Following Mackenzie

Let us see how close we can come to pinning down the said Jacques Beauchamp who traveled to the Pacific with Alexander Mackenzie. What do we know?

Firstly, we know that all Beauchamps from North America derive from the pioneers, Jacques and Jean Beauchamp. In my case, Jean Beauchamp. We follow the family down from Jean, using the PRDH records for each child to 1800 which is when they stop.  We need a Jacques who would be of age to be experienced and working as a voyageur at the time of Mackenzie’s hiring for the trip. The trip was in 1793 and the average age to start voyaging was 22 years.  Most voyageurs retired, many due to ill health, in their 60’s.

We know that Jacques gained a reputation when he refused to embark when ordered to by Mackenzie (the canoe had pretty much fallen apart by this time, causing mutinous murmurs among the men). From Mackenzie’s journal, “The next morning, Friday, while the work of repairing the canoe was in progress, the two Canadian scouts came in, hungry, cold, and ragged, with a report substantially the same as that of the Indian. They had seen the larger river, however, but were of the opinion it would be necessary to carry everything to it, owing to the obstacles to navigation in the stream they had embarked on. The canoe was patched up and on Saturday the journey was continued, four men in the canoe, the others carrying on shore part of the freight. That morning Mackenzie experienced the first instance of disobedience to mar the journey. Beauchamp flatly refused to embark in the canoe when ordered.” (1)  I suspect that Jacques was one of the scouts and realized what peril the men would be in.

The closest record I have so far of a family member who might have been on Mackenzie’s expedition is below. Again from the Voyageur Database at the SHSB.

Joseph Beauchamp contract with McTavish Frobisher (Mackenzies Voyage)The forename is different but name interchanges were common during that period.  Joseph Beauchamp is the name that figures most prominently among the family voyageurs in Montreal and the Northwest.  I saw no suitable candidates among Jacques Beauchamp’s descendants.  The whole family of this Joseph was from Lachine, Quebec, the start point of all expeditions. There is a brother Jacques at the bottom but no contract for him.

Jean Baptiste Beauchamp and Marie Josephe Filion family

Here is a map of the area and Mackenzie’s two voyages. undertaken to find a new trade route for the country.  The northern route to the Arctic covered 4800 kilometres (3000 miles), the route to the Pacific, 3700 kilometres or 2300 miles all with 8 other men in a birch bark canoe 25 feet long.  Mackenzie had been greatly influenced and inspired by Peter Pond‘s travels to the west.

Sir Alex MacK. Explorations

It is hard to describe the vastness of Canada and the thought of crossing thousands of miles over any part of it in a canoe is well… rather incredulous. Never the less, the man was found in Mackenzie who lead his men on to the end, not without strong resistance. In Volume 2 of his book “Voyages from Montreal…” he records one of many incidents which tested the endurance of every man there, recorded June 13, 1793.

” Thursday, 13. —At an early hour of this morning the men began to cut a road, in order to carry the canoe and lading beyond the rapid; and by seven they were ready. That business was soon effected, and the canoe reladen, to proceed with the current which ran with great rapidity. In order to lighten her, it was my intention to walk with some of the people; but those in the boat with great earnestness requested me to embark, declaring, at the same time, that, if they perished, I should perish with them. I did not then imagine in how short a period their apprehension would be justified. We accordingly pushed off, and had proceeded but a very short way when the canoe struck, and notwithstanding all our exertions, the violence of the current was so great as to drive her sideways down the river, and break her by the first bar, when I instantly jumped into the water, and the men followed my example; but before we could set her straight, or stop her, we came to deeper water, so that we were obliged to re-embark with the utmost precipitation. One of the men who was not sufficiently active, was left to get on shore in the best manner in his power. We had hardly regained our situations when we drove against a rock which shattered the stern of the canoe in such a manner, that it held only by the gunwales, so that the steersman could no longer keep his place. The violence of this stroke drove us to the opposite side of the river, which is but narrow, when the bow met with the same fate as the stern. At this moment the foreman seized on some branches of a small tree in the hope of bringing up the canoe, but such was their elasticity that, in a manner not easily described, he was jerked on shore in an instant, and with a degree of violence that threatened his destruction. But we had no time to turn from our own situation to enquire what had befallen him; for, in a few moments, we came across a cascade which broke several large holes in the bottom of the canoe, and started all the bars, except one behind the scooping seat. If this accident, however, had not happened, the vessel must have been irretrievably overset. The wreck becoming flat on the water, we all jumped out, while the steersman, who had been compelled to abandon his place, and had not recovered from his fright, called out to his companions to save themselves. My peremptory commands superseded the effects of his fear, and they all held fast to the wreck; to which fortunate resolution we owed our safety, as we should otherwise have been dashed against the rocks by the force of the water, or driven over the cascades. In this condition we were forced several hundred yards, and every yard on the verge of destruction; but, at length, we most fortunately arrived in shallow water and a small eddy, where we were enabled to make a stand, from the weight of the canoe resting on the stones, rather than from any exertions of our exhausted strength. For though our efforts were short, they were pushed to the utmost, as life or death depended on them.

This alarming scene, with all its terrors and dangers, occupied only a few minutes; and in the present suspension of it, we called to the people on shore to come to our assistance, and they immediately obeyed the summons. The foreman, however, was the first with us; he had escaped unhurt from the extraordinary jerk with which he was thrown out of the boat, and just as we were beginning to take our effects out of the water, he appeared to give his assistance. The Indians, when they saw our deplorable situation, instead of making the least effort to help us, sat down and gave vent to their tears. “

Later, as I previously mentioned, in 1804, Jacques as steersman for explorer, Duncan Livingston was killed by the Esquimaux along with the rest of the party. If he was steersman for Mackenzie, he would have been in the seat when the bottom was smashed out of the canoe. Throughout Mackenzie’s book, we hear repeatedly of the fears of the native people; fear of the environment, fear of attack and fear of starvation, problems they still face today.

  1. Mark S. Wade, Mackenzie of Canada p.133

 

Perils of the Trail

I spoke previously of Jacques Beauchamp, voyageur, an ancestor who had traveled with Alexander MacKenzie on his voyage to the Pacific in 1793 and was later killed by Eskimos (see A Dangerous Business)  Today I came across an account of his widow from the book North of Athabasca edited by Lloyd Keith. The account is taken from the journals of James Porter, factor of the Slave Lake Post from 1798 to 1801.

After dark on a cold and blowing November day, a woman arrived with her two children, apparently seeking sustenance and shelter from the weather. She was the widow of Jacques Beauchamp, one of the men who accompanied Alexander Mackenzie on his trek in 1793 to the Pacific Ocean.  Afterwards, he apparently remained in the north, for he was one of the engages who served under Duncan Livingston at the Trout River Post over the 1798-1799 trading season. In June of 1799, Beauchamp acted as Mckenzie’s steersman on the way down the Mckenzie River to establish the trade with the Esquimaux. As mentioned in the previous section,  the traders were attacked ( by whom is still controversial), and all the Nor’Westers including Beauchamp were killed. As sometimes happened in the fur trade, the family was left unprotected and had to fend for themselves. In this case, the woman and her children remained at Slave Lake Post , presumably receiving sustenance form Porter for eleven days. She then left with an unidentified Indian who arrived at the post the day before. At least she had found some protection for herself and her children.”

There remained some controversy over the murders of Livingston and his men. Was it really the Esquimaux who he intended to trade with or some of the Indians he had hired as labourers?  Attacks like this were common and paint a less romantic picture of the life of a voyageur. What happened to Jacque’s wife and children? More hours of research.

A Spirit of Independence

It took some time before the colony of Montreal became self-sufficient. Although filled with people of high rank and birth, all depended on the good will of the French King, firstly Louis XIII and then Louis XIV.  Accounts were kept, reports made, rules re-arranged but all with the King’s approval. This mode of existence was not for all. The French spirit of adventure, freedom and enterprise more often than not prevailed.

By the end of the 17th century,  French fur trade was well established in the upper Great Lakes.  Intermarriage with the Native women led to the rise of the Métis  or “mixed bloods”. The “country-born” were the offspring the British traders, all sometimes referred to as “half-breeds”.  The blend of Native and European customs made them unique. In a few generations, Métis settlements extended from the upper Great Lakes to the Red River and south through the Great Plains to the Arkansas River.

We find the two brothers, Jacques and Pierre Beauchamp (sons of original settler Jacques Beauchamp), at Fort Pontchartrain, Detroit listed on the rent list of 1707-1710 as non-payers since they are only there as “canotiers” or voyageurs (from the website,  “metis-history-info”.  Below an example of what a voyageur contract looked like, this one for Francois Beauchamp , grandson of original settler Jean Beauchamp.

Francois B. Voyageur contract 2

Francois B. Voyageur Contract 1748

The Voyageur Database at the St. Boniface Historical Society in Winnipeg, Manitoba supplies a printed record as well.

Francois

There are a few interesting points in these records. There is little to no information about the oldest emigrant brother, Pierre, something common among the voyageurs. On the written contract above, the head canoeman is Pierre Deschamps. That name is often interchanged with Beauchamp. As well, the lowest member is Francois Beauchamp perhaps taken as a protege by Pierre . In the list of people paying rent at Detroit, just above the Beauchamp brothers, are two Bazinet brothers, Pierre and Joseph. It happens that Pierre and Jacques married two Bazinet sisters, Anne and Marie.

A Dangerous Business

I had written previously about Jacques Beauchamp (born c. 1760), very likely a descendant of  Jacques Beauchamp, pioneer of Montreal, being with Alexander MacKenzie when he finally made it to the Pacific in 1793. That I found on this website. Then I found this article about Jacques Beauchamp, voyageur,  being killed by Eskimos. Genealogy Quebec has a Jacques Beauchamp listed as born in 1760 with no information for date or location of death.  I feel there is good reason to give credit to the previous article.

The Passing

Jacques Beauchamp, my 7th great uncle had passed away on the 8th of February, 1693. In her book, “Habitants and Merchants in Seventeenth Century Montreal”, Louise Dechêne describes the inventory of his clothing; “Beauchamps’ wardrobe consisted of the basics: a coat, a jerken, and because nothing was ever thrown out, a second wornout 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 to 50 livres.” In the notarial record below we see an transaction between Marie Dardenne, Jacques’ widow, and her sons-in-law right after an inventory has been taken. (Line 2364).

Quittance from Marie Dardenne to sons in law

Jacques died the same year as Lambert Closse famed Indian fighter who disappeared in the bush. Sadly he missed the land grants in Pointe Aux Trembles.

45894_83024005508_1004-00241

The oldest brother Pierre died the following year apparently on February 8, 1693. I sometimes wonder if he even existed, there is little to no information on him. Then on May 4, 1700, Jean, my 7th great grandfather died.  He, like most of Montreal’s inhabitants, had lived largely in debt, borrowing money whenever he could to buy more land. In 1666, shortly after his arrival in Montreal, he had married Jeanne Loisel, whose parents were among the earlier settlers. First, a contract had to be signed.

Mar. Contract J. Beauchamp.JPG

The wedding took place November 23, 1666. Marr-Beauchamp Loisel.jpg

They had a family.

Jean Beauchamp Jeanne Loiselle.jpg

At the time of his death he had accumulated some land which was always a priority for future generations of the family. In Quebec, property was not inherited by the oldest son but was divided equally among all the children, a custom brought from France. Jean had been granted land on Rue St. Jean and Rue St. Francois in Pointe Aux Trembles. A year after he died, The Great Peace of Montreal was established with the Iroquois. Below, his death record.

Original D.Rec. Jean BEauchamp Full Image.JPG

Jacques “Le Grand” Beauchamp and Jean “Le Petit” Beauchamp are considered to be among the founding families of not just Montreal but Canada itself. They suffered privation and constant threat but helped to build this land with courage and enterprise. Their descendants number in the thousands. Both are buried in the Cimetiere St. Enfant Jesus in Point Aux Trembles, Quebec.

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.

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”.