The Wood Runners

By 1721, the very lifeblood of New France, the fur trade, was on the brink of disaster. The market in France was glutted and fur shipments were no longer being accepted. The King (Louis XIV) had tried in many ways to establish industry in the colony and control it to his benefit but had largely failed, at times because of lack of materials, at times lack of industriousness on the part of the colony itself. Various monetary systems were tried, even to the point of creating “card money” yes, literally marking playing cards with a stamp.

It did not take long for some of the men in the colony, who became known as the “coureurs des bois”, already hardened by the fur trade, to start trading for themselves. They knew they would have to compete with the Indian fur traders and to this end, ventured further inland looking for new trapping grounds thus stimulating western exploration. The royal reaction was to turn these men into outlaws and create trading licenses. Each license allowed the departure of two canoes loaded with goods. Only one canoe was allowed afterwards bearing 3 men and 400 pounds of freight. The licenses were sometimes sold for the profit of government and sometimes given to widows of officers, the hospital or other people in need.  At times, they would be sold privately to merchants or voyageurs. The licenses were valid for a year and a half, with each canoeman sharing in the profits which could be considerable, providing you didn’t drown first.

The bane of the fur trade was the running off of the young men into the woods, at one time 800 disappeared following the call of Daniel Dulhut. The fear was that they would not resettle and help to build the colony. The way of life was one of adventure and freedom, many adopting the ways of their native brothers. Unlike the natives though, they had a better capacity for the brandy which was part of the trading deal. An inebriated Indian could always be cheated in an unfair trade deal.  It was considered to be one the “tools of the trade”. The reason this continued was the fear of losing the young men to the English traders or driving them away from the Church.

The King had ordered that whipping and branding be given for the first offence of trading without a license and being sent to the galleys  for the second offense. Nothing the intendant Duchesneau did could prevent the debauchery and lawlessness. Therefore, siegneuries were abandoned, wives left behind and children ran about in the streets as men gathered and disappeared into the forest. They could be gone for years out of the reach of the law. Montreal  was the headquarters for the fur trade. When a party of “coureurs des bois” returned, the settlement would turn into a place of revelry and debauchery. The men would bedeck themselves in a blend of French finery and Native decoration, always with a sword at their side, the women following suit. Of course, after the celebration was over, confessions were heard and penances issued for the Church could not afford to lose any more souls.

One of the most famous coureurs des bois was Daniel Greysolon Dulhut who was a noblemen and career soldier from Lyon, France. His mission was to create a peace between the western Indian tribes and the French while fortifying areas that were under threat by the English and Iroqouis. To this end, he fortified the fort at Michillimakinac, Michigan and built Fort William on Lake Superior and later, Fort St. Joseph. He made an enemy of the intendant Duschsneau for disobeying the orders of the King and was slandered by La Salle in order to gain a monopoly on exploration rights for New France. In spite of this, he was able to secure the authority of New France in the Great Lakes area. He died in Montreal in 1710, leaving a part of his fortune to Charles Delauney who had cared for him. The city of Duluth, Minnesota is named after him.

It is likely that at this point, the ending of the 17th century and with the rise of the coureurs des bois a new nation started to form in New France, that of the Metis as they took  “country wives”, women they had children with but did not marry. Eventually, the coureurs des bois would fade away and in their place came the “voyageur”, a man whose business it was to legally transport goods up into the “pays des haut”.

There were several voyageurs in the family of which I would like to find out more. For now I will just list some. Francois Beauchamp, Michel Beauchamp, Joseph Beauchamp, Antoine Beauchamp, Pierre Beauchamp, Augustin Beauchamp, Hubert Beauchamp and Jean Beauchamp, very likely the son or grandson of our original settler. There were also voyageurs in my grandmother’s family (Daigneault), Richard Daigneault was one of them. Below are some maps of the fur trade hub lakes taken from a book by Eric Morse, Fur Trade Routes of Canada/Now and Then.

Fur Trade Routes Out of Lake Athabasca

Lake Superior Fur Trade Routes E. Morse

Lake Superior Trade Routes

Lake Winnipeg Fur Trade Routes. Eric Morse

Lake Winnipeg Trade Routes

Sources included but not limited to :
Francis Parkman, The Old Regime in Canada
Francis Parkman,  Pioneers of France in the New World
Canada: The Fur Trade at Lachine
St. Boniface Historical Society-Voyageur Contracts 
PRDH-University of Montreal
Genealogy Quebec
Virtual Museum of New France

La Rochelle and Nanteuil

To find out who we are we must look at where our families came from originally, in as much as we are able. The Beauchamp family migrated here from La Rochelle, France but was located at least from the mid 16th century in Nanteuil de Bourzac, a little town in Dordogne, Aquitaine, south of Angouleme. There is very little information about the town. It is about 42 kms from Angouleme and except for the production of paper at one time, it appears to have been an agricultural community. Below is a map of Nanteuil de Bourzac in relation to the various towns and cities around it. The first known ancestor to migrate there was Jean Beauchamp (born c.1579), grandfather to our three brothers.

Nantieul de Bourzac (red dot)
Nanteuil de Bourzac (red dot)

You will notice the names of other well known places in the area, Poitier, La Rochelle and Limoges. They are noted Protestant areas. The distance between Nanteuil and La Rochelle, the birthplace of the three brothers, Pierre, Jacques and Jean Beauchamp, is not a small one by the standards of the day, being 175 kms. away. It is likely that they migrated there not only for work but to join other Huguenot relatives. I had spoken about the evidence for them being Huguenot being  that they had friends and family who were Huguenot. Recently, I found that Ville Neuve was the town the Huguenots were forced to build and live in after the 1627 Seige of La Rochelle. (1) The record from states that the father Michel was a gardener at Ville Neuve (the New Town).

Fichier Origins file with Arrows

Angouleme is the capital city of Charente in southern France. It sits on a high plateau and is very close to the border of Charente-Maritime. During the time of our ancestors, it came into the hands of the Valois dynasty. Marie de Medici took refuge there when she was expelled from court by her son Louis XIII.  John Calvin, one of the early fathers of Protestantism, also took shelter there when he was forced to leave Paris. Eventually, Protestantism spread there and Angouleme became involved in the Wars of Religion that plagued France for years. It was originally surrounded by ramparts which have since been removed for expansion and was often under siege because of its strategic position. (2)

The Ramparts du Midi (Blorg)
The Ramparts du Midi ©Blorg

Nanteuil itself is in the valley where the rivers Lizonne and Pude wind. A priory  of farming nuns was estabished there called St. Claire de Dulac. The name Nanteuil is Gallo-Roman, from Nantholium which means “valley”. (3)

Nanthuiel de Bourzac
Nantuiel de Bourzac (

France’s economy during the 17th century was suffering as a result of the Black Plague and the many wars it was involved in. People moved to La Rochelle for work and protection. La Rochelle, being a port city had a good economy which was aided by the skilled labour of the Protestants.

Although it started out as a fishing and salt port, La Rochelle made little headway in landing a monopoly on the fur trade of New France because the town was largely Protestant and commerce with them was frowned upon. It was also in competition with the ports closer to Paris.(4) Being the good Frenchmen they were, the Rochelais took up smuggling which helped them maintain a presence on the St. Lawrence River. Smuggling, often involving women, was something the French government had to deal with as long as the colony existed. In her book, Along a River: The First French Canadian Women, Jan Noel talks about many women who were thus engaged. After 1650, La Rochelle would gain ground in trade with New France as both Catholic and Protestant ships transported a most important cargo, new settlers.

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)





Inspiration and Incentive

What is the relevance of family history? Part of it is simply finding the names of your ancestors listed in connection with the main players and events in history. My maternal grandmothers name was Jane Gartshore Smith. Her parents were Marion Reid Gartshore and James Smith .These names were found in Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, a place with some historical connection to Charles I, Bonny Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce.

Kirkintilloch and Glasgow

Kirkintilloch and Glasgow

The name Gartshore (in the form Galfrud) was found on a charter of exgambion (land grant) from Alexander II and was written about in a book by Thomas Watson called “Kirkintilloch, Town and Parish” (1894).

Gartshore Land Grant

Gartshore Land Grant

Later on in the book he quotes :

Gartshore and King Charles I

Gartshore and King Charles I

I have not researched these families intensively yet but I did have an experience with a lady  who is related to the Gartshore family that came to Canada around 1800. They were an educated family of engineers and one of them, John Gartshore became well known in Canada for supplying steam driven pumping engines to the old Hamilton Waterworks. We have the same ancestors up to a certain period but then my “Two Brother” theory kicks in. That is based on the concept that every family will have two brothers who part ways and the fortunes of their families differ accordingly, either up or down. If you would like to read about the above John you will find a paper on him by his descendants here.  The Gartshore estate in Kirkintilloch passed into the hands of a Murray who took the name of Gartshore but it is now basically a pile of rubble.

What happened to my family up to 1800 I will have to find out. As far as I can tell they were miners and then iron-workers. As I say my grandmother was the first over in 1913. Her family were a direct product of the Industrial Revolution. Glasgow was the archetypal city of that era, calling herself “The Second City of the Empire”.

Watson also writes about James Smith as being one of the Covenanters,who is buried at the Martyr’s Stone outside of Kirkintilloch.

Martyrs Stone t.wat.

Martyr's Stone

Martyr's Stone (fjstuart)

Martyr’s Stone (fjstuart)

The two were found unarmed and made an example of but gave up their lives willingly.

The  MacDowall clan were part of the rising against Robert the Bruce.Their kin, the MacDougall’s were in possession of the Brooch of Lorn, said to be torn off of the Bruce’s cloak when they ambushed him at the Battle of Dalrigh. Today there is some question as to the authenticity of the brooch but it has been legend for many years. William McDowell was my 2nd great grandfather. His family went to Ulster during the Plantation of Ireland.

On the flip-side, my maiden name is Beauchamp. That side of the family is French-Canadian. William de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, was Edward I’s best friend and lead military commander against the Welsh . There is a long history of chivalry and crusades in that family and a Coat of Arms.

Beauchamp Coat of Arms

Beauchamp Coat of Arms

Which would you rather, a colorful history or a page of names and dates? How much is YOUR ancestors life worth?