The Spirit of Resistance 3

We get a better picture of what our ancestors were like if we can place them in the context of their times.  The Metis people were primarily descendants of the French fur traders. The French fur traders were from Quebec, often listed as “Canada” but their families may have been there for only a few hundred years if that. The Quebecois were primarily of Norman origin and are famous for retaining the culture of their ancestors. That became a little harder to do when you came west. The country was a creation of vastness, sweeps of prairie grass as far as the eye could see, raging rivers roaring out of the mountains only to trickle down to a creek, crippling cold….

There were people who could not deal with the isolation and hardship. Few could make the return trip home. Many came to escape oppression or poverty and many died in the attempt, especially women and children, for the promise of freedom.

You may have grown up with immigrant grandparents who retained a heavy British accent which left you with a “twang” often mistaken for a Texas accent. That is a problem I had into my 30’s.  You may have strange and wonderful memories of relatives you never did get to know,  like the man with black braids and buckskin I saw mending the roof of my Metis grandmother’s house.

During the times of the fur trade wars and Metis rebellions, members of my family were present in Selkirk and St. Boniface, Manitoba.
From Spraque and Frye’s Genealogy of the First Metis Nation:
Table 1: Genealogies of Red River Households, 1818-1870
Jean Beauchamp and Angelique Pangman
Pierre Cyr and Marie Anne Lagimonier 1) Angeliqe Klyne 2)
Joseph Daigneault and Genevieve Cameron
Louis Cyr and Catherine Martineau
Roman Lagmoniere and Marie Vaudry
Dougal Cameron and Marie Lesperance 
Jean Baptiste Lagimoniere and Marie Anne Gaboury
Toussant Vaudry and Marie Anne Crebassa

Again, the Marie Anne Lagimonier above was Louis Riel Jr’s cousin as his mother was Julie Lagimoniere.

I think it is important to note that the Metis people were a distinct society, separate from the French and First Nations. Many people ask about the native people in your family but that track could have been very long ago at the start of the fur trade.  Only a few generations passed before mixed blood began to dominate and the fur traders actually married Metis women. The marriages began to be between Metis people themselves, although culturally, the buffalo hunt kept native tradition alive. Also, you may have been from a line where the father was a Scot and generally would have been termed a half-breed.

What were some of the cultural symbols of Metis society?

The Flag

An infinity symbol representing the future of the Metis people.  It was changed to red for the hunt.

The Red River Cart
Related image

Built as a reliable means of transportation over rough ground and known for the high squeal of it’s wheels. It was an all wood construction. Trains would go out on the buffalo hunts to carry back hundreds of pounds of buffalo meat.

The Sash
Image result for metis sash

Worn over the left shoulder by women and around the waist (usually to hold a capote closed) by men.  The capote commonly made from a HBC blanket.

Image result for metis capote


Image result for making pemmican

Dried buffalo meat mixed with berries which was a survival food for the native people, passed to the Metis who gained a livelihood from it. It became their main commerce for canoes travelling between forts. Later, the Selkirk settlers would also rely on it to survive. After the buffalo hunt, the women did all the work, skinning, tanning and curing meat.

Fiddle Music and Step Dancing

Here is a sample of  the music and dance of the Metis people from a town close to where my mother grew up Dauphin, Manitoba, Four Nations Square Dancers.

A Glimpse of the Real Past

As you know I am an avid history reader and have just finished Cardinal de Richelieu by Eleanor C. Price. At the same time I have been following the new series “Musketeers”. Of course, everyone knows that the series is a rather creative look at the lives of the Musketeers, Louis XIII and of course Richelieu, played brilliantly by Peter Capaldi.  It is swashbuckling fun. By coincidence, I hit a small section at the end of the book where Ms. Price talks about Richelieu on his death bed.

” Louis XIII, himself too ill and depressed to enjoy his hunting as usual, was pestered by Chavigny and de Noyers with messages from the Eminentissime, insisting on the disgrace of four of his best-liked officers- among whom was M. de Troisville, or Treville, the famous captain of musketeers-whose only crime was that they had formerly been friends of Cinq-Mars, and that Richelieu feared their hatred and their influence. The King resisted long, but at last, by sheer angry obstinacy, the Cardinal gained his point, and the four gentlemen were dismissed from the Court, though not from the army; the King showing “great displeasure, even to shedding of tears”.

Richelieu was anxious to finish off what ever business he had before his death and was at this point demented with pain. Louis himself was ill. At one point, Louis was brought in his bed to Richelieu to discuss the Spanish treaty and the fate of Cinq Mars, a former favorite of the King turned traitor.

A “mousquetaire” of course, was a soldier armed with a musket, in this case, part of the king’s body guards.  I am sure there are much better references for the life of a musketeer and their relationship with the King than Dumas’s novel. It is rather sad to think that all the next generation may know is what they see on TV. My take? Truth is more often stranger than fiction ( and a lot more exciting)!

Horrible Imaginings

Researching the Beauchamp family in France has been joyous and frustrating at the same time if not a little overwhelming. There is so much history in France and I find my self drawn into the lives of the family over there. There were a few new discoveries that traumatized and confounded me. This information I would not have found if I simply went by transcripts but I  instead took the time to read whole records where found.

The first were two excerpts from Emigration Rochelaise En Nouvelle France ( Godbout, Archange,. Emigration rochelaise en Nouvelle-France. Québec: Archives nationales du Québec, 1970.)

les em. Jac.

You will note the words “fille de feu” underlined. Not being fluent in French does make it a struggle at times but I guessed at “feu” being smoke. My over-active imagination went immediately to the siege at La Rochelle and from there to the fact that some of the family were Huguenot. Oh God, was she burned at the stake as a heretic?! To the web!  A hundred horrible images came up for “girls on fire” but finally after persisting and not a little nausea, I hit a woman who had the definition. As usual, I had parsed wrongly and left the last word off, Helie. I knew it was a name but of who, where? What the term means is ” the daughter of the LATE Helie (her father). Just a slight relief, although her parents were Huguenot, her father in some records known as Elie.

Also, in this record, you find the words “parraine” and “marraine” (godfather and godmother) and their status. Pierre’s godfather is “un honorable homme” and a merchant. Marie’s godfather is a cooper. So working class people. We also find out that there was a younger brother, Guillaume (William) who died at age 6.

Jacques is said to be the start of the family in Canada, whatever happened to Pierre who also emigrated I don’t know. In the record, Jacques’ godfather is also Jacques, so we are given another member of the family who is probably his uncle. He married Marie Dardayne in France 3 years before they emigrate and they have boy Jacques who is one year old when they arrive here. We don’t hear of little Jacques after that. Then they have 8 more children in Canada.

Further down the page, we are to be confounded more by this information.

les em. Jac. 2


Here you have a family of Huguenots with pretty much the same names as our family, possibly cousins to our ancestors. It almost appears that the family was split down the middle starting on or before the marriage of Marie Roullet’s parents. The information is out there somewhere I am sure.

I had originally thought that there were no signs of the family intermarrying with the natives, that based on the fact that all names were French and yes, I should have known better. My grandfather, down the line from this family, married a Daigneault (my grandmother)  who is listed on the 1906 Canada census as Cree along with the rest of her family. I did think that was a little strange. HOWEVER, I came across a website, by searching for Pierre Beauchamp,the oldest brother. I hit two boys in there who were I believe, the sons of Jacques senior, Pierre b. 1676 and Jacques born 1678. They were listed as “canotier” which I take as voyageurs. They arrived at Detroit on May 30th, 1706. So another story which totally blends in with the theme of New France, the romanticized  “voyageurs” and “coureurs des bois”. Before they were even born though, land had t be cleared and homes and churches built .

Through the Past Slowly

Today, I came across a wonderful article at Britannica online about the history of the French people. It aptly describes them in this way.The French people look to the state as the primary guardian of liberty, and the state in turn provides a generous program of amenities for its citizens, from free education to health care and pension plans. Even so, this centralist tendency is often at odds with another long-standing theme of the French nation: the insistence on the supremacy of the individual. On this matter historian Jules Michelet remarked, “England is an empire, Germany is a nation, a race, France is a person.” Statesman Charles de Gaulle, too, famously complained, “Only peril can bring the French together. One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.” 

I have to say that this has been my experience with the French people in my family. My father was emotional, brash and demanding, but at the same time filled with a natural grace that had been bred into him by his Catholic parents. Now, one of my daughters is living with a Quebecois whom she cannot understand. He is again, emotional, brash and demanding. They have a beautiful new daughter. She has made herself known plainly and loudly and is there miles ahead of you, like her father. I look forward to knowing her.

All that being said, I have found that many people have the same ancestors as I coming from France to Quebec at it’s founding. Most of them have copied a family tree put on Ancestry by some well meaning individual, the veracity of which is slightly questionable. I was like them, initially delighted to find it. But going back through it, things became increasingly more difficult. My main focus is always on BMD (birth, marriage and death) records because they are the most reliable. That is an easy way to keep the line correct. Of course, by the time you hit the 1600’s overseas, it becomes harder to find those records. For this family, that is, the Beauchamp family of La Rochelle, France, the verifiable records almost seem to start in Canada where our good friend, Father Tanguay recorded the genealogies of early French Canadian families in “La Dictionnaire Tanguay”. From there you get a lead on the parents overseas where you have to know where to look.

Things get a bit sticky when you look for the birth of Michel, the father of the two Canadian boys, Jacques and Jean. The record on Ancestry comes from a  Dutch website of contributed family trees, no idea where the information came from. Nothing on Familysearch. Basically, going further back there is nothing too solid at all. The name changes to Deschamps and goes back to Olivier who was born in Brittany. But there are not verifiable links coming up in time from there. You could be looking at years of research. One of the worst links is that of “Inconnu Marguerite Collineau de Montequerre” and Marc Beauchamp. That woman has been written about all over the net with some saying just dismiss the name altogether because there is some confusion over the place name and the surname. I had to look up “inconnu” because I am not fluent in French to find that it means “unknown”.  Anyway, you see where I am going with this? Other people’s trees can cause a lot of difficulty. I don’t like using them except to see if they have come up with some reliable sources. That being said, you can still tell a lot about the people by the few records there are and the history of the place. If Olivier (b.1534) is part of that family I would like to know why they migrated south from Brittany to Nantieul since the Bretons are known for maintaining there own culture.

Here’s a photo of La Rochelle, a beautiful place, just to make you feel better.

La Rochelle, France (Sebastian on Flickr

              La Rochelle, France
               (Sebastian on Flickr)





A Primer on France

France is the ancestral home of my father’s family, he was the son of Joseph Beauchamp (known as Alfred) and Rose de Lima (known as Adelina) Daigneault. Rose’s family married into the Cree and Ojibway people of this country and became part of the Metis culture, including a line back to the famed Lagidmodiere and Riel families. I have not seen any such connections in my grandfather’s family but originally they all came from France, the Beauchamps to help start the colony of New France.

France is the largest country in Western Europe with an area of 640,679 square kilometers ( As you will see below, it has coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Location of France in Europe

Location of France in Europe

The Pyrenees Mountains separate France from Spain, the Alps border Italy and along with the Jura Mountains, border Switzerland. The Central Highlands occupy south-central France. North-Central France is flat with some rolling hills. Major rivers include the Loire, Seine and Rhone. Daily average maximum temperatures range from 6°C in January to 26°C in August. The wettest month on average is October (71 mm), when heavy thunderstorms are possible. Brittany in the far west is the wettest French locale, especially between October and November. July is the driest month for the Bretons. (

Topography of France

Topography of France

The capital city, Paris, is one of the world’s great cities and boasts such famous landmarks as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, one of the largest art museums in the world. Besides that, there are the snow-capped Alps, sunny beaches along the Mediterranean Sea and fishing villages along the Atlantic coast. The Loire Valley is home to many chateaux, as well as orchards, dairy farms and vineyards.

The earliest ancestor I have in France so far is Olivier Deschamps ( a variant name) born in 1534 in Rennes, Bretagne or Brittany. Two generations later, after a time in Nantieul, Dordogne, the family relocates to La Rochelle, Charente Maritime, the place my first French ancestor emigrated from.

Beauchamp Family in France

Beauchamp Family in France

If you are interested in the colourful history of France you can find it here. I am more interested in my ancestors place in that history. What were they doing in France and why did they come? We will discuss that next time.