Friday, January 7, 2011

Identifying Joseph Dufaut, Part 1: Collecting Information

I’ve already told you how I crossed the border and connected my Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa to his family in Quebec. Today I’d like to begin to tell you how I did the same with the paternal grandfather of my Great-Grandfather Vincent Dufauld.

Long before I started genealogical research, I knew that Vincent himself was a member of what is now known as the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, because his daughters, including my grandmother, were members of that band. So were my grandmother’s children, including my mother, and her grandchildren, including me. Therefore I knew where to look for his adult records: in northern Minnesota, on the Vermillion reservation of the Bois Forte Band. (Our primary reservation now is the one at Nett Lake, with Vermillion as the secondary; in earlier years these two were treated as entirely separate entities.) From his French-Canadian surname (variously spelled as DeFoe, Dufau, Defaux, Dufaut, Default, and numerous other variations) I also knew that Vincent must have had French-Canadian ancestry.

Thanks to information from my cousin and from Vincent’s probate, I was able to verify the identities of Vincent’s parents (Michel Dufauld and Josette Roy), grandparents (paternal: Joseph Dufaut and Julie Cadotte, Maternal: Vincent Roy fils and Lizzie/Elizabeth Lacombe) and even a set of great-grandparents (Michel Cadot/Cadotte and Madeleine/Equay-say-way), all of whom who were fairly well documented once you knew where to look. I got a lot of help from other members on Rootsweb’s NISHNAWBE mailing list, several of whom were distant cousins. What I needed was documentation that would enable me to connect Vincent’s grandfather, Joseph Dufaut/Dufaux to his parents, whose names had not been established.

I began by reviewing what I already knew or could collect online about Joseph Dufaut aka Dufault aka Dufauld.

I knew that he had been at La Pointe by about 1829, since their son Michel, baptized the first day the St. Joseph Mission opened on Sunday, 2 August 1835, was stated to be 5 years old at the time (therefore born about 1830) and born at La Pointe. That same day, Joseph himself was baptized and was stated to be 45 years old (therefore born about 1790) and born at Lac du Flambeau. (Julie Cadotte, his bride, also was formally baptized the same day.) After that, Joseph and Julie had their marriage blessed by the Church—the only marriage ceremony Father Baraga had time for on what must have been an incredibly long and hectic day, which doubtless included hearing many confessions as well as officiating at 25 baptisms, saying Mass and fulfilling his own daily prayer obligations.

Since Joseph was baptized at La Pointe, I knew that he had not been baptized either in Quebec or at any of the missions at Mackinac. (His baptism was probably handled at birth by his father or whoever else was available and knew the procedure. But there was no record of it, so Baraga’s baptism of Joseph, as well as of Julia and most of the others, was almost certainly a conditional one. Unfortunately, not being French, he didn’t specify that.)

Joseph’s only child, my GG grandfather Michel Dufauld, died in December 1916 at the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. His obituary, published in the Minnesota History Bulletin, Vol. II (1917-18), states that Michel’s father Joseph “was for many years a boss carpenter; between the years 1820 and 1830 he supervised the construction of the stores and warehouses of the American fur Company on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, eighteen miles from Bayfield, Wisconsin. He built the mission churches on the island, one of which, the Presbyterian church, is still [1916] standing.” When my mother and I visited Madeline Island (which is actually only about 3 miles from Bayfield), the people at the museum told us that one of its rooms was originally a building erected by Joseph and his crew.

I learned that Joseph and Julie were married twice, once by the Protestant missionary at La Pointe in 1834 (as registered by Chippewa County, which at that time included much of what is now Wisconsin), then by Father Baraga in the Catholic church Joseph and his crew had just finished building. (I believe the Protestant ceremony took place because the couple wanted to insure that their son was regarded as legitimate in case either parent died. The moment the opportunity came, they had the Catholic rites.)

The Catholic marriage information came from Linda E. Bristol’s transcription of the St. Joseph Mission and Holy Family Catholic Church Marriage Records 1835-1880. From her transcription of the Liber Defunctorum (Death Registry) 1835-1900 for the St. Joseph Mission and Holy Family Catholic Church, I learned that Joseph died in March 1873 at La Pointe at age 83 (consistent with his other records giving his birth year as 1790), while Julie lived until February 1876. My 2G grandfather Michel was their only recorded child.

I knew that Joseph and several other contemporary Dufaults in the fur trade in the early 1800s were “half-breeds” and repeatedly reported as being exactly 1/2 Indian in the field notes of various trieaties. And since he lived at La Pointe, which in 1835 was a company town run by the American Fur Company, I looked for Dufauts (however spelled) in available American Fur Company records and other American sources.

The American Fur Company roster of employees 1818-1819, now online at the Mackinac County, Michigan GenWeb site, shows that a Jos. Dufauet was engaged at St. Mary’s (Sault Ste Marie) for 1 year beginning 29 July 1819 as a boatman. His wages were 1500 (currency type not stated); “Where Employed” is not stated, but under Remarks is “Lac du Flambeau”. There is also one Louis Dufaust engaged at Mackinac on 9 July 1818 for one year as Interpreter at Fond du Lac for “$2,400” per year.

Bruce White’s roster of fur traders in The Fur Trade in Minnesota cites the American Fur Company’s list of employees for 1819 as showing a Joseph Dufault/Dufauet, an interpreter in the Lac du Flambeau department, at $250 and as a boatman for 1822 at $200. In 1819 my Joseph would have been age 29, in 1822 age 32. Since he was born at Lac du Flambeau, the Joseph who worked at Lac du Flambeau is pretty likely to be my ancestor.

Notary Samuel Abbott at Mackinac kept a list of the legal transactions he handled between 1806 and 1818. The actual contracts have not survived, but the inventory, commonly known as Abbott’s List (online) includes the following entries for Dufaut (with the usual variations in spelling):

1808, 29 July: Joseph Defaut, for the Mackinac Co., wintering at St. Joseph

1809, 8 July: Joseph Dufond, for the Mackinac Co., wintering at St. Joseph

1817, 14 July: Louis Dufault, for Ramsay Crooks (American Fur Co.), wintering at Fond du Lac

But who was Joseph’s father, who was presumably at Lac du Flambeau about 1789-90? Jean-Baptiste Perrault, in his Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of a Merchant Voyageur in the Savage Territories of Northern America Leaving Montreal the 28th of May 1783 (20 1820), online at Google Books, in pages 508-619 of the volume Historical Collections and Researches Made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Vol XXXVII, wrote about one (or possibly two) traders surnamed Dufaut.

On page 519-20 he writes about a catastrophic expedition he was involved with in November 1781, where his party, led by a heavy-drinking Mr. Kay who was, as he puts it, “Hare-brained”, was wrecked attempting to enter the “riviere du fond du Lac”. They were able to repair the canoes and recover most of their trade goods but were all soaked and unable to dry anything out. Worse, they were almost entirely out of provisions. Two days after the wreck the party came to a wintering house at Fond du Lac used by “mr. Dufaut, come from grand portage [Note: Perrault refers to a portage on the St. Louis River, not the Grand Portage which is now a reservation in Minnesota], clerk for the N.Wt. (Company) [=The North West Company]. As m.Kay had perhaps taken only one drink he now took the second which made him ill-tempered so that Instead of receiving politely mr. Dufaut, who came down to meet him on the beach, he treated him rudely. But as the mr. perceived his [drunken] condition he kept silence and gave him no information.” Kay insisted the exhausted and hungry party immediately start out for the grand portage. “M. Dufaut, fearing that he would stop near him, offered him provisions for several days”, an offer which was refused since Kay hoped that they would meet up with an agent of his who was supposed to have obtained more provisions. (The rest of the expedition was equally disastrous.)

On pages 558-559 Perrault writes about meeting a Dufault in 1791 whose winter quarters were at Lac du Flambeau:

“I returned to makinac at the 1791 beginning of July, 1791 . . . I re-equipped with mr. todd, with 7 pieces of Cloth and an assorted stock, to return to fond du Lac.. . . On arriving at the Sault, I had my canoe taken up, and I Slept at the end of the portage. I set out the next day and slept at the riviere tak-quwaminan [Tacquimenon]. The 4th. day, I reached les grandes ilsles [sic]. I camped there. The next day I met opposite la riviere au poisson qui rit [Laughing Fish River] Defund Dufault, who was returning from his winter quarters at Lac du flambeau. I addressed him. He asked me How furs were selling at makinac. I told him that they were low. I gave him a drink. After he had taken it, he Said to me. “I find that the season is well advanced, so that it will be too late to enter Lac de flambeau.” “Very well,” I said to him, “Do you wish to trade with me? How many packs have you?” ”I have 35,” he replied; “I have one pack of Otter, 5 packs of Beaver, 2 packs of marten, 3 of bear, 1 of polecat, Lynx and rats. The remainder is Deer. And you! what is your canoe-load?” “I have here 7 bales assorted, 12 Kegs of Liquor, 2 kegs of powder, 5 sacks of lead and balls, 1 case of hatchets and scalping knives, 6 guns for the trade, 1 bale tinned iron kettles, 2 sacks of flour, 4 sacks of Corn, 1 keg of tallow, and one of sugar.” He took a little while to consider, and said to me, “Come ashore. It is done.” Before going to land, I said, “I will take provisions to carry me to mackinac.” “Yes,” he replied. We went ashore in the river, and I had my tent put up. While I was Unloading the canoe, he put up his shelter. He said to me, “It is unnecessary to open the goods; let me see The condition of your Bales, that will be enough.’ I did so, and he was satisfied. Similarly I took his packs, under Cord. We slept there. Early the next morning I started out . . .”

Now, “Defund” is not a personal name. It’s a French word meaning “deceased.” At the time he wrote about this encounter (about 1830, during his retirement at Sault Ste Marie), Perreault is saying that the man who wintered at Lac du Flambeau in 1791 had since died. Unfortunately Perrault does not say whether the Mr. Dufaut he met in 1791 was the same man he had met in 1781.

Dead end? No.

A fellow member of the NISHNAWBE Mailing List researching Dufaut lines shared a transcription of a letter written in 1889 to Judge Joseph J. Steere by John McDougal Johnston (son of the famous Sault Ste Marie fur trader John Johnston, and a lifelong inhabitant of that community). Johnston was about 73 by then, and what he writes is stated to be “from reliable information, and most of the persons named within, I was personally acquainted with.”) This is part of it:

“A few years before 1790, Louison Default came up from Montreal in the employ of the N.W.F. Co. [=North West Fur Company], after serving his time out with the Co., he married an Indian woman from the country of Lac du Flambeau after the custom of those days, before witnesses. He got his goods and outfit from the late Mr. Johnston, and after a few years successful trading, took his family and went down to Montreal, there getting his marriage confirmed by the priest, remaining there several years, he returned and settled in this place, turning his attention to tilling the soil and raising stock. His family consisted of three sons, Louison, Joseph, and Francis and two daughters, Jenvieve [sic] and Angelique. The old man, before coming to this part of the country, apparently had served in its army, having with him his military uniform and sword—probably had been a non-commissioned officer—consequently owing to his regimentals, they gave him the name of Ghe-Sma gah-nisk, or Soldier, he was known by that name throughout the Lake Superior country, up to his death. I was personally acquainted with all his children.”

Now, clearly the information as to the father, Louison, is hearsay, since Johnston (born in 1816), could not possibly have any memory of Louison Dufaut, although he does say he knew the children. However, it is extremely likely that he got his information about Louison from those children living at "this place", Sault Ste Marie. And clearly, Johnston did not know just when Louison Dufault entered the fur trade, when he took his Indian wife and children to Montreal, or when he returned. He was almost certainly correct in connecting Dufault to the North West Fur Company, since his own father had been an early employee of that company and, as Johnston says, supplied Louison with trade goods after Louison married his Lac du Flambeau Indian wife "before witnesses".

Perrault places a fur-trade Dufault wintering at Lac du Flambeau in 1789, within a year of the the time when my 3G Grandfather Joseph was born there; it is reasonable to conclude that “Defund” Dufault is Joseph’s father. Note also that both Perrault and Louison Dufault retired to Sault Ste Marie. Johnston tells us that Louison Dufaut, like the man Perrault met in 1781 at Fond du Lac, was employed by the North West Company before he took his Ojibwe wife and children back to the Montreal area “a few years before 1790”; equally importantly, he gives the names of the children he knew, which included a Joseph, who now appeared extremely likely to be my GGG Grandfather.

Riddle solved? Not quite. The North West Company did not exist under that name until 1783; it was the result of a merger between several other fur-trade companies. The man Perrault met in 1781 “probably” worked for one of those companies, but he may not have been the same man he met ten years later. Quebec families in those days had lots of children; “Louison” was certainly not the only Dufaut who worked in the fur trade.

Support for Johnston's account is found in the Mackinac Register: on 27 July 1786 a Louis Dufau had had a 16-month-old “plus” daughter Genevieve “née du legitimate marriage de Louis Dufau et de Marie Louise de la nation Sauteuse” baptized at St-Ignace (therefore born about April 1785). On 26 July 1787, Louis Dufaux brought in for baptism a “légitime” 7-month-old son named Pierre (therefore born about December 1786-January 1787), at the same mission; the mother identified as “une mère sauvagesse nommée Marie Louise de la nation des sauteurs.” There is a cross in the margin indicating that the child had died.

It’s pretty clear that Louison Default in the Johnston letter and Louis Dufau of the Mackinac Registers are the same person, legally married to Marie-Louise by 1786, particularly since there is no marriage record at Mackinac but the marriage was accepted as legitimate in the eyes of the missionaries at Mackinac. Moreover, the nickname “Louison” was commonly used for a boy named Louis whose father was also a Louis, meaning that Marie-Louise’s husband was likely the son of a Louis Dufaut and suggesting that the Louis Dufaut “senior”, who is found in the La Pointe registers from day one is the “Louison” mentioned by Johnston as the son of Louis and Marie-Louise, and therefore Joseph’s brother. And a Louis Dufaut and his adult son, also named Louis, appear early on in the La Pointe registers, getting their wives and children baptized and their marriages blessed.

Now then, I received yet another bit of solid gold information from the same NISHNAWBE list member who had found the Johnston letter: in 1825, “land records” at Sault Ste Marie involved two of his sons, Francis and Joseph. At the time, the information I had was that Francis testified that he had always lived with his father at Sault Ste Marie, and that his brother Joseph “lived there only occasionally”. (I’ll give more detail in my next post.)

So all the evidence i had, considered together, brought me to the conclusion that GGG Grandfather Joseph was the son of a fur trader named Louis Dufaut (however spelled) and of a woman from Lac du Flambeau who had converted to the Catholic faith, taking the name of Marie-Louise, and that Louis and Marie-Louise had been married somewhere in Quebec, probably in the Montréal area. Furthermore, the family had finally settled at Sault Ste Marie. But where was that missing, crucial Quebec marriage record that would tell me who Louis' parents were?

Today all I’d have to do would be to go online to and search in the Drouin collection of Quebec parish records for that marriage. Alternatively, I could go to the PRDH website and pay the PRDH to locate that marriage record for me. But neither of those options was available at the time I was doing this particular research. I had to fall back on parish records on microfilm.

But I didn’t have to order dozens of microfilms of parish records, as I’d had to do to find the birth record of Great-Grandfather Joseph Chosa. Since I was looking for the marriage of a man who was in the fur trade, there were two shortcuts available. I’ll tell you about those next time.

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