Monday, January 24, 2011

Joseph Dufaut's Parents, Part 2: The Smoking Gun

In my last post I discussed the information I had found about my 3G Grandfather Joseph Dufaut and how I had learned that he was born at Lac du Flambeau about 1790; that he was almost certainly the brother of François Dufault who lived at Sault Ste Marie; that his parents were probably a voyageur named Louis Dufaut and an Anishinaabe woman from Lac du Flambeau who took the name of Marie Louise in baptism; and that Louis had taken his Anishinaabe wife to Quebec, most likely in or near Montréal for a proper Catholic marriage, stayed there for several years, then returned to the Great Lakes area and eventually settled at Sault Ste Marie with his family, where he had died in 1817.

Assuming that I was correct in my deductions, I knew there was (or had been) a marriage record somewhere in Quebec for the couple. But back when I was on this trail, neither the Drouin Collection of Quebec parish records nor the PRDH was yet online, and the locally available marriage indexes, including Tanguay, didn’t show marriages after the end of the French regime in Quebec (1763 or so).

However, there is another primary source for men involved in the fur trade: notary records. A Quebec notary is something between an American notary public and an English solicitor: a notary draws up contracts (including marriage contracts), wills, guardianship papers, IOUs, records of debts paid, sales contracts, transfers of property, and records legal statements. He does not, however, represent a client in court.

As in France, a Quebec notary was required to keep a copy of all his legal documents and to keep an inventory of where each document was to be found (generally a box number and document number: filing cabinets did not exist yet). Many of these records have survived, and now has many of the notary inventories available online. To examine the actual records, though, you still have to order the microfilm or visit the repository which has this notary’s records. (If you don’t subscribe to Ancestry’s “World Deluxe” version, your local Family History Center may have it. You can also order the inventory microfilms as well as the actual records there.)

Yale University has a detailed list of 120 Voyageur contracts in its posession, drawn up between 1801 and 1821, with a full description of their terms; the list is online. Until very recently, the website for the Centre du patrimoine of Manitoba had a searchable online index (in French) for some 35,000 notary fur-trade contracts in its possession. Alas, the database still exists, but apparently is not available online except to registered academics, so as of now you have to fall back on the inventories for the individual notaries. If you wish to try registering, you can go to the English version of the site map. UPDATE 12 JULY 2011: the searchable database is now online again and anyone can use it without registering. If you’re looking for a particular surname, put that in the “Nom” box. If you don’t find your voyageur, try all conceivable spelling variations. At the very least, you can learn where other voyagers with that surname came from; they may be your ancestor’s  close relatives. Note that this is not a master index of all fur-trade contracts.

Note that if you find a likely candidate in a notary’s index (online at Ancestry or on microfilm), you still have to order the microfilm for the contract itself, because the index won’t give you enough information to make a positive identification, and the actual contract may have vital details that are not in the index, as you will see later on in this post.

Fortunately for me, early in my genealogical research an online acquaintance provided me with information about notary fur-trade contracts for several Dufauts. Among those were the engagements for three Louis Dufauts. The earliest one dated from 1736, the next from 1784, and the third from 1802. The one who signed on in 1784 had been engaged by John Gregory before notary Antoine Foucher and was being sent to Michilimakinac. Given Quebec naming customs, it occurred to me that the Louis in the 1784 contract might be the son of the 1736 Louis and the father of the 1802 Louis.) This same acquaintance also gave me information about fur-trade engagements for other voyageur ancestors. To see the actual contracts, I would have to order a lot of microfilms.

As it happened, at this point in my research I also needed to consult quite a few other microfilms, as well as non-circulating materials (including many relating to either my Danish ancestry or the ancestry of my husband), all housed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. So, I went to Salt Lake City for a few days, and there I hit serious pay dirt on all fronts. I was able to obtain copies of several family fur-trade contracts including the 1736 and 1784 Louis Dufauts. I also obtained copies of various extremely helpful reference materials, and on the last day I discovered and consulted another marriage index which was not otherwise accessible: that of Pontbriand. And on my last day, shortly before closing, I found Pontbriand’s entry for the marriage record of “Dufault, Louis (son of Louis and M-Louise Lussier) and Mentofaki, M.-Lse (Sauteux) on 15-2-1778 at St-Mathias, Rouville, Quebec”.

At this point, I had to go home. The first day my local Family History Center was open, I ordered the microfilm for the parish of St-Mathias. I also ordered the film for nearby Longueuil’s parish records covering the 18th century, because I had looked up in Tanguay the marriages of Dufauts and observed that during the 1700s many of them had married and had their children in that parish, including the Louis who had married M-Louise Lussier. I wanted to find out where Louis (the father) was living at the time and who the parents of this couple were and—I hoped—find the baptism records of their children and other records for the extended family.

When the films came in, I looked first at the St-Mathias registers and discovered that Pontbriand had not been entirely accurate: The groom’s surname was spelled “Dufaux” in the register, not “Dufault”. Pontbriand had misread the “surname” of the bride, which was actually “Mentosaky”, not “Mentofaky”. (To be fair, the lower case “s” in that era often looks much like the lower case “f”.) Her parents’ names were given in the marriage record, but contrary to the normal practice of Quebec marriage indexes, Pontbriand did not list them in his index. (The bride’s father’s name was recorded as Mentosaky, her mother’s name as Pemynany, and all were “de nation sauteuse”.)

The marriage record, as I expected, listed the names of some of the attendees at the marriage ceremony, including the groom’s uncle Joseph Dufaux, several of Louis’s sisters and brothers-in-law, and “many others” who were not named, none of whom had been able to sign their names to the register. In other words, this was a marriage which clearly met with considerable approval of Louis’s extended family. However, apparently Louis’s father did not attend, and his mother was stated to be deceased. Finally, the record states that the marriage legitimized the couple’s three children, Marie age about 5 years, Marie-Louise age about 3 years, and Louis-Noël age 2 years.

Naturally I started looking farther back in the register for the baptisms of the three children and their mother. I soon found 3 of them: a week before the wedding, on 8 February 1779, Marie-Louise age about 3 years “de Parents inconnus” was baptized at St-Mathias, as was “Marie-Louise Sauvagesse de nation Sauteuse”, age about 24 years. I also found I found the 2 February 1779 baptism of “Noël-Louis” age about 15 months “de Parents inconnus”. (“Parents inconnus” is charitable shorthand for “born outside of wedlock” or “illegitimate”.) I did not, however, find the baptism of Marie, the eldest daughter.

So now I turned to the Longueuil registers, where the Dufauts (variously spelled, of course) had lived for two previous generations. And there I came upon one of those “out of the blue” phenomena that explains a lot of missing records.

About October of 1778, the priest at Longueuil (who had truly atrocious handwriting, by the way) had been transferred, and his temporary replacement either failed to keep any sacramental records whatsoever or else took them with him when he left. The permanent replacement arrived a couple of months later. I believe that it was during that record gap that Louis and his little family arrived home and his eldest daughter was baptized.

The question that now arose was, why didn’t the couple marry at Longueuil? By February 1779 there was a new curé on duty who was keeping proper records. And why didn’t old Louis père come to his only son’s wedding? Did he disapprove of Louis’s marriage? Was he ill or disabled?

This riddle I didn’t solve until very recently—and I can’t prove it (illiterate people don’t keep diaries to explain things to their posterity). But here goes: I found that Louis’s mother died in January 1776—in Montréal (a short boat crossing of the St. Lawrence River from Longueuil). Her burial record specifies that she was buried in the cemetery for the poor. What appears to be a cause of death is lined out and illegible.

Her grieving widower would not have been able to send the sad news to his only son until the following spring, via one of the fur trade boats headed to Michilimackinac and the Great Lakes, and it might not have been delivered for a long time if he were at a remote post (such as Lac du Flambeau). Even then, the son would not have been able to return home until he had finished out his contract. He may also have had difficulty obtaining passage on one of the boats heading back to Montréal for himself plus his wife and three children. (“Montreal boats” were generally fully packed with trade goods in the spring and with furs in the fall, with little or no room for non-working passengers who were not higher-ups in the boat’s fur-trade company.) In other words, it probably was not until October or November 1778—almost two years after his mother’s death—that Louis and his little family arrived at Montréal.

The plain fact is that Louis fils, the sole surviving son of his parents, wasn’t around when his parents needed him, and hadn’t been there to comfort his dying mother. The fact that Louis père couldn’t pay for a place for his wife in the regular parish cemetery suggests that he had run into financial difficulties. He may also have been in poor health himself (he died in November 1783 in Longueuil, age 67). The father may have bitterly resented the fact that his son had stayed out in le pays d’en haut instead of coming home as soon as his first contract was up, bringing his earnings and labor to support and assist his aging parents with the farm at Longueuil. (Voyageur contracts usually were for no longer than 3 years, and since Louis arrived home with a five-year-old daughter, he had clearly been gone from home for at least six years.)

It is also possible that Louis père *may* also have been less than pleased to be confronted with a “savage” daughter-in-law and half-breed grandchildren, but it is equally possible that he may have had no problem with the ethnicity of his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Why? Well, the Louis who had been a voyageur in 1736 was from Longueuil (according to the contract), and Louis père, age 20 in 1736, was the only Louis Dufaut from Longueuil who was an adult but not too old to be a voyageur at that time.

Whatever the relationship with his widowed father, Louis fils was clearly welcomed back by his uncle Joseph Dufaut and his sisters; apparently most of them were now living in or near St-Mathias (the parish is now called St-Hilaire), which is about 20 miles from Longueuil. One of his sisters was a godparent to her about-to-be sister-in-law; a brother-in-law was godparent to little Louis-Noël and to a daughter, Marie-Catherine, born 2 months after the marriage ceremony.

Louis apparently left St-Mathias after the March 1779 birth of Marie-Catherine, because their next child, Jean-Baptiste, was born and baptized at Chambly in January 1781, and the baptism record says they were living there. There’s solid genealogical gold in Jean-Baptiste’s baptism record: his mother is recorded as Marie-Louise Kinogenini instead of as Marie-Louise Mentosaky or Marie-Louise de la nation sauteuse. Kinogenini is either her personal Anishinaabe name or an alternate name of her father (many Anishinaabe have 2 or more Anishinaabe names).

Chambly is less than 5 miles from Longueuil, so the move to Chambly would have made it much easier for Louis to see his father quite frequently and assist with the farm labor—assuming that Louis père was still living there and still had his farm. In February 1783 the couple had another daughter, Marie-Geneviève, also born at Chambly. Nine months later, in November of 1783, Louis père died, not at Longueuil but at St-Mathias (where several of his daughters and sons-in-law were living), so it is not clear why Louis fils was living at Chambly or how he was supporting his family there. In any case, it must have taken some time to settle the old man’s affair even if he no longer had a farm at Longueuil, by which time winter had set in. It is, however, very clear that once his father died, Louis was not content with permanently setting up as a farmer at Longueuil or St-Matthias or Chambly, and I rather think his wife was homesick.

On 6 May 1784, before Notary Antoine Foucher, Louis signed a contract with John Gregory to go to Michilimakinac. Louis is stated to be living at Chambly and he agrees to winter at his post (instead of making a return trip the same year); his wages will be 700 livres. Added to the pre-printed fill-in-the-blanks contract is the handwritten clause that he will serve as interpreter when needed. As an experienced voyageur and interpreter, his wages are accordingly rather high—700 livres.

In contrast, that same year another 4G grandfather of mine, Vincent Roy, also signed on (with another company) to winter at Michilimackinac or wherever the company would need him; his wages are only 400 livres. This was the 20-year-old Vincent’s first engagement. In 1852, Vincent’s granddaughter Josette would marry Louis’s grandson Michel Dufaut at La Pointe.

Incidentally, John Gregory and his associate Alexander McKenzie both personally signed Louis’s contract; 3 years later his company, Gregory, McLeod and Co., became part of the North West Company. Old John Johnston was therefore not off the mark when he said in his letter to Judge Stere that Louis worked for the North West Company.

There appears to be no surviving documentation as to how Louis was able to bring his wife and six children (ages ranging from 1 to 10 years) back to le pays d’en haut with him, but obviously he did it. Apparently little Geneviève did not survive, for the couple’s next child, born about April 1785, was given the same name at her baptism in July 1786 at St-Ignace. A year later, a son was born and given the name Pierre at his baptism in July 1787. This boy also died; there is no record of a burial, but there’s a cross in the margin of the Mackinac Register to indicate the death, and the next son was given the name of Pierre.

How do I know this? There is no record of his baptism, but Pierre 2, like most of the older children, returned to the bosom of the extended family in St-Mathias, and on 17 January 1810, he died “sur la Rivière chaviri (capsized on the river: in other words, he drowned). Since Pierre died unmarried, the burial record (a full week after his death) gives the names of his parents: Louis and Marie-Louise Brunel. Pierre at death was “agé de vingt ans et vingt jours”. This means that the curé had an exact date of birth with which to calculate Pierre’s age, which must have been on or about 29 December 1789, depending on your math and whether you know that 1800 was not a leap year. Somewhere in between, the couple had another daughter, Elisabeth (also called Isabelle), born about 1788 according to her January 1804 marriage record at Chambly.

I rather think that Pierre 2 and my 3G Grandfather Joseph were twins; Indian women, unlike the women of French Quebec, nursed their infants long enough to insure that they didn’t give birth every year. Marie-Louise certainly spaced her children about 2 years apart. Note that Joseph, if he was Pierre’s twin, was born only a couple of days before 1790, and that he always said he was born in 1790. Perhaps the twins were born on New Year’s Day??

I point out that Perrault’s narrative places “Defund Dufault” at Lac du Flambeau (where Marie Louise came from) at the right time for Pierre and Joseph to have been born there. Not long after that, Louis and Marie-Louise settled, as the Johnston letter says, at Sault Ste Marie, and had 3 other known children: Elisabeth/Isabelle born about 1788, François (Francis), and Angelique. Old John Johnston knew only Louis (aka Louis-Noël), Joseph, Francis, Genevieve 2, and Angelique.

The other surviving children of Louis and Marie-Louise “de la nation sauteuse” lived out their adult lives in Quebec. By 1796, at least one of the oldest sisters (and probably all three) had returned to the general area where their relatives lived. Oldest daughter Marie-Louise married Paul Pigeon at L’Assomption on 14 June of that year and had 2 children there before her death in 1801. On 14 January 1799 Marie married Antoine Truteau at St-Mathias. In August 1799 Marie-Catherine married André Poudret-dit-Lavigne at Chambly. Jean-Baptiste, Pierre and Isabelle likely returned to Quebec about 1801, probably escorted by big brother Louis-Noël; Jean-Baptiste married Marguerite Truteau (sister of Marie’s husband Antoine) at St-Mathias on 9 January 1804, 2 days before his 25th birthday. On 12 November 1804, Isabelle/Elisabeth married Louis Charon-dit-Cabana at Chambly. Pierre 2, as discussed above, died in January 1810.

In 1802, a Louis Dufaut of Chambly signed on with McTavish, Frobisher & Co., destination “Dans le Nord-Ouest”. McTavish, Frobisher & Co. was a major player in the North West Company. I believe this Louis is Louis-Noël, now about age 23, and that he had come to Chambly to deliver 3 of his younger siblings to the family in Quebec. Once that task was done, Louis-Noël aka “Louison” returned to his life in the fur trade and never went back. He appears on Abbott’s List in 1805, on other lists of Great Lakes area fur traders, and eventually shows up in the La Pointe registers as Louis Dufaut “senior”, with an Anishnaabe wife and numerous children, including a Louis junior (of course), a Joseph, a Jean-Baptiste, a François, and an Isabel—named for his siblings, in accordance with Quebec custom.

I should note that in all of the Quebec marriages, the mother of the Dufaut being married is called Louise Brunel (several spellings). Does this mean I’ve picked the wrong children? Certainly not. Brunel/Brunell is, I admit, a perfectly good French surname or dit name which refers to dark or brown coloration. I believe the children involved decided to tell the curé that their mother was "Brunel" not because they were ashamed of her (and their own) ethnicity but because they didn’t want to have the priest record her as “sauvagesse” (as most priests would if given the chance).

Where’s the proof of the connection? Right there in the Quebec marriage records for Louis and Marie-Louise’s children. The marriage records for Marie, Jean-Baptiste, and Isabelle don’t say where the parents are living, only where the child is living. Marie-Catherine’s marriage record (1799) says, vaguely, that her parents are at “Detroit dans le pays d’en haut”. (The mission at Mackinac was an arm of Ste-Anne de Detroit, and therefore so was its sub-mission at St-Ignace.) But Marie-Louise’s 1796 marriage record states plainly that her parents are living at Michilimackinac at the Sault post.

This is what is called a smoking gun.

This firmly and incontrovertibly links the parents of Marie-Louise and her siblings to the Louis Dufaut family which settled at Sault Ste Marie (where Louis died in 1817) and who are described in the Johnston letter as having married “in Montreal” “a few years before 1790”, stayed there “several years” before returning and settling at the Sault as described in the John Johnston letter. Johnston specifically stated that the mother was from Lac du Flambeau and knew the sons named Louison, Joseph, and Francis. Under the circumstances, it’s also hard to deny that their father “in the employ of the N.W.F. Co.” was the “defund Dufaut” who encountered Perrault while stationed at Lac du Flambeau in 1790.

Francis testified (and Joseph agreed) in 1823 that their father had a farm at Sault Ste Marie and that Joseph, unlike Francis, did not live at the Sault full-time by then. We have notary Samuel Abbott at Mackinac listing Joseph Default as signing on with the Mackinac Co. in 1808 and Kelton’s list of American Fur Company employees showing Joseph Dufaut signing on with the AFC at Sault Ste Marie (“St. Mary’s”) in 1819 and 1822. By 1830 my 3G Grandfather Joseph was a boss carpenter at La Pointe (a town dominated by the American Fur Company) and fathering a son named Michel born to Julie Cadotte, whom he married as soon as a minister was available. The only other Dufaut who shows up in the post-1800 fur trade in the Lake Superior region and at La Pointe is Louis, brother of Francis and Joseph. (There is no baptism record at La Pointe for Louis, because he had been baptized at St-Mathias.) And Louis, Francis, and Joseph are the names of the 3 sons of “Louison Default” and his Indian wife from Lac du Flambeau, where Joseph always said he was born.

The conclusion is, really, inescapable, even though there is no contemporary 1790 birth record for him: my 3G Grandfather Joseph Dufaut was the son of Louis Dufaut from Longueuil (son of Louis Dufaut and Marie-Louise Lussier) and his legitimate wife Marie-Louise/Kinogenini (daughter of Mentosaky and Pemynany) from Lac du Flambeau.

I had—finally—nailed the identification of Joseph’s parents.

UPDATE on Tanguay: Google Books now has the Tanguay marriage repertoire online as a free PDF download.


  1. Angelique Default, Joseph's sister is my ggggrandmother. Angelique married Louis Gurnoe, they had Isabella Elizabeth Gurnoe or Garneau who married Henry Cotte, Cota, Cotay. They had Charlotte Cote/a who married Antoinne Poisson/Fisher and had Lucy Charlotte Fisher who married Thomas Malloy who had my grandfather Patrick Malloy. I was so happy to find all of your information which confirmed small parts of information I had and added so much. I found a list of all of the children. They are listed as: Catherine born 1779 in Rouville Quebec, Marie born 1781, Jean Baptist born 1781 in Chambly Quebec, Genevieve born 1785 Mackinac, Louis Noel born 1786 in Lac du Flambeau, Pierre 1787-1810 born Mackinac died Rouville Quebec, Francis 1790 died Sault Ste Marie, Joseph 1790-1873 died LaPoint Wisconsin, Angelique born 1793 in Canada. There is very little information about Angelique, do you have any ideas of where or how I can find out more? I live in Sault Ste Marie. If there is anything you would like me to look for here, I would be happy to.

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  3. I am a descendant...

    Louis Dufaut is my 5th great grandfather
    Marie Dufaut daughter of Louis Dufaut
    Françoise Trudeau (1805 - 1875) daughter of Marie Dufaut
    Onésime Cadieux (1822 - 1873) daughter of Françoise Trudeau
    Dennis Lagasse II (1842 - 1927) son of Onésime Cadieux
    Léo Lagacé (1888 - 1964) son of Dennis Lagasse II
    Léo Lagacé (1927 - 1995) son of Léo Lagacé

    Me Pierre Lagacé son of Léo Junior

  4. Great research


  5. You have “Dufault, Louis (son of Louis and M-Louise Lussier) and Mentofaki, M.-Lse (Sauteux) on 15-2-1778 at St-Mathias, Rouville, Quebec,” but I think the year is 1779, not 1778, it is mille sept soixante dix neuf.