52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 9: Marie Sylvestre Olivier

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Marie Olivier Sylvestre was born in 1632 near the French settlement of Montreal. She was baptized sometime before she was 12 years old. She was named “Marie” for the Virgin Mary, “Olivier” in honor of her Godfather, Olivier Le Tardif, a friend of her father’s and French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s personal interpreter, and “Sylvestre”, a French name meaning “from the forest”. She received an education – something incredibly rare at the time – at a girl’s school run by Ursuline nuns and in the home of French settlers Marie Rollet and Guillaume Hubou. On November 3, 1644 at age 12, she was married to 33-year-old Martin Prevost in Quebec. This union is historically significant in that it is the first (recorded) of it’s kind – a French man marrying someone like Marie in a Catholic church.

Marie was a Native Canadian. There are conflicting reports as to exactly which tribe she was from, although her father’s name is derived from an Algonquian word meaning “Great Spirit”, so that is one hint. Her parents were named Manitouabeouich and Outchibahabanoukoueou, and her father had become friends with interpreter Olivier Le Tardif years earlier and acted as his guide, accompanying him on fur trading missions and exploratory voyages. Manitouabeouich is thought to have been an early convert to Christianity, as he was given the name of a French saint – Roch.

Marie and Martin had eight recorded children, five of whom survived to adulthood. In 1661, they lost 3 children in just a few months – a 12 year old, 6 year old and 4 year old. Marie herself died in 1665, at the young age of 37, just a short while after giving birth to her last daughter Therese. The French settlers brought with them European diseases which were devastating to the Native population who had never seen such before. Smallpox was the worst of these, and it’s very possible that’s what killed Marie and her children.

Martin remarried to a fellow widow Marie D’Abancourt mere months after Marie Olivier’s death. While this may sound heartless, the reality is that Martin had five children to care for including one infant, and Marie, as a widow, needed help too.

Marie is my 9x great grandmother. That is, there are 10 generations between us. The lineage connecting us goes through her granddaughter Anne Prevost, who was an early resident of the original Detroit settlement, to Anne’s granddaughter Genevieve Deshetres, the daughter of another Native interpreter for the French, to Genevieve’s great grandson – my great, great grandfather Edmond Langlois.

It is speculated that several other ladies in my French Canadian lineage could have been of Native descent, since there is no record of them arriving on any ships and European women didn’t just pop up out of nowhere to marry French men in Canada. Many people are excited at the prospect of having Native roots and are therefore quick to assume, but most of these ladies’ origins are speculations at best. Marie is set apart from these others in my family tree because she is a well documented Native American woman.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 8: Thankful Stebbins

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Thankful Stebbins was born September 5, 1691 at Deerfield, a village in the English colony in modern Massachusetts, USA. Her parents were John Stebbins and Dorothy Alexander. Her great grandfather Rowland Stebbins had been born in Stebbing, Essex, England (likely where his surname originated) and sailed to New England aboard the ship Francis in 1634 with his wife and children – a bold action, considering the puritan colonists in New England faced constant danger of Native American raids and hostility, not to mention the harsh weather and wild landscape. Deerfield was a small village on the frontier, right on the edge of English settlement.

In March of 1704 there was a particularily notable attack on Deerfield, known as the Deerfield Massacre and it was associated with Queen Anne’s War. A force of some 200 French soldiers and about 150 Native warriors under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel, Sieur de Rouville from the New France colony attacked the village, razing the buildings to the ground, killing dozens and taking dozens more as captives. 13-year-old Thankful and her family were among those taken captive. The French brought these captives back north to Canada – walking on foot in March, mind you – and along the journey many more died. They were handed over to the French authorities in Canada at Chambly.

Thankful was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith on April 23, 1707 and re-named “Therese Louise Stebenne”. Four years later, on February 4, 1711 in Ste-Famille-de-Boucherville church, she married Adrien Charles LeGrain dit Lavallee, Captain of the militia  at Fort Chambly. The couple had 11 children in total, the last was born in 1729. Thankful passed away one week after the birth of her last child, aged 38 years – likely due to a complicated birth – and was buried at Fort Chambly, rather than in the church graveyard.

Thankful is my 9x great grandmother through her son Charles Legrain dit Lavallee. The surname had transformed into just the dit name of Lavallee by the time it was given to my 4x great grandmother Ozilda Lavallee (who married Joseph Bessette). The line goes Thankful – Charles – Jean Marie – Jean Baptiste – Pierre – Ozilda -Louis Bessette – Corinne, my great, great grandmother.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 7: Pierre Miville dit Le Suisse

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Pierre Miville was born around 1602 in Fribourg, Switzerland to Isaac Miville and Salome Lomene. He was a joiner (a kind of detail carpenter, making stairs, window frames, other things with joints) in Fribourg, and later joined the Swiss army, to be sent to neighboring ally France to participate in Cardinal Richelieu’s siege of LaRochelle (a religious war between Catholics and French Protestant Huguenots). After the siege of La Rochelle, Pierre next went to nearby Brouages, where Richelieu was appointed governor and began many new construction projects. It can be assumed that Pierre, with his past as a joiner found employment there. In 1631 he married local French woman Charlotte Maugis in Brouages and the couple had seven children. Several important Brouages figures served as Godparents to his children, suggesting that he had a relatively high social standing amongst his French peers.

Pierre brought his family and his capacity for skilled work to New France in the 1640’s, one of the small group of French colonists to come freely and of their own accord, not bound to any company or cause. The Governor of New France granted him a tract of land in the seigneurie of Lauzon. He took up the “dit name”, of “Le Suisse” and is known as “Pierre Miville dit Le Suisse”. Dit names were popular in New France – they were aliases, sometimes referring to a persons’ place of origin, as in Le Suisse, sometimes referring to a physical characteristic of a person – “Lebrun”. Sometimes they referred to an ancestor’s given name, “dit Noel”. There are other sources for these dit names as well, and they sure do add complications to French Canadian genealogy. Some family branches dropped the original surnames altogether, and many dit names-turned-full-fledged-surnames live on today – Lavallee, Lafleur, Lavigne, Laframboise, Desrochers, Desjardins, Lebrun, Langlois… Castonguay is another, derived from original settler Gaston Guay. Some dit names were dropped though, as is the case of Le Suisse. Miville is carried on today in descendants in Quebec.

His family flourished and multiplied in the harsh new world. He became Capitaine de la Cotes in the late 1660’s in his parish – a community leader, justice keeper, defenseman of sorts. He died at age 67, on 14 Oct 1669 in Lauzon and was buried in Quebec City.


I am descended from Pierre through more than one of his children, and I am not alone on that one – Pierre left a plethora of descendants of all different surnames, especially since he had many daughters who married into other family names. He is considered to be the 7th of 10 French settlers identified by the University of Montreal’s PRDH with the most descendants married by the year 1800. He has been well researched by other descendants, there are even several websites devoted to the research of his descendants and the details of his life.

Mappy Monday: Podhajce and Nowosiolka, Ukraine

A Genealogy.com Ukraine message board poster presented this map. It’s a compilation of incredibly detailed maps of a large portion of Europe from around 1900.

You can find Danylo’s Novosilka in the southeast, near Lwow (Lviv) and Ivano-Frankivsk. This map uses Polish place names, so Novosilka is “Nowosiolka”.

It’s a good idea to gain an understanding of the geography of the area your ancestor hails from. In my case, I noticed several other Ukrainian families and people on both the Canadian census and the SS Cassandra passenger manifest. 28/50 of the people listed on the same census sheet in Brokenhead as – and therefore neighbours of – Danylo and family were also Ruthenians from Galicia (the other 22 were Polish from Galicia!)

On the same ship as Danylo, travelled 7 other Ruthenian Galicians, including one “Anna Kit”, who I first suspected could maybe be Danylo’s future wife Anna. Anna Kit left behind her mother, named “Maria Podhaja” in Siolka, Galicia (Podhaja = Podhajce??). There are a few others from Siolka as well, and if you notice on the map… Siolka is very close to Nowosiolka, as is the village of Podhajce (Pidhaitsi). It’s not hard to imagine that maybe Danylo travelled with friends, or even relatives, to a new country, so some of his fellow passengers could turn out to be relevant to my research later on!

No concrete evidence of such as of yet, of course, but good all-around knowledge that could be useful later on!!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 6: Nicolas Langlois

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Nicolas Langlois was born around 1640 in the canton of Yvetot, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France. His parents were Charles Langlois and Marie Cordier. Nicolas was from the parish of St-Pierre in Yvetot, and not a lot is known about his life prior to immigrating to Canada. He travelled to Canada as a weaver, indentured to Sieur Louis Rouer de Villeray – an important figure in Quebec at the time, playing key administrative roles under people you probably learned about in history class, such as Jean Talon and Jean and Charles de Lauson. “Indentured” means that he signed a contract stipulating that his passage to the New World would be paid for by Villeray, in return for his labour for a set number of years. Conditions in France at the time were such that signing years of his life away for a chance to make a better life for his descendants in a strange and dangerous new world was an attractive option for Nicolas, and some of the other lower class members of French society, and many others had they passage to New France paid the same way.

On October 26, 1671 at Notre-Dame-de-Quebec parish, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada he married Marie Elisabeth Cretel, a fille du roi (a group of poor, single women of a marriageable age who’s passage to Canada and a dowry was paid for by the King in an effort to help colonize and populate Quebec) who was also from Rouen. Nicolas and Elisabeth had 5 sons and 5 daughters, of which only half survived to adulthood (2 sons and 3 daughters). Their son Etienne is my 8th great grandfather. (Nicolas – Etienne – Nicolas – Nicolas – Alexis – Antoine – Antoine – Edmond, my great great grandfather). Nicolas died October 13, 1721 at Pointe-aux-Trembles, and that is where he was buried.

There were several other unrelated settlers with the surname of Langlois to settle in Quebec – an even earlier Langlois to Quebec was Noel, with many descendants. The name itself means quite literally “L’Anglais” – “the English”, but it is unknown if this hints at the ancestor’s ethnicity.

And with that, we’ve covered my most direct immigrant ancestors, and two of the French Canadian settlers who lend their surnames to my two French great grandmothers. From people uprooted from their lives, forced away from a country they could never return to during WWII, to those seeking to better their economic situation in a rapidly industrial Canada at the turn of the century, to 17th century pioneers to a wild and perilous unknown new world. Next topic of exploration: Bits and pieces of other ethnicities, ancestors that were not my typical French, Italian, Ukrainians or Latvians.

Harry and Mary Koszlak

When I first asked a relative about my Ukrainian family tree, she told me my great great grandfather Danylo had a sister, Mary, and a brother named Harry who had children Fred, Catherine, Peter, Ann and Nancy.

It looks like Hawrylo Koszlak departed from Hamburg, Germany on the SS Kaiserin Victoria May 10, 1911, bound for New York. He was 25 years old and single. His closest relative from the country he came from was his father Prokop Koszlak in Novosilka. Hawrylo’s final destination: Minneapolis, Minnesota where he was going to meet his uncle Pawlo Riluch at 222 7th Ave. (The same address possible relation Jakob Koszlak was going to, one year later!). He was 5’6, with brown hair and grey eyes. His place of birth was listed as Novosilka. Upon his arrival, he was detained, for reasons still unknown to me. I have 3 records of this SS Kaiserin Victoria trip – the Hamburg passenger manifest, New York passenger manifest, and his Detainee record.

“Harry Kosslak” as he soon preferred to be called married Mary (Maria) Lewko in Hennepin County, Minneapolis on January 25, 1913.

Harry seems to have been drafted in 1917 for World War 1. His Draft Registration card is available on Ancestry.com. It states that he is Harry Koszlak, living at 46 Knox ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota. His date of birth is October 28, 1888 in Austrian Galicia. He was a declared citizen of the USA, but still legally a citizen of Austria. He was a labourer, employed by the city of Minneapolis. He was married with 3 children. He had served in the military in Austria for 3 years. He declared exemption from the draft due to his dependants.

The next record of Hawrylo is his appearance on the 1930 US Census. At this time, Harry and Mary had children Fred, Katherine, Peter, Annie and (Nancy) Stella. The 1930 Census of the US was conducted on April 6th of 1930 in Minneapolis – and at this time they appear living in the 129th block of the tenth ward of the city. Harry was employed as a labourer at “Gas Lite Mfg” and Fred was an assembler at “electrical appliance mfg”. The family was Ukrainian (rather than “Ruthenian” as seen on earlier documents) and both Harry and Mary immigrated to the USA in 1911.

Harry died April 16, 1954 in Hennepin County.

(click to enlarge) Harry Koszlak’s WWI Draft Registration Card

52 Ancestors, Week 4: Danylo Koszlak

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

My great, great grandfather Danylo was born November 22, 1890 to Prokop Koszlak and Krystyna Fink. Prokop and Krystyna lived in the small village of Novosilka (Nowosiolka), located in Pidhaitsi (Podhajce) raion, Ternopil (Tarnopol) oblast – modern-day Ukraine. They had at least 2 more children besides Danylo, named Hawrylo and Mary who also eventually immigrated to North America ( to Minneapolis, Minnesota). At the time of Danylo’s birth, the region was known as Austrian Galicia and it was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. People from the region identified themselves as either Austrian Galicians or Ruthenians, and the language they spoke is known as Ruthenian (though they were probably familiar with Polish as well). As the area was often ruled by different kingdoms and empires, the place names often have several versions depending on language and period in history.

Galicia was one of the poorest places in all Europe in the late 1800’s, and from about 1885 until World War One broke out in 1914, it experienced a mass emigration of its people to other countries in search of jobs and a better life. In 1910 at the age of 19, Danylo followed suit. He chose to go to Canada aboard the SS Cassandra, a steamship with the Donaldson Line that sailed from Glasgow to Quebec. His outward passenger manifest from the UK tells us that he was travelling with a large group of Eastern European/Russian immigrants on their way to Canada, and that they had come to England via the port of Leith travelling with the Gibson Line which ran services from Belgium and Holland to Leith. These immigrants probably made their way through Europe travelling by train to one of the western ports. The Cassandra sailed for almost a week, departing Glasgow, Scotland on June 4th and arriving at the port of Quebec, Canada on June 12, 1910. His passenger manifest upon arrival to Quebec states that he was on his way to Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit his brother Jakiv at 419½ Aldrich Ave, however this is the one and only record of any Jakiv that I have found, so I am hesitant to add him as a sibling. Danylo’s passenger manifest tells us another interesting fact – it states that he had black hair and grey eyes.

Danylo did not stay in Minneapolis long. Shortly after his arrival in North America he went north to Canada, and the next record I’ve found of him is his marriage to Anna Bruchanski, a fellow Ruthenian immigrant, on February 10, 1914. The marriage took place in the Regional Municipality of Brokenhead, Manitoba, at a Greek Catholic church (likely Holy Trinity). Anna had come to Canada in 1911 on the SS Montreal, Antwerp-Quebec as a domestic (live-in maid). I am quite sure (but yet without documentation) that Anna already had family in Brokenhead – at least one married sister (Pelagia “Polly” Benzik) and her family, and likely more, since there is another Bruchanski family from Pidhaitsi living there at the time. Brokenhead had a large Ukrainian immigrant farming population, many land grants were given by the Canadian government to new immigrants in an effort to help populate the area. The marriage document details that Danylo was a farmer, his father was a farmer, and Anna was a farmer’s daughter.

At the time of the 1916 Canadian Census taken of the western prairie provinces, Danylo, Anna and their first two children were living in rural Brokenhead while Danylo worked as a farmer, but soon after, the family moved to the town of Beausejour where Danylo was employed as a carpenter at the time of the 1921 census. The couple had 3 children – Michael, Patrick and Marie (Mihail, Pietro and Maria in Ukrainian). Beausejour is a small town completely surrounded by the Regional Municipality of Brokenhead, but is technically separate. One of the first big business established in Beausejour in the early 1900’s was Manitoba Glassworks, who made primarily glass beverage bottles. Co-founded by German immigrant Joseph Keilback – who’s granddaughter would eventually marry Danylo’s second son Patrick – the original factory is a protected provincial heritage site.

Danylo became a naturalized Canadian citizen on October 16, 1932. He passed away February 11, 1967 in Beausejour, Manitoba, apparently in an accident falling down a church stairwell. His funeral was held at St. Vladimir church in Beausejour, and he is buried in St. Vladimir’s Greek Catholic Cemetery. His headstone can be viewed HERE and his obituary HERE.

My ancestor's stories, and how I found them!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.