The Eyes of a Little Girl

While I look for my ancestors, my mind often goes back to my childhood days. Those memories take on a dreamlike quality, parts as clear as a running stream and others hazy and filled with uncertainty. I spent very little time with my grandparents which makes the memories all the more poignant. My father’s parents lived in a little bungalow on Horace Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My grandfather carried in him all the talents and abilities of his French Canadian ancestors. He was a carpenter by trade and a “cultivateur” at heart. The long back yard of the little brown tiled house was beautifully green with  Caragana bushes around it. In the spring, they would be filled with robin’s nests and the delicate blue eggs inside.

alfred-and-rose-1945-copy

Alfred and Adelina (Rose Daigneault) Beauchamp 1950’s

At the back of the house was a coal shed and at the top of the house in a little attic was his room. It smelled like tobacco because he ground his own in through a grinder. The grinder sat on a little table which was beside the small, square window that looked down over the yard. A huge sunflower swayed in the breeze beneath the window, just within arms length. At times a head of it would be sitting on the table and grandpa would show me how to get the seeds out. The tart smell of tomato came from the seedlings he had planted in cans which also sat on the table. There was a simple dresser beside his beside his bed , the drawer of which was filled with beer caps.

Downstairs, in my grandmother’s cozy kitchen, there was always a pot of soup in the soup burner at the back of the stove.It was a special spot where the pot could be sunk in and kept warm. I remember him telling me to always have a pot of soup going, barley was the best. He would show me one day how to make it. He did not talk much when I was around. He had that old habit of dropping by at the corner pub after work to meet the men and would often come home when I had been put to bed on the couch. There I had been crouched in fear of the pot-bellied stove , it’s embers casting strange shadows on the dark walls.

I would wait for a while and then slowly walk to the kitchen doorway. I would find him sitting like a statue at the table in the dim light, sometimes drinking tea, sometimes not. He had the old habit of pouring it into his saucer first. On such a night, I summoned up the courage to talk to him. I asked him if he would put the hair back onto the much coveted china doll my cousin and I always fought over. To this he smiled and made an examination of the doll’s head and put her on the table. In minutes, my grandmother was out of her room, tired and cross. She shooed me back onto the couch. The next day the brown-haired doll was sitting on the table waiting for me, that was until my cousin came over and the fight started again.

The house in St. Boniface was very close to the Seine River which froze over in the winter. On some visits my brother and I would trudge through the deep snow down to the river and just start walking. The trees hung with ice along the snow crusted banks. Eventually, we came upon the framework of a teepee up the side of the left bank and scrambled up it. We wondered about it, wondered what it would have been like to live in one, having no idea that that is exactly what many of our ancestors did.

One day, after I had just started school down the road from my grandparent’s, I came upon a man walking slowly in front of me. He looked different. His hair was in long, black braids and he had a colored sash around his middle. He wore a buckskin jacket and his skin was dark coppery brown.  Being precocious, I asked where he was going and he pointed to my grandparent’s house. I asked him his name and he said “Daniel”. I was mystified. I do not remember interacting with him in the house but the next day when I came home he was up on the roof mending shingles. I suspect that he was my grandmother’s brother, Louis Daniel Daigneault. It remains to be seen.

My grandmother, Rose Daigneault was born in St.Boniface in 1889. In the 1901 Census of Canada her father, William lists the family as Red under the Color column. For the main part, they lived their lives as French Catholics. Her mother, Virginie Cyr’s family extends back to the Lagimodiere family and thence to Riel. She was much loved by the family but I did not feel that from her. I think she did not appreciate being saddled with her half Irish grandchildren when she was older. She was very strict with me and did not talk much. I remember my hair being scraped back from my head into tight braids and being sent out to find my way to school in freezing weather when I was just 6. My mother had to work you see.

I do remember her giving a lovely tea party for my birthday one year where we had a turtle race. All the boys who had turtles brought them. I was dressed very prettily in the flouncy nylon confections of the 50’s but for the main part I felt abandoned. My first communion was a terror for me. St.Boniface Cathedral was a looming castle. My father was a wreck. I begged him to not make me go into the confessional box but there was nothing he could do. My grandmother sat with the cousins and made no move to help. Somehow I survived as we all did. It was surely a preparation for life.

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Sibs and cousins. Me 3rd from the right 1960

Checking and Rechecking

There is ample warning from professional genealogists to check and cite the source of your records correctly. Therefore, I try to find my own records as much as possible rather than using someone else’s tree for the same family. It is rather frustrating when you find that they are for the main part accurate but I still feel better about at least checking things. You run into problems most times because of naming patterns. The son being named after the father for instance. That can also be a help because names tend to run in families. There is also a problem created by indexed records which may contain errors through transcription and the interpretation of at times illegible handwriting.

Like most people with the Beauchamp name in Quebec, I knew the pioneers in the family were Pierre, Jacques and Jean. Comparing trees, I saw that I had the wrong line going fairly far back. At that point I had to start checking and double checking to see how many people had the same line going. That would be the line connecting to Damase my great-grandfather. So I would use them as a framework and check each person as I went. Then I hit the Joseph’s in the family. Not fun. There is the name they were called and the name they were baptized with. I was thrilled to see a whole family of voyageurs. I had found records of two brothers I know are in my family,  Jacques and Pierre Beauchamp who were voyageurs. Many men had to supplement their income by transporting goods and furs along the rivers of New France.  They were two generations back and one of them was called Damase.

There are, of course, many resources for Quebec genealogy which you can find at Cyndi’s list.  Ancestry is so good at joining things up for you, the index and the original. That is a help because if you are able to actually read the original you will get extra information. So, by looking at the orginal baptismal records, I found out that the two Joseph’s were called by their second names of Theophile and Isaac . Then I started cross-checking with the records at PRDH from the University of Montreal. That is a paying site as well but with a little information you can save some money by looking for the union or family of two known ancestors. They have been kind enough to list the couple with their parents, date and place of marriage along with their children’s information. That costs 17¢ (providing you know who you are looking for). Pretty cool! Then you can go from there.There is also a tree at Nos Origines, another site that is fairly well done. So you can see I am right in the middle of it now. What fuels me? The history of the place and times my ancestors lived in and knowing I am part of that. And the memory of my grandparents.

An Eloquent Racism

If you are Canadian, you may have grown up with a subliminal awareness of the differences between us and our American neighbors. You would be hard-pressed to find it described more eloquently than in the writings of Francis Parkman. Parkman was the son of a wealthy Boston family who attended Harvard. He spent time living with the Sioux in 1846  where he saw the effects of disease and alcoholism. He also suffered from ill health and lived through the Civil War.  His descriptions of native people and pioneering French  are a bit jarring though he does make feeble attempt to counter that along the way. To some degree it was like reading a western novel. All his books are wonderfully descriptive especially of the forest environment which was his passion.

From The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian Wars (published in 1887) ;
With steady and well ordered march, the troops advanced into the great labyrinth of woods which shadowed the eastern borders of the river. Rank after rank vanished from site. The forest swallowed them up and the silence of the wilderness sank down once more on the shores of the Monongahela.”

His descriptions of  “the Indian”,
” … Some races, like some metals, combine the greatest flexibility with the greatest strength. But the Indian is hewn out of a rock. You can rarely change the form without destruction of the substance . . . . . it is this fixed and rigid quality which has proved his ruin. He will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together.”
He is never jovial in his cups, and maudlin sorrow or maniacal rage is the sole result of his potations.”

Then the author redeems himself,
And our interest increases when we discern in the unhappy wanderer the germs of heroic virtues mingled among his vices,  — a hand bountiful to bestow as it is rapacious to seize,  and even in extremest famine,  imparting its last morsel to a fellow-sufferer;  a heart which,  strong in friendship as in hate, thinks it not too much to lay down life for its chosen comrade;  a soul true to its own idea of honor, and burning with an unquenchable thirst for greatness and renown.”

He is trained to conceal passion and not subdue it. . . . . This shallow self-mastery serves to give dignity to public deliberation and harmony to social life.  Wrangling and quarrel are strangers to an Indian dwelling.”

He looks up with admiring reverence to the sages and heroes of his tribe;  and it is this principal, joined to the respect for age, springing from the patriarchal element in his social system, which, beyond all others,  contributes union and harmony to the erratic members of an Indian community.” 

He is able to distill down a description of the differences between the French and English colonies.
In the valley of the St. Lawrence, and along the coasts of the Atlantic,  adverse principles contended for the mastery.  Feudalism stood arrayed against Democracy;  Popery against Protestantism;  the sword against the ploughshare.  The priest, the soldier, and the noble, ruled in Canada.  The ignorant light-hearted peasant knew nothing and cared nothing about popular rights and civil liberties. Born to obey, he lived in contented submission, without the wish or the capacity for self-rule. “

“The settlements along the margin of the St.Lawrence were like a camp, where an army lay at rest, ready for the march or the battle, and where war and adventure, not trade and tillage, seemed the chief aims of life. . . . . Over every cluster of small white houses glittered the sacred emblem of the cross. . . . .and in the towns and villages, one met at each moment the black robe of the Jesuit, the gray garb of the Recollet, and the formal habit of the Ursuline nun.”

“Buoyant and gay, like his ancestry of France, he made the frozen wilderness ring with merriment, answered the surly howling of the pine forest with peals of laughter, and warmed with revelry the groaning ice of the St. Lawrence. Careless and thoughtless, he lived happy in the midst of poverty, content if he could but gain the means to fill his tobacco-pouch, and decorate the cap of his mistress with a ribbon. The example of a beggared nobility, who proud and penniless, could only assert their rank by idleness and ostentation, was not lost upon him. “

Again, the author admits to some redemption when he writes that the Canadian is ” a rightful heir to French bravery and French restlessness “,  and found  “ ample scope in the service of the fur-trade, the engrossing occupation and chief source of income to the colony.” He states that the fur-trade engendered a peculiar class of restless “bush-rangers” more akin to Indians than white man which allowed him to explore and gain for France tremendous territory, establishing forts and missions all through the western wilderness.  Surrounding these outposts, were small villages of Canadians who lived under their protection. Here agriculture was given up to the fur-trade and the “restless, roving Canadians, scattered abroad on their wild vocation, allied themselves to Indian women and filled the woods with a mongrel race of bushrangers.

Meanwhile the English settlers below them, burgeoned and grew in industry but “the independence of authority, which were the source of their increase, were adverse to that unity of counsel and promptitude of action which are the soul of war. In Canada, “the priest and the soldier went hand in hand; and the cross and the fleur de lis were planted side by side.” 

Making Good Part 2

The system of indentured labour used to populate the foundling colony of Montreal was not one that was totally unfamiliar to the early colonists. The French had come from a country torn by strife, religious and political, which left the land barren and impoverished. Families who had once been affluent could easily lose whatever wealth they had. We do know the occupation of Michel Beauchamp, the boys father, as being a gardener (jardinier) in Villeneuve, a part of La Rochelle that was built for the Protestants after the Great Siege of 1627. Jacques was listed as a gardener before he came and a hatmaker (chapelier) in the 1666 census. Jean, well, he was a migrant as he had just arrived that year.  One thing that remained the same was family cohesion. In the recruit of 1659, there were thirteen families embarked on the St. Andre,  Jacques and Marie Beauchamp came as a couple. Below, the data file on Jean, my 5th great grandfather from Fichier Origines.

Jean Beauchamp F.O..JPG

Initially, trading companies or a wealthy colonist might enlist labour, covering the cost of passage, keep and wages.  This might have amounted to a year’s wages for the young emigrant. Besides these expenses, there would be loss from death or desertion. There had to be sufficient profit to offset these expenses but with the fur trade being the only source of profit at the time, how was one to bring out more settlers to get the colony going?  This, the Société de Notre Dame handed over to the Church, after failing to profit quite miserably. Interestingly, the cost of supplies for the engages to clear the land would run in their favour. There were private agreements made that those who settled in Montreal permanently would not be held accountable. Even so, many of the colonists still refused to agree to such an exchange.

Quebec City on the other hand, was doing quite well for itself. Merchants in La Rochelle, Rouen and the colony were actually recruiting more engagés than needed. The refitting of ships and the price of wheat as well as trade with the Caribbean had created profit. The St. Andre carried more merchants on it which helped Montreal. When New France came under control of the Ministry of Marine in 1663, the Sovereign Council decided that 200 men would be sent to the colonies per year as contracted labourers. This lasted for 3 years, mostly to the benefit of the merchants but once the family farm was established there was little outside help needed. The first steps towards self reliance were being made. A habitant might rely on his sons, local men or even soldiers for seasonal work. Outside commerce would have to fend for itself,  hiring boys and natives. Skilled workers would now be hired at a premium as the colony started to expand from within.

So you can see that the small, beleaguered colony, through trade with their indigenous friends and a certain amount of help from the King began to come into it’s own. Something that few people had counted in however, was the linking of this independence to an a different identity. No one  had counted on the effect of the environment on the language and customs of the people. The new language was “canadien”, the new people became “les Canadiens”.

Making Good

I am in receipt of a translation of the book,  “Habitants and Merchants in Seventeenth Century Montreal”, the original written in French in 1974 by Louise Dechêne a professor at McGill university. This version was translated by Liana Vardi in 1992. I won’t go into the trouble I went to to find a copy as well as avoid exhorbitant fees for it.  All I can say is thank you Amazon.com. Note it was the American site that worked for my purposes. Fortunately, I don’t live too far from the border. The book is considered to be somewhat of a “holy grail” in researching New France. It has much quantative information in it to give a more certain idea of what it was actually like in Montreal at that time.

Imagine my surprise when I was doing an initial browse through the book and I came upon the name of my 5th great uncle, Jacques Beauchamp! This was not the first time I got a sense of the type of person he was. He just seems to be well-known in the community. With a dit name like Le Grande (as opposed to Jean’s dit name of le Petite), one imagines a rather boisterous personality. To quote Madame Dechêne, speaking of an inventory, of death assetts,

“Jacques Beauchamp of Pointe-aux-Trembles owned such a house. He died at the age of fifty-eight, leaving behind a widow, five married daughters, two boys aged fifteen and seventeen, and a net worth of 3000 livres. ” Then after describing living conditions, she states ” Beauchamps’ wardrobe consisted of the basics: a coat, a jerkin (a sleeveless leather jacket), and because nothing  was ever thrown out, a second worn out and worthless jerkin, a pair of hide hose, woollen breeches, a hat, a pair of shoes, stockings, four used shirts and two nightcaps worth altogether no more than 40 or 50 livres.”  At this point, the author is disputing the reputation the habitants had for strutting about in their finery, illustrating their ignorance of agricultural life.  She wonders how people who lived with so little could possibly have the means to own such clothing. At any rate, 3000 livres was a fairly good sum for the times according the table of assets she presents.

In her opening chapter, Dechene says that until 1668, the settled population of aboriginals at the fort was nearly double that of the French. Some came for protection, some to attend the Jesuit or Supulcian missions. In the summer there would be a huge fur trade fair where hundreds of people from the different nations would visit and trade for fur. The governor would greet the native leaders with great ceremony. Care was supposedly taken to prevent the molestation of the native people by the French but did not preclude them dropping half the value of their trade goods on liquor even after the fair.

At Sunday Mass, the colonists would again be in contact with the aboriginal people. Their children attended the same school, each sex being trained in useful skills. This did not apply to the country children who were only taught catechism or the Christian doctrine. Native people near the fort were allowed to grow subsistence crops but could never own land. The movement to new land when the soil wore out was not possible for them once the surrounding land was granted to French colonists. This caused a migration away from the fort the land further away. So although initially, the King had granted the right to farm for subsistence, the lands returned to the Jesuits and Supulcians in this way and they could then collect dues from the French. Some were encouraged to build in the European way but problems arose there also. Cattle grazed in the cornfield once the wheat was up and the native men went away hunting in winter leaving the women with farm chores they could not do on their own. The French kept them in debt by supplying them with the things they needed which was repaid with furs.  Many did military service for mere subsistence. The concensus was that to actually pay them would be a waste since they would only drink it away. When they did drink there was often violence but justice was stalled to keep relations going.

There were few known inter-racial marriages in Montreal, neither race accepted it. Some women were kept in the country, the “country wives” but generally immoral behaviour was not sanctioned by either the French or native. An illegitimate child might be born occasionally but there was no racial blending as there would be later in the West. In the end, the colony of New France served itself. The emigrants were at least given a vehicle to establish themselves in the colony but the native people found no way to win . Both started in poverty but it would only change for one group. The other would be displaced.

A New Life

Interestingly,  Jacques and Marie Dardenne Beauchamp were on the same ship, the St. Andre,  which left La Rochelle, France,  in 1659 as Etienne Truteau (Trudeau).  Etienne Trudeau being of course, the ancestor of our current Prime Minister,  Justin Trudeau. The information on the two men runs quite parallel. Both were carpenters and both were designated to serve under the Sulpician Fathers in Montreal. Both were assigned to the militia shortly after arrival. Some of the sons of both couples, (Etienne married Adrienne Barbier) became voyageurs and travelled into the U.S., some to settle. They were both born and baptized at St. Marguerite in La Rochelle.

So, as in my previous post, People of Purpose,  Jacques and Marie set to work helping the beleaguered colony.  Jacques was enlisted in the local militia under Maisonueve to patrol what was then Fort Ville-Marie. He was also working on the Supulcian seminary which would be completed in 1663.  It is likely that Marie helped at the Hotel Dieu in the early days. In the meantime, they would both be working to clear and farm the land.  Below an illustration of the fort in 1645.

fort_montreal_1645

Fort Ville Marie 1645

The population of Ville Marie had fallen to less than 50 in 1651 . Maisoneuve returned to France to retrieve another 100 recruits for the tiny colony and brought them back in 1653. Jacques and Marie were part of the second great recruit in 1659. Iroquois attacks continued until 1663 when Louis XIV made New France a bonafide province of France. Under the great  minister of the marine, Jean Baptiste Colbert, troops of the Carignan-Salières were dispatched to New France to bring the Iroquois under control. This was finally achieved one year after my 5th great-grandfather, Jean Beauchamp, brother to Pierre and Jacques arrived in 1666. He was contracted to marry Jeanne Loisel, daughter of Louis Loiselle and Marguerite Charlot.

Purportedly, there was  a sister, Marie born in La Rochelle in 1638 who had died in Montreal in 1652. She may have died at the hands of the Iroqouis.That would mean that all of the siblings would have been in Canada by 1666. Sadly, there is very little about Pierre, the oldest brother and Marie.  Jacques was 9 years older than Jean and probably paved the way for him in many things. His marriage to Jeanne Loiselle would also have helped him settle in.

Jacques and Jean were “engages”  who were contracted to help clear land or build on it for three to five years after which time they would be given the opportuntiy to pay a fee and stay on. The land system in Quebec was slightly different than the old feudal system in France in that the seigneurs had obligations as well as the censitaires or “habitants”. The title to all land belonged to the King who granted estates as he saw fit. The soil belonged to the seigneur but the minerals and oak trees belonged to the King. Seigneurs who did not improve their land lost it to other more enterprising men.

Initially, the Compagne des Cents Associes were granted legal and seigneurial rights over all of New France. They in turn, set up 50 seigneuries along the waterfront stretching between Quebec and Montreal. In turn the seigneurs agreed to bring out settlers to farm the land and pay them rent and dues. The Intendant, a government representative, oversaw the seigneuial system. Jean Talon, the first Intendant made occupancy a requirement and kept the size of the seigneuries small to prevent the rise of a large landowning class. By 1715, there were 200 seigneuries lining the St. Lawrence River. Below you can see how the siegneuries were laid out, running perpindicular to the St. Lawrence river in long strips, except for in the interior of the island. The “côtes” or ranges still ran north and south.

Image result for geographie historique des cotes de L'ile de Montreal

The Island of Montreal in 1702 (L.Beauregard)

 

The Ending of Hostilities

The story of how peace came to be between the Five Nations varies but I will tell the one most interesting to me. The Holy Man, Dekanawidah, born of a virgin mother in the 16th century, had a vision telling of peace among the Iroqouis nations. He travelled the land in a white canoe telling the people that they must cease their mourning wars and unite under the Great Tree of Peace. One day, he found his way blocked by a man who had sunk to extreme depths after the death of his family and had become a cannibal. Dekanawidah went to the man’s cabin and climbed onto the roof to wait for his return. When he returned with his latest victim, Dekanawida peered down into the cooking pot from a smoke hole above. The man saw the reflection  in the water and thought it was a noble and peaceful version of himself. Feeling remorse, he emptied the kettle and resolved to stop killing.

Dekanawidah climbed down from the roof and spoke the message of peace. The man offered himself as a disciple and was named Hiawatha, meaning “he who combs”, symbolizing the combing and straightening of people’s minds. Hiawatha took his message to the fierce Seneca, the last to yield. Finally, his diplomacy won and the Five Nations clasped hands. Then Dekanawidah planted a white Tree of Peace whose roots spread to the four corners of the earth so all could follow them and seek shelter. On the top of the tree, he placed the Eagle That Sees Afar, a symbol of military preparedness. He put antlers on the heads of the 50 Iroqouis chiefs and gave them the Words of the Law, said to help set the framework of the American Constitution, notably that of government by representation. With confederacy, the Iroqouis became the most powerful tribes on the continent, confident and strong., though not strong enough to fight the diseases and military power of the white man.

Image result for great peace iroquois