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.
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.
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.
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.
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.