William McMillan, free trader

William McMillan and Margaret Dease Photo source: Ontario Archives

William McMillan and Margaret Dease
Photo source: Ontario Archives

This picture is of William McMillan and Margaret Dease. William is the son of James McMillan and Josephte Belisle, whom I wrote about here. Margaret is the daughter of John Warren Dease and Genevieve Beignet, whom I wrote about here. The picture was taken around 1902 when they were both very elderly. If you look closely at William’s left hand, you will note it is damaged. According to Heather Devine’s Informativel article The Indian-Metis Connection: James McMillan and His Descendants (which is available online, just google it):

“Like his father, William had bad luck with firearms. Apparently while on a buffalo hunt, he surprised an Indian trying to steal one of his horses. The Indian attempted to shoot McMillan, who grabbed the barrel of the gun in his hand. The gun went off, burning the flesh off his hand and leaving it permanently withered.”

They are in front of their house, which, although I am not a student of architecture, I’m quite sure was built in a style known as Red River frame construction. That’s the same style as  the Barber House, Riel House, and the William Brown house, which are all still standing in Winnipeg today. William and Margaret’s house was on lot 16 in the Parish of St. James.

Cadastral: Parish Plan of St. John’s, St. James, and St. Boniface, Archives of Manitoba

Cadastral: Parish Plan of St. John’s, St. James, and St. Boniface, Archives of Manitoba

This image, showing his name as William McMullen, is an excerpt from Cadastral: Parish Plan of St. John’s, St. James, and St. Boniface in the holdings of the Archives of Manitoba. This copy is from the website of St. James Anglican Church. For those familiar with the Winnipeg suburb of St. James, the Anglican church is circled bottom right. The lot bearing the name James Bruce is today’s Bruce Park. William’s lot is in the upper left. It would be roughly where Vernon Street and Whytewold Road are today. Strathmillan Street got its name from the fact that it was the dividing line between William McMillan’s property and that of Donald Smith aka Lord Strathcona (you know him as the man hammering in the last spike of the CPR). The river shown at the bottom of the map is the Assiniboine, and the dotted lines mark the Portage Trail which became Portage Avenue.

William was born around 1806 in the North West Territories. I say this despite the fact that when he died, his family said he was 103! Here’s a picture of his gravestone in St. Charles Cemetery, Winnipeg.

William McMillan St. Charles Cemetery Winnipeg, Manitoba

William McMillan
St. Charles Cemetery
Winnipeg, Manitoba

William was raised by his mother and her family near today’s Edmonton. Governor Simpson wrote in 1825 that William at 18 “was the boy of Mr. James MacMillan Chief Trader and [was] under no agreement with the company but never the less [would] …do anything the company require [d] of him”. (Hudson’s Bay Company Archives B60 2/3)

William claimed to be born in 1806 when he applied for scrip.

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

According to Heather Devine, William was a contract employee of HBC by 1826 “as a middleman on the York boats. He retired as a bowsman in 1835.”

Margaret Dease was born between 1813 and 1820, either in the Rainy Lake area (Fort Frances, Ontario) where her father, John Warren Dease was in charge of the NWC post, or in Fort Alexander. Here’s her scrip application.

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

William and Margaret married in 1832. The Red River Settlement Censuses allow us to track their life to some extent. In the 1838 census they have 4 horses and 5 mares. By 1843 they now have 1 house, 2 stables, 1 barn, 5 horses, 1 mare, 7 oxen, 4 cows, 2 calves, 9 pigs, 1 plough, 1 harrow, 6 carts(these are the famous Red River carts) and 6 acres of cultivated land. By 1846, they also own a canoe and have 8 acres of land cultivated.

When researching at the Archives of Manitoba, I was thrilled to find the notation in that 1846 census that William is “to the plains” meaning that he is away hunting buffalo! In 1849 they have 2 houses, 2 stables, 1 barn, 7 horses, 4 mares, 7 oxen, 1 bull, 4 cows, 1 calf, 5 pigs, 1 plough, 1 harrow, 7 carts 1 canoe, and a “shop of merchandise”.

The number of Red River carts is indicative of the fact that William was a “free trader”, that is, someone who traded in buffalo robes and other merchandise in defiance of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s regulations. He would have traveled south to Pembina and St. Paul. In the book Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century, Gerhard J. Ens states:

“By the late 1860s, there were literally dozens of robe traders making $1,000 or more per year.”

He then lists the names of  several traders including William McMillan and Margaret’s brothers William and John Dease.

William played a  role in the fight against HBC’s monopoly of the fur trade, and advocated for Metis representation in the governing of the settlement. His name is on several petitions in 1845, 1849, and 1850 made to the governor of Red River Settlement and to HBC. He most likely would have been amongst the several hundred armed Metis who surrounded the courthouse during the famous Sayer Trial of 1849.

In the book The Lochaber Emigrants to Glengarry, Hugh McMillan tells of interviewing a grandson of William’s and learning this:

“The family spoke Cree in the home as well as French intermixed with Gaelic and English. Journeys took him as far afield as Kentucky to buy horses in order to improve his buffalo runners. At age 70 he went to the newly-opened Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota for eye surgery but came back nearly blind.”

When William died the Manitoba Free Press published a lengthy article on October 1, 1903 entitled “Death of The First Free Fur Trader” with many interesting, though likely embellished, details:


Death of the first free fur trader


“In those days the chief occupation of the few people who lived in the Red River Colony was trading and buffalo hunting; and, it was natural that young McMillan should fall in with the customs of the times.
He became a hunter at first, but the instinct of his Scotch blood asserted itself and he began trading on his own account; and was the first free trader in the vicinity – though, his scope of business was confined to the position of “middleman” between his hunting companions and the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was noted on the plains for his horsemanship and for his skill as a hunter; and, was always chosen as a leader or captain of the hunts.
In those days, the Indians knew no law but that of the Hudson’s Bay Company and were ever watching for a chance to raid the camps of the traders. The Sioux were the chief aggressors and Mr. McMillan often told of the fights the buffalo hunters had with these bold and warlike aborigines in the Souris and Qu’Appelle districts. These encounters were frequently of a revolutionary nature and scouts, and traders, had to constantly be on guard against surprise or ambush. His experience in this wild life on the prairies qualified McMillan as a guide; and, he had the distinction of being chosen on several occasions to escort titled gentlemen from the Old Country who came to hunt buffalo, half a century ago.
Forty years ago Mr. McMillan purchased a couple of hundred acres of land in St. James, just beyond Lord Strathcona’s Silver Heights farm, and made that his home up to the time of his death. He taught his children farming, but continued himself in the fur trade business until late in the seventies when the business ceased to be profitable.”

Doesn’t William’s life sound exciting?

Of Margaret Dease, I have no details, except that she bore 12 children, of whom 9 survived to adulthood.  Margaret died in 1905. Here is her gravestone in St. Charles Cemetery.

Margaret Dease gravestone St. Charles Cemetery Winnipeg, Manitoba

Margaret Dease gravestone
St. Charles Cemetery
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Here is the descent from William and Margaret to Pépère:

1-William MCMILLAN (1806-1903)
+Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
2-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
3-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

James McMillan

I’m continuing the story of our McMillan ancestors. James McMillan, was born in Glen Pean, Loch Arkaig, Scotland around 1783. Having come to Canada with his family in 1802 (which I wrote about here), he quickly struck out on his own. In 1803 or 1804 he joined the North West Company, a rival fur trade company to HBC. He was employed at first as a clerk, and spent some time in the Fort des Prairies department (now Edmonton).

In many ways, James McMillan is one of our most interesting ancestors. Should you google his name with the words “fur trade” you will see that he is written about in many essays, books and websites. He had an eventful career in the fur trade.

In 1807 James  accompanied the famous explorer and map-maker David Thompson on Thompson’s first expedition across the Rocky Mountains to the upper Columbia River. He spent time at Kootenae House, near Invermere, in present day British Columbia.

At Saleesh House in present day Montana, James had a shooting accident. In the book Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America by Jack Nisbet, the author quotes David Thompson’s journal and tell us that:

“By the accidental going off of his Gun Mr. McMillan had both the forefingers of his hands shot through by a Ball & much lacerated with the Powder, both of his Fingers are broke & seemingly will with difficulty be kept from falling off – I dressed them the best I could.

Several days later, another entry in Thompson’s journal tells us:
“Mr. McMillan’s forefinger of the left hand having a bad appearance & no hopes of its joining with the stump I separated it.”

In 1821, when HBC and NWC amalgamated, James rose to the position of Chief Trader in the Columbia district (as did our ancestor John Warren Dease). In Governor Simpson’s Character Book (HBC Archives A.34/2) he says of McMillan:

“A very steady plain blunt man, shrewd & Sensible of correct conduct and good character, but who has gone through a vast deal of severe duty and is fit for any Service requiring physical strength firmness of mind and good Management provided he has no occasion to meddle with Pen & Ink in the use of which he is deficient his Education having been neglected. An excellent Trader, speaks several Indian languages and is very regular and Economical in all his arrangements: a good practical Man, better adapted for the executive than the legislative departments of the business. His plain blunt manner however cannot conceal a vast deal of little highland pride, and his prejudices are exceedingly strong, but upon the whole he is among the most respectable of his class and a generally useful Man.”

In 1824 McMillan accompanied Governor Simpson on his journey from York Factory to Fort George (Columbia). Coincidentally, Amable Hogue was part of the crew. Amable would later marry Simpson’s former country wife Marguerite Taylor, and McMillan’s granddaughter Philomene would marry Amable’s son Thomas. Also on that trip was Tom Taylor who was Marguerite’s brother. On the trip, Simpson met up with John Warren Dease. McMillan’s son William would marry Dease’s daughter Margaret).
Confused yet?

In 1827 McMillan was promoted to Chief Factor and soon established Fort Langley at a site he had chosen on another trip in 1824. There is a statue of him and Chief Wattlekainen of the Kwantlen First Nation in the city of Langley at Inne’s Corner. The wooden statues were commissioned by HBC in 2002 to commemorate the 175th anniversary. You can view the statue here.

The Fort is now a National Historic Site. You can watch a video here. And of course, we have another plaque! See it here.

McMillan Island, opposite Fort Langley, is named after James. Interestingly, in his journal records for HBC, James sometimes spelled his name McMillan, and sometimes MacMillan!

As for his personal life, sometime before 1806 James married “according to the custom of the country” Josephte Belisle. They had 2 children, William (my great-great grandfather), another James, and Evan. Definitive information about James Jr. and Evan is lacking. McMillan would go on to have two more “country wives”, Marie Letendre and Kilakotah, and numerous children.

When Governor Simpson went to England to find a wife (abandoning our ancestor Marguerite Taylor), James accompanied him, and found himself a Scottish bride, Eleanor McKinley. Heather Devine in her essay “The Indian-Metis connection: James McMillan and his descendants”, which is in the book The Lochaber Emigrants to Glengarry notes:

“Today the values of a fur-trade society that promoted liaisons with native women, then encouraged and condoned the custom of abandoning country wives, seem alien. James McMillan, however, was responding to the rigorous demands of his profession. Furthermore, by marrying his country wives and daughters to responsible partners and by ensuring that his sons were offered opportunities in the fur trade, McMillan obeyed the customs of the country.”

In 1830 James was appointed to run an experimental farm at Red River. He was there until 1834, but it was not a successful endeavour. He then went to the Montreal district, and retired from the fur trade in June 1839. He returned to Scotland, and died there in 1858.

Here is a summary of James McMillan’s HBC career.

HBC Archives

HBC Archives

And what of McMillan’s country wife, Josephte Belisle? She was born in the North West Territories to Belisle, a French Canadian and Josephte, a native woman. Sometime around 1815, having been “turned off” by James, she became the country wife of Amable Fafard dit Delorme. Josephte and Amable had 5 children, who thus became half-siblings to my great great-grandfather William.

This Delorme family had several interesting connections. Pierre Delorme was an important political figure in Manitoba. He was part of the Provisional Government headed by Louis Riel during the Red River Resistance. He was also the first member to represent Provencher in the federal House of Commons, from 1870 to 1872. The original Delorme house, an example of Red River frame construction, is on display at St. Norbert Provincial Park. See it  here.

Genevieve Delorme (also William’s half sister) married Andre Beauchemin, who was also a member of the Provisional Government.

Amable Fafard dit Delorme must have died before 1835, when we find Josephte listed as the ‘Widow Delorme” in the Red River Census of 1835. In 1838 and 1840 her son William and his wife Marguerite Dease are living with her. In the 1870 census Josephte is living near William. She died after 1876. Despite being married to Delorme, she called herself McMillan when she applied for scrip.

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

You can read more about James McMillan in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

And here’s our descent to Pépère:

1-James MCMILLAN (1783-1858)
+Josephte BELISLE (1785-?)
2-William MCMILLAN (1806-1903)
+Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
3-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
4-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

The Dease connection, part 2

I’m continuing the story of our Dease ancestors.

In Loyalists and the Fur Trade: the Impact of the American Revolution on Western Canadian History,  Michael Payne says:

“The Dease family probably represents the most distinguished group of Loyalist brothers who served in the fur trade. John Warren, Francis Michael, Peter Warren and Charles Johnson Watt Dease together amassed about 70 years of service with different fur trade companies. All were sons of Dr. John Dease, who in addition to being related to Sir William Johnson acted as his personal physician. Dease was a Loyalist of course, and like most other family retainers he resettled in Upper Canada (initially it seems near Niagara and later Fort Mackinac) after the American Revolution.”

Our direct ancestor is John Warren Dease, Sr., son of Dr. John Dease and Jane French, who was born 9 Jun 1783 in Niagara, New York. He joined the North West Company in 1801 and by 1816 he was in charge of the post at Rainy Lake (near Fort Frances). This was a crucial post that supplied the canoe brigades on their way to Fort William.

Here’s a picture of the plaque where the fort used to be.

Photo courtesy Sharlene Gilbert

Photo courtesy Sharlene Gilbert

When the NWC and Hudson’s Bay Company amalgamated in 1821, John became a Chief Trader at the same time as his brother Peter Warren Dease did. Peter Warren was also an Arctic explorer (see here ).

In 1822 John Warren Dease, Sr. was transferred to the Columbia district and put in charge of Fort Walla Walla in what is now Washington state. In 1825 he was transferred to Spokane House. In 1826 that post was abandoned and Dease was put in charge of the Fort Colvile district, which also included the Flathead and Kootenay posts. He spent most of his time at the Flathead post in Montana.

His second country wife was Genevieve “Jenny” Beignoit. She was born around 1796 in what is now Green Lake, Saskatchewan. John and Genevieve had 5 children, and John provided for Genevieve, their children, his children by another country wife, Mary Cadotte, and Genevieve’s son by a previous union in his will. There was a stipulation however:

“Let it be clearly understood that if the said Jenny Beignoit Mother of my adopted children…marry or cohabit with any man during my lifetime, she then forfeits the provision made for her in the foregoing will” (HBC Archives)

Tragically John became ill in 1829 and died January 11, 1830 at the Dalles, Columbia River. His death left Genevieve with 5 children ages three to 12, the oldest being our direct ancestor Margaret Dease. Genevieve did not marry again and relocated to the Red River Settlement with her children. Looking at the Red River Settlement Censuses for 1831 to 1843, I have a theory that her brother-in-law Francis Dease, who never married, helped her raise the children.

The Red River Settlement Censuses only identify the male head of household by name, and then list the other members by age bracket and marital status, i.e. sons over 16, sons under 16, etc. In the case of Genevieve, although she is the household head, BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN, she is only identified as the “widow Dease”. Grrrr!

Census returns for Red River Settlement and Grantown Digital Image Number: HB13-002681.JPG  Location Code: E.5/5

Census returns for Red River Settlement and Grantown
Digital Image Number: HB13-002681.JPG Location Code: E.5/5

However Francis M. Dease is in the household of the “widow Dease” in 1832.  Genevieve died at St. Boniface, Manitoba on 18 November 1860. Francis died in either 1864 or 1865.

Those of us who trace our ancestors back to the early days of the Red River Settlement (such an interesting time from a historical viewpoint) invariably find that our ancestors have very strong, and sometimes very confusing, interconnecting ties.

Genevieve had previously been the country wife of a Jacques Goulet, who was a voyageur for both NWC and HBC. They had one son, Alexis Goulet. That means Alexis was a half-brother to  Margaret Dease. Genevieve’s grandchildren from this line had many interesting connections.

Roger Goulet was  a member of the Council of Assiniboia. Lionel Dorge in his article The Métis and Canadien Councillors of Assiniboia (The Beaver, Winter 1974) says:

“He was the grandson of a Métisse and a Canadien (whose ancestors had come from Lorraine in 1645) and the son of a hunter and Josephte Severet (daughter of Chief Factor John Siveright of Edinburg). Bishop Provencher, as his godfather, had overseen his education at the Collège de St-Boniface – a training which stood warranty to Goulet’s word and honesty. Finally his service to the public as Surveyor since 1856 and as Collector of Customs since 1861 gave promise of someone in Council whose contacts with the people had been, and were likely to be, frequent and on a familiar basis.”

Elzear Goulet was a member of the court martial which condemned Thomas Scott during the Riel resistance in 1870. Soldiers from the Wolseley regiment, who had been sent to Red River by the Canadian government, recognized him on the street one day and pursued him, until he dove into the Red River to escape. The soldiers threw rocks at him. He was hit and drowned. Just recently the City of Winnipeg has designated a park in his honour.

Source: Heritage Resource Image from City of Winnipeg http://now.winnipeg.ca/images/images

Source: Heritage Resource Image from City of Winnipeg

Maxime Goulet was the St. Vital member of the Manitoba Legislature in 1878, and the provincial Minister of Agriculture in 1880. Goulet Street in St. Boniface is named after him. Maxime also took part in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris! He was one of a group of men who portrayed French Canadian settlers “saved” by Buffalo Bill. When he died in 1932, the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press had this headline:

Goulet Maxime obit1932
Guillemine Goulet married Miles McDermot, son of Andrew McDermot, an important name in Manitoba history.

Sara Goulet married Elzear Lagimodiere, a cousin of Louis Riel, and their son William Lagimodiere was a MLA.

Leonide Goulet was a member of the 49th Rangers, the Metis Scouts of the 1873-74 Boundary Commission who helped survey the Canada-U.S. border.

“One of the best known families” indeed!

The Lesieur Connection

This post will be about our Girardin ancestors, the Lesieur family, and it is a rather tangled story.

Charles Lesieur arrived in New France around 1670. He was born in Ozeville, Normandy. In 1671 he married Francoise de Lafond, the thirteen year old niece of Pierre Boucher, Governor of Trois-Rivières. (see my previous post about this family here). Needless to say, that was a very advantageous marriage, and Charles became a wealthy landowner, a notary, and a “procureur fiscal” (financial attorney) . He sometimes went by the “dit” name of Lapierre. He and Francoise had nine children and settled in Batiscan. Unfortunately he died at the age of 50 in 1697, leaving Francoise with a family whose youngest was only two years old. She remarried six years later, but did not have any more children. Francoise died in 1717 and was buried in Montreal.

We are descended from three of Charles and Francoise’s children, Charles, Joseph and Francoise.

First is Charles Lesieur, the younger. A few years after his father’s death, Charles and his brother Julien were granted the seigneury of Grosbois-Est , which would become the town of Yamachiche. Charles married Marie Charlotte Rivard dite Loranger in 1700, and they had seven children, including our ancestor Pierre, who married Genevieve Sicard dite Derive in 1746. Pierre was co-seigneur of Yamachiche, as noted on this burial record in 1761. Genevieve was pregnant with the last of their seven children when Pierre died. The child died the day it was born. A year later, Genevieve married again, this time to a man with almost the same name, Pierre Lesieur dit Duchesne! He was a first cousin, once removed, of her deceased husband.

Pierre had a brother, also called Charles, NOT our direct ancestor, who was involved in the fur trade.
In Heather Devine’s book The People who Own Themselves: Aboriginal Ethnogenesis in a Canadian Family we learn:

“The Lesieurs were a prominent family who had held the seigneury of Yamachiche, near Trois-Rivières, Quebec for several generations. Charles Lesieur, the seigneur of Yamachiche during much of the eighteenth century, presided over a large family active in the fur trade. One of his sons, Toussaint, was one of the earliest Canadien traders in the Athabasca region, an associate of Peter Pond, and later Benjamin and Joseph Frobisher. However, two other Lesieur sons, Francois and Joseph, chose to seek their fortune in Missouri…they were credited as the official founders of the trading post and satellite community later known as New Madrid.”

Secondly, we have Joseph Lesieur, born in 1688, who was also involved in the fur trade. He was trading in the Illinois and Wisconsin area and married an Illinois Indian, Madeleine Adouin. They had one child, a son, Jean Baptiste, born around 1721 in Pays-d’en-Haut. (That refers to the country upriver from the colony of New France, i.e. present day Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and along the Mississippi.)  Joseph was killed by Indians in 1723 at the age of 34. F.L. Desaulniers who compiled a book Les vieilles familles d’Yamachiche: vingt-cinq genealogies  in 1900, tells us of the existence of a letter from the Jesuit Father DeKereben giving details of the death of Joseph and of Jean-Baptiste Lafond.

I do not know what happened to Madeleine, but by 1747 her son Jean Baptiste is in Yamachiche getting married to HIS FIRST COUSIN Francoise Rivard dite Bellefeuille! Tragically, this couple both died the same day, in 1756, possibly of smallpox, leaving behind three young children, ages 8, 5, and 3. Presumably they were raised by other members of the Lesieur and Rivard families.

Thirdly, we come to Francoise Lesieur, born in 1695, and married to Louis Joseph Rivard dit Loranger. They had eight children . When Louis Joseph died, Francoise was left, as her mother had been, with a family whose youngest was only two years old! She did not remarry.  (Louis Joseph was the brother of Marie Charlotte who married Charles Lesieur the younger). The Lesieur and Rivard families were very closely linked, which I touched on in another post (here).

Charles, Joseph and Francoise are all ancestors of Joseph Baptiste Lesieur dit Lapierre and Madeleine Lesieur, who are Mémère’s great-great-grandparents.

If you are thoroughly confused by now, here’s our descent:
1-Charles LESIEUR (1647-1697)
+Francoise DE LAFOND (1658-1717)
2-Charles Julien LESIEUR (1674-1739)
+Marie Charlotte RIVARD dit LORANGER (1680-1744)
3-Pierre LESIEUR (1700-1761)
+Genevieve SICARD dite DERIVE (1728-1798)
4-Madeleine LESIEUR (1756-1841)
+Joseph Baptiste LESIEUR dit LAPIERRE (1751-1813)

2-Joseph LESIEUR (1688-1723)
+Madeleine ADOUIN (?-?)
3-Jean Baptiste LESIEUR (bef 1721-1756)
+Francoise RIVARD dite BELLEFEUILLE (bef 1727-1756)
4-Joseph Baptiste LESIEUR dit LAPIERRE (1751-1813)
+Madeleine LESIEUR (1756-1841)

2-Francoise LESIEUR (8 Sep 1695-1758)
+Louis Joseph RIVARD dit LORANGER (1684-1740)
3-Francoise RIVARD dite BELLEFEUILLE (bef 1727-1756)
+Jean Baptiste LESIEUR (bef 1721-1756)
4-Joseph Baptiste LESIEUR dit LAPIERRE (1751-1813)
+Madeleine LESIEUR (1756-1841)
5-Josephte LESIEUR (1778-1864)
+Charles GIRARDIN (1773-1853)
6-Paul GIRARDIN (1804-1878)
+Marie Louise BERNARDIN (1824-1912)
7-Napoleon GIRARDIN (1851-1929)
+Onesime ALLARD (1852-1896)
8-Marie Emma GIRARDIN (1878-1979)



The Trottier family

Jules Trottier and Catherine Loiseau are Girardin ancestors who came to New France in 1646 with their four sons. Jules (sometimes known as Gilles) was a carpenter and cattle breeder, and he signed a contract in France to come and work for Jacques Le Neuf on his seigneury at Portneuf  near Trois Rivières. Jacques was brother to another ancestor, Michel Le Neuf.

Of course we find another plaque.

Plaque posée à l'intérieur de l'église Saint-Martin d'Igé

Plaque posée à l’intérieur de l’église Saint-Martin d’Igé

Igé is a small village in the Orne district of Normandy.

(And yes, if you follow this link for the plaque you can see our connection to Madonna and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall).  Take that as you will.

Catherine was pregnant on the voyage and gave birth to her fifth son, Jean Baptiste, at sea.  (This son is not a direct ancestor, but he married the sister of one.  Oh what tangled roots we have!)

One can only imagine what that trip would have been like.  Being pregnant on the voyage was probably uncomfortable enough, but actually giving birth?  They arrived on the farm at Portneuf, but were forced to seek refuge in Trois Rivières, due to attacks by the Iroquois. The family later settled briefly at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, and both Jules and Catherine were buried in Trois Rivières; he in May of 1655, and she in January of 1656.

We descend from two of their sons.  The first is Antoine:

1-Jules “Gilles” TROTTIER (abt 1591-1655)
+Catherine LOISEAU (abt 1601-1656)
2-Antoine TROTTIER Sieur DesRuisseaux (1640-1706)
+Marie Catherine LEFEBVRE (1648-1705)
+Marie Charlotte  MERCEREAU dite LASAVANE (1685-1715)
4-Marie Catherine TROTTIER DESRUISSEAUX dite POMBERT (1708-1788)
+Louis SICARD CARUFEL dit DERIVE (1705-1783)
5-Genevieve SICARD DERIVE (1728-1798)
+Pierre LESIEUR (1700-1761)
6-Madeleine LESIEUR (1756-1841)
+Joseph LESIEUR dit LAPIERRE (1751-1813)
7-Josephte LESIEUR (1778-1864)
+Charles GIRARDIN (1773-1853)
8-Paul GIRARDIN (1801-1878)
+Marie Louise BERNARDIN (1824-1912)
9-Napoleon GIRARDIN (1851-1929)
+Onesime ALLARD ( 1852-1896)
10-Marie Emma GIRARDIN (1878-1979)

In 1660 Antoine was one of a small group of coureur de bois who accompanied Father Rene Menard into what is now Wisconsin.  The priest was going as a missionary, the others were going to trade furs. Louise Phelps Kellogg in her book The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest refers to Antoine as

“the leader among the traders, who later settled at Batiscan, where he lived until 1706.”

It would be three years before the traders would return to Quebec, and Menard would not be with them, having died. Antoine would then marry Catherine Lefebvre, whose father and mother I talked about here. Two of Catherine’s brothers married two of Antoine’s nieces.

In Our French-Canadian Ancestors, Vol VII by Thomas Laforest  (page 211) we learn that:

“Antoine dit Desruisseaux was one of the most important merchants of his time in the colony” and that he “formed fur trading associations and became very rich.”

I have found a reference in another book that indicates Antoine was able to afford a private tutor for his children. Schooling in Transition: Readings in Canadian History of Education tells us that:

“In a contract of 1681, Pierre Bertrand, who reportedly had attended the University of Paris, agreed to serve as tutor to the family of the military figure Joseph-Francois Hertel of Trois-Rivieres, for a period of a year.  Bertrand promised to join the Hertel household upon completion of his teaching duties with the family of Antoine Trottier Des Ruisseaux of the same town.”

Several of Antoine’s sons would continue in the fur trade.  Heather Devine writes in The People who Own Themselves: Aboriginal Ethnogenesis in a Canadian Family about one of Antoine’s sons, Michel Trottier dit Beaubien, that :

“While Michel Trottier chose to purchase and develop a parcel of land as a seigneur, three of his brothers worked for various periods in the fur trade.  Although two of the brothers began as lowly engagés, they eventually became merchants in their own right, establishing a firm foothold in the business community for the Trottier family. By the mid-eighteenth century, five of Michel Trottier’s nephews numbered among the largest outfitters in Montreal.”

Antoine’s sons were very fond of taking dit names, so we find their descendants named DesRuisseaux, Pombert, Desaulniers, Desrivieres, and more.

Antoine’s son, also named Antoine, and our direct ancestor, apparently did not enter the fur trade. He married twice (his first wife Marie Charlotte Mercereau died at the age of 30, after having three children.)  With his second wife he would have another nine children.

Surprisingly, Antoine died November 11, 1733 within 12 days of the death of three of his children, one an infant, one aged 11 and one aged 23. This led me to research if there was an epidemic of some type occurring that year.  Turns out there was an influenza pandemic  from 1729-1733.

I checked a bit more and discovered that Antoine also buried a ten-month old son in 1730, and a 6 day-old daughter in 1731. Antoine’s widow remarried in 1734, and had 3 more children, one of whom she buried as an infant.

Our other descent is from Jules and Catherine’s son Pierre:

1-Jules “Gilles” TROTTIER (abt 1591-1655)
+Catherine LOISEAU (abt 1601-1656)
2-Pierre TROTTIER (1644-1693)
+Susanne MIGAUD (abt 1646-1723)
3-Agnes TROTTIER (bef 1672-1741)
+Antoine GIRARDIN (1664-1741)
4-Jacques GIRARDIN (1698-1747)
+Marie Clothilde BRISSON dite DUTILLY (1702-?)
5-Augustin GIRARDIN (1741-1810)
+Genevieve RIVARD-LORANGER (1744-1810)
6-Charles GIRARDIN (1773-1853)
+Josephte LESIEUR (1778-1864)
7-Paul GIRARDIN (1801-1878)
+Marie Louise BERNARDIN (1824-1912)
8-Napoleon GIRARDIN (1851-1929)
+Onesime ALLARD (1852-1896)
9-Marie Emma GIRARDIN (1878-1979)

I have not learned very much about Pierre.  He must have been content with the life of a habitant, farming first in Cap-de-La-Madeleine and then in Batiscan.  He married Susanne Migaud, a fille à marier, in 1663.  We do not know the names of her parents or where in France she lived.  She is believed to have come here in 1662.  They had ten children, two of whom died in 1703, likely in the smallpox outbreak of that year.

Although I have done only a little research on my Mother’s ancestors, I do know that Pierre and Susanne are in her lineage also.  I can only imagine how tangled the family tree will be once I research my Mom’s line!