Ireland, it’s the one place on earth
That heaven has kissed
With melody, mirth,
And meadow and mist.
Blessings to all my Irish friends!
Ireland, it’s the one place on earth
That heaven has kissed
With melody, mirth,
And meadow and mist.
Blessings to all my Irish friends!
While I grapple with Louise Dechêne’s “Habitants and Merchants in Seventeenth Century Montreal” and the fact that my SEO is absolutely defunct let us look at some of the information that is actually available on my family in Quebec. It really is like putting an enormous puzzle together.. By that I mean which son of a son of a son do you descend from? They may also all have the same name, such fun! Again, the websites of PRDH and Nosorigines are very helpful in piecing the family units together, providing you have the correct start point .That being said, I have a running account with Ancestry which helps pull information together.
What do we know about Jean Beauchamp, considered a pioneer in Montreal along with his brother, Jacques? (Why the oldest brother, Pierre is never mentioned I do not know.) He was baptized at the church of St. Marguerite in La Rochelle, a maritime city in Aunis, on the east coast of France.
La Rochelle having an ancient history of exporting salt and wine, later as a point of migration to the New World. It was also home to a majority of Protestants until put under siege by Louis XIII. The boys grandfather had come from the hamlet of Nanthieul de Bourzac in France, a little to the southeast of La Rochelle, closer to Perigieux .The name Jean Beauchamp is listed as a Huguenot ancestor on the American website of the National Huguenot Association. Their maternal grandparents, Elie Roullett and Marie Barbonneau were married in the Protestant Temple in La Rochelle. The father, Michel, was a gardener in Ville Neuve a new town built for the Protestants after the siege. However, we see no evidence to date of the brothers signing a document of “abjuration”, which they would have had to do to live in New France. That does not mean it doesn’t exist.
According to the Tanguay dictionary, Jean arrived in 1666 and married Jeanne Loisel the same year. I hope by now you have realized that most documents were written phonetically causing unknown upheaval in the genealogical world.
Jean was an engagé , contracted to labour for 3 years until he was granted land on which to farm. Where they stayed during that time is unknown, though Jeanne had been raised at Marguerite Bourgeouy’s school. Perhaps she stayed there until he was settled, since the first child did not arrive until 3 years later. That child did not survive but 7 others did. From the PDRH (Research Program of Historical Demography-University of Montreal) website:
One can go from there to find the family which is wonderful. This record is known as a “union” on the website. We can see above that the couple moved to Pointe aux Trembles sometime before the birth of the child Jean, in 1676. It is the oldest rural parish on the island of Montreal. A fort had been built there in 1670 to protect the eastern side of the island from the Iroquois. The village was established in 1674 inside it’s walls.
The Supulcians were the seigneurs of Montreal and owned most of the land on the island.In the early days of Pointe Aux Trembles, a priest traveled to the home of Francois Bot to say mass on Sundays. Then in 1674, two churchwardens were elected to make arrangements for the building of a church. In her book, Louise Dechenes tells of the unbridled enthusiasm of the settlers for the new church, promising to contribute to the financing and building of it, which they did …to a point. It took the intendant’s threat of a lawsuit to get the church finished. When that was done, the priest needed a house and a collection would have to be taken for that. In the end, many priests ended up using their own money to build. Religious though they claimed to be, the settlers were not willing to give up their hard earned money on non-critical items. Tithes and seigneurial dues went unpaid for which the clergy hesitated to sue, since that would alienate an already unruly parish. When the church was finally established, the settlers were intent on running the parish which caused even more trouble. Still, they became attached to their curé and realized that “the parish” signaled a forging of a new community where they could create the society they longed for. Jean Beauchamp was among those who participated in the blessing of the new church.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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”.
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.