Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sieur de Beaulieu

Sieur de Beaulieu was a nobleman who entered the fur trade in the early French period, and was one of the voyageurs who accompanied Antoine Lamothe-Cadillac to establish the first permanent settlement at Le Detroit on July 24, 1701.
Plaques and statues in downtown Detroit celebrate the event, and the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan has photographs of those statues on their website.
On their site the Society also lists the names of the French noblemen and informs us that the convoy also included fifty French soldiers and some passengers: "Chacornac, baron de Jaonnes; Pierre Dugue, sieur de Boisbriant; Antoine Lamothe, fils [brother]; Alphonse Tonty, baron de Paludy; a Recollet priest, and Francois Vaillant de Gueslis, S.J."
Images of these statues, and names of the gentlemen/voyageurs, are online at

However, Sieur de Beaulieu's actual name is Louis Chauvin, sieur de Beaulieu, and descendents of this man have told me that in the years I am searching for Beaulieu men, his descendents still used the Chauvin name.

There is a little more information on this site you might be interested in, if you can access it.
When I tried today, the pages were not available.
But the family trees of the persons who were in Detroit have been compiled into a document by Yves Drolet, a member of the societe genealoque canadienne-francais, and is supposedly available online at
It is called "Genealogical Tables of the Quebec Noblesse from the 17th to the 19th Century," and comes in both French and English.

When I searched the U.S. French Catholic Church Records in the Drouin Collection on many years ago, I discovered that in 1752 Sieur de Beaulieu had an infant baptized; and that in 1753 the priest "baptized Catherine fille legitime of Sr. Beaulieu and de spouse francoise..."
He appeared to be at Sault Ste Marie, and also seemed to be listed as a 'Commander pour le Roi."
Later I found a translation of above document headed: Makinac, Ste-Anne; Copie "Wisconsin Historical."
It read: "July 15, 1753, I administered holy Baptism to Catherine, legitimate daughter of Sieur Beaulieu and of his wife, Francoise, residing at Sault Ste Marie, born on April 18 last. The godfather was Mr. de Beaujeau, Captain Commanding for the King at this post; and the godmother Mlle Bourassa."

Sooner or later I will have to follow up on this man, to see if his boy children could have entered the fur trade using the name Beaulieu.
You have to follow every lead.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beaulieu men in the Voyageurs Contract database

I have done a search through the online database at "Voyageur Contracts Database," La Societe historique de Saint-Boniface, and found a few men named Beaulieu during a simple search -- that is, enter surname and see what pops up.
Let's see what we have:

Boucherville Beaulieu family:

Amable Beaulieu of the Boucherville Beaulieus signed a contract in 1758 to go to Detroit;

Pierre Beaulieu from Boucherville signed up in 1758 to go to Detroit.

A Military man?

Bazyle (fils) Parmier dit Beaulieu from Montreal St-[eloy?] signed up in 1754 to go the Poste des Miamis for Francois marie piquote de Bel Estre Ecuyer lieutenant d'infanterie (was he in the infantry?).

This family is the Palmier Beaulieu -- see Palmier Beaulieu Family Tree at -- and even though I do not have a Bazil Palmier dit Beaulieu in this tree, there are later members bearing this name in Illinois. He must be their ancestor.

Other Possibles:

Andre Beaulieu dit Laport from Prairie de Lamagdeleine entered the fur trade in Montreal in 1751 to travel as Voyageur to Michilmackinac;

Estinne [sic] Beaulieu dit St-Denis entered the fur trade in 1743 from Paroisse de Saint Michel, as a Garcon [boy] voyageur going to Michilimackinac;

Etienne Beaulieu entered the fur trade in 1747 from St-Sulpice to go to Poste de Ounepigon [Winnipeg post perhaps?] as a winterer;

Jean-Baptiste Beaulieu from La Cote St-Michel, Montreal, signed on in 1733 to go "into the north" with Marin Hurtubise et Compagnie;

Louis Beaulieu from Montreal signed on in 1790 to go to the dependencies in the South;

Joseph Beaulieu from Vercheres signed on in 1803 for the "Departement de la Riviere au Bombinge" via Michilimakinac, Kamanistiguia au Portage de la Montagne, for the company of McTavish, Frobisher & Co. -- he could be the voyageur who accompanied David Thompson except that there was a Beaulieu in the Red River district in 1801;

Joseph Beaulieu from St. Laurent signed on in 1774 as a Garcon [boy] voyageur for the Mississippi with the company Lambert St. Omer;

Francois Beaulieu from Pot au Beur Sorell (Sorel), signed on with Alexander Mackenzie's Company in 1803 for three years -- and I am going to have to translate the notes at the bottom because I can read enough French to see that it talks of "home of his father Francois, voisin le Gros Bellevalle......"

Jacques Beaulieu from Quebec (City?) signed in 1795 to go "dans le Nord" or into the North, with McTavish, Frobisher & Co.

Ambroise Beaulieu from Montreal signed a contract in 1822 to go to Lac des Sables as a winterer for the HBCompany;
Ambroise Beaulieu from Montreal re-entered [?] the fur trade in 1826 in Montreal, for one year; apparently not working for the HBC but Day & McGillvary?
Ambroise Beaulieu from Montreal entered the fur trade in 1827 to travel to Lac des Sables as a voyageur;
Charles Beaulieu from St-Roch-de-l'Achigan entered the fur trade in 1800 to travel to Detroit;
Bazile Beaulieu (perhaps one of the Hudon dit Beaulieus) from Maskinonge, entered the fur trade in 1807 to go to Fort Kaministiguia (Lake Superior);
Francois Beaulieu from Pointe a la Calliere entered the North West Company in 1815;
Francois Beaulieu from Fauxbourg Ste. Anne enter the fur trade in 1818, working for the Compagnie du McTavish, McGillivrays & Co. [North West Company];
Francois Beaulieu from Petit Maska (Yamaska), entered the fur trade in 1818 as a winterer;
Francois Beaulieu from Varennes signed on in 1817 to go to Michilimackinac;
Henry Beaulieu from Maskinongay signed on in 1816 to go to Michilimackinac and the North West dependencies for McTavish, McGillivrays (otherwise the North West Company);
Paul Beaulieu from Masquinonge signed on in 1808 to go to Michilimackin et depenceies, L'Isle St. Joseph and the Mississippi with Mess. de la Compagnie de Michilimackinac; he signed up again in 1811;
Clement Hudon dit Beaulieu, from Fauxbourgh, Quebec, signed up in 1818 for 3 years to go to Michilimackinac with Charpentier et Menuisier;
Paul Hudon dit Beaulieu from Riviere du Loup signed up for a year in 1812 to go to Michilimackinac with Compagnie de Michilimackinac; he signed up for a second time in 1813 for same place.

I don't think a quick look at this database has helped us identify our Beaulieu brothers, but I never expected it would.
But there is another Beaulieu family I am quite interested in, and I will speak of this family in my next posting.
Following that, I will consider the Beaulieu men who might have reached David Thompson's Kootenais district without actually coming across the mountains with David Thompson -- that means abandoning every single theory I have presented so far and looking at a new theory.
But that's what you have to do, sometimes, to find out how your ancestors got where they got.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Voyageurs contracts from 1720 to 1822

This is a find, and one of my readers -- or someone who stumbled on my blog -- gave me a site that will be of interest to anyone who is researching their fur trade ancestry and, especially, Voyageur contracts.
La Societe historique de Saint-Boniface has set up a Voyageur Contracts Database, which includes date from approximately 35,000 fur trade contracts signed in front of Montreal notaries between the years 1714 and 1830.
It is the single largest collection of voyageur contracts signed by men of the Montreal fur trade, and the information collected includes: family names, parishes of origin, hiring companies, length of contract, destinations, advances and wages, conditions of hire, and the date of signing.
I have had a quick glimpse at this and am delighted to find it -- but its 6pm and I am tired.
But I found Beaulieus almost immediately!

Website address is:
Home/Collections and Research/Archives/Voyageurs will bring you to the Voyageur Contracts Database Introduction page.
Click on The Database is in French only to enter.
Put your ancestors surname in the first line and see what happens!
I think you will be pleased.

Thank you, Nicole, for sharing this information with us, and I will let you all know if I find "Our Beaulieu brothers" here.

Another theory on the origin of our "Beaulieu brothers."

I opened my Facebook page last weekend to find a friend had posted a quote that was perfect for me that day.
I had spent the day on my blog posting my notions of where the men I call "Our Beaulieu brothers" might have come from.
The quote was written by George Orwell in 1946, and said: "The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.
"Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time; the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

As genealogists, our false beliefs might not bump up against solid reality on a battlefield, but they can, and do, create plenty of heated arguments as we descendents search in different places for our ancestors' trail.
One descendent searches the Minnesota archives for stories about his Rondeau/Beaulieu ancestors, another "Old Man Beaulieu" descendent collects stories in the Athabasca district, while I search fur trade records and French-Canadian genealogy records on the PRDH and
None of us are successful in finding out who our ancestors are, but we have plenty of discussions and we share our information with all other family members, so they can enter the discussion.
I think we may just be confusing them, but that, too, is okay.
We are all confused.

I have searched the PRDH and the Drouin records and set up family trees online which have not collected any new information.
I have now come to the conclusion that either our brothers are not brothers at all and we have been chasing false leads through fur trade history -- or our three brothers were born in the wilds outside Quebec, and were probably already Metis.
One other Beaulieu descendent agrees with me on this, and has collected stories that support that belief, and shared them with us.

She says that when the fur trader Peter Pond arrived at Great Slave Lake on his first visit, he met the child, Francois "Old Man" Beaulieu, and his uncle Jacques.
She suggests that the voyageur who accompanied Alexander Mackenzie on his trip to the Pacific Ocean in 1793 was the father of Francois "Old Man" Beaulieu.
She also suggests that this elder Francois had a French father and a Cree mother, and was a former employee of the Compagnie des Sioux, begun in 1827.
And another titbit -- there were said to have originally been three Beaulieu brothers in the region, and suggests that their names were Jacques, Francois, and Pierre.
The Beaulieu family was already well established in the area for some years when Cuthbert Grant and Peter Pond arrived there.

So, let us look at our story this way:

Our story evolves around Peter Pond's arrival at Great Slave Lake -- when did his first visit occur?
As a twenty five year old, Pond left Milford, Conn., to join the fur trade in the Detroit area.
By 1776 he was in the area south of the Athabaska and wintered at Sturgeon River, Saskatchewan.
It was not until 1778 that he pushed north into the Athabasca and wintered on the Athabasca River 40 miles from the lake -- Athabasca lake, I presume, not Great Slave Lake.
In 1781-2 he wintered at Lac la Ronge, Saskatchewan; it wasn't until the spring of 1783 that Pond returned to the Athabasca, and learning the location of Great Slave Lake came into contact with the Beaulieu brothers there.
In 1784 he left the Athabasca and never returned.

I am not sure if anyone is really certain of the date of Pond's visit to Great Slave Lake, but let us work with 1783.

A French Canadian named Beaulieu, an employee of the Compagnie des Sioux, arrived at Great Slave Lake some years before Peter Pond arrived there -- maybe 1760?
He took a Cree Wife, and by 1783 -- when Pond visited -- was well established with a family of three sons.

If the first of these three boys was perhaps Jacques or Zacharie, born about 1765 -- this boy would have been about eighteen years old when Peter Pond arrived at Great Slave Lake.
He would have been mature enough to take charge of the situation.
But we have always said that he and his two brothers were French Canadians -- in this scenario these three brother are already French-Canadian & Cree Metis.

The second of these boys might have been Francois I, who took a Chipewyan woman named Ethiba as a wife and had children who would have been young when Alexander Mackenzie arrived there in 1793.
If he was about twenty five years old when he accompanied Mackenzie to the west coast, he was born about 1768, and he would have been fifteen when Peter Pond arrived.
But it was his son, Francois II (Old Man Beaulieu) who claimed to be fifteen years old when Peter Pond arrived at Great Slave Lake!

The third boy might have been younger -- too young to join his brother on the voyage west with Alexander Mackenzie in 1793.
If he was born about 1775, he would have been eighteen years old when Mackenzie came to Great Slave Lake, and eight or so when Peter Pond arrived.
Was his name Pierre, or was it Joseph???
If Joseph, he was old enough in 1801 to have joined the fur trade and gone to Red River to be counted in the North West Company's Red River records -- twenty six years old.
In 1805 he was experienced enough in the fur trade to be labelled a voyageur contre-maitre -- "master voyageur."
In 1807 when he met David Thompson he was thirty two years old, and had a daughter, Charlot, born in 1805 when he was thirty years old.
His second daughter, Josephine, was born in what later became Montana, in 1809 or thereabouts when he was 34 years old.
In 1811 he was thirty six years old and a free trapper.
In 1818 his eldest daughter Charlot married James Birnie, and Birnie heard the story that this Beaulieu's brother had accompanied Alexander Mackenzie from Great Slave Lake to the west coast in 1793.

A slight interruption: I think that is important -- I think that this Joseph Beaulieu was present when he saw his older brother leave Great Slave Lake with Mackenzie.
These French Canadian voyageurs were not literate; his presence as a child in the Athabasca district helps explain how he knew of his brother's adventures.

To continue his story: This Beaulieu brother remained in the territory west of the mountains until about 1820, when he was forty five years old and relatively old for the hard work of a voyageur and a free trader/trapper.
Sometime after Charlot's marriage to James Birnie, he disappeared and "returned to Montreal."
I wonder where he really settled down.
His older brother, Francois, also disappeared from the Athabasca.
I wonder what was "Home" to them?

All this is theory, but I think we need to consider this story as a possiblity.
The only hitch in the story is Francois II's claims that he was at the North West arm of the Great Slave Lake when Peter Pond arrived in 1783.
I think he adopted his father's memories and wove them into his own.
I like this story.
It explains how there was a well established French Canadian and Metis community at Great Slave Lake when Peter Pond arrived.
It explains how these men were adult enough to have been established at Great Slave Lake for a number of years before Pond arrived, and still be young enough to have enjoyed the adventures that Francois I celebrated with Alexander Mackenzie, and Joseph with David Thompson.
I think it all works.
But I think we'll never be able to prove it.
I think I have created a false belief that will, eventually, bump up against solid reality -- and that solid reality will be this: that we can only guess where these men come from, but we will never be able to prove it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another collection of voyageur contracts

Another collection of voyageurs contracts is found in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, in the Yale Collection of Western Americana -- WA Mss S-2357, Davies/Scroggie Collection of Voyageur Contracts.
A listing of the contracts is found online, under "Davies Scroggie Collection of Voyageur Contracts," and I think you will find it if you google that name.
Otherwise its address is at
You can print off the 38 pages of this document and see what is in the collection; then presumably you can visit the rare book room to look at the originals.
The information tells me that the Collection consists of 120 printed contracts between Canadian voyageurs and their outfitters, dating from 1801 to 1821.
The person who put this list together was Alfred Van Peteghem, who collaborated on the book, The Development of the Voyageur Contract, 1686-1821, published by Lawrence Lane Foundation for Canadian Historical Research in 1989 -- (I guess this book is another resource for you, too -- I haven't seen it.)

In this list of voyageur contracts I found:

Voyageur Alexis Courchene, resident of Chenail du Nord
He signed up at Chenail du Nord on the 5th July 1803, heading toward Rainy Lake and Fort Kaministiguia (Lake Superior's North shore).
He worked for McTavish, Frobisher & Co. and Joseph Faniant signed the document as agent of the NWCo.

There are no Beaulieus and no Rondeaus on this list, and for the most part the contracts are too late to be of interest to us -- but there are a lot of familiar names here.
Hope you find one of your family members.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I haven't disappeared.....

.... I have a blog posting half written but new information is being added all the time.
I spent eight hours on it last weekend -- this weekend I had to do a bunch of work for the editor so I got no blog-work done.
In addition to that, new information is coming in from Minnesota on Monday!
I'll post it when I get it finished -- I promise!
But you might have to wait till next weekend.

Some people are telling me that they see no announcement for publication of the book on Heritage's website.
The book will be published in the Fall.
It takes a tremendous amount of time to put a book together, especially when I also work.
But I have obtained and scanned in all the illustrations and given them to the publisher, who can now lay out the book (actually not working would not have made this process any faster).
In doing so, I learned that some of the photographs, which I thought were of black and white drawings, were actually watercolors -- what a find!
(I'm sure that as soon as the book is published, I will make another marvelous find that has to go into the book.)
Permissions are still underway, and more permissions will be required when I find out what illustrations are actually going to be in the book.
I have just finished writing the captions for the photographs and maps.

The next step: the manuscript is edited by the publisher and the book laid out, and one or two copies printed.
I will receive a rough copy, which I will carefully check for errors -- this is the last chance to ensure all is right before publication.
After that I will be asking published authors, historians, and others, if they will read the book and give me cover quotes.
I have quite a good list of people and hope they will all oblige.
I think they will....

My work over the summer will be identifying all the places to market the book; where best to advertise it; who will be more likely to order and sell large batches of the book; who is the best person to review the book in local or other papers.
Because the book is being published in the fall I have missed the deadline for the Okanagan Historical Annual, but we'll catch them next year.
I will approach local bookstores to personally ensure they will carry the book.
I will compile a list of contacts who will get the first announcements -- if you want to be on this list of contacts, get in touch with me.(If I have talked to you already, you are on my list).
I will be writing articles to support and introduce the book, that will be published hopefully in local historical journals.
I have a lot of stories that have not made it into the book -- some are on the blog and some are not.
(I have enough material for another book or two about Anderson, frankly).

There's a funny thing about publishing -- I think the date of publication is the date that the book actually runs through the presses.
It's ages before the books reach the stores, a month while the author is anxiously scanning bookstore shelves and waiting for the book to appear.
A month before you can even get your hands on the book, unless you order it directly from the publisher.
I will keep you in touch with what's happening as far as I know it, with the blog.
I'll let you know when its in the catalogue -- when you can order it -- what stage we are in.
I know that the publisher is going to give the book a different title (which is fine with me). I will let you know what the new title will be when I know it myself.