Sunday, March 27, 2011

The three Beaulieu brothers.....maybe

As I said in my posting of Monday, February 21, 2011, one of my aunts visited the Wehkiakum Museum, in Cathlamet, WA., and learned from a local historian that "one of Beaulieu's brothers was Francois Beaulieu, who was one of six voyageurs with Sir Alexander Mackenzie, May 9, 1793."
The note I have says that 'our Beaulieu' was "Frenchman from Manitoba, trader in Kootenai for many years. His brother was Francois Beaulieu who was 1 of 6 voyageurs accompanying Sir Alex. McKenzie in 1773 [sic]."

This tempting snatch of information has led us on a wild goose chase for many years!
The grandson of the woman who collected this information (and whose daughter gave the information to my aunt) confirmed the story, but told us that his grandmother had not written the story down as she heard it from James Birnie's children.
That makes it a secondary source -- a very distant secondary source, unfortunately!
If you hear a story, write it down immediately -- two hundred years from now someone will say 'thank you.'

It seems unbelievable that 'Our Beaulieu,' who crossed the Rocky Mountains with NWC explorer David Thompson in 1807, was brother to the voyageur who accompanied another NWC explorer (Alexander Mackenzie) to the Pacific Ocean in 1793 (not 1773).
And so I set out to find out if this story could be true.

First I discovered that the name of the Beaulieu who accompanied [Sir] Alexander Mackenzie to the Pacific coast was Francois.
And then I googled......
This was many years ago and I doubt that these sites are still online, but they may be.

From: article, "Native Spirituality -- Francois Beaulieu," by Caroline & Rod Lorenz:
"That the Catholic faith was planted among the Dene Nations is due not only to the heroic efforts of the missionaries, but also to a remarkable man named Francois Beaulieu. His life has become a legend in the north. More than anyone else, it was he who opened the door to the Gospel of Christ. The people called him, 'Old Man Beaulieu.'
"Francois Beaulieu was born in the 1770's, in the Great Slave area. His father, a French trapper, had settled and married among the Chipewyans. As Francois later told Father Petitot, "I am the son of a Frenchman. My mother was a Chipewyan; my grandmother a Cree: there are three bloods in my veins."
"It was not until he was fifteen that young Francois saw men from the outside world. As an old man he recalled, "I remember it as though it was yesterday. I was living with my parents. One day we hear that white people were coming. There were lots of them. My uncle called all the Indians from the Great Slave area to meet with them.""

Even better: "Our Metis Heritage ... a portrayal," by the Metis Association of the Northwest Territories, 1976:
"Francois Beaulieu (Old Man Beaulieu) (1775-1885) -- Francois Beaulieu was born around 1775. His father Francois Beaulieu was one of the guides who accompanied Alexander Mackenzie down the river to the Arctic Ocean in 1789 and four years later to the Pacific. "I am the son of a Frenchman. My mother was a Chipewyan; my grandmother was a Cree; there are three bloods in my veins...
""What I am going to say happen at the North West arm of the Great Slave Lake, on Big Island (near Fort Providence). At the time I was not a grown up man. However I remember as if it was yesterday. I was 15 years old. I was then staying with my parents. One day, we heard that the White Men were coming. There were lots of them. My uncle, Jacques Beaulieu, chosen a spokesman for the people, called all the Indians from all over the Great Slave Lake area. Many Dog Ribs came also....."

So, here we have three family members in the Athabasca district:
We have Francois (now Francois II) "Old Man Beaulieu," his father Francois I, and his uncle named Jacques or Zacherie -- probably an older brother because he took charge (but maybe he took charge because he was present when his brother was not).
Old Man Beaulieu is Metis -- his mother was Chipewyan; his father French -- was his maternal grandmother Cree or was it his paternal grandmother?
Was Old Man Beaulieu's father French Canadian, or French/Cree Metis?
Another descendent of Francois, Old Man Beaulieu, agrees with this latter theory, and tells me that "the elder Francois (that is, Francois Beaulieu I) was referred to by our Francois .. as having a French father and a Cree mother and was a former employee of the Compagnie des Sioux (begun in 1827) until it fell apart following the French defeat by the British (1763)."

The NWT Metis Association put me in touch with the wife of a descendent of Old Man Beaulieu, and she answered another lot of questions for me.
"Extracts from the submission to the Historic Site and Monuments Board of Canada -- Francois Beaulieu II; this document clearly demonstrates the presence of Francois Beaulieu in the North Slave....
"Pages 383-84 quotes historian Martha McCarthy as noting that Francois Beaulieu (I) left the country and his wife Ethiba remarried a Chipewyan hunter referred to by the traders as "the Rat" (1995:10). With the departure of his birth father, Francois Beaulieu II's early years were apparently spent with Yellowknife and Dogrib relatives north of Great Slave Lake (McCarthy 1995: 110, Menez Nd: 4-5)."

If Old Man Beaulieu's father Francois Beaulieu left the country and returned home, where was his home?
Montreal or Quebec? Detroit or Illinois or Duluth? Red River district? Michilmackinac? Sault Ste. Marie? Where did he come from and where did he go?

So taking this information, I attempted to work out the dates of birth for these three brothers and for Old Man Beaulieu.

Old Man Beaulieu -- if he was 15 when Alexander Mackenzie arrived in 1793, he was born about 1778 (about the time Peter Pond arrived at Great Slave Lake, in fact.)
But was Alexander Mackenzie the man who was in charge of the 'lots of men' who arrived there, or was Francois II talking of Peter Pond's arrival?
For now, I am presuming that he is a Native man who may have adopted his father's stories, merging them with his own memories.

Francois Beaulieu I made the journey to the west coast with Alexander Mackenzie in 1793:
If he was 20 years old, he would have been born in 1773; if 40, in 1753.
He may have been younger than 20 if he came north with his older[?] brother Jacques or Zacharie.
I use Zacharie as well as Jacques, firstly because the names sound so similar, and secondly, because I found so few 'Jacques' in the PRDH when I did my search -- flexibility is required when you are searching for your ancestors in archival records and their names might not always be what you believe them to be.
In the fur trade, voyageurs are old at 40, and so I presume he was born about 1773.
But in 1778, when Peter Pond arrived at Athabasca, would he have been only five years old?
Was he there with his French Canadian father?
Was his mother Native and Jacques Metis, or was there also a French Canadian woman in the Athabasca?
Contrary to belief, there were a few women in the interior -- but very few.
I have even heard of women joining the fur trade as voyageurs, by disguising themselves as men; one was discovered only because she got pregnant.

Our Beaulieu -- Joseph Beaulieu?
If he was Joseph Beaulieu, voyageur contre-maitre in Red River in 1804, that suggests he had some experience in the fur trade and was at least 25 years old, so he was born in 1779.
But if he was 30 years old in 1804 he was born in 1774.
If the same man was 'Our Beaulieu' at Rocky Mountain House in 1807, he was aged 28 to 33; at Saleesh House in 1811, age 32 to 37.
By 40 these hard-working men were worn out; I suspect that our Beaulieu was at the higher end of that age scale, but of course that is only a guess.

So if Joseph(?) was born about 1775, and Francois I born about 1773, and their older brother Jacques/Zacharie born maybe a few years earlier (say 1770?), I searched the PRDH to see if I could find this family born in Quebec.
I set up a number of Beaulieu family trees online, and filled them in.
You will find these trees online, at -- all are public and you should be able to access them if you want to:

BAUDRIA-BEAULIEU Family Tree -- I was interested in this family because they were from Montreal and my first information said that our Beaulieu "returned to Montreal."
Though there is a Joseph Raphael Beaulieu born in 1767 at St.-Laurent, Quebec, there is no Francois or Jacques/Zacharie born at any time close to my suggested dates.
In addition to looking for brothers with those names, I also kept my eyes open for boys who may have been cousins growing up in the same area.
It doesn't matter in this case; I did not find them.

BRILLANT DIT BEAULIEU Family Tree -- This family was in the area around Detroit and Mackinac Island, 1750's and later.
I am very interested in this tree, but though I think it is a good possibility that our ancestors are descended from this family, I cannot confirm.
If anyone knows about this family, or knows of archival information or genealogies of this family, I would like to hear from them.
I think that it would be very easy for the men of this family, born Metis in the wilderness around Detroit, to continue in the fur trade and follow it west to Red River or north to the Athabasca.

MARTIN dit MONTPELLIER et BEAULIEU TREE -- This tree is quite large and contains possibilites; I haven't, however, been able to find three brothers or even close cousins that I can say 'might' be our 'brothers.'

THOMAS dit BEAULIEU TREE -- also has possibilities but I have not been able to find our boys in this tree.
I eliminate all men who have wives and children, presuming that our three brothers had none in Quebec.

Finally, the massive HUDON dit BEAULIEU tree has possiblities.
If you remember, one of the archival documents found in the Minnesota archives and mentioned in my posting of Thursday, February 24, 2011, said that Clement Hudon dit Beaulieu (1811-1893) wrote that his uncle Henri was the voyageur Beaulieu who crossed the mountains with David Thompson in 1807.
I have on hand new information uncovered in the Minnesota archives; a letter from the above man's son, also named Clement (1841-1926); it is addressed to Grace Lee Nute who was at that time a research assistant at the archives.
"You ask if I could as far as possible give complete dates about my fathers and other members of my family who were engaged as fur traders.
"I think, to [quote/great] .. extent you will find answers in the papers you already have.
"However at the risk of repetition I will say my grandfather and his two brothers Paul and Henry were fur traders.
"... two first before becoming independents connected with the Astor Am. fur Co. while [sic]
"Henry never came to our country but went west from Eastern Canada in connection with either the Hudson's Bay Co. or some other Canadian Fur Co."
Looking at the Hudon dit Beaulieu tree, I see that the fur trader named Henry, brother of Clement's grandfather Bazile/Basile and Bazile's brother Paul, was Henri Hudon dit Beaulieu, born April 16, 1791 in Riviere Ouelle, Quebec.
If he is the voyageur I discovered in the North West Company records, 1813-1815, he was twenty two years old when he was in the employee of the fur trade.
He cannot be related to the Athabasca brothers; Charlot was born in 1805 so he was too young to be her father; and he was too young to have been David Thompson's voyageur, an experienced man who was a freetrader by 1811.
He might be Josephine's father, but how did he get to be in Montana in 1810?
Our stories may, in the end, be fairy tales, but I am not ready to give up on them yet.

More on Francois, "Old Man Beaulieu," and his father, from other sources:
From: Peter Pond and the Athabasca Country, at
"In 1785 [Peter] Pond sent Cuthbert Grant and Laurent Leroux to establish a post on Great Slave Lakes afterwards known as "Fort Resolution" and another still further North on the Lake, a post afterwards called Fort Providence....
"Now enters a report that has gained little publicity. A historian named Woolacott has written that when the Northwesters reached Great Slave Lake in 1786 they found there a family of French Canadian descent by the name of Beaulieu. Thus it would appear that some French voyageur or coureurs de bois had long preceded Pond..."
Peter Pond first arrived at Slave Lake in 1778, did he not?

From: "The Metis in the Canadian West," vol. 1-3, by Marcel Giraud, Translated by George Woodcock, U of Alberta Press, 1986:
Vol.1, Chapter 1 -- The Appearance of the Metis People (about 1806): "Already we begin to see the appearance of families whose very names evoke even today in the West the race of "mixed blood", the Desjarlais, the Vandals, the Cardinals, the Beauregards, the Dumonts, the Beaulieus, the Deschamps, whose founders, whether employees or freemen, sometimes wandered to the needs of the service, but in other cases began to settle around the posts or in areas which later, like Deer Lake or Lake Winnipeg, became favored concentration points for Metis families."

From: "The Metis in the Canadian West," [see above], Vol 2, Chapter 27 -- "Some of them, like the old Metis Francois Beaulieu who with his children exploited the saline springs of the Salt River, had acquired among the Native tribes a prestige that obliged the Company to treat him with special consideration: it granted Francois a virtual monopoly in the extraction of salt and entrusted him with the direction of the Salt River post. It was there that Father Petitot encountered him in 1862. Beaulieu was then eighty-five years old; in 1789 he had been present at Alexander Mackenzie's arrival, and he had accompanied Sir John Franklin to Great Bear Lake as an interpreter, but he still had enough energy to work on the farm he had created, to raise a few head of cattle, to fish, hunt, and supervise the extraction of salt."

An interesting sideline to our story of Old Man Beaulieu: From "Our Metis Heritage .. a portrayal," by the Metis Association of the Northwest Territories (1976), re Francois Beaulieu:
"James Anderson, the Hudson's Bay District manager, made many trips back and forth between Fort Simpson and Portage la Loche, with the Fur Brigade. Portaging the Fort Smith Rapids was always a problem until [quote] Beaulieu, in 1854, guided him through a new route perfectly safe that avoids the Pelican Rapid. The new portage is shorter with a steep hill which may be partly cut down. Beaulieu said that several of the other rapids and portages may be avoided by taking a new route inching to the left of the river. [Quote from letter, J. Anderson, District Manager, 1854]
We have an interesting family connection here -- James Anderson was Chief Trader James Anderson [A] of the HBC, Alexander Caulfield Anderson's older brother.
Those of you who want to research Old Man Beaulieu further might be interested in reading the journals of James Anderson in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, and the Anderson Family Papers, also in the HBCA.

A Fur Trade Resource for everyone

For those of you who are serious archival researchers -- or even those who know who their fur trade ancestor was and want to learn more about him from primary or secondary sources, here is a fur trade resource you may be able to put to use:
This is a Fur Trade Bibliography, found online at
You can probably find this by googling "Fur Trade Bibliography."
It is a 66-page document which lists primary and secondary resources for publications in the fur trade.

If you are still looking for the records of fur trade employees, these are listed in various documents in secondary resources:
Allaire, Gratien. "Fur Trade Engages: 1701-1745." In Rendezvous. Selected Papers of the Fourth North American Fur Trade Conference, 15-26. St.-Paul: North American Fur Trade Conference, 1984;
And that's it -- but there are plenty of primary documents and journals of fur traders in which you might find your ancestor listed.

But there are other books/articles you might like to read:
Dugas, Georges. Un Voyageur Des Pays d'en Haut. Montreal: C.O. Beauchemin & fills, 1890;
Gross, Konrad. "Coureurs-de-Bois, Voyageurs and Trappers: The Fur Trade and the Emergence of an Ignored Canadian Literary Tradition." Canadian Literature 127 (1990): 76-91;
Hansen, James L. "'Half-Breed' Rolls and Fur Trade Families in the Great Lakes Region -- An Introduction and Bibliography." In The Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of The Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991, edited by Jennifer S.H. Brown, W.J. Eccles, and Donald P. Heldman, 161-69. East Lansing/Mackinac Island: Michigan State University Press, 1991;
Jonasson, Eric. "General List of Partners, Clerks, and Interpreters Who Winter in the North West Company's Service with the Dates and Nature of Their Respective Engagements." Generations -- The Journal of the Manitoba Genealogical Society 4, no.3 (Fall 1979): 64-66.
Lande, Lawrence M. The Development of the Voyageur Contract, 1686-1821. Montreal: McGill University-Lawrence Lande Foundation for Canadian History Research, 1989;
Schaeffer, Claude E. Le Blanc and La Gasse, Predecessors of David Thompson in the Columbian Plateau. Browning, Mont.: Museum of the Plains Indian, 1966;
Schenk, Theresa M. "The Cadottes: Five Generations of Fur Taders on Lake Superior." In the Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of The Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991, edited by Jennifer S.H. Brown, W.J. Eccles, and Donald P. Heldman, 189-98. East Lansing/Mackinac Island: Michigan State University Press, 1994; and
Wilson, Ian and Sally wilson. "In the Spirit of the Voyageurs." The Beaver, June-July 1999, 9-16.

There are some that I am especially interested in, articles that may form the basis of a later blog posting.
Howay, F.W. "Authorship of 'Traits of Indian Life'. Oregon Historical Quarterly XXXV (1934): 42-49 -- I always wondered why Alexander Caulfield Anderson was never considered as a possible collector of these Peter Skene Ogden stories; and
Innes, Harold Adams. Peter Pond, Fur Trade and Adventurer. Toronto: Irwin & Gordon, 1930 -- you will find out why I am interested in this character in a later posting.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Another source for early French Canadian contracts

From someplace or another I found that there were two more files to look up -- both were supposedly at Library and Archives Canada.
These were:
1. Ermatinger Estate Fonds, MG 19 A2 -- Contracts for voyageurs in west Canada 1773-1780, vol.2; and
2. Quebec, Lower Canada & Canada East Licences in fur trade, 1763-1790, vols. 110-115, Reels H-1096 to H-1098.

These are old numbers in Library and Archives Canada (LAC) -- the new number for these latter reels (H-1096, H-1097, and H-1098) is RG 4 B28, vol. 110, vol. 111, vol. 112, and vol. 113, folis 208 to 1842.
LAC identified these documents as being Bonds, Licences and Certificates, 1763-1867, and said:
"The fur trade licences (volumes 110-115) were reorganized in 1978, to restore the original numerical order, and were repaired.
"Several items with unusal postal markings and seals were placed in the vault (leaving photocopies for reference purposes).
"The trade licences presented several problems for microfilming.
"Ink bleed-through has been severe, affecting legibility to some extent.
"The necessity of laminating most pages in order that broken folds could be repaired and some strength could be given to the paper also inhibited legibility.
"Some inks had faded badly and would not give sufficient contract with the paper."

Now you know why its so darn hard to find voyageurs contracts!
I did not have any good fortune in finding anything relevant to me on these reels, but you might.
'Fonds' is the word that archives uses to identify certain collections of papers; 'folios' means pages.

I was more successful with the Ermatinger Estate fonds.
My scrap of paper tells me that the new number for the Ermatinger Estate fonds is R772-0-7E, and that the old number is MG19 A2.
It identifies the Jacobs-Ermatinger estate as a series, part of Ermatinger estate fonds, 1758-1862.
"Series consists of the Jacob-Ermatinger estate papers which constitute a collection of primary importance for studies of the economic history of Lower Canada, the fur trade, and business in general.
"Included are all manner of business records: day books, journals, ledgers, waste books, cash books, vouchers, bills of exchange, receipts, engagements, correspondence, statement of account, wills, powers of attorney, proces-verbaux and various other legal papers relating to court settlements ...."
"Volumes 1-27 are available on microfilm reel C-1337 to C1342...."
I knew from my source I needed volume 2, and so ordered reels C1337 and C1338.
I actually found a Beaulieu in this collection....
Folio 568, with handwritten date 11 May 1769, said: "I Joseph Beaulieux chez Pierre fortin ....."
It's written in French and obviously Joseph Beaulieux signed the document.
Thus we presume that this is not our Joseph Beaulieu......but it was a great find anyway.
You never know, though.
Maybe 'our Beaulieu' had a family member -- father or uncle -- who was literate and who signed up voyageurs for the fur trade.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The early French fur trade

You would be very surprised, I think, to know where the early fur trade was and where your French or French-Canadian ancestors might have lived.
The fur trade began about 1560, when French fishermen brought home furs traded by the Natives.
By 1580, beaver hats had become the rage for military men and civilian alike, and Frenchmen came to explore and trade specifically for furs.
By 1588 they had reached Lachine Rapids, west of Montreal.
In early 1600, Frenchmen settled Quebec and the first settlements were built on the St. Lawrence River.
Champlain explored the Richelieu River and entered Lake Champlain, in modern day New York State.
By 1610 the French had built a fort on Montreal Island and explored a hundred or so miles of the Ottawa River.
In 1615 Champlain travelled via the Mattawa River to Lake Huron and called it Huronia.
He spent the summer around Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay, and in the fall he and his men followed the Hurons to Lake Ontario, crossing the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and heading south.
They returned to Quebec in 1616.
In 1620 there were about six white women in Quebec.
In 1623, Brule went to Sault Ste Marie and may even have entered Lake Superior (there were French women at Sault Ste. Marie).
The first fur trade companies started at this time, all independent fur traders hiring their own courier des bois and staying over the winter in the wilderness, returning to Quebec in summer with their furs.
Fur traders were in New York State, Lake Ontario, on Lake Superior's south shore (la Pointe du Chagaoumegan) and Wisconsin.
In 1663, thirty five fur-laden canoes made the run to Montreal via the French, Mattawa, and Ottawa Rivers.
In 1667 the French were heading south toward the Mississippi River -- called Messipi.
In 1671 they followed that river to its mouth.
On their way back they came up the Illinois River and portaged past present day Chicago to Lake Michigan, which they then explored.
In 1670 a man named Nicolas Perrot travelled to Montreal with a huge fleet of canoes paddled by Natives after spending three years tramping all over Wisconsin.
Missions were built at Sault Ste Marie and Michilimackinac Island -- shortened to Mackinac and pronounced Mackinaw.
There were French woman at Mackinaw! -- Your ancestors might have been born in the wilderness at Michilimackinac Island or Sault Ste. Marie -- or Detroit.

In 1679 a man named Du Lhut went to Lake Erie and built a post near modern day Duluth -- in the same year he found the Kaministiquia River and passed by Kakabeka Falls and Dog River to Lake Mills Lacs (north of Lake Superior).

About this time the courier des bois (men who actively traded with Natives) disappeared and the voyageurs (who did not trade with the Natives but paddled the canoes and carried the loads) came into being.
The fur trading companies merged to form the early North West Company, but there were still independents.
They finally all merged under the North West Company flag, to compete with the Hudson's Bay Company in early 1800.

Here are a few quick places to research these early years:
See the Drouin records on, and research these following records:
Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954 -- Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiane, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvanie.
You never know what you will find in these sections.
However, I do not believe they have been indexed and so you will have to read these sections page by page -- not an easy job!

It appears that the Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Province de Quebec, 1920-1977, (mentioned in previous posting) is online at (At Uvic library it is at FC2901 A7, perhaps incomplete.)

There's another online source for early French settlers that I keep forgetting about.
This is the Fichier Origine, found at
The Government of France gave this site as a gift to the people of Quebec for its centennial.
This site documents every single French person who left France for Quebec for over three hundred years.
It lists brothers and sisters left behind in France, and other information about the family's life in France
There's other information on this site, as well, such as maps of France.

There are more lists to search in the Drouin Records on -- not all are early French records:
Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967;
Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946;
Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942; and
Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941.
Again, I think that none of these are indexed yet, though I am sure they will be.
Give their index a try, but also search these records page by page.
When I was searching the Drouin records in Ancestry, I was looking at years before the indexing, and I browsed through thousands of pages of records looking for Beaulieus in the 1700's in Quebec.
After these pages are indexed (this is a massive job that is working its way through) it will be much easier to search these pages.

Quebec Notarial Records might be especially interesting to fur trade descendents, as notaries always witnessed voyageurs contracts.
They also recorded marriage contracts, wills, deeds, donations, legal documents, payment of bails, inventories, and can be a rich source of information for French Canadian researchers.
The index will help you locate the original document in an archives somewhere; the document is not displayed online.
These documents come in two parts -- an index, and a repertoire. One was sent to the government and one kept by the notary, I believe.

The Acadian records cover the French settlers who ended up in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (I think), Maine and even New York.
Many were ousted by the British government and came to Quebec; some went to Louisiana and started French settlements there.
Sometimes voyageurs in the fur trade were Acadians -- but I will speak of this group of people at a later time.
Acadian genealogy is very difficult to research as so many records have been lost.

So now you know that if you want to find your French ancestor who was here in 1600-1700's, you must also look outside Quebec.
The French were everywhere -- Detroit, Illinois River, Mississippi, Duluth, Green Bay, Sault Ste. Marie (both American side and Canadian), and Michilimackinac.
There are a number of books that will help you understand how wide ranging the French fur traders were.
These are:
David Hackett Fischer, Champlain's Dream (Alfred Knopf Canada, 2008);
David Lavender, Winner Take All (McGraw Hill, 1977); and,
Eric Jay Dolin's book about the American fur trade, mentioned only a few posts ago, will also tell you how tough the French fur traders were.
And a fiction book you might enjoy is this one: Margaret Elphinstone's Voyageurs (Toronto: McArthur & Co., 2003).
I admit I bought this book to see how inaccurately it portrayed the fur trade: I learned that the background facts were very accurate.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another source for early voyageurs contracts

In the early fur trade of Canada (that is, what is now Ontario and Quebec), the owners of the French-based fur trading companies who sent canoes into the interior to trade with the Natives had to apply for licenses to trade.
To do so, they had to submit to the government the names and home-towns of the voyageurs they hired.
From the back of Grace Lee Nute's book, the Voyageur, published in 1955, I have a little information on these 'licenses to trade.'
She says: "Abstracts of these licences have been made and indexed for the period from 1768 to 1776.
"Consolidated returns of licenses cover the years from 1777-1790.
"These also have been indexed -- a copy of the abstracts and index is filed with the Minnesota Historical Society, and other copies may be found in several libraries in Canada and United States.
"For those interested in the licenses for the French period (that is, when the French owned and controlled the fur trade companies in Montreal) the following references will prove useful:
"E.Z.Massicotte, 'Repertoire des Engagements pour l'Ouest Conserves dans les Archives Judiciares de Montreal' [Trans: List of Engagements for the west saved in the Judicial [?] Archives of Montreal] in Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Province de Quebec, 1929-1930, pp. 191-466."
In this three-page article written in French, Massicotte explains how the early fur traders of the French regime of the 1600's hired men to trade to build their posts and to trade for furs.
He shows an example of an early voyageurs' contract, and translates the contract, which is the "Engagement de Joseph Durbois a Antoine Pascaud."
The article is followed by another, which is the actual "Repertoire des Engagements pour l'Ouest Conserves dans les Archives Judiciaires de Montreal (1670-1778)."
This is what the information looks like: on p. 313, "1734 -- Engagement de Charle Milots au sr. Beaulieu pour fair le voyage au poste des Ilinois -- Etude Lepallier" [Engagement of Charle Milots by Sieur Beaulieu to make the voyage to the post of Illinois -- Notary Lepallieur."]
These contracts were always signed by Notaries or Lawyers.
Here's another, from page 442 -- "1744, 23 avril -- Engagement de Jean Baptiste Baulieux a Charles Teyssier et Compagnie pour aller a Missillimakinac [Michilimakinac] -- Etude Adhemar."

There are many other lists of voyageurs' contracts in various volumes of the Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Province de Quebec -- which is a magazine-type listing of items held in the Quebec Archives.
I borrowed the volumes from the Biblioteque and Archive National at but later found all issues of this series of books in the University of Victoria library.
If you want to view these lists of voyageurs to find your own ancestors, take a look in your local university library before you order the volumes from the Library and Archives of Quebec.

See also: "Conges et permis Deposes ou Enrigestres a Montreal sous le Regime Francais," in Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Province de Quebec, 1921-1922,"
"Le Conges de Traite sous le Regime Francais au Canada," in Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Province de Quebec, 1922-23.
I'm pretty sure there are other lists in these volumes as well; I just don't seem to have kept the lists (I remember looking at five or six of these lists, under various names).

'Conges de Traite' and 'Conges et permis' are very old terms in the fur trade -- terms that come from the early French fur trade.
I first read the word in David Lavender's book, Winner Take All: The Trans-Canada Canoe Trail [McGraw-Hill, 1997], a book I consider to be basic reading if you want to learn about the early fur trade in eastern Canada and United States.
Lavender says, on page 141: "In an effort to keep the boys down on the farm [or in Montreal], the officials tried licensing.
"Only a limited number of men bearing conges (permits) signed by the governor or the intendant .. could go into the interior to trade.
"Predictably the system failed. Frontenac handed out special permits to favorites and grafters, and men unwilling to grease his palm simply went west without licenses."
So you see that you may well NOT find your voyageur ancestor in these lists.

A personal note: as I was reading Alexander Caulfield Anderson's Fort Alexandria journals, I ran across the word, 'conge.'
I did not expect to find this term in Anderson's journals; I thought the word long dead.
However, I think the word had a new meaning -- it did not refer to voyageurs' contracts but to something else more like 'regale.'
In November 1844, Anderson wrote: "1st November, Friday, being All Saints' Day, I gave the men their conge which they availed themselves of only partially, mending and clearing up by way of pastime."
I wonder where Anderson learned the word?
Was it generally used in the fur trade of the Hudson's Bay Company, or did he learn it from NWC ex-employee Peter Skene Ogden?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Joseph Rondeau and Josephine Beaulieu

In an earlier posting, I mentioned that some Birnie descendents uncovered a document stored in the Oregon Historical Society Archives, that told us that "the only sister of Charlotte Beaulieu married a [Joseph] Rondeau and lived at or near St. Paul, Minn., supposed to be very well to do." [Source: Ben Holladay Dorcy, OHS Manuscript 1092, Transcript p. 127, OHS.]
I followed this lead, and looked for descendents of Joseph Rondeau and Josephine Beaulieu of St. Paul, Minn.
I found quite a few of them, but this story was absolutely new to all.
They knew almost nothing of their ancestor Josephine Beaulieu, and had no knowledge of whom Josephine's father might have been.
In their stories, Josephine's mother was a Kootenay woman -- not the Cree wife that our Beaulieu was said to have.
And it might be true; Beaulieu's Cree wife might have died, or Beaulieu might have taken a second wife in the Kootenais so he could trade for furs from her people.
But it is also possible that Josephine, who was still very young when she met and married Joseph Rondeau, did not know that her Cree mother did not come from the area that later came to be called "Montana."

The various Rondeau descendents gave me Josephine's story, and now I share it with you.
Josephine or Josephte was born sometime between 1808 and 1810; various census records show she was born about 1810 in British America, but her obituary says she was 81 in February 1890 -- that would put her birth in 1808 or 1809.
That is exactly the time when "our Beaulieu" was a free-trader in the area around David Thompson's Saleesh House, in modern-day Montana.
Joseph and Josephine Rondeau were listed as settlers in Red River after 1827, when their marriage was blessed at St. Boniface.
One source tells that they were married in the west before coming to Red River, and since there were no priests out west at that time they had their marriage blessed as soon as they arrived at St. Boniface.

Joseph and Josephine left Red River in either 1836 or 1837, and settled near Fort Snelling, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Some descendents put their migration a year or so earlier -- in 1835.
There are many history book written on the City of St. Paul that mention Josephine and Joseph Rondeau as being early settlers in the area.
There are few clues to where she came from.
In the book, "French Canadians of the West," her name is spelled Boileau and she was of Kootenay and French lineage, though one descendent found a note that said her mother was Cree Indian.
A son's death certificate has her listed as being born in "MO" or Montana, while her husband Joseph Rondeau was born in Canada.
Her grave is in Crookston, MN, and the large stone says she was 88 when she died in 1890, but the descendents believe it is in error.
There is no death certificate for her anywhere, though her husband's death was recorded in Crookston just five years earlier.

For a few years I had only a little information about Joseph Rondeau.
Joseph Louis Rondeau was baptized on 31st August 1797, in Lanoraie, Berthier County, Quebec, and died on 8th May 1885 in Crookston, MN.
His father was a voyageur named Louis Rondeau; his mother Marie Madeleine Borneuf.
The Drouin records show that there were two Louis Rondeaus born in Lanoraie about the same time, so no one knows if there were two with the same name, or one child baptized twice.
The records state that, at the age of 17 or 18, Joseph Rondeau enlisted in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company as a voyageur, and was sent to the Pacific coast where he spent several years in the westernmost outposts of the company's domains.
In fact he worked for the North West Company before 1821, not the Hudson's Bay Company.
His 1819 contract with the NWC was for three years, and would have gone on to 1822.
Of course, in 1821, when the HBC took over the NWC, he was transferred to the HBC books.
Apparently Joseph Rondeau had a choice, and decided to remain with the new company.
We have found Joseph Rondeau in the following HBC records so far:
June 1825: Swan River List of Servants, Middleman (B.154/f/1), and June 1825-26: Fort Pelly List of Servants bound for York Factory.
His time expired in June 1826 (Outfit 1826) (B.154/f/2) and he does not appear in the List of Servants for the following year.
About 1827 he settled at the Red River Colony, near Fort Garry, where records indicated he married or re-married Josephine Beaulieu and established a farm.
After enduring the hardships of the Colony for 8 years, the couple joined the 60 or so refugees who travelled south to settle near Fort Snelling, MN.
Descendents disagree on the date of arrival, but one firm date appears to be July 12, 1838, when he arrived with Benjamin Gervais.
Rondo -- that is how his name was spelled after he moved to Minnesota -- purchased a house that was later burned by the military when the settlers were forced away from Fort Snelling in May 1840.
The Rondeaus moved up to St. Paul, where they purchased the property and unfinished cabin of Edward Phelan, a man who was serving a prison sentence for murder.
Joseph Rondeau and his wife lived in the house for a season or two while they built a new house.
And that is where the descendents' story stuck for a few years.

The HBC biography sheets tell us that there were two Joseph Rondeaus in the HBC fur trade, and I actually found one of them in the Spokane House journals written by James Birnie, in 1821-22.
But this Joseph Rondeau was not the Rondeau that married Josephine Beaulieu, even though he was in the same area that Josephine's sister was and working at the same post that Charlotte Beaulieu/Birnie lived in.
Apparently, this Joseph Rondeau returned to Montreal when HBC Governor Simpson cut the numbers of employees in the posts west of the mountains.

More current information about Joseph Rondeau comes from another descendent: "Joseph Rondeau was at a post in the Rocky Mountains when an Alexander Roderick McLeod was born in 1817.
"Joseph says in an interview for a St. Paul History Book that he held this infant Alexander McLeod on his lap.
"I did some research and found McLeod to have been born in 1817, so I surmised that Joseph would have held him as an infant about 1817 to 1819.
"Now as to the name of the post, the History Book says that Alexander's father was a prominent officer of the HBC.; there is a Fort McLeod named for him and also the McLeod River near Fort Edmonton.....
"Joseph's own biography in this book says he worked on the Frazer River, Great Slave Lake, Fort Edmonton, and other posts on the extreme west and north of the Hudson's Bay Company's domains."

But these descendents had been diverted by Fort McLeod, about 10 miles west of Lethbridge in Southern Alberta.
This was not a fur trade post, but a North West Mounted Police post.
I opened up my HBC book to look up the fur trade posts, and realized that Joseph Rondeau must have been posted at McLeod Lake, in north-eastern British Columbia west of Edmonton House.
I knew this post, originally named Trout Lake Fort, was founded by the explorer Simon Fraser in 1805 -- but I hadn't realized that its name honored Archibald McLeod, an employee of the North West Company.
Clearly this was where Joseph Rondeau was located for a little while at least.
From there he could travel to Fort St. James, Fraser's Lake, and Fort George, on the Fraser River.
I wonder if he travelled so far west, and if he actually spent a winter at a temporary post on the Fraser River near where Fort George was later built?
Was the first Fort George built on the east side of the river, and later moved to the west?
The reason why I ask this is: on one of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's maps in the British Columbia archives, he shows an "old fort" on the east side of the Fraser River, across the river from the place where historians believe Fort George always stood.
Did the early NWC men spend a winter in a temporary fort on the river, and was Joseph Rondeau here?
Historians believe Anderson's map is in error, but what if it is not?
Did an early fort exist on the east bank of the river opposite modern-day Prince George, and did Joseph Rondeau and other NWC men spend a winter there?

I have another question about Joseph Rondeau: where did he meet Josephine Beaulieu?
I think it is likely that they met and married at Edmonton House, where the freetrader Beaulieu might have travelled to trade his furs after David Thompson left the area.
From the Hudson's Bay Company's post journals kept while James Bird was in charge at Edmonton House, we know that Jaco Finlay -- one of Thompson's men -- visited the HBC fort with a group of other free-traders.
Was Beaulieu among these men?
Was Rondeau at Edmonton House, and did he wed Josephine Beaulieu at that time?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My marketing and book-cover portraits

Makeup applied by Erin Bradley, at
The outfit and jewelry was provided by Aurea Gems & Essential Luxuries, at 614 Johnson Street, in Victoria -- at (The outfit was so beautiful I bought it!)
The Photographs were taken by Sachika, at -- at an Aurea Gems event called "Girls just Wanna Have Fun!"
Thanks, Carolyn, for suggesting this.