Tag Archives: 52 Ancestors

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 22: Zacharie Cloutier

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Zacharie Cloutier has been well researched and documented, he’s got his own Wikipedia article (and a cheese named after him, mmm). He was a master carpenter from Mortagne-au-Perche in Normandy, France. Born in December of 1590 and baptized in the parish of St-Jean-Baptiste in Mortagne-au-Perche, he was one of nine children born to Denis Cloutier and Renee Briere. Aged 25, Zacharie married young widow Xainte or Sainte Dupont in July of 1616 at St-Jean-Baptiste. In 1619 Zacharie and his father Denis were part of a group that travelled to New France with Samuel de Champlain as labourers charged with clearing land, building structures, and cultivating crops, but this group was always meant to return to France, which they did when their work was complete. Several years later though, he returned with his wife and family, settling down in the colony of Beauport near Quebec city, having been recruited as a settler by Robert Giffard. In 1652 he received a land grant from Sieur Jean de Lauzon in Chateau Richer and transplanted his family to that settlement. Zacharie died September 17, 1677 and is buried together with his wife in the parish cemetery of Notre-Dame-de-Chateau-Richer. He lived to be a righteous 87 years old – good for today’s standards, let alone the 17th century.

Zacharie and Xainte had 6 children, and only 5 of them survived to adulthood. Despite this smaller family size, Zacharie is touted as being the number one French settler with the most descendants – he reportedly had 10,850 by the year 1800. I am descended from Zacharie from more than one of his children.

Among his other descendants are:
All Cloutiers in North America
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Madonna
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
Celine Dion
Marcheline Bertrand and Angelina Jolie
Jack Kerouac
Beyonce and Solange Knowles
Avril Lavigne
Alanis Morissette
Canadian Prime Minister Louis St.Laurent
Shania Twain

…many more…

And possibly YOU if you’re of any French North American heritage! The relation is distant – most of these people are my 8th cousins at best, but the simple fact is, without Zacharie, none of us would be here!

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 21: Clement Bessette

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Clement Bessette was born February 28, 1728 at Fort Chambly in Quebec, one of nine children born to Francois Bessette and Marie-Claude Dubois. He was baptized at the parish of St-Louis-de-Fort-Chambly and he was named for his godfather, Clement Sabrevois, Sieur of Bleury, a merchant and seigneur, essentially a feudal lord of an area of land. His godmother was Genevieve Mirambeau.

At 25 years old he married 18-year-old Charlotte Lamoureux on June 18, 1753 at St-Louis-de-Fort-Chambly, and these two did not waste any time starting a family. They had 16 children in total – large families were the norm amongst the French, and despite missing the Duggar mark, 16 children was still on the large side. Clement lived to be 61 years old, he died August 22, 1789 and is buried at the cemetery is St. Matthias-sur-Richelieu at Pointe Olivier in Quebec. He had lived a fairly normal life for the time – a family man.

But what makes Clement stand out as an ancestor are his other descendants and relatives. I am descended from Clement through his son Antoine-Edouard-Francois Xavier-Joseph-Louis, making him my 8x great grandfather. He is also the direct ancestor of Carolyn Bessette, who most people may remember by her married name – Carolyn Kennedy. This makes Carolyn my 6th cousin, 3 times removed.

Another notable Bessette is Alfred “Brother Andre” who was canonized as a saint by the Catholic church in 2010. He is descended from Clement’s first cousin Jean Bessette, technically rendering him my 6th cousin, 5 times removed. The “removed” part of these relations refers to the number of generations between cousins – Andre is the 6th cousin of the aforementioned Louis Bessette, and Louis is my father’s mother’s mother’s mother’s father… did I lose you? Louis my great great great grandfather, 5 generations separate us, therefore 5x removed to his cousins.

It’s a long shot at fame, I know, but how many famous people can you trace back in your tree? If you have any trace of French Canadian roots at all, chances are the answer to that is more than you think! I’ll speak to this in more depth in next week’s ancestor!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 20: Pierre Robert

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Pierre Robert was born September 21, 1671 and baptized the same day at Ste-Famille-de-Boucherville church in Chambly, Quebec. Pierre had three separate known dit names –Lafontaine, Lapierre and Lapomeraye/Lapomerais. He was the son of Louis Robert dit Lafontaine and Marie Marguerite Bourgery. Pierre married Angelique Ptolomee or Tholme on January 27, either 1697 or 1698.

In the summer of 1706, he accompanied a party to Detroit for the first time, in charge of a canoe of goods. Not long after, he purchased a lot at Fort Detroit from a man named Guillaume Bouet dit Deliard and moved his family there May 19, 1708. His brothers Prudent, Joseph, and Francois came to Detroit as well later on. He and his family lived in a house made of sticks and a thatched roof on lot #62. He and Angelique had six children – the last of whom was born in 1711 – before Pierre died circa the year 1714. Although he barely had a chance to make his mark on the city itself, his descendants carried on in the area and are there to this day.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 19: Jacques Campeau

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

My next two ancestors share a common theme: they helped settle and develop a major city in the USA – Detroit. They were among the very first settlers to the area.

Jacques Campeau was born in May 1677 at Montreal, son of French immigrant and mason Etienne Campeau, Campau or Campo and Catherine Paulo or Polo. He was baptized at the church of Notre Dame de Montreal on May 31, 1677. He married Jeanne Cecile Catin on November 30, 1699 at Montreal, and shortly after in 1703-1704 with the Compagnie de la Colonie he travelled to the area that would become known as Detroit and Fort Pontchartrain.

In 1708 he brought the rest of his family to Detroit on the invitation of Antoine de le Mothe Cadillac, the commandant of Fort Pontchartrain who was looking to settle a colony there. His older brother Michel, who is also my ancestor had also brought his family in 1707. Jacques was a blacksmith and in addition participated in trading, mostly of furs. He and Cecile had 8 children in total.

In 1734 he was granted a piece of land 4 by 40 arpents just east of Fort Pontchartrain and he started a merchant store, buying and selling goods such as furs, corn, wheat, etc. He became ill in 1750 and passed away 8 May 1751. He is buried in Detroit’s Mount Elliott Cemetery.

An interesting point on Jacques, is like many other Detroit area residents of French background, he also began to be known by a more anglicized version of his name – James – as did his wife “Cecilia”.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 16: Prokop Koszlak

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Prokop Koszlak was born around the year 1865 near the village of Novosilka in Pidhaitsi raion (region), Ternopil oblast (province) in modern day Ukraine. He is my 3x great grandfather, the father of  Danylo Koszlak. I have absolutely no documents pertaining to him other than 3 of his children’s marriage certificates from here in North America that list his name as their father. He was a farmer, and he married a woman named Kristina Fink. At least 3 of his children (possibly more) immigrated to North America in the early 1900’s, as did a large number of residents of the area. It was one of the poorest regions in Europe at the time, and the mass exodus of natives left to carve out a better life for their future generations.

I feel like my Ukrainian branch of family tree are the most exotic, to me anyways, and I was not expecting many records to be available. But happily I was wrong, there are church records and state held records available.

Roadblock number one in pushing my Ukrainian research back further: because my father was adopted, I don’t have birth certificates and hard evidence – documents directly connecting me to Prokop, and this is necessary for some research. However I have been told that because the records I am looking for – Prokop’s birth/marriage/death/other children – are more than 100 years old, it is possible the state archives, known as the RAHS would grant me a privacy release. Roadblock numbers two is a language barrier. I have overcome language barriers before, but the mix of Ukrainian/Polish/Russian in Cyrillic alphabet is proving to be a challenge for me, and I have to admit I have been putting it off.

There are two ways for me to get my hands on more information: Metrical (church) records, held by the LDS church that can be ordered on microfilm for viewing, and records held by the RAHS. The metrical records are from 1864 and earlier, which is a problem because I can’t be sure Prokop was born earlier than 1865, it’s possible his baptism is not included here. PLUS language barrier. As for the records held by the RAHS, and I believe this is the route I will pursue soon, there is the issue of language barrier again, I would have to compose a letter that the archivists can read, which should surely be in Ukrainian, thought there is a small chance someone will speak English there. There could also be fees involved in foreign currency, and up until now I have been a neglectful Ukrainian genealogist because it has just seemed too difficult! However, writing this post has got me going again in this direction, and I believe I will attempt to contact the archives soon, if I can find help!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 15: Giacomo DeGrandis

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

I thought I’d explain in my next few posts why the rest of my 52 ancestors challenge might end up being heavy on the French Canadian information. This is because the French Canadians left a magnificent paper trail in their wake in the form of Catholic church records. Tracing my other ethnicities, particularily from the comfort of my own home on a computer has it’s limitations. So next up: some of my (current) dead ends.

Giacomo DeGrandis was born circa the year 1845 near the modern comune of Castelfranco Veneto, within the province of Treviso, region of Veneto, Italy. Castelfranco is a medieval town, complete with town walls and a castle, both of which are well preserved to this day. At the time of Giacomo’s (Italian for “Jacob”) birth, the region of Veneto was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, a kingdom within the Austrian Empire. Venetia had long been it’s own self-governing republic (697-1797) with it’s own unique culture and language. Residents considered themselves Venetians and continue to do so to this day. They spoke Venetian, similar to Italian but definitely unique. During Giacomo’s youth, he would see Venetia and Italy’s wars of Independence (Risorgimento), culminating in 1866 when Veneto became unified with the Kingdom of Italy.

Giacomo was quite likely an agricultural worker, either on a farm or (of course, in Italy) a vineyard. Veneto is known as the birthplace of Prosecco wine (and tiramisu!) and still produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. However Castelfranco Veneto is also at the junction of three railways, and a railway station was opened in 1877, so it is also possible he was a railway worker of some kind.

Giacomo married Santa Ambrosi on February 15, 1876. Their daughter, my great great grandmother Maddalena was born June 22, 1886 in the frazione of Campigo, comune di Castelfranco Veneto. Of course, they likely had more children in between, in the 10 years of marriage before Maddalena’s birth. Typically, especially for a Catholic majority society, I’d expect parish records of Baptisms, marriages and burials to be the first place to begin my genealogical search. But in Italy a more readily available, albeit less detailed source of information is civil registration records – births, marriages, and deaths. SOME… and I stress SOME civil registration records are available digitally online through FamilySearch.org, but another way to access a larger archive of these is to write to the stato civile office in the comune in which you are searching, which is the route I went -however I got the bare minimum of Maddalena’s birth, Giacomo and Santa’s marriage, and both of their deaths.

I do know of one other child of Giacomo and Santa, his name is Giovanni, born in 1880 and he served in the Italian military (a link to search that database HERE). He apparently immigrated to Germany and the U.S. in the early 1900’s, but I can find no further documentation on him. I am also told Maddalena had a sister named Josephine (Giuseppina). I DID find records for a Josephine De Grandis born in 1901, she married a man named Edward Barduca/Bardina. But on her marriage record, she lists her parents as Angela Dario and Valentino DeGrandis. The records indicate she was related somehow, and indeed there are many DeGrandis and Dario families in the Castelfranco area at the time, but perhaps she was a niece of Giacomo’s rather than a daughter. Maybe some records were fudged at some time to gain passage to Canada by declaring a closer relation than was real, I can’t be sure.

Giacomo lived to be 74 years old – he died February 13, 1920, just two days shy of his 44th wedding anniversary. 74 years is quite good when you consider that he lived through some major wars (Risorgimento and WWI) and was likely quite poor. His widow Santa lived another 12 years without him, and without their daughter Maddalena and her family as well, since she immigrated to Canada in 1923.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 13: Henri Antoine Meloche

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Henri Antoine Meloche was born October 10, 1862 to parents Etienne Meloche and Soulange Dufour in Amherstberg, Essex County, Ontario. He was baptized October 13th at St. Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic church and his godparents were his father’s brother Antoine Meloche and his mother’s sister Rosalie Dufour.

He lived on his parent’s farm at either Lot 5, Anderdon Township, South Essex OR Lot 41, 18th Concession, Anderdon Township, South Essex. They grew crops and also raised muskrats – yes, muskrats. Muskrats were primarily raised for their fur – similar to that of a beaver’s – but also for their meat, which is supposed to taste a lot like a mix between duck and rabbit. This could be a profitable venture, since muskrats needed very little to thrive, aside from marshy wet lands. All you had to do was trap them. Sometimes farmers would allow outside trappers to do so on their land, for the payment of a portion of the profits, furs or meats. At the time of the census of 1881, Henri was 18 years old and was his occupation was “hunter” – one could assume of muskrats.

On November 9, 1888, he married Cecile Olivia Meloche, daughter of his godfather Antoine Meloche and Marie Martin – she was his first cousin. They acknowledged their consanguinity in their marriage record at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church in Riviere-aux-Canards. They moved to a farm not far from Henri’s parents at Lots 38-39 in Anderdon, and Henri is noted as a “game keeper” on the 1901 census, so likely he went into the muskrat business like his father. Henri and Cecile went on to have 12 children – Alice, Raymond, Ernest, Leo, Rose, Lea, Charles, Moise, Stella, Bella, Eugene and Bertha.

Henri died in May 1918 of “carcinoma of liver and lungs”. He was only 56. His wife died not long after him – she passed away on January 20, 1920 of pneumonia.