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!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 21: Clement Bessette

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 12: Edmond Langlois

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My last two ancestor’s, Emilija and Ieva’s lives spanned through a very exciting time in history – the turn of the century and ensuing industrialization. My Ukrainian and Italian ancestors were immigrants during this time period, so I’ve already covered their stories, so next  I thought I’d explore what my French Canadian families were up to at this point in history.

Edmond Langlois was born on the eighteenth of September, 1882 on a farm in Sandwich West, Essex North, Ontario to parents Antoine Langlois and Salome Mailloux. He was baptized that very day as “Joseph Elie Edmond Langlois” at L’Assomption de Sandwich Catholic church, his godparents were his uncle Louis Mailloux and Julienne Gignac. He had one brother named Denis.

Edmond lived with his parents, brother, aunt, uncle and two domestics on their farm where he also worked until his marriage. He married Marie Helene Belleperche (who went by Helen, Ellen and Lillie in her time) on October 13, 1903 at Assumption church. Edmond and Lillie were 2nd cousins – Edmond’s grandmother was a Belleperche, sister of Lillie’s grandfather – and also 3rd cousins from another line, the Ouellettes (both had paternal grandmothers who’s surnames were Ouellette, their grandmothers were 1st cousins). This may sound shocking but it was a LOT more common than most people realize, being that all people living today with French Canadian ancestry can trace their roots back to the first few thousand French settlers.

Edmond and Lillie lived on a farm on Lot 71, 2nd concession with Edmond’s unemployed brother Denis. On the 1911 census, Edmond is listed as a “Farmer – ret.” Being that he was only 29, he was not truly retired but perhaps done with being a farmer, and by the time of the 1921 census he had left his rural life altogether. He moved his family first to 15 Elm Ave by 1912, and next to 31 Elm Ave by 1921 in Windsor, where Edmond earned his living as a motorman for the electric street car system. Introduced in 1886, Windsor’s was the first electric street car system in Canada. However, being next door neighbour to “Motor City” Detroit and home to some automotive assembly plants as well, the rise of the automobile in the 1930’s along with it’s increasing popularity and affordability soon made the street car obsolete – quite costly for the city to maintain and with a decreased ridership. The last street car ran in Windsor in 1939, when a cheaper city bus system was put in place. Edmond was 57 at the time.

Edmond and Lillie had seven children. They welcomed their first, a daughter named Florence in 1905, then Virginia in 1907 and Beatrice in the summer of 1911. Beatrice, however died as an infant in 1912 due to “chronic nephritis” – problems with the kidneys. Less than a year later in 1913, a fourth daughter named Marie was born, but only lived 5 hours before passing away of “asphyxia pallida”. In 1915, the couple welcomed their first son, named Jerome, but again, tragedy struck when he died of malnutrition and inanition at 11 months of age – quite likely there was an underlying cause. Bernice was born in 1918 and Leo in in 1920.

Edmond died December 7, 1952 in Windsor, at age 70.

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

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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

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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.