As I discussed in earlier posts, the naming customs of French-speaking Quebec families led to the modern researcher’s problem of sorting out the numerous persons who had the same name and lived in the same general time frame, as well as to the creation and multiplication of dit names. But it is especially difficult to sort out voyageur ancestors who seldom or never went back to their families in Quebec, but stayed in “le pays d’en haut” until death. Their Quebec siblings and in-laws were not around to act as godparents to a voyageur’s children, and the women available to the voyageurs were mostly Native Americans whose original names were often not recorded. Connecting the mixed-blood children of such men to their paternal families in Quebec is therefore often extremely difficult.
I was lucky: three ancestral voyageur families of mine didn’t generally use dit names and were therefore somewhat less challenging to sort out: the Roys, the Cadots, and the Dufauts.
There are at least 28 separate lines of Roys who came to Quebec, making Roy one of the most common surnames in Quebec at the time and necessitating lot of dit names connected with that name. Fortunately, the first voyageur in my direct Roy line on this side of the border had the fairly rare personal name of Vincent, so it was easy to pick him out of the host of other Roys born in the right time frame. There were only two Vincents born in the right time frame. Interestingly, both were born at Laval about a year apart, but one of them died in infancy. From my Vincent (whose parents were both surnamed Roy), it was fairly straightforward to trace his ancestry back to the first immigrants, who were from unrelated families who came from different areas of France.
The Cadot family (whose surname was anglicized to Cadotte) was more difficult, partly because they were so famous (and prolific) that it is easy to confuse them with other fur-trade Cadots with the same personal names who, although not in my direct line, were all descended from original immigrant Mathurin Cadot from Poitou and Marie-Catherine Durand (who was half Huron, by the way).
The Dufaut family (numerous spellings on both sides of the border) were more difficult than the Cadots because they weren’t famous, and the records for those in the fur trade were spotty at best. This family took a lot of time and effort to sort out.
All three of these fur-trade lines converged at La Pointe, on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, three miles offshore from modern Bayfield, Wisconsin, and specifically in the records of the Catholic mission established there in 1835. Here many voyageurs regularized their marriages to Native American women, and their mixed-blood children (many already adults) were baptized.
Unfotunately, Frederic Baraga, who founded the mission at La Pointe, was Slovenian rather than French; he recorded his sacramental registers in the form of a table. He often didn’t fill in all the blanks, but worse, he didn’t even have blanks for all the information found in French sacramental records. The parents of adults baptized by him, the relationship of godparents to the person baptized, the names of the parents of a couple being married, the spouse or parents of a deceased adult: none of this useful information was recorded. It was probably all perfectly clear for the people involved in these events at the time, but for me, their descendant several generations later, it was all quite confusing.
Fortunately, however, the Cadot/Cadotte voyageur lines are unusually well documented, because they were serious players in the fur trade from the 1680s onward. I was primarily interested in my own direct ancestors and their siblings, so the effort of sorting them out for my purposes consisted largely of coping with the fact that there were, for example, several Jean-Baptiste Cadots/Cadottes active in the fur trade in the same time frame. This meant ordering a lot of microfilms, but it wasn’t all that expensive at the time, especially considering the numerous other ancestors and collaterals I found in those same microfilms; nor was it difficult, because of all the information packed into Quebec sacramental records.
Cadottes (being not only famous and influential but also very numerous) show up on practically every page of every register at La Pointe, so sorting them into family groups is almost impossible if you only have the sacramental records to go by. And if you can’t sort out the Cadottes and their family connections, it’s very difficult to sort out the family groups of many other families in the registers.
Other descendants of the same people on the NISHNAWBE list were also struggling with the Many-Cadotte Problem, so we pooled every scrap of information we found and tried to sort out the family groups.
One major problem we had was that Anishinaabe Indians (including mixed-bloods) commonly had (and still have) several Indian names, and often a French or English one as well. Moreover, women in particular felt free to use a different “white” name if they (or their spouse) liked it better. Since a Marie-Louise (for example) might appear in some records as Marie, in others as Louise, and in others under one of her Indian names or even with a different “white name” like Charlotte, just recognizing her in all her records is difficult. As for the mixed-blood men, even when they had a French surname, Quebec naming customs insured that there were often two or three (or more) other people with the same first name and same surname showing up in the registers around the same time.
It’s almost enough to make you give up on genealogy and take up gardening instead.
Fortunately there are other sources of information available for the folks in the La Pointe records, including US Federal censuses, correspondence between the Indian Agent at La Pointe and his superiors in the US government, references in travelers’ journals or fur companies’ records, and—for the Anishinaabe and mixed-bloods—numerous treaties with the Federal government and their supporting documents.
The Chippewa (as the government still insists on calling us) made more treaties with Uncle Sam than any other tribe, chiefly because we occupied much of the midwest areas which were vital for the fur trade or which had valuable mineral deposits or timberlands. In addition, white settlers had an insatiable appetite for any land that might be suitable for agriculture. Every time a treaty was made, eager settlers would ignore the treaty boundaries and move in on Indian territory, then complain when the Indians objected or resisted. The inevitable result was always another treaty, pushing us further west and putting our resources into white hands.
From the very first, whenever a voyageur or trader married an Anishinaabe woman, it was common that the children of that union were raised with their Anishinaabe relatives and therefore were considered by her entire clan as part of the family. Therefore, whenever the government made a treaty with us, they had to cope with the fact that the full-blood Chippewa wanted their mixed-blood relatives living among them to share in whatever benefits to the Indians were called for in that treaty.
The result: many of the treaties required a vetting of the mixed-bloods and out-of-the-treaty-area full-bloods to determine who was eligible for a share of those benefits. Naturally, the vetting had to be done by white officials, who generally consulted various longtime residents (white, mixed-blood, or full-blood) of the area to see what they knew of each possible beneficiary. The result was a mishmash of apparently conflicting information.
For modern researchers with Anishinaabe ancestry, then, there are fairly early records which are essentially lists of all persons who applied for treaty benefits under several different treaties. Note that as a general rule, people who had no current connection to the area covered by the treaty were excluded, and so were people who had received benefits under certain prior treaties.
Many of these records have been published and are still in print and/or are available on CD-ROM. Even better, the supporting vetting reports of the consultants about the applicants have in some cases survived and are often referred to as “Field Notes”.
Most of the final treaty rolls for Michigan Indians have been transcribed and published by Raymond C. Lantz, including the 1908 Durant Roll of the eastern Michigan tribes, which is the most recent and therefore the most helpful for the pursuit of ancestors in that area whose known genealogical information does not include anything earlier than that. It is supposed to include “all members or descendants of members who were on the roll of the Ottawa and the Chippewa tribes of Michigan in 1870, and living on March 4, 1907”.
The entire “Durant Roll package” (which includes the 1908 Durant Census Roll itself, the Supplemental Census Roll, and the final payment rolls) plus the Field Notes (the more detailed family information) was available on CD-ROM from a NISHNAWBE list member who has transcribed these as well as many of the earlier actual rolls for Michigan tribes. This person has not posted to the list since October 2009, but the list has not been very active since then. (See the archives of the mailing list to get more details and contact information.)
Half a century previous to the Durant Roll we have the very important Treaty of 1854 field notes material published by Gail Morin under the title Chippewa Half-Breeds of Lake Superior; this is widely available in print and on CD-ROM. The 1854 treaty guaranteed traditional hunting, fishing and harvesting of wild plants in the treaty area, a matter which became one of the catalysts for modern Native American activism and the reassertion of Native American rights all over the USA.
Earlier still, there is the 1839 material garnered by Lucius Lyons for the mixed-bloods provided for in the 1837 Treaty of St. Peter’s. In 2009, Theresa M. Schenck published the applications and the decision on each under the title All Our Relations: Chippewa Mixed Bloods and the Treaty of 1837. Theresa also added additional information about many of these persons; she did not, however, include the claim-vetting testimony for this treaty. Fortunately, several years ago other members of the NISHNAWBE list living in eastern Michigan discovered and transcribed the claim-vetting material (which they naturally called “Field Notes”) from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (“Applications”, Lucius Lyons Collection, Clements Library) and shared the material with the rest of us. Much of this material is found in the archives of the list from about 2001-2005.
Farther back still, the 1826 Treaty of Fond du Lac includes a list of the mixed-bloods in the treaty area who received a share of the land allocated to them, although apparently the supporting vetting documentation has not survived. This is still valuable information if you have an ancestor in that group.
So what did I do with this flood of information? How did I make sense of it? I’ll tell you that in my next post.