

I was lucky: three ancestral voyageur families of mine didn’t generally use dit names and were therefore somewhat less challenging to sort out: the Roys, the Cadots, and the Dufauts.

There are at least 28 separate lines of Roys who came to Quebec, making Roy one of the most common surnames in Quebec at the time and necessitating lot of dit names connected with that name. Fortunately, the first voyageur in my direct Roy line on this side of the border had the fairly rare personal name of Vincent, so it was easy to pick him out of the host of other Roys born in the right time frame. There were only two Vincents born in the right time frame. Interestingly, both were born at Laval about a year apart, but one of them died in infancy. From my Vincent (whose parents were both surnamed Roy), it was fairly straightforward to trace his ancestry back to the first immigrants, who were from unrelated families who came from different areas of France.

The Cadot family (whose surname was anglicized to Cadotte) was more difficult, partly because they were so famous (and prolific) that it is easy to confuse them with other fur-trade Cadots with the same personal names who, although not in my direct line, were all descended from original immigrant Mathurin Cadot from Poitou and Marie-Catherine Durand (who was half Huron, by the way).

The Dufaut family (numerous spellings on both sides of the border) were more difficult than the Cadots because they weren’t famous, and the records for those in the fur trade were spotty at best. This family took a lot of time and effort to sort out.

All three of these fur-trade lines converged at La Pointe, on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, three miles offshore from modern Bayfield, Wisconsin, and specifically in the records of the Catholic mission established there in 1835. Here many voyageurs regularized their marriages to Native American women, and their mixed-blood children (many already adults) were baptized.

Unfotunately, Frederic Baraga, who founded the mission at La Pointe, was Slovenian rather than French; he recorded his sacramental registers in the form of a table. He often didn’t fill in all the blanks, but worse, he didn’t even have blanks for all the information found in French sacramental records. The parents of adults baptized by him, the relationship of godparents to the person baptized, the names of the parents of a couple being married, the spouse or parents of a deceased adult: none of this useful information was recorded. It was probably all perfectly clear for the people involved in these events at the time, but for me, their descendant several generations later, it was all quite confusing.

Fortunately, however, the Cadot/Cadotte voyageur lines are unusually well documented, because they were serious players in the fur trade from the 1680s onward. I was primarily interested in my own direct ancestors and their siblings, so the effort of sorting them out for my purposes consisted largely of coping with the fact that there were, for example, several Jean-Baptiste Cadots/Cadottes active in the fur trade in the same time frame. This meant ordering a lot of microfilms, but it wasn’t all that expensive at the time, especially considering the numerous other ancestors and collaterals I found in those same microfilms; nor was it difficult, because of all the information packed into Quebec sacramental records.

Cadottes (being not only famous and influential but also very numerous) show up on practically every page of every register at La Pointe, so sorting them into family groups is almost impossible if you only have the sacramental records to go by. And if you can’t sort out the Cadottes and their family connections, it’s very difficult to sort out the family groups of many other families in the registers.

Other descendants of the same people on the NISHNAWBE list were also struggling with the Many-Cadotte Problem, so we pooled every scrap of information we found and tried to sort out the family groups.

One major problem we had was that Anishinaabe Indians (including mixed-bloods) commonly had (and still have) several Indian names, and often a French or English one as well. Moreover, women in particular felt free to use a different “white” name if they (or their spouse) liked it better. Since a Marie-Louise (for example) might appear in some records as Marie, in others as Louise, and in others under one of her Indian names or even with a different “white name” like Charlotte, just recognizing her in all her records is difficult. As for the mixed-blood men, even when they had a French surname, Quebec naming customs insured that there were often two or three (or more) other people with the same first name and same surname showing up in the registers around the same time.

It’s almost enough to make you give up on genealogy and take up gardening instead.

Fortunately there are other sources of information available for the folks in the La Pointe records, including US Federal censuses, correspondence between the Indian Agent at La Pointe and his superiors in the US government, references in travelers’ journals or fur companies’ records, and—for the Anishinaabe and mixed-bloods—numerous treaties with the Federal government and their supporting documents.

The Chippewa (as the government still insists on calling us) made more treaties with Uncle Sam than any other tribe, chiefly because we occupied much of the midwest areas which were vital for the fur trade or which had valuable mineral deposits or timberlands. In addition, white settlers had an insatiable appetite for any land that might be suitable for agriculture. Every time a treaty was made, eager settlers would ignore the treaty boundaries and move in on Indian territory, then complain when the Indians objected or resisted. The inevitable result was always another treaty, pushing us further west and putting our resources into white hands.

From the very first, whenever a voyageur or trader married an Anishinaabe woman, it was common that the children of that union were raised with their Anishinaabe relatives and therefore were considered by her entire clan as part of the family. Therefore, whenever the government made a treaty with us, they had to cope with the fact that the full-blood Chippewa wanted their mixed-blood relatives living among them to share in whatever benefits to the Indians were called for in that treaty.

The result: many of the treaties required a vetting of the mixed-bloods and out-of-the-treaty-area full-bloods to determine who was eligible for a share of those benefits. Naturally, the vetting had to be done by white officials, who generally consulted various longtime residents (white, mixed-blood, or full-blood) of the area to see what they knew of each possible beneficiary. The result was a mishmash of apparently conflicting information.

For modern researchers with Anishinaabe ancestry, then, there are fairly early records which are essentially lists of all persons who applied for treaty benefits under several different treaties. Note that as a general rule, people who had no current connection to the area covered by the treaty were excluded, and so were people who had received benefits under certain prior treaties.

Many of these records have been published and are still in print and/or are available on CD-ROM. Even better, the supporting vetting reports of the consultants about the applicants have in some cases survived and are often referred to as “Field Notes”.

Most of the final treaty rolls for Michigan Indians have been transcribed and published by Raymond C. Lantz, including the 1908 Durant Roll of the eastern Michigan tribes, which is the most recent and therefore the most helpful for the pursuit of ancestors in that area whose known genealogical information does not include anything earlier than that. It is supposed to include “all members or descendants of members who were on the roll of the Ottawa and the Chippewa tribes of Michigan in 1870, and living on March 4, 1907”.

The entire “Durant Roll package” (which includes the 1908 Durant Census Roll itself, the Supplemental Census Roll, and the final payment rolls) plus the Field Notes (the more detailed family information) was available on CD-ROM from a NISHNAWBE list member who has transcribed these as well as many of the earlier actual rolls for Michigan tribes. This person has not posted to the list since October 2009, but the list has not been very active since then. (See the archives of the mailing list to get more details and contact information.)

Half a century previous to the Durant Roll we have the very important Treaty of 1854 field notes material published by Gail Morin under the title Chippewa Half-Breeds of Lake Superior; this is widely available in print and on CD-ROM. The 1854 treaty guaranteed traditional hunting, fishing and harvesting of wild plants in the treaty area, a matter which became one of the catalysts for modern Native American activism and the reassertion of Native American rights all over the USA.

Earlier still, there is the 1839 material garnered by Lucius Lyons for the mixed-bloods provided for in the 1837 Treaty of St. Peter’s. In 2009, Theresa M. Schenck published the applications and the decision on each under the title All Our Relations: Chippewa Mixed Bloods and the Treaty of 1837. Theresa also added additional information about many of these persons; she did not, however, include the claim-vetting testimony for this treaty. Fortunately, several years ago other members of the NISHNAWBE list living in eastern Michigan discovered and transcribed the claim-vetting material (which they naturally called “Field Notes”) from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (“Applications”, Lucius Lyons Collection, Clements Library) and shared the material with the rest of us. Much of this material is found in the archives of the list from about 2001-2005.

Farther back still, the 1826 Treaty of Fond du Lac includes a list of the mixed-bloods in the treaty area who received a share of the land allocated to them, although apparently the supporting vetting documentation has not survived. This is still valuable information if you have an ancestor in that group.

So what did I do with this flood of information? How did I make sense of it? I’ll tell you that in my next post.

Buddy Lists

In any genealogical research, it’s important to make contact with people who are researching members of your family, your tribe, your parish in Quebec, or who are researching collateral connections of your ancestors (brothers-in-law, for example, or anyone who married someone with your ancestor’s surname).

Of course, you should start with your own living family members and any information that they might have, including family stories or lore. But you also need to find family members whom you don’t yet know, because together you can collaborate on putting together the pieces of the puzzle, and they may have sources of information that you don’t even know exist. You can connect with these unknown relatives through the genealogical message boards and mailing lists. (Those at Rootsweb are accessible for free both at rootsweb.com and Ancestry.com.)

We all know that the first step in any genealogical research is to Investigate and access every possible source of information about your ancestor and contemporaries with the same surname and try to access and collect that information; the second step should be to share what you have found with your genealogical buddies even if it doesn’t yield an immediate return. It is highly likely that someday, someone will find your post useful and may then contact you and reciprocate.

A message board is like a bulletin board: you put up your query and hope that someone who can help you notices it and replies. However, it may be many months or even years before that happens. Before posting a query, browse the archives: the answer to your question may have been answered already. You may also find leads to good information (or to people who might have good information) even if you don’t find an entry immediately relevant to your known ancestors.

You should investigate not only surname message boards (including alternate spellings of the surname you’re researching), but every locality or ethnic message board you can find that might have any relevance. Make a list of the boards you find that “may” be useful and make a point of checking all of them at least twice a year, more often if they’re pretty active.

Whenever you identify a new-to-you in-law or collateral relative, or one about whom you know very little, you should also see if there’s a the surname board for that new surname. Here’s why: back when I was first starting out, I was soon in contact with a researcher who was looking for information on a female Chosa who had married in Baraga, Michigan (where my grandfather was born). He believed that the Chosa he was seeking was my aunt, who did in fact marry a man with the correct first name and surname.

We discussed the matter on the Chosa message board several times, but the matter eventually dropped there. What I didn’t do—and should have done then—was check the message board for the husband’s surname. Why? Because my correspondent had made a query about that same marriage on that message board—and connected there with a relative of the husband, who told him that the couple in question were elderly but alive and eager to learn more about their Chosa family history, as were their children.

This meant that the couple in question were very definitely not my aunt and her husband, who had never had children, and who both had already been dead for 20 years when these discussions occurred. If I had looked on that board back then, I could have set my correspondent straight and saved him some hassle. Moreover, I could have contacted the researcher on the husband-surname board and connected with that live Chosa cousin in Michigan. I can still try, but the elderly couple may have died by now and the opportunity may be gone. By missing a possible source of information about the extended Chosa clan in Baraga, I lost the possibility of finding Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa much sooner.

Another good reason to use the genealogy message boards is that you may be contacted years after a particular post by someone who needs help with one of his/her mystery relatives or who has information that you lack. I connected with someone who proved to be a third cousin by answering his query on a message board. It works both ways, too. Just a few months ago, someone was working on a biography of his mother’s best friend, who happened to be a Chosa relative, and had found my ancient posts on the Chosa surname message board. We collaborated: he got a great deal of background information and detail about her family, and I got not only considerable information that I didn’t have about her life, but many wonderful photos of her.

A mailing list sends out queries and responses as soon as they come in to everyone who has joined it, and consequently a mailing list tends to be much more active. This means that if anyone makes a discovery or is looking for more information on a specific ancestor, all of the list members will know about it immediately. You don’t have to wait for someone to discover your post years hence. Therefore, a mailing list gives you a much wider (and speedier) opportunity to find other people working on your family. And it’s much easier to resolve identity questions if you can collaborate with others who are also working to identify and/or connect the same family and who work as a team. In effect, a good, active mailing list is a genealogical buddy list.

When you become part of a team working on the same problem, you dramatically enhance the amount of information available to you, as each member of the team adds what he/she has discovered. For example, when I first began my research, I discovered Rootsweb’s NISHNAWBE mailing list, for “anyone researching Native Americans in Michigan and Wisconsin, and the fur traders connected with them”, and joined the list immediately. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Working alone, I could never have been able to distinguish my voyageur ancestors from others with the same name who were living at the same time, because many of the crucial records are held in repositories which I can’t access unless I make an expensive research trip. But some members of the NISHNAWBE mailing list live near those repositories, and I have common ancestry with several of them. They found extremely valuable records that I didn’t even know existed and shared extracts or even full transcriptions of those records with the whole list.

So naturally, when I acquired my photocopy of a photostat of the original baptism register for the St. Joseph Mission on Madeline Island, I immediately shared the news with other members of the NISHNAWBE mailing list and offered to do lookups. (I was unable to create a legible photocopy or digital image of the second-generation derivative I had.) This was a great help to many people who were not related to my own family lines but did have ancestors in that register.

Back before annuity rolls and Indian censuses were available online, some of us went further and chatted live online (text only in those days), comparing notes on the families we had in common, trying to sort them out and sharing information. As a result of all this sharing of information, the senior members of the list now have their own ancestry fairly well settled and therefore the list is less active now, but most of us “older” members still subscribe and still stand ready to help others. If you have a voyageur in your ancestry who worked anywhere in the Great Lakes area, the NISHNAWBE list is a good buddy list for you to consult.

One of your best genealogical buddies is a good internet search engine. This goes not only for voyageurs and other immigrants from Quebec but for just about anybody; however, if you’re looking for an ancestor with a common name (or one shared by a famous person) you should narrow the search field by place or date or occupation or whatever else will keep the search engine from turning up 5,000 screens worth of irrelevant matches. Do a web search on your ancestor’s name (including spelling variations) and narrow the field if necessary) and chances are very good that you will turn up not only living persons with the same name but a mention of your ancestor (or a relative with the same name) in the archives of a mailing list or even in someone’s book or other publication.

With voyageurs, many publications mentioning them by name are travelers’ memoirs. Throughout recorded history, people who venture into “exotic” territory like to share their experiences. Nowadays ordinary people often put their experiences on social network websites like YouTube, Facebook, etc., but before the Internet existed, travelers of all sorts who were literate kept diaries and published them as books or magazine articles, even if they had to pay publication costs themselves.

Vast numbers of travelers’ memoirs and early historical or scientific publications are no longer protected by copyright and have been (or will be) digitized and published on the Internet. Many of these are available as a free pdf download, or in a format used by one of those electronic readers that are so popular these days. That’s how I obtained a copy of an 1899 Geological and Natural History of Minnesota, which included the information that in August 1897 my great-grandfather Vincent Dufauld had worked as “general woodsman” for a small group of scientists working on that project. There are several mentions of him in the report.

If a book mentioning your ancestor is still in print, a search for that name at Amazon.com may turn up a new or used copy which you can purchase. Just this year I found a book (originally written in the 1920s but not published until recently) that included pictures and anecdotes about numerous relatives.

If you’re in luck, you will learn at least where someone with your voyageur ancestor’s name was at a particular date when your ancestor was alive. This may help you track your ancestor—or prove that this fellow is not him. You are also quite likely to turn up your ancestor’s name on someone’s online family tree or webpage. If you’re really in luck, you will find that someone else has already found that missing piece of the puzzle which connects your ancestor with the correct family line—after you’ve checked the information for yourself and verified that it’s correct, of course. Even if the other person has made the wrong connection, discovering and proving the error may turn up the right connection for your ancestor.

Back during the late Cretaceous, my husband used to talk about a famous problem in physics called The Many-Body Problem. Don’t ask me to explain what that is, but the name stuck in my memory, so once I got on board the genealogy train and found myself researching my Cadotte ancestors, I was faced with numerous fur-trade Cadottes with exactly the same name living at the exactly same time. I naturally called the problem of sorting them out The Many-Cadotte Problem.

After I discovered how to solve that one (with help from the NISHNAWBE Cadotte team), I went on to The Many-Louis-Dufaut Problem (more difficult, because unlike the Cadottes, the Dufauts were relatively minor players in the fur trade and therefore not so well documented). Again, I couldn’t have solved it without the NISHNAWBE Dufaut team.

Early this year, working alone, I finally solved The Many-Pierre-Forcier Problem—but only because I had learned how to solve that kind of problem by working with my buddy list on the NISHNAWBE team.

How, exactly, did I solve them? I’ll discuss that in my next post.

Uncle Sam Lends A Hand

If you, like me, have Native American ancestry, the prospect of trying to research that ancestry can be daunting, but be of good cheer: your Uncle Sam can be a great help to you.

Some are fortunate enough to be well versed in their Native American ancestry because it was passed down to them orally by older family members who had learned it from their own elders. For far too many of us, however, the oral tradition was lost when the children were forcibly hauled off to Indian boarding schools to “civilize” them by, among other things, brutally punishing any youngster who dared speak any language other than English.

Moreover, those students who didn’t already have a good “white” name were assigned names by the school authorities, making it rather difficult to connect your great-grandmother Emma to her family in the tribal rolls before she reached school age. She is, however, probably there under her Native name or simply as “girl” in her native language. If she is Anishinaabe, look for her as “Kwe-sance” or “I-quai-sans” “Kway-sens” or some variation thereof, which simply means “female child”. More about Indian School records at the end of this post.

Young children can pick up new languages fairly easily, but they also easily forget languages that they cannot use in daily life. Thousands of boarding school children were stripped of their native languages and thereby became unable to learn about their own heritage and their own family history from the elders who did not speak English. Nowadays, most Native American tribes and bands have educational programs to preserve and pass on their linguistic and cultural heritage; for some, it may be too late.

However, for those who want to know the history of our own family as far back as possible, the US government inadvertently created records which can help us do so. In fact, I was rather astonished to learn how much information is available.

Naturally, the government created those records not for our benefit but for its own convenience in keeping track of us, and (bureaucracies being what they are) many of those records have survived. These include Indian School records, tribal censuses and rolls of persons who had a share of tribal annuities (minuscule financial compensation for the lands which had been hornswoggled from us). At the insistence of the Native Americans themselves, mixed-blood relatives were often included in the censuses and the annuity payments.

Investigations were commonly made to determine which persons (particularly mixed-bloods) were entitled to the treaty benefits, and the records of some of those investigations have survived. Some have been published; others are available in various libraries or historical societies. Those can be extremely useful if you want to sort out several persons with the same “white” name to determine which is your ancestor. A search online by tribe (plus treaty year or treaty name should turn up information about such investigations, including discussions in online forums, message boards, and mailing lists.

Annuity rolls are lists of persons in a given tribe or band who received a share of those annual payments. Usually they contain simply the name of the head of the family and the number of adult males, adult females, and children (often by gender) for whom the head collected payment. (A large family in 1868 might collect a whole $8, most of which usually went immediately to to pay off debts at the local trading post.) Family heads were usually listed by their “civilized” names if they had one, but often the annuity rolls contain the Indian name as well.

Indian censuses (unlike Federal or State censuses) were taken annually and are therefore extremely valuable. They generally list each person’s name(s), ages, and gender, although many families did not disclose the actual names of small children but had them listed only as “boy” or “girl”. A personal name has power among Native Americans and is not to be taken lightly. Many Native Americans to this day therefore have “everyday names” (English or translated Native American) as well as one or more “private” names (usually in their own language) which are not shared with outsiders.

The wonderful thing about turn-of-the-20th-century annuity and census rolls is that they often contain both the Indian name and the “white” name, enabling you to make that connection and take the line back into the era when Native Americans had only Native American names in their own languages.

The catch in the annuity rolls and Indian censuses is that Native Americans generally did not have written languages and, until fairly well into the 20th century, a name (like every other word) was spelled in English “like it sounds”. Therefore, it takes effort to figure out that the weird spelling of a Native American name in the previous year’s records is the same name in the next year’s records but with a different spelling from that used by the previous agent. For example, among the Anishinaabe, a female child might be called “female child” in the Anishinaabe language, so that the girl appears as “Kwe-sanse”, “I-quay-zance”, “E-kway-sens” and every possible spelling imaginable from one year to the next, until one year she shows up on the rolls as Mary.

The Indian Census rolls generally include a number for each individual which (in later censuses) may be cross-referenced to the previous year’s census; they may include whether the person is living on the reservation or elsewhere, and and often give either age or year and/or exact date of birth. Some Indian Agents would note births and deaths on their own copy of last year’s census so they could minimize the task of taking this year’s census, and if one of those personal copies is the one that has survived, you may be able to solve a family mystery with it. I did.

The National Archives in Washington, DC, is the main repository for Indian census and annuity rolls and other federal government records up to about 1935-1940, and most are available on microfilm both in Washington, DC and at Regional branches of the National Archives. (The Regional Branches of the National Archives generally have the rolls only for tribes in the area of their region.) More recent records will probably still be in the custody of whichever arm of the Bureau of Indian Affairs has present jurisdiction for the band or tribe to which your ancestor belonged.

Important: To find any government records for a specific tribe or band, you need to search under the “white” version of the name, not what the tribe or band prefers: for example “Chippewa”, not “Ojibwe” or “Ojibway” or “Otchipwe” or even “Anishinaabe”, or “Sioux”, not Dakota, or Navajo or Apache rather than Dine (pronounced “dee-NAY”).

I’d start an online search with Google or another search engine: for example: Sioux + “annuity rolls” or “Indian Census”. That should lead not only to whatever sources exist but where the records are available on microfilm or in transcription besides the National Archives. Search for family or individual names, too. There are probably many people researching members of your ancestor’s tribe or even the same family.

Current records are usually in the custody of the band or tribe’s current government. Do NOT, however, try to get information directly from the band or tribe: its officials are much too busy with the essential affairs of their community to be able or willing to spend the time doing research for you or anyone else. (It’s amazing the number of people who want to become enrolled in a Native American tribe which has a casino!) In addition, tribal officials are naturally reluctant to open their current records to outsiders because they contain information about living persons. No one wants to make identity theft easy.

Indian censuses are also available online at Ancestry.com as part of the U.S. Collection, which is not exactly free, although your friendly local Family History Center (LDS/Mormon Church) may have a subscription to Ancestry.com for its patrons to use there. If yours doesn’t have a subscription, it should still have microfilm readers, and you can rent many of the National Archives microfilms for use there. If you don’t have an accessible local Family History Center, you can still purchase a copy of any National Archives microfilm from the National Archives and take it to any local facility that has microfilm readers, such as a public library, college or university library, a historical or genealogical society, or even a local newspaper.

You should know that the purported contents of a particular set/microfilm of Indian Census records may vary wildly from what’s actually on it. You are likely to get duplications (2 copies of 1894 instead of the promised 1894 and 1895), unlisted additions, and omissions. You may need to examine quite a few sets to get the complete surviving rolls for a particular band or tribe.

Annuity rolls are a little harder to come by, particularly for those tribes/bands who are still receiving annuities under a treaty. Many annuity roles can be found at universities, historical societies, or state archives and, if microfilmed, may be available through Interlibrary Loan. The Dawes rolls for the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes have been published in book form; so have rolls for some other tribes.

Surviving Indian school records are available on microfilm or as actual documents in the National Archives in Washington DC or at Regional Branches. Many of these deal only with financial and administrative matters, but some do give helpful information about the students. Some of the school records are lists of students at the various boarding schools, and some of these are available online at Ancestry.com. Also, some boarding school records have more complete student information, and many of these on microfilm and available from the Family History Library through your local Family History Center.

In addition to the above, there are National Archives microfilms of Indian Agency records (much of it correspondence with agents higher up in the food chain). Mission records (Catholic and Protestant) can contain a great deal of useful information (such as the names of an adult convert’s parents). You’ll be surprised at what you can learn from local histories, travelers’ reminiscences, land records, and local civil and criminal court records in the possession of a state, county, or municipality. Historical societies and universities can also be gold mines of information.

For full information on what Native American records the National Archives has, and where they are housed, click here. There are other links on that site you can follow to uncover more details, including how to order microfilms online.

Another of Dreamweaver’s Search for Her Ancestors

These were posts written by Dreamweaver. In 2014 I had kept them in the draft section for future use. I believe in sharing and helping others by finding hints thanks to other researchers.
Feel free to comment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Perplexing Problem of the Duplicate Désirés

My great-grandfather Joseph Chosa, who spent his adult life in Baraga County, Michigan, was born and baptized on 8 August 1833 at Ste-Élisabeth, Joliette, Quebec. He was the first child of Joseph Han-dit-Chaussé and his wife Catherine Lavoie, and I’m ashamed to admit that after I finally identified him, I didn’t spend a lot of time researching his immediate family. I found the baptism records of his brothers and sisters and documented what I could at Ste-Élisabeth, then turned to tracing the lines father back. But the time came when I wanted to know more about his brothers and sisters. Had any of them come to the USA? Had they kept in touch with Great-Grandfather Joseph (who I knew was able to read and write)? Did I have Chaussé cousins on this side of the border?

As it turned out, it was a fairly straightforward if slow matter to track down the fates of Joseph’s brothers and sisters. Since Ancestry.com now had the Drouin Collection of Quebec parish records online and searchable, I was able to follow the family as it grew and moved around. Two siblings died in childhood and a third was baptized and subsequently abducted by aliens, but I found marriage records for 6 of Joseph’s other siblings and the baptism records for many of his nieces and nephews. After the deaths of Joseph’s parents (Joseph père in 1874 and mother Catherine in 1877, both at L’Avenir in Drummond County, Quebec) I found records for most of the survivors in the US censuses for New England, with their families.

Missing in all these records was any mention of Great-Grandfather Joseph (as I expected, since I knew he had settled in Michigan and married there in 1855). However, there was also no further mention of second son Désiré or of fourth son François-Xavier. Had they, like last-born Marie, been abducted by aliens? Or had they also crossed the border to the USA but lived out their lives somewhere other than in New England or Michigan?

My grandfather’s brother Frank (baptized, of course, as Francis Xavier) had once given an interview to his local newspaper in which, among other things, he stated that his father Joseph had served his country in the military. This had led me to look for Joseph Chosa/Chausse/et al in the Civil War Pension records. I didn’t find Joseph; in fact, all the evidence pointed to Great-Grandfather having stayed at home in Michigan, running his farm and fathering children, 3 of whom were born or conceived during the Civil War. However, I did find records of a Desire F. Chausse and a Francis X. Chausse who did serve: the same names as the “vanished” brothers of Joseph, except for the addition of the middle initial F. for Désiré, which is not in the baptism record. However, it’s possible that the curé at Ste-Élisabeth failed to record the middle name or that the family decided to add it later; there’s another possibility, too, which I’ll get to later. The absence of a middle name beginning with “F” in Désiré’s baptism record does not rule him out as the Civil War veteran.

From a posting on a rootsweb mailing list I now made contact with a 3rd cousin who was a descendant of the Civil War Francis X. Chausse, and he told me not only that the Francis and Desire F. who had served in the Union Army were brothers born at Ste-Élisabeth, but that they had a brother Joseph who had settled in rural Michigan. (It was nice to get that last tidbit, although I was already sure of Great-Grandfather Joseph’s place of birth and parentage.) I was able to find numerous records confirming and adding to what my cousin related about Francis/François.

With Désiré, however, there was a problem.

Now, “Désiré Chaussé”, with or without the accents, is a pretty uncommon male name in Quebec even today, and it was very uncommon in 1835, when my GG uncle was born, so I should have had no real difficulty locating and tracing him in the USA, right?

Wrong! There are clearly two Desire Chausses (no accents over the “e”s, of course) in the American records: both were born in Quebec, Canada, and both appear to have been born in the same time frame. How in the world could I determine which one was my GG uncle?

The answer, as always, was to start collecting as many records as possible and mining them for clues. I looked at state and federal censuses, Civil War records, and everything else I could think of. I wanted and needed as much information as I could find to determine which, if either, of these men, was my GG uncle. Several more-or-less distant cousins had some information about one or both of these men.

Francis X. Chausse had enlisted in the Union army at Wingville, Wisconsin, on 13 August 1862. Desire F. Chausse had enlisted in the Union Army at Boscobel, Wisconsin on 15 February 1865, only a couple of months before the war ended. Wingville and Boscobel are both in Grant County and are in fact only about 12 miles apart. This suggested but did not prove that Francis and his brother Désiré remained in contact with one another after they crossed the border. I needed more facts.

American census records for one of the Desires showed that by 1860 he was living in Dubuque, Iowa, age 27 (i.e. born about 1833) with a wife named Philomene; both were born in Canada and the couple have 3 children, Mary, Desire, and “Havier” (surely, Xavier), all born in Iowa. Now, Dubuque, Iowa is adjacent to Grant County, Wisconsin, so this Desire could certainly have enlisted in Boscobel.

In the 1870 census, this family is in Jefferson, Dakota Territory; Desire is now age 39 (i.e. born about 1831), and there are now 8 children, the 4 oldest born in Iowa and the younger ones born in Dakota. A Desire Chausse is listed among the members of the Territorial Legislature for the December 1874-January 1875 session. The 1880 census puts the family in Big Sioux Township, Union County, Dakota Territory (later South Dakota). Desire’s age is now 46 (i.e. born ca 1834); the 2 oldest sons are living in another household, and there are 9 children living at home ages 4-21.

My GG Uncle Désiré was born in February 1835, but despite the fact that the implied birth dates in the censuses were a bit off, I could not rule out Philomene’s husband as my GG uncle. That’s because there was no way to know who had provided the information: the wife? one of the children? a neighbor? the census taker himself, taking a guess based on appearance? It was extremely probable that, like many other people in this time frame, this Desire did not keep track of his exact age, although he, like Joseph, probably knew his exact birthdate. I needed more information.

I learned from a fellow Chaussé researcher in an online post on the Chausse message board on rootsweb.com that the Civil-War soldier Desire married twice. Some of the details regarding Désiré’s pedigree are inaccurate: a generation was omitted in the post and the exact date of Désiré’s baptism is wrong, but this researcher has made an exhaustive study of the Chaussé name in Quebec and is pretty reliable in general. I learned from him—and verified by available records—that this Désiré’s first wife was Missouri-born Eliza Hamilton, and I found the couple in the 1860 census in Maple Grove, Hennepin County, Minnesota. Desire is cleverly hiding under the alias of Francis Chausset, a farmer age 25, i.e. born about 1835. (My Désiré was in fact born in February 1835.) With him were his wife Eliza, born in Missouri, and two children, Walter age 2, born in Wisconsin, and William, age 2 months, born in Minnesota.

So how do I know this man is really a Désiré? For one thing, I already knew that Désiré had acquired a middle name beginning with “F”, and “Francis/François” is the most likely name. I also know that all of the information about the other family members and about him matches that of the information given on the message board—and in later records—about him and his family. “Francis” is shown as age 25, therefore born about 1835. My Désiré was born in February 1835. I suspect Désiré added the middle name of Francis himself after he crossed the border and people started making snide jokes about his name. How would you like to be called “Desire” (rhyming with “fire”) and having people laughing at you? In fact, I rather suspect that Désiré enlisted in the Union army in early 1865 primarily to stop people from making fun of him. Defenders of the Union would get respect, no matter what their names were.

If that was his reasoning, he was correct: in the 1870 census, the family is living in Belmont, Lafayette County, Wisconsin. Desire is now called Desire again, and he and Eliza have 5 children plus a servant girl in the household. The names, ages, and birthplaces of the wife and two oldest children match the information in the 1860 census. Desire now states his occupation as “carpenter” rather than farmer.

The information from the fellow Chausse researcher was that Eliza died in 1871 in Harlan, Shelby County, Iowa, and that Desire then married Mercy Blake in Iowa on 22 June 1872. I have no independent confirmation of those exact dates, but the information does fit with the census records.

The 1880 census finds “Desiron Chausse” and wife Mercy living in Harlan, Shelby County, Iowa. There are only 4 children in the household: Walter, born in Wisconsin and now age 21, and 3 young children born in Iowa ages 6, 4, and 1. What happened to the others I do not know. I do know that sometime between the 1880 Federal census and the 1885 Iowa State census, Desire died, since Mercy is listed as a widow in the state census. It seemed to me probable that he had died in Iowa, but a North Dakoa death index shows that one Desire Chausse died in Carrington, Foster County, North Dakota in 1883. It appears that at least one of this Desire’s children was living in that area at the time, so it is not unreasonable to assume he was visiting family when he died there. In the 1885 Iowa State Census, “Mercy Chausse”, widow, is living with her son William and her other children in Harlan County.

After her husband’s death, Mercy married again, to widower Jasper Elery. Someone apparently thought her name of “Mercy” was too hifalutin’, because she usually is called “Mertie” from that point on. Jasper and Mercy had several children, and two of the children from her first marriage were still living in the household in the 1900 census in Cass, Cass County, Iowa. By 1910 Jasper and “Myrtle” are living in Rutland, Lake County, South Dakota, but they soon moved on to Montana.

The couple separated, probably divorced, about 1916, and Mercy moved in with two of her sons before the 1920 census for Montana, which states that she is a widow, although Jasper Elery did not die until 1924. By 1930 she is living with a daughter. “Mercy B. Elery” finally died on 16 July 1953 in Yellowstone County, Montana, age about 99. Why am I discussing the later life of the widow in so much detail? Because “Mertie Elery” in Montana applied for a Civil War pension as the widow of Desire F. Chausse in 1916. This is proof positive that her Desire was the Civil War veteran, but not whether the veteran was the brother of my great-grandfather.

So there I was stuck. The names of the children were not much help: the Desiré who married Philomene gave his children mostly French names; the Désiré who married Eliza and Mercy gave his children good, solid “American” names. That proves nothing whatsoever. Immigrants could (and still do) choose names for their children on either basis. There appeared to be no way to determine positively which Desire Chausse was my great-grandfather’s brother from the records I had found.

So what’s the solution to this kind of situation? More records, of course!

Both of these men were in the right age bracket and born in Canada. Both were in the USA before 1860, and both were farmers according to the census. And even in the 1850s, you couldn’t just start plowing anywhere you felt like it without someone getting very, very annoyed. This meant I should see if there were land records.

An index to Iowa land records at Ancestry.com turned up the purchase of a tract of land in Jefferson, Dubuque County, Iowa by one Desire Chaussee on 8 September 1849. The Desire who married Philomene and eventually lived in the Dakotas was living in that community in 1860. He is not apparently there in the 1850 Census, but there is a family of Canadian-born Chaussees who are likely to be his relatives (but not his parents; the parents are too young).

Further evidence: the 1851 census of Canada (also online at Ancestry.com) shows that as of the census date, both Great-Grandfather Joseph and his brother François-Xavier were still living with their parents in Ste-Élisabeth, while Désiré Chaussé was working at a nearby farm. If he had somehow gotten to Iowa on his own and somehow acquired the money to buy land in Iowa in 1849—when he was only 14 years old—why would he be back in Ste-Élisabeth in 1851?

Problem solved. My GG uncle had to be the Desire who married twice, not the husband of Philomene.

I’d still like to find the origins of the other Désiré, though. He may have been a relative, after all. (There are three lines of Chaussés in Quebec: the Han-dit-Chaussés, the Chaussé-dit-Lemeines, and the plain no-dit-name Chaussés.)

But that will have to be a later quest. I have too many loose ends to tie up here and there, for me to go off on the trail of a man who could be no relative at all. For now, I’m just glad that I’ve documented this chunk of my own extended family history.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Captured By The Iroquois—And Returned

It is generally accepted that a young girl surnamed Baillargeon was abducted by “les Iroquois” about 1661 and later “miraculously” recovered. This girl has stirred up a fair amount of attention on the genealogy message boards over the years. The questions are (1) when exactly did this happen? and (2) who was the girl?

I simply had to investigate this, because 1 of the 3 possible Baillargeon abductees was my 8G grandmother and another was her sister.

First, the story as it has come down to us in the history books:

In 1666 and 1667, the Marquis de Tracy led troops of the Carignan-Salières Regiment into Indian territory in order to suppress the frequent attacks by “les Iroquois”. In the course of one of these operations, he obtained the release of a number of French children who had been more or less assimilated into the life of their captors and who would have in time become wives or warriors of that group. Among these was an older girl who had been in captivity for several years and become so adapted to the Indian way of life and so fond of her adoptive Indian family that she was afraid to leave them and return to Quebec. This girl, recorded as Anne Baillargeon, ran into the woods to escape from the French, but, as she later reported, she encountered a very stern-looking woman who warned that the girl would face severe punishment if she did not return immediately to the French. Anne was so frightened that she obeyed and came back to Quebec with the others.

Upon their return, M. de Tracy paid the tuition for Anne and another rescued girl into the boarding school of the Ursuline convent in Quebec so that they could be re-educated in the Catholic religion and values and in the French way of life. There Anne saw a portrait of the former head of the convent, Mère Marie de Saint-Joseph (who had died in 1652), and immediately exclaimed that that was the woman who had frightened her into returning to the French. Anne then told the story of her vision, saying that the woman wore the same habit as the woman in the portrait. Sounds like a fairy tale, oui?

Actually, there is documentary evidence for the tale. The story of the apparition of the Ursuline nun appears in the 1863 book Les Ursulines de Québec depuis leur établissement jusqu’à nos jours, volume 1, which is online at Canadiana.org; the relevant pages are 250-252. That story was taken from the published correspondence of Mère Marie de L’Incarnation, Mère Marie de Saint-Joseph’s successor; the letter says the event happened in 1667. I do not have access to the surviving records of the Ursuline convent, but several respected historians agree that those records do in fact show that two teen-age French girls were in fact placed with the nuns: “Marie M. Bourgery, agée de quinze ans, et Anne Baillargeon, agée de dix-huit ans”; their fees are being paid by M. Tracy. But the record date is 22 May 1666. Immediately, then, there is a problem.

Tracy’s expedition wherein he forced the Iroquois in what is now New York to return a large group of French captives took place in 1667. He could hardly have placed 2 girls in the convent before they had been rescued! Therefore, he could only have been sponsoring two of the hostages released by the Senecas (one of the nations of the Iroquois) in spring 1666, shortly before the two girls are recorded as being placed in the convent for re-education. Marie de l’Incarnation (or the publisher of her letters) must have gotten the dates mixed up; I think it’s safe to say that the original record of the girls’ entry proves it. People may write down last year instead of this year on a record but they usually don’t write down next year. (Think of the fun we have when we are dating the checks we write every January.)

The history of the Ursulines cited above adds that one of the two girls decided to enter the novitiate but left the convent after a few months; the other girl had already left.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that most people rely on the unquestionably honest and saintly Mère Marie de l’Incarnation’s letter. But honesty and saintliness do not guarantee a perfect memory, and the letter at issue was edited and published several years after her 1672 death by her (pre-Ursuline) son Claude Martin. I don’t know if the original copy of this particular letter has survived, and since I’ve never seen a sample of Marie’s handwriting, I can’t tell how legible it was. I don’t know how reliable Claude was in transcribing the original letter or how much editing he did on the document. I can’t be sure whether the original written date is 1666 or 1667. The letter purportedly says “Anne” was about 9 years old when captured and was in captivity for 9 years. However, I have noticed that in 17th century Quebec handwriting, the numerals 4, 7, and 9 often look very much alike; that’s why most curés wrote the year out in words rather than in numerals when dating their sacramental records. Therefore, we can’t be sure that the ages of the girls as published by Claude are what Mère Marie herself wrote, much less whether Mère Marie’s letter was correct as to ages and dates.

The question for me is, of course, who was the Baillargeon girl captured by the Indians and returned to Quebec in 1666? If the 1863 history transcribes the information accurately, and if the age was not an estimate but verified at the time, and if the age was correctly recorded by the Ursulines in the first place, the girl was born about 1648. That’s a lot of ifs, particularly when you consider the possibility that the girl recorded as “Anne” could actually be “Jeanne”. Sounds crazy, oui?

Mais non! On the Lavalley surname board at Rootsweb, this issue was considered by several people in 2000. (The question was, which was the Baillargeon girl who after being rescued from the Indians married Jean Lavallée (my 7G Grandfather) in 1702. (The correct answer is “none of the above”, because Jean married Jeanne-Catherine Hus, the daughter of one of the 3 suspects.) Among the issues that came up in this discussion was the information (which I later confirmed) that the Île-Orléans was in fact attacked by the Iroquois in 1660-61, a number of people were captured, and that the names of many of the captives are not recorded in any surviving document.

One person involved in the discussion also stated that “Jeanne” and “Anne” were pronounced almost exactly the same in the 1600s, so the names could have been easily confused. This was disputed in a post by Jenny S on the Baillargeon message board in November 2010, but although Jenny correctly points out the overwhelming value of the contemporary record made when the Ursulines received the girls, I disagree with her statement that no one could have mistaken the name “Jeanne” for “Anne” or vice versa.

Why do I disagree? First of all, in the 1600s regional accents were very much more distinct than now and often amounted to mutually-incomprehensible regional dialects. This is true all over Europe, not only in the colony of Quebec. Before radio and talking motion pictures and television homogenized the languages, if you lived anywhere in Europe and moved twenty miles from home, you and your new neighbors might have a lot of difficulty understanding one another.

Moreover, until universal literacy, spelling of a word or name depended on the whim of the person writing it down. In French, when a word beginning with “h” is followed by a vowel, the “h” is generally silent. My immigrant 7G Grandfather François Han-dit-Chaussé is recorded by the curé as “François Janham” in his 1685 marriage record, which François himself signed with the spelling “Jahan”. The surname is also recorded elsewhere as Jean, Han, Ham, An, Am, and other creative spellings. (As his descendant, my Great-Grandfather Joseph Chausse/Chosa put it in the 1850s, “You spell it like it sounds.” Great-Grandfather Joseph’s surname is spelled at least 10 different ways in documents that include his name.)

All of these spellings suggest that “Anne” and “Jeanne” could in fact be confused in the 1600s. Tanguay agrees with me: in the first volume of his Dictionnaire Genealogique, published in 1871, he gives the captive’s name as Jeanne rather than Anne. Note also that even in modern French, the two names rhyme.

Now then: there are records of only two Baillargeon families known to be in Quebec in the right time period to be the parents of the miraculously-returned captive “Anne”. One line stems from my 8G Grandparents Mathurin Baillargeon and Marie Métayer, whose marriage contract was drawn up by notary Ameau on 7 August 1650. The other line stems from Jean Baillargeon and Marguerite Guillebourdeaux, who married at Québec on 20 November 1650. Both men came from the region of Angoumois, Mathurin from Embourie and Jean from Londigny; since the two towns are quite close to one another, and Baillargeon is not a particularly common name, I would not be in the least surprised to learn that Jean and Mathurin were related to each other.

If the Ursulines correctly recorded the ages of the two rescued girls who entered the convent school in May 1666, Marie M. (Madeleine) Bourgery was 15 years old then (therefore born about 1651) and Anne Baillargeon was 18 years old (therefore born about 1648).

However, there appear to be only three candidates for the returned Baillargeon girl, all born after 1648, and none of them age 18 in May 1666:

1. Anne Baillargeon was the daughter of my 8G Granparents Mathurin Baillargeon and Marie Métayer. She was baptized at Trois-Rivières in November 1651. Anne was 15 in May 1666.

2: Jeanne Baillargeon, daughter of Jean Baillargeon and Marguerite Guillebourdeaux, was baptized 7 May 1651 at Québec. Six months older than Anne, she had her 15th birthday in May 1666. By 1660 or so, her parents were living on the Île-Orléans, where a number of French persons were captured in 1661; there is no record of the exact number or of the names of the captives. By March 1666, Jeanne’s mother had died and her father had remarried; Jeanne might have been reluctant to return to her father’s home under those circumstances.

3. Jeanne Baillargeon, my direct ancestor, was Anne’s younger sister, the daughter of Mathurin Baillargeon and Marie Métayer, baptized at Trois-Rivières on 5 Nov 1654; she would have been 11 1/2 when rescued in May 1666—in which case the Ursulines were way off the mark when estimating her age as 18.

At this point in researching this issue, I decided to investigate the actual age of the other girl placed in the convent for re-education to see how accurate the Ursulines were in her case. Her name was Marie-Madeleine Bourgery (daughter of Jean-Baptiste Bourgery and Marie Gendre). She, like the daughters of Mathurin Baillargeon, was born at Trois-Rivières; she was baptized there on 22 July 1652. I think it is quite likely that Madeleine and “Anne” were captured together. In May 1666 Madeleine was 2 months short of her 14th birthday. The Ursulines recorded her age at 15 years, which is fairly close. (After leaving the convent, Madeleine married three times, had a large number of children, and died in 1741 at Pointe-Claire “agée environs 100 ans”.)

Right off the top, I decided that my direct ancestor Jeanne (daughter of Mathurin) could be eliminated. We are so accustomed nowadays to modern teenagers being taken for adults that it may seem reasonable to say that Jeanne looked like an 18-year-old. But the Ursulines were only a year off the mark in pegging Madeleine’s age, and the Ursulines had been running their boarding school for Indian girls long enough to be quite familiar with the behavior and demeanor of their charges. It seems extremely unlikely that they could have mistaken a girl not yet age 12 (whether white or Indian) for an 18-year-old young woman. I concluded that Jeanne was not the captive.

But the other two possibles?

Tanguay identifies the Jeanne Baillargeon who was the daughter of Jean and Marguerite as the girl rescued by Tracy from the Iroquois. However, Tanguay failed to notice that this Jeanne was the Jeanne Baillargeon who married Jean LeBrècque on 28 November 1664 at Chateau-Richer, at the age of 13. I seriously doubt that the Ursulines would have listed a wife, however young, as a “girl”, so she is extremely unlikely to have been the recovered captive placed with the Ursulines in 1666 to be re-educated in the ways of French Catholicism. She wouldn’t have needed re-education, since she would have to have been captured after her marriage and therefore could have been in captivity for only about a year and a half. This Jeanne surely would have asked about her husband and been reclaimed by him immediately upon her return.

This leaves Anne, my 8G aunt, who was 15 when she entered the convent school. So why was she recorded as being 18? Either the good Ursulines were guessing as to the ages of the two girls, or whoever made the original entry record in the convent’s books made her numeral 8s look very much like her 5s, a feat which is by no means difficult. A casual glance through a few Quebec parish registers from this time period will convince you.

It seems to me quite likely that both girls appeared or acted somewhat older than their actual age, possibly due to the living conditions during their captivity, to the grave “adult” demeanor expected of “Iroquois” teenagers, and/or to sheer cultural shock at finding themselves in a now-unfamiliar environment.

Of course, none of this proves whether Mère Marie de Saint-Joseph, 14 years after her death, actually appeared to Anne and frightened her into going home. I’m not saying that Anne (or the Ursulines) made the story up, either; I believe from my own experiences that the human spirit survives after the death of the body and that therefore the story is “possibly” true. I’m only saying that such matters are the province of faith, not genealogy.

This case is a good illustration of my Third Genealogical Mantra: Always step back and test your conclusions for reasonableness before deciding whether you have proved your case.

In the case of Anne Baillargeon, I’ve shown that the only reasonable choice for the girl rescued after several years of “Iroquois” captivity is the older daughter of Mathurin Baillargeon and Marie Métayer. I once assumed so; now I’m convinced.

If your family tree shows a woman having children at the age of 6 (or 66), or a man getting married who died as an infant or whose “prior” spouse is still having children with him in a nearby parish, you’ve made a wrong connection somewhere. In Quebec genealogy, this can happen easily because, at any given point in Quebec’s history up to about 1850, the naming customs produced numerous people in the same extended family who had the same name and often were about the same age and living in the same area.

If you don’t look at the “big picture” regularly to make sure that everything makes sense, you’re bound to have mistakes in your research and false ancestors inscribed on your pedigree chart . . . and some of your actual ancestors just might become annoyed with you if you overlook them. If they do, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Friday, March 4, 2011

“Tués Par Les Iroquois”, Part 2

In my last post I discussed the dangers my Quebec ancestors faced from the Iroquois confederacy and, in particular, the life of my Huron ancestors Nicolas/Arendanki, Jeanne/Otrih8handet and their daughter Catherine/Anenantha, who is my direct ancestor along two separate family lines.

But these were by no means my only 17th-century ancestors whose lives were cut short by the Iroquois, and I’d like to share their stories with you.

My 9G Grandfather Pierre Gareman immigrated from France about 1639 along with his wife Madeleine Charlot and their first two children, Florence (my 8G grandmother) and Nicole. Pierre was engaged to work at Portneuf, but the Iroquois threat there drove them to take refuge at the Jesuit mission at Sillery, where daughter Marguerite was born and baptized in 1639. By 1643, the family was at Trois-Rivières, where son Charles was born and baptized. After another futile attempt to develop their employer’s seigneury at Portneuf, the family settled at Cap Rouge (now part of Quebec city).

On 10 June 1653 the Iroquois attacked, killing a neighbor and capturing Pierre and his 10-year-old son Charles. Pierre was killed, doubtless in a most unpleasant fashion, and his remains were found the following year at Trois-Rivières and given Christian burial on 25 July. But Charles?

For more than twenty years it was assumed that 10-year-old Charles had been likewise killed, but in June 1677 he showed up, very much alive, in Quebec, with an Oneida wife and an infant daughter, who was duly baptized and then turned over to the Ursuline convent to be raised. Charles and his wife then disappeared back into the wilderness and there is no record of them ever having been seen again by any white person; the daughter died in 1683.

One of my 8G Grandfathers, Louis Guimont, was rather famous in his all-too-brief lifetime. Born in France about 1625, he married Jeanne Bitouset, a “Fille à Marrier” (a young woman brought from France to become a wife of a settler before the formal “Filles du Roi” program began in 1663). Louis and Jeanne settled at Beaupré, near Quebec city, and in 1658, despite a very painful back (a problem with which I can sincerely sympathize), he braced himself to place 3 heavy stones into the foundation of the new church at Beaupré and “suddenly found himself healed.” This was the first miracle attributed to Ste-Anne at Beaupré, which became (and still is) a major site of pilgrimage, particularly for the sick. Louis himself undoubtedly believed his healing was a miracle, and he was notable for his religious devotion during the brief remainder of his life.

Louis was one of the hapless habitants of Beaupré captured by the Iroquois on 18 June, 1661. His constant praying during the ordeal completely enraged his captors. According to fellow captive Joseph Hébert, who managed to smuggle some letters written on bark back to family in Quebec: “He was beaten with sticks and iron rods. They beat him so much that he died from the blows, but nonetheless, he did not stop praying to God, so incessantly that the Iroquois, enraged to see his lips moving in prayer, cut off both his upper and lower lips. Was that a horrible sight to see! And nonetheless he did not stop praying, which so angered the Iroquois that they tore his heart from his chest while he was still alive and threw it in his face.” Two of Louis’s children, Joseph and Louise, are my direct ancestors, along different lines.

The infamous Massacre of Lachine, on the stormy night of 4 to 5 August 1689, was the beginning of several days of horror on the Île-Montréal. A huge Iroquois war party (estimated at 1,500 warriors) attacked the village, slaughtering or burning alive many of its inhabitants and capturing many others. Soon the entire Île-Montréal was overrun by the Iroquois, and two of my 8G grandparents, Pierre Dagenais dit Lepine and his wife Anne Brandon, habitants at Rivière-des-Prairies, were among the victims. Pierre was killed on 9 August; the curé found his body and gave it a hasty burial on the spot. Given the circumstances, it is understandable that the curé forgot to record the burial in the register, but he did later insert a loose page in the register recording this act. The loose page eventually fell out and for many years the fate of Pierre was unknown. However, the lost loose page turned up later in the judiciary archives of Joliette, so we now know what happened to him and when. There is a public park name Parc Pierre-Dagenais-Dit-Lepine in present-day Montreal.

As for Pierre’s wife Anne Brandon, her precise fate is unknown, but she disappeared the same night her husband was killed and was never seen again. She may have been captured; she may have been killed but her body was never found—or at least, never identified. (Many victims, including women and children, were burned alive and therefore were unidentifiable.) Since her exact fate was not known, her children’s subsequent marriage records do not state that she is dead. In fact, it is possible that she was taken alive back to Iroquois country and survived for many years.

The details of my 7G Grandfather Pierre Forcier’s death have not survived. He and a neighbor, Jacques Vacher, were killed by the Iroquois in the area of their parish, St-François-du-Lac, on 18 May 1690, according to the record of their burial the following day. The Iroquois were making frequent raids in Quebec in this time frame, and the curé who buried the two bodies was doubtless fully occupied with worrying about when the next attack would happen and trying to comfort the terrified members of his congregation; it’s understandable, if frustrating for Pierre’s descendants, that he didn’t record more than the barest detail in recording the deaths of these two men. On the other hand, perhaps it’s better that we don’t know more details . . .

Less than 2 months later, also at St-François-du-Lac, my 8G Grandparents Paul Hus and Jeanne Baillargeon had to bury their 6-year-old son Paul, killed by an Iroquois war party. (The couple gave the same name to a son born in 1702.)

Another 8G grandfather, Jean LaVallée dit Petit, a member of the local militia, was killed by the Iroquois on 12 Jun 1692 near Montréal and buried the same day. No further details are recorded.

My 8G Grandparents Jean Deniau or Deneau and Hélène Daudin were both “tués par les Iroquois” on 12 August 1695 at Boucherville. Again, no details about their deaths were recorded. Their son-in-law, my 7G Grandfather Alexandre Lacoste dit Languedoc, was a witness to their burial later that same day. I do hope his wife Marguerite, my 7G Grandmother, did not have to see the (doubtless mutilated) corpses of her parents.

The Iroquois were not making these attacks on the settlers in Quebec out of sheer cussedness: they had a definite goal. They and their English and Dutch allies in this era shared a desire to monopolize the fur trade: the Iroquois wanted to force all other Indian groups to sell their furs through the Iroquois rather than deal directly with any white traders; the white traders were happy to have the Iroquois deliver the furs instead of having to go out themselves and deal with the people who had trapped the animals and cured the pelts. The Iroquois preferred to deal with the Dutch and English because they supplied them with guns (the French, as a general rule, did not give guns to Indians in this era) and naturally didn’t want to see their rivals equally well-armed. Given the constant hostility among the French, the English, and the Dutch, the Iroquois realized that the French could very well begin supplying guns to their native allies; therefore they wanted to cut off the direct lines of trade between other tribes and the French settlers of Quebec.

In addition, during the last 4 decades of the 1600s, the reason the French endured so many Iroquois attacks was that the Iroquois were desperate to drive out the French from the mid-1660s on—or at least eliminate the French as players in the fur trade. Why? Because the coveted beaver and other animals with valuable furs were growing very scarce in Iroquois territory, and the Iroquois were unable to gain direct access to the vast resources of the Lake Superior region, due to a catastrophic setback they’d suffered in 1662, when they had tried to seize control of that area. Since the tale was passed down orally, there are numerous versions of it with somewhat differing details. Here’s my own synopsis of that event:

1662: Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior, not far from Sault Ste Marie. A large war party of Iroquois (how large depends on who is telling the story—at least about 100 warriors, perhaps 200, some estimates as high as 500) was encamped there. One version says that their presence was reported by the sole survivor of an Ojibwe encampment which had been attacked and otherwise annihilated by that war party. The survivor is said to have spread the news of the common and imminent menace to other bands, and the Ojibwe, the Odawa (Ottawa), and their allies in the area resolved to stop the invasion before it went further. Other versions merely say that the Iroquois were “discovered”.

In any case, a war party was quickly gathered to repel the invaders, since no one doubted that the Iroquois had hostile intentions. The Ojibwe and their allies took advantage of a fortuitous rainy night to creep undetected right up to the edges of the Iroquois encampment. They attacked at dawn. The Iroquois were either completely annihilated or, as one version of the story has it, one humiliated Iroquois was deliberately allowed to live and return home, so that the rest of the Iroquois could know of the disaster and of the firm intention and ability of the inhabitants of the Lake Superior area to repel any further attempts at incursion. Certainly the Iroquois made no more attempts to get a foothold at Lake Superior. The place of the massacre became known as Nadowegoning, “place of Iroquois bones,” because for at least a century later, the bleached and decaying remains of the Iroquois were all over the place. It is now known as Iroquois Point.

The ancestors I’ve discussed who suffered and died at the hands of the Iroquois are not the only family members of mine who were victims. There is, for example, the remarkable case of Anne Baillargeon . . . But that’s another story.

“Tués Par Les Iroquois”, Part 1

If you look through the parish registers of Quebec through the 1600s and early 1700s you will notice a fair number of burial entries with the notation “Tué par les Iroquois”: “killed by the Iroquois”. Several of these unfortunate persons were ancestors of mine, or were relatives and/or neighbors of my ancestors.

The early settlers of Quebec had to endure a great many attacks by “les Iroquois” during the first century of the colony’s existence, and their worst fears were not of being killed outright but of being captured and tortured to death (a process which could last several days). No one was safe, although people living in fortified towns had a little more sense of security than the habitants on their farms. Fear of “les Iroquois” was a serious deterrent to immigration and drove many immigrants back to France. In 1665, after years of pleading from the colonists, the king of France dispatched the Carignan-Salières regiment of trained soldiers to make his colony of New France safe for the colonists, rather than lose his colony and leave the New World to the English and other European rivals. This resulted in a truce of sorts, which did not last, and French colonists were still being attacked by “les Iroquois” until well into the 1700s.

When the French colony was founded, Indians were considered by the colonists as being in one of two groups: “Huron” aka friendly Indians, and “Iroquois”, a.k.a. decidedly unfriendly Indians. It took the white inhabitants of Quebec rather a long time to notice that the Indians who were willing to live peacefully with white settlers in their midst belonged to numerous distinct groups, and even longer to notice that the Iroquois were not a single tribe but a confederacy of linguistically-related nations, consisting of what we now call the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and, after 1722, Tuscarora. The word “Iroquois” (like many appellations for Indian tribes) comes from their long-standing enemies, in this case, the Hurons, and is not an honorific. It means “poisonous snakes”. (The name “Sioux” is derived from an Anishinaabe word with the same meaning. In fact, the “official” names of many modern Native American tribes are the names pinned on them by their enemies.)

To simplify the discussion, I’m going to use the term “Iroquois” the way the early French settlers of Quebec did, with the understanding that their primary opponents were the Mohawks. Just to make things complicated, the Huron language is an Iroquoian language, and the Hurons were, like their cousins the Iroquois, a confederacy of nations, and were the same people known to the English and Dutch settlers as Wyandot or Wendot. Also in the mix were the various speakers of Algonquin languages, including the Anishinaabe.

Confused? You can learn more about the Hurons/Wyendots online here and about the Iroquois here.

All these indigenous groups had been rivals for centuries before the first Europeans arrived, jostling for control of valuable resources and enhanced status. The arrival of European settlers intensified the rivalry, because the newcomers immediately claimed ownership of the entire continent by right of what they believed to be innate natural superiority, and began pushing the “savages” off their own lands and literally stealing the resources of the natives’ livelihoods. In addition, the indigenous peoples of the Americas quickly admired and wanted to possess new European products, specifically, wool and cotton cloth, metal tools and utensils, beads and other ornaments, guns and gunpowder, and, unfortunately, alcohol. The result was the potential for thriving trade and profit, and the very human wish on all sides to control or (better), monopolize the market. It would have been astonishing if there had been no conflicts.

It’s important to note that the Indians were not the only perpetrators of atrocities in those days; European settlers did their share too, casually calling it self-defense against savages. Atrocities occur in every war in recorded history, including the present; there is no such thing as a victimless war. Here in the New World, in the conflicts among various Native American groups, among the Europeans from different countries, and among Native Americans and Europeans, there were victims on all sides, including those not directly participating in the conflicts. In short, they were all human.

Although I have a number of people recorded as victims of the Iroquois in my ancestry, I hold no personal grudge against the modern Iroquois. In fact, I want to make it clear that I am discussing this matter simply because it was an important issue in the lives of my ancestors. I firmly believe and want to stress that NO ONE LIVING IS TO BLAME FOR ANYTHING HIS OR HER ANCESTORS DID. We are only responsible for our own actions—and that’s plenty for most of us.

Turks who were too young to be involved or who were not yet born are not responsible for the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide during World War I, and the same goes for Germans and the Holocaust of World War II. Living descendants of white slaveholders in the US are not to blame for the horrors endured by black slaves before Emancipation. Modern Iroquois are not to blame for the suffering endured by their captives centuries ago, nor are the living Sioux and Chippewa responsible for what their ancestors inflicted on each other during their many conflicts. And descendants of the settlers of Quebec or any other part of the Americas need not feel guilt over what their ancestors did to the indigenous populations.

However, we who are living now all have the obligation to notice and change present-day oppression and suffering caused by past events and attitudes. That’s our burden as human beings: we must learn from past mistakes and do our best to undo the damage of past (and present) generations as much as possible—and, perhaps most important, we must refrain from creating new generations of victims.

The earliest recorded victims of “les Iroquois” in my own Quebec ancestry were a Huron chief, Arendanki, and his wife, Otrih8andet. Jesuit missionaries had established Mission Ste-Marie at their town at what the French called La Conception, in present-day Ontario, and many in the town, including this couple, had converted to Christianity, taking the names of Nicolas and Jeanne, respectively, at baptism. The couple had an infant daughter, Anenantha, who was duly baptized with the name of Catherine.

On 17 March 1649, having decided to “put an end to the Huron problem” once and for all, the Iroquois attacked the settlement. Nicolas/Arendanki, with the other warriors, held out as long as possible, but they were vastly outnumbered and had little or no chance. I hope Arendanki was killed outright in battle rather than tortured to death, but no one now knows. Many of the young women and children of the town would have been taken captive by the Iroquois and forcibly adopted into that group, a normal practice among Native Americans to replace warriors and family members who had died and to expand their numbers and influence. The rest—including captured white missionaries—were killed, horribly.

But on that terrible day, some women and children escaped the slaughter, and these fled with a surviving French priest to the territory of the Petuns, part of the Huron confederacy. Among those who escaped was Jeanne/Otrih8andet and her infant daughter, Catherine/Anenantha. In June 1650, some 300 of the Christian survivors set out from Petun territory for the Île-Orléans, a bit north of the town of Quebec—a difficult and dangerous month-long journey, and many did not survive it.

But Jeanne and her little daughter Catherine were among those who made it to the Île-Orléans. In 1654 ,Jeanne died, worn out by grief and physical hardship and very likely by one of the diseases for which Native Americans had no immunity. Little Catherine was placed in the Ursuline convent in the town of Quebec, to be educated and, eventually, to become a suitable wife for a male French immigrant.

On 26 September 1662, when she was about 13 years old, Catherine married Jean Durand dit La Fortune, an immigrant from France. The couple settled down to farm at St-Jean on the Île-Orleans, and in due course had 3 children: Marie-Catherine, born in 1666, Ignace born in 1668, and Louis, born in 1670. Marie-Catherine and Louis are both my direct ancestors, along different lines; Ignace married Marie-Catherine Miville, a granddaughter of another direct ancestral couple.

In 1671, Jean died, only about 35 years old, presumably of natural causes. (There is no record of his burial; we only know that he died because Catherine “veuve de Jean Durand” married Jacques Couturier in 1672. Jacques and Catherine had 6 children; after Jacques’ death, she married a third time, to Jean De Lafond in 1697, but (being almost 50 years old at the time) she had no children by him. She died on New Year’s Eve, 1708.

If you poke around the internet for information about her, you will find a great deal of sentimental outpourings about Catherine’s feelings, most of it coming from that fine genealogical source, imagination. Some people persist in calling Catherine a “princess”, unaware of the fact that her father was the chief of his town, not a monarch in the European sense. Do we call the mayor’s daughter a princess? Of course not.

But there is some solid information to be found on the net: I recently discovered that Catherine was not required to abandon completely the culture of her people (as my mother and her siblings were when they were literally dragged into the American Indian boarding school system), because “First Nations girls who attended the Ursuline convent were not subjected to the systematic efforts to eradicate culture and language that became the hallmark of residential schools 200 years later.” (Restoring the balance: First Nations women, community, and culture, edited by Gail Guthrie Valaskakis, Madeleine Dion Stout, and Eric Guimond (University of Manitoba Press: 2009), p. 291).

I believe it is reasonable to state as a fact that Catherine did not feel oppressed in any way by the Ursulines, because she (not her husband) voluntarily brought her first daughter, Marie-Catherine Durand, to be educated in the same convent. The Ursulines “recorded that Marie had been raised according to the customs of her mother’s nation, was dressed in the Huron style, and spoke the language. Madame Durand had remained sufficiently Huron to raise her children in the traditions of her people and also supplemented her family’s income with snowshoes and moccasins. One can speculate that the Ursulines incorporated traditional skills into their curricula or simply didn’t interfere when older girls and women engaged in cultural pursuits, as evidenced in their tolerance of dancing ‘à la mode de leur pays.’” (idem.)

Even so, Catherine must have been a person of remarkable strength of character even at age 5, when she was first placed into the convent boarding school. Her early experiences had not broken her. She learned French, became literate enough to sign a marriage contract, retained her parents’ devotion to Catholicism, and spent her adult life among white French settler, but as a young mother, she was clearly determined to retain her cultural and linguistic heritage and pass it on to her children.

Like all her descendants who know anything about her, I honor her and am glad that she appears to have had a reasonably good life after the horrors of her early years (despite the deaths of her first two husbands). But I especially honor her parents, whose lives were so brutally cut short, and I grieve for them.

Joseph Dufaut’s Parents, Part 2: The Smoking Gun

In my last post I discussed the information I had found about my 3G Grandfather Joseph Dufaut and how I had learned that he was born at Lac du Flambeau about 1790; that he was almost certainly the brother of François Dufault who lived at Sault Ste Marie; that his parents were probably a voyageur named Louis Dufaut and an Anishinaabe woman from Lac du Flambeau who took the name of Marie Louise in baptism; and that Louis had taken his Anishinaabe wife to Quebec, most likely in or near Montréal for a proper Catholic marriage, stayed there for several years, then returned to the Great Lakes area and eventually settled at Sault Ste Marie with his family, where he had died in 1817.
Assuming that I was correct in my deductions, I knew there was (or had been) a marriage record somewhere in Quebec for the couple. But back when I was on this trail, neither the Drouin Collection of Quebec parish records nor the PRDH was yet online, and the locally available marriage indexes, including Tanguay, didn’t show marriages after the end of the French regime in Quebec (1763 or so).
However, there is another primary source for men involved in the fur trade: notary records. A Quebec notary is something between an American notary public and an English solicitor: a notary draws up contracts (including marriage contracts), wills, guardianship papers, IOUs, records of debts paid, sales contracts, transfers of property, and records legal statements. He does not, however, represent a client in court.
As in France, a Quebec notary was required to keep a copy of all his legal documents and to keep an inventory of where each document was to be found (generally a box number and document number: filing cabinets did not exist yet). Many of these records have survived, and Ancestry.com now has many of the notary inventories available online. To examine the actual records, though, you still have to order the microfilm or visit the repository which has this notary’s records. (If you don’t subscribe to Ancestry’s “World Deluxe” version, your local Family History Center may have it. You can also order the inventory microfilms as well as the actual records there.)
Yale University has a detailed list of 120 Voyageur contracts in its posession, drawn up between 1801 and 1821, with a full description of their terms; the list is online. Until very recently, the website for the Centre du patrimoine of Manitoba had a searchable online index (in French) for some 35,000 notary fur-trade contracts in its possession. Alas, the database still exists, but apparently is not available online except to registered academics, so as of now you have to fall back on the inventories for the individual notaries. If you wish to try registering, you can go to the English version of the site map. UPDATE 12 JULY 2011: the searchable database is now online again and anyone can use it without registering. If you’re looking for a particular surname, put that in the “Nom” box. If you don’t find your voyageur, try all conceivable spelling variations. At the very least, you can learn where other voyagers with that surname came from; they may be your ancestor’s  close relatives. Note that this is not a master index of all fur-trade contracts.
Note that if you find a likely candidate in a notary’s index (online at Ancestry or on microfilm), you still have to order the microfilm for the contract itself, because the index won’t give you enough information to make a positive identification, and the actual contract may have vital details that are not in the index, as you will see later on in this post.
Fortunately for me, early in my genealogical research an online acquaintance provided me with information about notary fur-trade contracts for several Dufauts. Among those were the engagements for three Louis Dufauts. The earliest one dated from 1736, the next from 1784, and the third from 1802. The one who signed on in 1784 had been engaged by John Gregory before notary Antoine Foucher and was being sent to Michilimakinac. Given Quebec naming customs, it occurred to me that the Louis in the 1784 contract might be the son of the 1736 Louis and the father of the 1802 Louis.) This same acquaintance also gave me information about fur-trade engagements for other voyageur ancestors. To see the actual contracts, I would have to order a lot of microfilms.
As it happened, at this point in my research I also needed to consult quite a few other microfilms, as well as non-circulating materials (including many relating to either my Danish ancestry or the ancestry of my husband), all housed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. So, I went to Salt Lake City for a few days, and there I hit serious pay dirt on all fronts. I was able to obtain copies of several family fur-trade contracts including the 1736 and 1784 Louis Dufauts. I also obtained copies of various extremely helpful reference materials, and on the last day I discovered and consulted another marriage index which was not otherwise accessible: that of Pontbriand. And on my last day, shortly before closing, I found Pontbriand’s entry for the marriage record of “Dufault, Louis (son of Louis and M-Louise Lussier) and Mentofaki, M.-Lse (Sauteux) on 15-2-1778 at St-Mathias, Rouville, Quebec”.
At this point, I had to go home. The first day my local Family History Center was open, I ordered the microfilm for the parish of St-Mathias. I also ordered the film for nearby Longueuil’s parish records covering the 18th century, because I had looked up in Tanguay the marriages of Dufauts and observed that during the 1700s many of them had married and had their children in that parish, including the Louis who had married M-Louise Lussier. I wanted to find out where Louis (the father) was living at the time and who the parents of this couple were and—I hoped—find the baptism records of their children and other records for the extended family.
When the films came in, I looked first at the St-Mathias registers and discovered that Pontbriand had not been entirely accurate: The groom’s surname was spelled “Dufaux” in the register, not “Dufault”. Pontbriand had misread the “surname” of the bride, which was actually “Mentosaky”, not “Mentofaky”. (To be fair, the lower case “s” in that era often looks much like the lower case “f”.) Her parents’ names were given in the marriage record, but contrary to the normal practice of Quebec marriage indexes, Pontbriand did not list them in his index. (The bride’s father’s name was recorded as Mentosaky, her mother’s name as Pemynany, and all were “de nation sauteuse”.)
The marriage record, as I expected, listed the names of some of the attendees at the marriage ceremony, including the groom’s uncle Joseph Dufaux, several of Louis’s sisters and brothers-in-law, and “many others” who were not named, none of whom had been able to sign their names to the register. In other words, this was a marriage which clearly met with considerable approval of Louis’s extended family. However, apparently Louis’s father did not attend, and his mother was stated to be deceased. Finally, the record states that the marriage legitimized the couple’s three children, Marie age about 5 years, Marie-Louise age about 3 years, and Louis-Noël age 2 years.
Naturally I started looking farther back in the register for the baptisms of the three children and their mother. I soon found 3 of them: a week before the wedding, on 8 February 1779, Marie-Louise age about 3 years “de Parents inconnus” was baptized at St-Mathias, as was “Marie-Louise Sauvagesse de nation Sauteuse”, age about 24 years. I also found I found the 2 February 1779 baptism of “Noël-Louis” age about 15 months “de Parents inconnus”. (“Parents inconnus” is charitable shorthand for “born outside of wedlock” or “illegitimate”.) I did not, however, find the baptism of Marie, the eldest daughter.
So now I turned to the Longueuil registers, where the Dufauts (variously spelled, of course) had lived for two previous generations. And there I came upon one of those “out of the blue” phenomena that explains a lot of missing records.
About October of 1778, the priest at Longueuil (who had truly atrocious handwriting, by the way) had been transferred, and his temporary replacement either failed to keep any sacramental records whatsoever or else took them with him when he left. The permanent replacement arrived a couple of months later. I believe that it was during that record gap that Louis and his little family arrived home and his eldest daughter was baptized.
The question that now arose was, why didn’t the couple marry at Longueuil? By February 1779 there was a new curé on duty who was keeping proper records. And why didn’t old Louis père come to his only son’s wedding? Did he disapprove of Louis’s marriage? Was he ill or disabled?
This riddle I didn’t solve until very recently—and I can’t prove it (illiterate people don’t keep diaries to explain things to their posterity). But here goes: I found that Louis’s mother died in January 1776—in Montréal (a short boat crossing of the St. Lawrence River from Longueuil). Her burial record specifies that she was buried in the cemetery for the poor. What appears to be a cause of death is lined out and illegible.
Her grieving widower would not have been able to send the sad news to his only son until the following spring, via one of the fur trade boats headed to Michilimackinac and the Great Lakes, and it might not have been delivered for a long time if he were at a remote post (such as Lac du Flambeau). Even then, the son would not have been able to return home until he had finished out his contract. He may also have had difficulty obtaining passage on one of the boats heading back to Montréal for himself plus his wife and three children. (“Montreal boats” were generally fully packed with trade goods in the spring and with furs in the fall, with little or no room for non-working passengers who were not higher-ups in the boat’s fur-trade company.) In other words, it probably was not until October or November 1778—almost two years after his mother’s death—that Louis and his little family arrived at Montréal.
The plain fact is that Louis fils, the sole surviving son of his parents, wasn’t around when his parents needed him, and hadn’t been there to comfort his dying mother. The fact that Louis père couldn’t pay for a place for his wife in the regular parish cemetery suggests that he had run into financial difficulties. He may also have been in poor health himself (he died in November 1783 in Longueuil, age 67). The father may have bitterly resented the fact that his son had stayed out in le pays d’en haut instead of coming home as soon as his first contract was up, bringing his earnings and labor to support and assist his aging parents with the farm at Longueuil. (Voyageur contracts usually were for no longer than 3 years, and since Louis arrived home with a five-year-old daughter, he had clearly been gone from home for at least six years.)
It is also possible that Louis père *may* also have been less than pleased to be confronted with a “savage” daughter-in-law and half-breed grandchildren, but it is equally possible that he may have had no problem with the ethnicity of his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Why? Well, the Louis who had been a voyageur in 1736 was from Longueuil (according to the contract), and Louis père, age 20 in 1736, was the only Louis Dufaut from Longueuil who was an adult but not too old to be a voyageur at that time.
Whatever the relationship with his widowed father, Louis fils was clearly welcomed back by his uncle Joseph Dufaut and his sisters; apparently most of them were now living in or near St-Mathias (the parish is now called St-Hilaire), which is about 20 miles from Longueuil. One of his sisters was a godparent to her about-to-be sister-in-law; a brother-in-law was godparent to little Louis-Noël and to a daughter, Marie-Catherine, born 2 months after the marriage ceremony.
Louis apparently left St-Mathias after the March 1779 birth of Marie-Catherine, because their next child, Jean-Baptiste, was born and baptized at Chambly in January 1781, and the baptism record says they were living there. There’s solid genealogical gold in Jean-Baptiste’s baptism record: his mother is recorded as Marie-Louise Kinogenini instead of as Marie-Louise Mentosaky or Marie-Louise de la nation sauteuse. Kinogenini is either her personal Anishinaabe name or an alternate name of her father (many Anishinaabe have 2 or more Anishinaabe names).
Chambly is less than 5 miles from Longueuil, so the move to Chambly would have made it much easier for Louis to see his father quite frequently and assist with the farm labor—assuming that Louis père was still living there and still had his farm. In February 1783 the couple had another daughter, Marie-Geneviève, also born at Chambly. Nine months later, in November of 1783, Louis père died, not at Longueuil but at St-Mathias (where several of his daughters and sons-in-law were living), so it is not clear why Louis fils was living at Chambly or how he was supporting his family there. In any case, it must have taken some time to settle the old man’s affair even if he no longer had a farm at Longueuil, by which time winter had set in. It is, however, very clear that once his father died, Louis was not content with permanently setting up as a farmer at Longueuil or St-Matthias or Chambly, and I rather think his wife was homesick.
On 6 May 1784, before Notary Antoine Foucher, Louis signed a contract with John Gregory to go to Michilimakinac. Louis is stated to be living at Chambly and he agrees to winter at his post (instead of making a return trip the same year); his wages will be 700 livres. Added to the pre-printed fill-in-the-blanks contract is the handwritten clause that he will serve as interpreter when needed. As an experienced voyageur and interpreter, his wages are accordingly rather high—700 livres.
In contrast, that same year another 4G grandfather of mine, Vincent Roy, also signed on (with another company) to winter at Michilimackinac or wherever the company would need him; his wages are only 400 livres. This was the 20-year-old Vincent’s first engagement. In 1852, Vincent’s granddaughter Josette would marry Louis’s grandson Michel Dufaut at La Pointe.
Incidentally, John Gregory and his associate Alexander McKenzie both personally signed Louis’s contract; 3 years later his company, Gregory, McLeod and Co., became part of the North West Company. Old John Johnston was therefore not off the mark when he said in his letter to Judge Stere that Louis worked for the North West Company.
There appears to be no surviving documentation as to how Louis was able to bring his wife and six children (ages ranging from 1 to 10 years) back to le pays d’en haut with him, but obviously he did it. Apparently little Geneviève did not survive, for the couple’s next child, born about April 1785, was given the same name at her baptism in July 1786 at St-Ignace. A year later, a son was born and given the name Pierre at his baptism in July 1787. This boy also died; there is no record of a burial, but there’s a cross in the margin of the Mackinac Register to indicate the death, and the next son was given the name of Pierre.
How do I know this? There is no record of his baptism, but Pierre 2, like most of the older children, returned to the bosom of the extended family in St-Mathias, and on 17 January 1810, he died “sur la Rivière chaviri (capsized on the river: in other words, he drowned). Since Pierre died unmarried, the burial record (a full week after his death) gives the names of his parents: Louis and Marie-Louise Brunel. Pierre at death was “agé de vingt ans et vingt jours”. This means that the curé had an exact date of birth with which to calculate Pierre’s age, which must have been on or about 29 December 1789, depending on your math and whether you know that 1800 was not a leap year. Somewhere in between, the couple had another daughter, Elisabeth (also called Isabelle), born about 1788 according to her January 1804 marriage record at Chambly.
I rather think that Pierre 2 and my 3G Grandfather Joseph were twins; Indian women, unlike the women of French Quebec, nursed their infants long enough to insure that they didn’t give birth every year. Marie-Louise certainly spaced her children about 2 years apart. Note that Joseph, if he was Pierre’s twin, was born only a couple of days before 1790, and that he always said he was born in 1790. Perhaps the twins were born on New Year’s Day??
I point out that Perrault’s narrative places “Defund Dufault” at Lac du Flambeau (where Marie Louise came from) at the right time for Pierre and Joseph to have been born there. Not long after that, Louis and Marie-Louise settled, as the Johnston letter says, at Sault Ste Marie, and had 3 other known children: Elisabeth/Isabelle born about 1788, François (Francis), and Angelique. Old John Johnston knew only Louis (aka Louis-Noël), Joseph, Francis, Genevieve 2, and Angelique.
The other surviving children of Louis and Marie-Louise “de la nation sauteuse” lived out their adult lives in Quebec. By 1796, at least one of the oldest sisters (and probably all three) had returned to the general area where their relatives lived. Oldest daughter Marie-Louise married Paul Pigeon at L’Assomption on 14 June of that year and had 2 children there before her death in 1801. On 14 January 1799 Marie married Antoine Truteau at St-Mathias. In August 1799 Marie-Catherine married André Poudret-dit-Lavigne at Chambly. Jean-Baptiste, Pierre and Isabelle likely returned to Quebec about 1801, probably escorted by big brother Louis-Noël; Jean-Baptiste married Marguerite Truteau (sister of Marie’s husband Antoine) at St-Mathias on 9 January 1804, 2 days before his 25th birthday. On 12 November 1804, Isabelle/Elisabeth married Louis Charon-dit-Cabana at Chambly. Pierre 2, as discussed above, died in January 1810.
In 1802, a Louis Dufaut of Chambly signed on with McTavish, Frobisher & Co., destination “Dans le Nord-Ouest”. McTavish, Frobisher & Co. was a major player in the North West Company. I believe this Louis is Louis-Noël, now about age 23, and that he had come to Chambly to deliver 3 of his younger siblings to the family in Quebec. Once that task was done, Louis-Noël aka “Louison” returned to his life in the fur trade and never went back. He appears on Abbott’s List in 1805, on other lists of Great Lakes area fur traders, and eventually shows up in the La Pointe registers as Louis Dufaut “senior”, with an Anishnaabe wife and numerous children, including a Louis junior (of course), a Joseph, a Jean-Baptiste, a François, and an Isabel—named for his siblings, in accordance with Quebec custom.
I should note that in all of the Quebec marriages, the mother of the Dufaut being married is called Louise Brunel (several spellings). Does this mean I’ve picked the wrong children? Certainly not. Brunel/Brunell is, I admit, a perfectly good French surname or dit name which refers to dark or brown coloration. I believe the children involved decided to tell the curé that their mother was “Brunel” not because they were ashamed of her (and their own) ethnicity but because they didn’t want to have the priest record her as “sauvagesse” (as most priests would if given the chance).
Where’s the proof of the connection? Right there in the Quebec marriage records for Louis and Marie-Louise’s children. The marriage records for Marie, Jean-Baptiste, and Isabelle don’t say where the parents are living, only where the child is living. Marie-Catherine’s marriage record (1799) says, vaguely, that her parents are at “Detroit dans le pays d’en haut”. (The mission at Mackinac was an arm of Ste-Anne de Detroit, and therefore so was its sub-mission at St-Ignace.) But Marie-Louise’s 1796 marriage record states plainly that her parents are living at Michilimackinac at the Sault post.
This is what is called a smoking gun.
This firmly and incontrovertibly links the parents of Marie-Louise and her siblings to the Louis Dufaut family which settled at Sault Ste Marie (where Louis died in 1817) and who are described in the Johnston letter as having married “in Montreal” “a few years before 1790”, stayed there “several years” before returning and settling at the Sault as described in the John Johnston letter. Johnston specifically stated that the mother was from Lac du Flambeau and knew the sons named Louison, Joseph, and Francis. Under the circumstances, it’s also hard to deny that their father “in the employ of the N.W.F. Co.” was the “defund Dufaut” who encountered Perrault while stationed at Lac du Flambeau in 1790.
Francis testified (and Joseph agreed) in 1823 that their father had a farm at Sault Ste Marie and that Joseph, unlike Francis, did not live at the Sault full-time by then. We have notary Samuel Abbott at Mackinac listing Joseph Default as signing on with the Mackinac Co. in 1808 and Kelton’s list of American Fur Company employees showing Joseph Dufaut signing on with the AFC at Sault Ste Marie (“St. Mary’s”) in 1819 and 1822. By 1830 my 3G Grandfather Joseph was a boss carpenter at La Pointe (a town dominated by the American Fur Company) and fathering a son named Michel born to Julie Cadotte, whom he married as soon as a minister was available. The only other Dufaut who shows up in the post-1800 fur trade in the Lake Superior region and at La Pointe is Louis, brother of Francis and Joseph. (There is no baptism record at La Pointe for Louis, because he had been baptized at St-Mathias.) And Louis, Francis, and Joseph are the names of the 3 sons of “Louison Default” and his Indian wife from Lac du Flambeau, where Joseph always said he was born.
The conclusion is, really, inescapable, even though there is no contemporary 1790 birth record for him: my 3G Grandfather Joseph Dufaut was the son of Louis Dufaut from Longueuil (son of Louis Dufaut and Marie-Louise Lussier) and his legitimate wife Marie-Louise/Kinogenini (daughter of Mentosaky and Pemynany) from Lac du Flambeau.
I had—finally—nailed the identification of Joseph’s parents.
UPDATE on Tanguay: Google Books now has the Tanguay marriage repertoire online as a free PDF download.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Identifying Joseph Dufaut, Part 1: Collecting Information

I’ve already told you how I crossed the border and connected my Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa to his family in Quebec. Today I’d like to begin to tell you how I did the same with the paternal grandfather of my Great-Grandfather Vincent Dufauld.

Long before I started genealogical research, I knew that Vincent himself was a member of what is now known as the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, because his daughters, including my grandmother, were members of that band. So were my grandmother’s children, including my mother, and her grandchildren, including me. Therefore I knew where to look for his adult records: in northern Minnesota, on the Vermillion reservation of the Bois Forte Band. (Our primary reservation now is the one at Nett Lake, with Vermillion as the secondary; in earlier years these two were treated as entirely separate entities.) From his French-Canadian surname (variously spelled as DeFoe, Dufau, Defaux, Dufaut, Default, and numerous other variations) I also knew that Vincent must have had French-Canadian ancestry.

Thanks to information from my cousin and from Vincent’s probate, I was able to verify the identities of Vincent’s parents (Michel Dufauld and Josette Roy), grandparents (paternal: Joseph Dufaut and Julie Cadotte, Maternal: Vincent Roy fils and Lizzie/Elizabeth Lacombe) and even a set of great-grandparents (Michel Cadot/Cadotte and Madeleine/Equay-say-way), all of whom who were fairly well documented once you knew where to look. I got a lot of help from other members on Rootsweb’s NISHNAWBE mailing list, several of whom were distant cousins. What I needed was documentation that would enable me to connect Vincent’s grandfather, Joseph Dufaut/Dufaux to his parents, whose names had not been established.

I began by reviewing what I already knew or could collect online about Joseph Dufaut aka Dufault aka Dufauld.

I knew that he had been at La Pointe by about 1829, since their son Michel, baptized the first day the St. Joseph Mission opened on Sunday, 2 August 1835, was stated to be 5 years old at the time (therefore born about 1830) and born at La Pointe. That same day, Joseph himself was baptized and was stated to be 45 years old (therefore born about 1790) and born at Lac du Flambeau. (Julie Cadotte, his bride, also was formally baptized the same day.) After that, Joseph and Julie had their marriage blessed by the Church—the only marriage ceremony Father Baraga had time for on what must have been an incredibly long and hectic day, which doubtless included hearing many confessions as well as officiating at 25 baptisms, saying Mass and fulfilling his own daily prayer obligations.

Since Joseph was baptized at La Pointe, I knew that he had not been baptized either in Quebec or at any of the missions at Mackinac. (His baptism was probably handled at birth by his father or whoever else was available and knew the procedure. But there was no record of it, so Baraga’s baptism of Joseph, as well as of Julia and most of the others, was almost certainly a conditional one. Unfortunately, not being French, he didn’t specify that.)

Joseph’s only child, my GG grandfather Michel Dufauld, died in December 1916 at the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. His obituary, published in the Minnesota History Bulletin, Vol. II (1917-18), states that Michel’s father Joseph “was for many years a boss carpenter; between the years 1820 and 1830 he supervised the construction of the stores and warehouses of the American fur Company on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, eighteen miles from Bayfield, Wisconsin. He built the mission churches on the island, one of which, the Presbyterian church, is still [1916] standing.” When my mother and I visited Madeline Island (which is actually only about 3 miles from Bayfield), the people at the museum told us that one of its rooms was originally a building erected by Joseph and his crew.

I learned that Joseph and Julie were married twice, once by the Protestant missionary at La Pointe in 1834 (as registered by Chippewa County, which at that time included much of what is now Wisconsin), then by Father Baraga in the Catholic church Joseph and his crew had just finished building. (I believe the Protestant ceremony took place because the couple wanted to insure that their son was regarded as legitimate in case either parent died. The moment the opportunity came, they had the Catholic rites.)

The Catholic marriage information came from Linda E. Bristol’s transcription of the St. Joseph Mission and Holy Family Catholic Church Marriage Records 1835-1880. From her transcription of the Liber Defunctorum (Death Registry) 1835-1900 for the St. Joseph Mission and Holy Family Catholic Church, I learned that Joseph died in March 1873 at La Pointe at age 83 (consistent with his other records giving his birth year as 1790), while Julie lived until February 1876. My 2G grandfather Michel was their only recorded child.

I knew that Joseph and several other contemporary Dufaults in the fur trade in the early 1800s were “half-breeds” and repeatedly reported as being exactly 1/2 Indian in the field notes of various trieaties. And since he lived at La Pointe, which in 1835 was a company town run by the American Fur Company, I looked for Dufauts (however spelled) in available American Fur Company records and other American sources.

The American Fur Company roster of employees 1818-1819, now online at the Mackinac County, Michigan GenWeb site, shows that a Jos. Dufauet was engaged at St. Mary’s (Sault Ste Marie) for 1 year beginning 29 July 1819 as a boatman. His wages were 1500 (currency type not stated); “Where Employed” is not stated, but under Remarks is “Lac du Flambeau”. There is also one Louis Dufaust engaged at Mackinac on 9 July 1818 for one year as Interpreter at Fond du Lac for “$2,400” per year.

Bruce White’s roster of fur traders in The Fur Trade in Minnesota cites the American Fur Company’s list of employees for 1819 as showing a Joseph Dufault/Dufauet, an interpreter in the Lac du Flambeau department, at $250 and as a boatman for 1822 at $200. In 1819 my Joseph would have been age 29, in 1822 age 32. Since he was born at Lac du Flambeau, the Joseph who worked at Lac du Flambeau is pretty likely to be my ancestor.

Notary Samuel Abbott at Mackinac kept a list of the legal transactions he handled between 1806 and 1818. The actual contracts have not survived, but the inventory, commonly known as Abbott’s List (online) includes the following entries for Dufaut (with the usual variations in spelling):

1808, 29 July: Joseph Defaut, for the Mackinac Co., wintering at St. Joseph

1809, 8 July: Joseph Dufond, for the Mackinac Co., wintering at St. Joseph

1817, 14 July: Louis Dufault, for Ramsay Crooks (American Fur Co.), wintering at Fond du Lac

But who was Joseph’s father, who was presumably at Lac du Flambeau about 1789-90? Jean-Baptiste Perrault, in his Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of a Merchant Voyageur in the Savage Territories of Northern America Leaving Montreal the 28th of May 1783 (20 1820), online at Google Books, in pages 508-619 of the volume Historical Collections and Researches Made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Vol XXXVII, wrote about one (or possibly two) traders surnamed Dufaut.

On page 519-20 he writes about a catastrophic expedition he was involved with in November 1781, where his party, led by a heavy-drinking Mr. Kay who was, as he puts it, “Hare-brained”, was wrecked attempting to enter the “riviere du fond du Lac”. They were able to repair the canoes and recover most of their trade goods but were all soaked and unable to dry anything out. Worse, they were almost entirely out of provisions. Two days after the wreck the party came to a wintering house at Fond du Lac used by “mr. Dufaut, come from grand portage [Note: Perrault refers to a portage on the St. Louis River, not the Grand Portage which is now a reservation in Minnesota], clerk for the N.Wt. (Company) [=The North West Company]. As m.Kay had perhaps taken only one drink he now took the second which made him ill-tempered so that Instead of receiving politely mr. Dufaut, who came down to meet him on the beach, he treated him rudely. But as the mr. perceived his [drunken] condition he kept silence and gave him no information.” Kay insisted the exhausted and hungry party immediately start out for the grand portage. “M. Dufaut, fearing that he would stop near him, offered him provisions for several days”, an offer which was refused since Kay hoped that they would meet up with an agent of his who was supposed to have obtained more provisions. (The rest of the expedition was equally disastrous.)

On pages 558-559 Perrault writes about meeting a Dufault in 1791 whose winter quarters were at Lac du Flambeau:

“I returned to makinac at the 1791 beginning of July, 1791 . . . I re-equipped with mr. todd, with 7 pieces of Cloth and an assorted stock, to return to fond du Lac.. . . On arriving at the Sault, I had my canoe taken up, and I Slept at the end of the portage. I set out the next day and slept at the riviere tak-quwaminan [Tacquimenon]. The 4th. day, I reached les grandes ilsles [sic]. I camped there. The next day I met opposite la riviere au poisson qui rit [Laughing Fish River] Defund Dufault, who was returning from his winter quarters at Lac du flambeau. I addressed him. He asked me How furs were selling at makinac. I told him that they were low. I gave him a drink. After he had taken it, he Said to me. “I find that the season is well advanced, so that it will be too late to enter Lac de flambeau.” “Very well,” I said to him, “Do you wish to trade with me? How many packs have you?” ”I have 35,” he replied; “I have one pack of Otter, 5 packs of Beaver, 2 packs of marten, 3 of bear, 1 of polecat, Lynx and rats. The remainder is Deer. And you! what is your canoe-load?” “I have here 7 bales assorted, 12 Kegs of Liquor, 2 kegs of powder, 5 sacks of lead and balls, 1 case of hatchets and scalping knives, 6 guns for the trade, 1 bale tinned iron kettles, 2 sacks of flour, 4 sacks of Corn, 1 keg of tallow, and one of sugar.” He took a little while to consider, and said to me, “Come ashore. It is done.” Before going to land, I said, “I will take provisions to carry me to mackinac.” “Yes,” he replied. We went ashore in the river, and I had my tent put up. While I was Unloading the canoe, he put up his shelter. He said to me, “It is unnecessary to open the goods; let me see The condition of your Bales, that will be enough.’ I did so, and he was satisfied. Similarly I took his packs, under Cord. We slept there. Early the next morning I started out . . .”

Now, “Defund” is not a personal name. It’s a French word meaning “deceased.” At the time he wrote about this encounter (about 1830, during his retirement at Sault Ste Marie), Perreault is saying that the man who wintered at Lac du Flambeau in 1791 had since died. Unfortunately Perrault does not say whether the Mr. Dufaut he met in 1791 was the same man he had met in 1781.

Dead end? No.

A fellow member of the NISHNAWBE Mailing List researching Dufaut lines shared a transcription of a letter written in 1889 to Judge Joseph J. Steere by John McDougal Johnston (son of the famous Sault Ste Marie fur trader John Johnston, and a lifelong inhabitant of that community). Johnston was about 73 by then, and what he writes is stated to be “from reliable information, and most of the persons named within, I was personally acquainted with.”) This is part of it:

“A few years before 1790, Louison Default came up from Montreal in the employ of the N.W.F. Co. [=North West Fur Company], after serving his time out with the Co., he married an Indian woman from the country of Lac du Flambeau after the custom of those days, before witnesses. He got his goods and outfit from the late Mr. Johnston, and after a few years successful trading, took his family and went down to Montreal, there getting his marriage confirmed by the priest, remaining there several years, he returned and settled in this place, turning his attention to tilling the soil and raising stock. His family consisted of three sons, Louison, Joseph, and Francis and two daughters, Jenvieve [sic] and Angelique. The old man, before coming to this part of the country, apparently had served in its army, having with him his military uniform and sword—probably had been a non-commissioned officer—consequently owing to his regimentals, they gave him the name of Ghe-Sma gah-nisk, or Soldier, he was known by that name throughout the Lake Superior country, up to his death. I was personally acquainted with all his children.”

Now, clearly the information as to the father, Louison, is hearsay, since Johnston (born in 1816), could not possibly have any memory of Louison Dufaut, although he does say he knew the children. However, it is extremely likely that he got his information about Louison from those children living at “this place”, Sault Ste Marie. And clearly, Johnston did not know just when Louison Dufault entered the fur trade, when he took his Indian wife and children to Montreal, or when he returned. He was almost certainly correct in connecting Dufault to the North West Fur Company, since his own father had been an early employee of that company and, as Johnston says, supplied Louison with trade goods after Louison married his Lac du Flambeau Indian wife “before witnesses”.

Perrault places a fur-trade Dufault wintering at Lac du Flambeau in 1789, within a year of the the time when my 3G Grandfather Joseph was born there; it is reasonable to conclude that “Defund” Dufault is Joseph’s father. Note also that both Perrault and Louison Dufault retired to Sault Ste Marie. Johnston tells us that Louison Dufaut, like the man Perrault met in 1781 at Fond du Lac, was employed by the North West Company before he took his Ojibwe wife and children back to the Montreal area “a few years before 1790”; equally importantly, he gives the names of the children he knew, which included a Joseph, who now appeared extremely likely to be my GGG Grandfather.

Riddle solved? Not quite. The North West Company did not exist under that name until 1783; it was the result of a merger between several other fur-trade companies. The man Perrault met in 1781 “probably” worked for one of those companies, but he may not have been the same man he met ten years later. Quebec families in those days had lots of children; “Louison” was certainly not the only Dufaut who worked in the fur trade.

Support for Johnston’s account is found in the Mackinac Register: on 27 July 1786 a Louis Dufau had had a 16-month-old “plus” daughter Genevieve “née du legitimate marriage de Louis Dufau et de Marie Louise de la nation Sauteuse” baptized at St-Ignace (therefore born about April 1785). On 26 July 1787, Louis Dufaux brought in for baptism a “légitime” 7-month-old son named Pierre (therefore born about December 1786-January 1787), at the same mission; the mother identified as “une mère sauvagesse nommée Marie Louise de la nation des sauteurs.” There is a cross in the margin indicating that the child had died.

It’s pretty clear that Louison Default in the Johnston letter and Louis Dufau of the Mackinac Registers are the same person, legally married to Marie-Louise by 1786, particularly since there is no marriage record at Mackinac but the marriage was accepted as legitimate in the eyes of the missionaries at Mackinac. Moreover, the nickname “Louison” was commonly used for a boy named Louis whose father was also a Louis, meaning that Marie-Louise’s husband was likely the son of a Louis Dufaut and suggesting that the Louis Dufaut “senior”, who is found in the La Pointe registers from day one is the “Louison” mentioned by Johnston as the son of Louis and Marie-Louise, and therefore Joseph’s brother. And a Louis Dufaut and his adult son, also named Louis, appear early on in the La Pointe registers, getting their wives and children baptized and their marriages blessed.

Now then, I received yet another bit of solid gold information from the same NISHNAWBE list member who had found the Johnston letter: in 1825, “land records” at Sault Ste Marie involved two of his sons, Francis and Joseph. At the time, the information I had was that Francis testified that he had always lived with his father at Sault Ste Marie, and that his brother Joseph “lived there only occasionally”. (I’ll give more detail in my next post.)

So all the evidence i had, considered together, brought me to the conclusion that GGG Grandfather Joseph was the son of a fur trader named Louis Dufaut (however spelled) and of a woman from Lac du Flambeau who had converted to the Catholic faith, taking the name of Marie-Louise, and that Louis and Marie-Louise had been married somewhere in Quebec, probably in the Montréal area. Furthermore, the family had finally settled at Sault Ste Marie. But where was that missing, crucial Quebec marriage record that would tell me who Louis’ parents were?

Today all I’d have to do would be to go online to Ancestry.com and search in the Drouin collection of Quebec parish records for that marriage. Alternatively, I could go to the PRDH website and pay the PRDH to locate that marriage record for me. But neither of those options was available at the time I was doing this particular research. I had to fall back on parish records on microfilm.

But I didn’t have to order dozens of microfilms of parish records, as I’d had to do to find the birth record of Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa. Since I was looking for the marriage of a man who was in the fur trade, there were two shortcuts available. I’ll tell you about those next time.

Dreamweaver Legacy – Pierre Forcier: Picking Mine Out Of The Crowd


These were posts written by Dreamweaver. In 2014 I had kept them in the draft section for future use. I believe in sharing and helping others by finding hints thanks to other researchers.
Feel free to comment.

Pierre Forcier: Picking Mine Out Of The Crowd

Last fall I finally felt that I had acquired enough information about my Great-Great Grandfather Pierre Forcier to have a decent chance of picking him out from his kinfolk in Quebec. This time around, I didn’t have to work with microfilms, because Ancestry.com has most of the parish records of Quebec online and I have the level of membership that lets me access them.
You should know, by the way, that the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is in the process of getting those same parish records online … for free . You can search for a particular name; you can do an advanced search; or you can simply browse the original images, parish by parish, grouped chronologically as they are on the original microfilms. When you find the record you want, you can download it to your computer (giving it a helpful name such as “1797 Sorel B Jos Forcier” instead of the gobbledegook string of numbers that the website uses). If necessary, you can massage a downloaded image (from either Ancestry or from the Mormon website) a bit to make it more legible. (I use Adobe Photoshop Elements.)
The first question is, of course, where to start looking? Tanguay or any of the marriage indexes is a good start if your Quebec ancestor was born during the French Regime, i.e. up to 1760. If your ancestor crossed the border in, say, 1808, the only marriage index that will help is Loiselle and its supplement, which goes up into the early 1900s and includes some marriages that took place in the United States. (You can order the correct films for your ancestor’s surname through a Family History Center at your local LDS church.) The chief advantage of Loiselle is that there are entries under the surnames of both bride and groom. At the very least, Loiselle can give you a clue where people with your ancestor’s surname were getting married in time to have produced your ancestor. (Bear in mind that, just like today, marriages generally took place where the bride’s family was living.)
Another starting point is to run a search either at Ancestry or at the Mormon website for a baptism record for your ancestor in the right time frame, say plus or minus 5 or even 10 years from the estimated birth year you have deduced from US records. This will give you a pretty good notion of where families with your ancestor’s surname were living about the time your ancestor was born, so that you can home in on those parishes.
And then, of course, you can cheat a bit. Use your favorite search engine to check out other people’s online family trees or queries on surname or locality message boards and mailing lists to see what other people have found on your ancestor and/or his/her family, or you can just run a search on your ancestor’s name. Many of the results will give you dentists in New England or auto dealers in Louisiana or politicians in Canada or college students on Facebook or other social networking sites, but you also may find someone who has posted a family tree online which includes someone with your ancestor’s name.
If the site lists the sources, all the better, but even if it does, you should look up those same sources yourself anyway to make sure that it says what the other researcher thinks it says. If no source is given, it may have come from an unproven assumption by the other researcher or even from a fraudulent pedigree (there are and always have been people eager to make one up for you, for a nice fat price). But at least you may get some sort of starting point.
In the case of Pierre Forcier, I was fortunate on several counts. One is that the original immigrant ancestor from France, Pierre Forcier, had a very uncommon surname in New France—in fact, I’ve never run across any Quebec Forcier before 1850ish who wasn’t his descendant (although some other Forciers may have immigrated by now). Pierre had had an early marriage contract (which gives the names of his parents and their home parish in France), but that was annulled and he actually married only once, to Fille du Roi Marguerite Girard, about 1674. We know nothing about her origins since neither a marriage contract nor a parish marriage record for this couple has survived.
Pierre and Marguerite lived at St-François du Lac and had only 7 children before Pierre was killed by the Iroquois in 1690, age about 42 years old. (Marguerite then married widower René Abraham and had 4 children with him.) Of those 7 Forcier children, only 2 daughters and 2 sons survived and had descendants. The sons were Joseph (1677-1741) and Jacques (1682-1750). Essentially all people with the surname of  Forcier during the French Regime were the descendants of Pierre Forcier and Marguerite Girard through one or the other of those two sons.
Furthermore, by the 1800s, most of the Forciers were still living in the same general area of  St-François du Lac, Sorel, and St-Michel d’Yamaska, the majority being at Yamaska. And as it happens, I had also learned that many of the men living in that particular area signed on as voyageurs on a regular basis to supplement their income. (The Manitoba online database of voyageur contracts  I mentioned in my previous post has 151 contracts for voyageur Forciers, almost all from that area, up to about 1820.
So I went online to Ancestry, whose search engine failed to find any Pierre Forciers born anywhere other than Sorel, Yamaska, or St-François du Lac in the right time frame to be my 2G Grandfather. Either my 2G Grandfather was born at one of those three parishes, or he had been dropped off on Earth by visiting aliens.
I began to view the records for those three parishes and comb through them page by page. I wasn’t looking only for Pierres born between 1812 and 1822. I was collecting everything on every Forcier in the area, looking for every married Forcier male in the area whose wife would have been young enough to have a child between 1780 and 1850.
Since the three parishes are fairly close together, and the families in each parish kept visiting relatives in the other parishes (sometimes having babies or dying during such a visit), it was necessary to make a wholesale page-by-page search of all three parishes in order to reconstruct all the Forcier family groups.
Why did I search such a wide spread of dates? Simple: I had no idea whether Pierre was the eldest child, a middle child, or the baby of the family, and I wanted to make sure I got all his siblings and other close relatives even those who had not been born before Pierre left home. (Illiterate voyageurs were not necessarily out of touch with their families back home; company clerks could, and commonly did, read letters from home to the voyageur and write replies from him, the letters being carried by arriving or returning company canoes.)
There was another reason why I collected so much information: I was looking for a Pierre whose close relatives, including in-laws, might include a Simon or Simeon or Solomon, an Henriette, a Gabriel, a Jacques, an Angélique, a Charlotte, and a  Marie-Jeanne—all names that my Pierre gave his children. In other words, I was attempting to see whether my Pierre had followed Quebec naming customs in his American marriages. Absence or presence of any of those names in his family would not prove whether a candidate was my Pierre or not, but it would certainly be suggestive.
Going through the parish records, particularly those at Yamaska, was not an easy task, since in the period when my Pierre was probably born, the curé at Yamaska clearly was having great difficulty sorting out all the Forcier families himself. The Yamaska curé kept getting mixed up as to which couple he was dealing with: Ignace is sometimes recorded as Isaac, Victoire was sometimes mixed up with Charlotte, etc., so when he recorded a death, for example, I had to figure out which of several persons with that name was the one who had died. (Admittedly, there were a LOT of Forciers at Yamaska to keep track of; all three parishes were awash in Forciers and their connections. The curés at Sorel and St-François du Lac were less confused, however.)
Well, I kept plodding through the registers and finally came up with six Pierre Forciers who were born in the right time frame to be my great-great grandfather. Two could be eliminated immediately because they died in infancy; a third, born in 1820 at Sorel, was amply documented elsewhere as a farmer in the USA with a wife and children who are very clearly not those of my great-great grandfather. This narrowed down the field to these three:
1. Pierre Forcier-dit-Nadeau, born 20 April 1815 son of Augustin Forcier-dit-Nadeau and Victoire Modau at Yamaska. This Pierre had a maternal uncle named Gabriel. There were in fact several men named Gabriel living in this area, so it’s likely that everyone at Yamaska had a connection to one or more of them.
2. Pierre Forcier-dit-Gaucher, son of Pierre and of Marie-Josephte Vasseur (Levasseur), born 12 Jun 1817 at Yamaska. This Pierre had a second cousin named Henriette, born in 1816 at Yamaska, who was still alive when my Pierre was getting married at La Pointe. His maternal aunt (named Angelique, after her mother) was married first to a Gabriel Lambert, who died when this Pierre was 5 years old. He also had a sister named Angèle, a third cousin named Marie-Jeanne, and a third cousin named Solomon who was 4 years younger than he. (My 2G grandfather’s son, baptized as Simon, appears as Solomon in at least one American census record.) In other words, most of the names my 2G Grandfather gave his children connect with this candidate.
3. Pierre-Joseph Forcier-dit-Gaucher, baptized at Yamaska on 15 April 1819, son of Pierre-Marie and Marie-Madeleine Benoit. These parents also had a daughter named Henriette and a grandson named Simon (born in 1856, 7 years after my Pierre’s son Simon). The father was the first cousin of the father of Candidate 2.
You might think that a second or third cousin would be too far afield for Pierre to name a child after that cousin, but all of these people belonged to the same rural parish and saw one another every week. In Yamaska, all the Forciers were related not only on the Forcier side but by maternal connections as well. The simple fact is that the names my Pierre gave his children are names which are found in Yamaska during the years Pierre lived there, belonging to people who were his relatives or to people who might have been close friends either of Pierre himself or of his parents.
I could have kept on with this for years tracing all possible interconnections, but frankly, I’m not so young anymore, and I didn’t have the energy to trace all the families in the area looking for connections via the maternal sides. For me it was enough to know that the names my 2G-grandfather gave his children were names of some of his contemporaries in the Yamaska area who were more or less connected to various Forciers.
By the time my Pierre was born (whichever of the three he was), the records of all three parishes show that desperate parents were adopting new dit names and giving very uncommon names to their children so that it would be possible to have normal conversations (and appear in legal documents) without having to recite the whole pedigree of a person to identify him. While Augustin and Victoire, the parents of Candidate 1, were pretty conventional in naming their children, the other two candidates had close relatives with less common names. Candidate 2 (son of Pierre and Josette) had siblings named Eloise, a Marie-Elmire, a George-Octave, and an Adèle. Candidate 3 (son of Pierre-Marie and Madeleine) had siblings named François-Regis, Basile, Luce, Magloire, and Henriette.
I continued searching through the records after 1838 (when my Pierre married at La Pointe) to determine which, if any, of my 3 candidates had married and remained in Quebec, and/or when they had died. This led to some interesting tidbits regarding the three families:
Item, Augustin Forcier, father of Candidate 1, is stated to be a voyageur in the 1808 baptism of daughter Marie-Celeste, and again in the 1820 burial record for his wife Victoire. Augustin’s experience might have encouraged his son to become a voyageur himself.
Item, I have a burial record for (unmarried) Pierre Forcier dit Gaucher, son of the deceased Pierre-Marie and his wife Magdeleine Benoit dated 17 August 1845. This—assuming that the curé didn’t get his Forciers mixed up—clearly eliminates Candidate No. 3 above.
Item, I have burial records for two married Pierre Forciers: in December 1844, Pierre Forcier age 59 was buried, but the widow is stated to be Théotiste Bergeron. That couple did indeed have a son named Pierre who was apparently still living in 1844, but he had been born in 1832 and was only 7 when my Pierre married Marguerite Raimond at La Pointe. The other record is for Pierre-Marie, age 57, specifically stated to be the spouse of Marie-Magdelaine Benoit; the funeral on 15 February 1841 was attended by “ses fils” Basile and Louis Forcier as well as “plusieurs autres Parens et amis”. This can’t possibly be a mis-identification by the curé; Pierre-Marie did in fact have adult sons named Basile and Louis. His son Pierre-Joseph was Candidate 3—and was not listed among the mourners at the funeral.
What I don’t have is a burial record for the Pierre who was married to Josette Vasseur, which presumably occurred before November 1843, when he is stated in his son Joseph’s burial record to be dead. All later records for his children and for Josette state that this Pierre was dead. I’ve looked all over the place for his burial record: no record found. The only explanation I can think of is that Josette’s Pierre fell into the river and drowned, and that the body was never recovered. You can’t have a burial without a body, and therefore there is no record in the parish register.
The parish records, then, while helpful in narrowing down the field of possibles and suggesting connections, were not enough to prove which Pierre Forcier was at La Pointe in August 1838.
However, I had one other arrow in my quiver: notarial records. The Manitoba searchable database of voyageur contracts doesn’t go beyond about 1820, so I did some research on the American Fur Company’s recruitment of voyageurs in Quebec and learned that between 1832 and 1837 the company’s principal agent in Montreal, Gabriel Franchère, had most of his contracts handled by Chevalier de Lorimier (baptized François-Marie-Thomas).
Unfortunately, de Lorimier was deeply interested in politics and played a major role in the Peasants Rebellion of 1836-37. He took refuge in the USA but returned to Quebec for the second uprising in November 1838. He was captured, prosecuted, and in due course hanged on 15 February 1839. His notarial records, probably due to this situation, are still held in the Montreal archives, but have never been filmed and could not be accessed without a trip to that repository. So I turned to the notaries who practiced in the Yamaska area in hopes of finding any information that could help.
Here again, Ancestry.com made up for the occasional oddities of its search engine by having online the indexes or repertoires of many of the notaries of Quebec. I had looked in my copy of Robert Quintin’s The Notaries of Quebec to determine which notaries practiced in the target area between about 1812 and 1850, and was delighted to find that most of those indexes were online. I went through all of them, hoping to find some notarial record which could shed light on the whereabouts of the two remaining candidates.
I struck pure gold.
First of all, in the records of notary PIerre Piette, I found that Pierre Forcier, “fils d’Augustin” i.e. Candidate # 1, signed a note of obligation on 23 July 1839. While it was not impossible for my Pierre to have gone back to Yamaska (with or without his new bride and 9-week-old son Simon), it was unlikely: in the early summer, the boats were going the other way and the creditor would surely have objected to Pierre’s departure without getting repaid. This makes Candidate 1 very unlikely to be my 2G-grandfather.
However, there were other notaries in the Yamaska area. I went through the index of notaire Pierre-Joseph Chevrefils, who practiced at Yamaska 1808-1839, I noticed that he was obviously well aware of the multiplicity of Forciers in the area, since he used dit names and other identifying information even in the index so as to make it clear which person is meant. And in the index for 1836, I found in the index two engagements (hiring contracts) for Forciers hired by “la compagnie americaine”. Here’s the entry:
As you can see at the bottom of the page, the first was for Michel Forcier; the second was for his cousin Pierre fils—i.e. a Pierre who was the son of a Pierre. And “la compagnie amercaine” was almost certainly the American Fur Company. Naturally I rushed down to my local Family History Center and ordered the microfilm as soon as possible, and when it came in, I rushed to view the item. And it was everything I could have wished for. The Pierre who had signed on with the American Fur Company was indeed the son of plain Pierre Forcier-dit-Gaucher. Not Pierre-Marie. Not Augustin Forcier-dit-Nadeau. Pierre was legally a minor at the time, so both he and his father had to sign the contract, or rather, since both were illiterate, had to make their marks next to their names written by the notary.
Here is the contract:
Now, I realize that this image is not of the best quality but if you enlarge the image on your screen you should be able to get the gist of it. The most important features are: (1) the contract was signed on 21 March 1836 and was for 3 years and 2 months beginning on 1 May 1836; (2) the fact that the contract was signed (with a mark) by Pierre’s father, since at age 19 Pierre was not legally an adult; (3) that the father is clearly identified as Pierre Forcier-dit-Gaucher to avoid any confusion as to identity; (4) that the contract is a fill-in-the-blanks-pre-printed standard form, specifying a payment of 360 piastres to be paid in American currency in 3 installments beginning after the first year of work, with a small advance (so that he can acquire necessary clothing etc.).
It is not stated, but it is clear that Pierre is destined for manual labor with the American Fur Company since he is illiterate and this is his first voyage. That means, at this time, that he would almost certainly work at La Pointe, which my 2G Grandfather worked as a cooper for the AFC’s fishing endeavor, married my 2G Grandmother, and had his first 2 children baptized, one of whom was my great-grandmother Henriette.
Even better, I found on the same microfilm that Pierre’s maternal uncle Noël Levasseur, who had become an engagé ouest with the American Fur Company before Pierre was born, was back in Yamaska that same day, hiring two men to transport a load of goods for him. Uncle Noël had settled at what is now Bourbonnais, Kankakee, illinois, where he married several Indian women (in succession) and persuaded many Quebec families to move across the border and settle in that area. (The present-day elementary school in Bourbonnais is named in his honor.) It seems reasonable to conclude that it was Uncle Noël who convinced Pierre to sign on with the same company and take advantage of new economic opportunities on the other side of the border.
I now had documentary proof that my 2G Grandfather Pierre was the son of Pierre Forcier-dit-Gaucher and Josephte Vasseur (Levasseur). I had his direct ancestry traced back to the first Pierre and his wife Marguerite Girard. Now I was in a position to begin tracing his maternal ancestry. But that’s another story.