Was Suzanne Nepveu a Meti child?

PH raised this question a while back. I still don’t have the definitive answer but think that Suzanne probably wasn’t the daughter of an European-native union because of the conventions I see used in the documents surrounding her birth.

During the 1650s when Suzanne was born, the Jesuits operated a native reserve at Sillery.  The reserve bordered the St. Lawrence River and consisted of a stone fort that surrounded the Jesuit residences, their oven, their brewery, and their chapel — and the Terres des Sauvages where Christian Indians lived.  Behind the native lands, the Ursaline nuns ran a school and medical clinic.  In the 1650s, Europeans were given permission to settle to the west of the mission as a buffer against Iroquois attack. Suzanne’s father, Jean Nepveu acquired his land there in November 1652.

Map of Sillery, 1663 from Marcel Trudel's Le Terrier Du Saint-Laurent En 1663.

Map of Sillery, 1663 from Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier Du Saint-Laurent En 1663.

Sillery was definitely a crossroads of European and native life in the 1650s.  Father Bailloquet, of the thickly-inked, tight scrawl below, baptized many natives at Sillery.  At least 8 baptisms are captured in the screen shot below.

1655 native baptisms at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery.  Screenshot of familysearch.org record

1655 native baptisms at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

In the Sillery records, the native and the European births were usually kept separate.  However, Suzanne Nepveu’s baptism record defies expectations because it is in an unusual mixed list.  Still, the way her baptism was handled makes it likely that she was European in origin.

Suzanne Nepveu and others' baptisms at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

Suzanne Nepveu and others’ baptisms at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

In the list above, both European and native baptisms are present — but the European baptisms (Suzanne Neveu, Hyancith Charland, Margarita Guillebout, and Ignace Denis) all have their names listed in the margins.  The native child is not extended that courtesy — just as in the native-only baptism list above.

Suzanne’s older sister, Barbe, was baptized at Notre Dame de Quebec a couple of years prior.

Babe Nepveu's 1653 baptism at Notre Dame de Quebec. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

Babe Nepveu’s 1653 baptism at Notre Dame de Quebec. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

She was also granted margin recognition for her record.

Understanding these documents isn’t easy.  The handwriting is often poor, the documents are often in Latin, and the information is utilitarian.  For now, I am confidant in my hunch about margin recognition as a signal of pure European heritage.  However if I had a Meti (mixed race) baptism record (or few) for comparison, I might be inspired to change my mind.  If you have one from the 1650s, please share!

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Lorie’s Greenwood Family

Adolphus Charles Greenwood (the first of Lorie's Boisvert line to be born a Greenwood) and his wife Mary Paradis.  Source: Lorie's family pictures

Adolphus Charles Greenwood (the first of Lorie’s Boisvert line to be born a Greenwood) and his wife Mary Paradis. Source: Lorie’s family pictures

My grandfather talked about being a Boisvert.

Today I want to share a bit about Cousin Lorie’s family history.  Lorie and I met through the internet and we are both Greenwood descendants of Etienne Denevers dit Boisvert.  Etienne was born @1661 at Sillery and raised his family in nearby Ste. Croix.  He had five sons and two daughters.  I descend from his son Louis (1693) and she descends from Joseph (1697.)  I believe these brothers married Picher sisters — and then later their grandsons married Houde sisters.  So our trees are distantly, but intricately, tied up together.

Her family left Ste. Croix two generations before mine did (in my line Louis Hubert born 1816 left, in hers Louis born 1735), but both lines headed for the United States within a few years of each other. Our 2G and 3G grandfathers (Eduoard and Antoine Delphis) were the ones to make the move and to Anglicize the Boisvert name to Greenwood.  Eduoard moved to the city (Pittsfield, MA) as a blacksmith and Antoine Delphis acquired a series of farms in New Hampshire where he pursued logs and logging.  There is no reason to believe that they knew each other — it is just a fascinating example of the tides of history at work. Individual lives and choices adding up to a historical trend.  In this case, both lines of the family were part of the wave of French Canadian migrants to New England that left when it became difficult to continue farming in Canada.

The chart below shows Lorie (right) and my (left) Boisvert lineage down to the generation that was born Greenwood (my great grandmother, her great, great grandfather.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 3.21.09 PM

When I meet new cousins, I always ask: when did you learn about your Boisvert ancestry? Did you always know? What stories did your family share? Where did your line go? Do you know why they moved? Were there any stories of native ancestry?

The Greenwood farm in Bath, New Hampshire.  Source: Lorie's family photos

The Greenwood farm in Bath, New Hampshire. Source: Lorie’s family photos

Like many of us, Lorie’s stories go back to the things she heard from her grandparents.  This is what she heard about her ancestor who came to the United States.

The story I heard from my grandparents is that Antoine Delphis (aka Adolphus, born 1849) came down to the U.S. in 1867 to either NH or VT thus meeting his future wife, Sophie Newell. I’m assuming he came down to the States to work. The family story goes that Adolphus and Sophie met at a logging camp where Sophie was the camp cook. He changed his name to Adolphus Greenwood upon moving to NH. He had a farm in Monroe, NH and then Bath, NH, and also lived in Haverhill, NH. My great, great, great grandfather not only owned a farm but he also worked for the railroad. He died instantly in a railroad accident in 1911.

Lorie’s great, great, great grandfather’s fourth child, Adolphus C., was a larger than life character in the family stories.

When my Gramp was a kid he would spend the summers with his grandfather on their farm in Bath. His grandfather was Adolphus C, the son of the Adolphus who came down from Canada in the 1860’s.  Adolphus grew up, worked the farm and married a girl of French Canadian descent, Mary Jenny Paradis. My Grandpa told us stories about how his Gramp was really strong and could turn the handle of the ice cream maker crank when all the farm boys (sons -they had fifteen kids) had quit because it got too thick. He was tall and could also throw a 50 pound bag of grain clear into the back of the barn from the doorway. The boys would haul the bag back out when he went up to the house and take turns throwing it to see who could do it like he did.

Adolphus Charles Greenwood (the first of Lorie's Boisvert line to be born a Greenwood) and his wife Mary Paradis as young parents.  Source: Lorie's family pictures

Adolphus Charles Greenwood (the first of Lorie’s Boisvert line to be born a Greenwood) and his wife Mary Paradis as young parents. Source: Lorie’s family pictures

His wife, Mary Paradis, is famous for bad toast.

My Gram says Adolphus’s wife would burn the toast because she had to make it on a wood stove. But on the other hand, she had 15 kids (15!!!) not all lived, but maybe running a house, being pregnant all the time and having numerous kids had something to do with the sub-optimal toast.

Lorie doesn’t know what was behind the moves her Boisvert line made, though they settled in the Becancour area after leaving Ste. Croix.  She learned this with the help of the Boisvert Family Association.  Like me, she assumes all the moves had some sort of economic or family reason. And like my line, her grandparents had some sort of vague knowledge of family ties to native Americans.

My dad says my Gramp also told him we were part Native American and that Gramp took us up to St. Francis. I remember being in Canada on one trip with a lot of Native American boys around us when I was a kid, but I didn’t see that trip as seeing “family”. As a genealogist I’ve looked further into St Francis, but researching Native Americans is not easy and I haven’t found any records. Looking back, I know historically the French were much more willing to marry into the Native population than the English were, so there is a possibility we are part Native American, but I was never told any names of specific Native American women that married into the Boisverts.

Thanks Lorie for sharing your stories!

Adolphus Charles Greenwood (the first of Lorie's Boisvert line to be born a Greenwood) and his wife Mary Paradis in their later years.  Source: Lorie's family pictures

Adolphus Charles Greenwood (the first of Lorie’s Boisvert line to be born a Greenwood) and his wife Mary Paradis in their later years. Source: Lorie’s family pictures

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Why did Etienne Denevers godparent native Americans in the 1600s?

Etienne could have been a godparent for historical reasons. He certainly lived in a place and time when Europeans and natives intermixed.  This moment wouldn’t last long near Quebec. His children moved away from Sillery in the late 1670s. The last natives left the Jesuit reserve by the end of the 1680s.

Still some ancestors, such as the Leodet/Nepveu/Pinel line did not appear in native baptisms even though they lived at the same place during the same time.  So Etienne could have been a godparent because of temperament.  Maybe he was outgoing.

If so, other ancestors were too.  The Hayot family that Etienne Denevers married into served as godparents to native Americans also.  In the following 1654 record, both Etienne’s father-in-law, Thomas Hayot, and Etienne’s wife, Anne Hayot, served as godparents to native children.

1654 native baptisms at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery.  Screenshot of familysearch.org record

1654 native baptisms at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

Thomas’ children/Anne’s siblings, Genevieve and Jean, also served as godparents to native Americans at Sillery in the 1650s.

Did they all have bubbly personalities? My guess is no; that temperament is only part of the answer.  Instead, I think ambition united them. The Leodet/Nepveu/Pinel line was wracked with challenges (a marriage dissolved by bigamy, a brother convicted of rape).  I think they had their hands full getting by.  On the other hand, Thomas Hayot was a community representative (Cap-Rouge’s delegate to the People’s Assembly.)  Etienne Denevers held three concessions at Sillery when most only held one.  I am thinking that these ties through god parenting — to natives and to the Jesuits — might have been useful networking to people working to get ahead.

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Follow the Godparents: Mixed Race Relations

My ancestors lived next door to the native reserve at Sillery during the mid-seventeenth century.  I have been wondering about how tight their relationships to native Americans might have been.  It looks like the answer might be found by following the godparents!

A while back I posted about using godparents as a way to put skin on the bones of distant ancestors’ lives.  In the Nepveu and Silvestre families, community ties were made and reinforced through god-family. Now I also have evidence of interracial relations as well.

Etienne Denevers dit Brantigni (the original Boisvert from France) was godfather to at least two namesake native godsons.  The first was the son of Kaouboukouchich and Kouekassouekoue, born 1650.

1650 baptism at Trois Rivieres. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

1650 native baptism at Trois Rivieres. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

The second was the son of Nicole Nemiouekoue and Pikouetching, born 1663.  I believe this Etienne’s mother was a Christian Indian (hence the mixed name) but that his father was not.

1663 native baptism at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery.  Screenshot of familysearch.org record

1663 native baptism at Mission St. Joseph de Sillery. Screenshot of familysearch.org record

Edward Roby, who provided a vital translation in the comments of this post, believes that Etienne Denevers later adopted this godson and raised him (Etienne Denevers dit Boisvert, @1661) as his own.

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Translation Challenge: What does this say?

This 1663 Jesuit baptismal record shows Europeans acting as godparents to native children at the reserve at Sillery.  It is an unusual record in that most Jesuit baptismal records don’t record multiple baptisms in one entry.  I am having difficulty with it because of the thick ink, the old Latin, and the obscurity of the native names.  Anyone see this as a challenge and want to take a peek?

April 20th, 1663 baptism record at Sillery.  Source: familysearch.org

1663 baptism records at Sillery. Source: familysearch.org

I am primarily interested in the April 20 entry at the bottom, but have included three others for context and handwriting clues.  The first, second, and final (April 20) record are all in Father Bailloquet’s writing.  Entry 3 is in the very neat hand of Henri Nouvel.

If you don’t know Latin, googletranslate helps a lot!

April 20, 1663 baptism at Sillery.  Source: familysearch.org

April 20, 1663 baptism at Sillery. Source: familysearch.org

Line by line, this is what I think I see.  (Underlines mean word left out.  Parentheses mean my best guess at a native name.)

  1. I Father Bailloquet Society of Jesuits ______ baptize
  2. _____  ______  Sillery ______  ______ infant _____  ______  ______
  3. first child of mother Nicola (Nosnisaksa) and _____  of father (Piksachins)
  4. _____  ______  _____  (Nosnisaksa) born Gropius (Srxchelin)
  5. 3rd ______  born of mother Martina (Nigoty) and father ______ (Nikazhkasnt)
  6. ______  ______  Abenaki.  Stephen Brantigni ______ ______  ______  Stephen
  7. Godmother Trud 2nd & 3rd.  ______ Nicolas.

I believe that this is the baptismal record of three natives at Sillery.  Some believe it might be the baptism record of the founding Boisvert ancestor for whom no baptismal record has ever been found.  (Etienne Boisvert went by a dit name rather than his father’s name, not unusual in the era.)  In this understanding, the child in this record is later orphaned and raised by his godfather Etienne Denevers (called Brantigni here) as his own son.

What do you think?

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Are there any Leborgnes left in Miquelon?

Modern Miquelon from above.  Source: Wikipedia

Modern Miquelon from above. Source: Wikipedia

I am fascinated by the tenacity of my ancestors’ connections to Miquelon during the eighteenth century when the conditions were rough and European politics forced many migrations to and from the island.  But what happened after 1816 when families were able to stay for as long as they liked?

I know my direct ancestors left the island sometime between 1828 and 1844 — but did anyone in the family remain?  Is anyone still there today?

If there are any modern Leborgnes at Miquelon, they are not direct relations of my 4G grandmother Euphemie, or her father, Francois.  Instead, they are descendants of Francois’ uncle, Nicolas Leborgne, and his aunt, Marie Elisabeth Beaudry.

Nicolas and Marie Elisabeth’s son, Louis, married Nicolas’ sister Marguerite’s daughter, Marie Eugenie Poirier.  They were first cousins.  Louis and Eugenie had nine children between 1832 and 1856.  Two sons stayed on the islands: Alexis Louis and Emile Gratien.

Alexis Louis married Josephine Marie Elisa Le Roux.  They moved from Miquelon to the neighboring island of St. Pierre in 1872.  Their son, Joseph (born 1863), stayed and married Julie Quirk.  Joseph, Julie, and their two sons — Louis and Henry — were still on St. Pierre as late as 1902.

Emile Gratien married his first cousin, Marie Louise Poirier, (daughter of his mother Eugenie’s brother, Alexis.)  They had seven children.  Emile, Louise, and their son Emile Alfred were still at Miquelon in 1907. Emile Alfred was living with his wife, Josephine Arantzabe, and their two-year-old daughter, Berthe Marie Eugenie.  Perhaps they eventually had a son.

That is not to say that there isn’t a lot of Leborgne blood left on the islands.  There were many Leborgne women who married and stayed upon the islands.  There might be Leborgne blood in the Poirier, Gaspard, Cormier, Orsiny, and others, if they are still there today.


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Were they alone?

When six Leborgnes and sixteen Girardins returned to Miquelon in the spring and summer of 1816, they were part of a historical moment — a long anticipated repatriation.  My (then unmarried) 4G grandparents, Francois Leborgne and Polonie Angele Girardin, were among them.  Did they make their voyages alone?  Or were these ancestors family with the other Leborgnes and Girardins upon the ships?

Miquelon shore -- shared on Wikipedia

Miquelon shore — shared on Wikipedia

The answer is easy to find in Polonie Angele’s case. The list of Miquelon returnees shows that she sailed aboard La Salamandre with her entire family.  Her father, Jean-Baptiste Girardin, was 48.  Her mother, Polonie Rose Gaudet, was 49.  They traveled with eight children.

  • Genevieve, 27 years, born in Miquelon — soon to marry Joseph Vigneau, the father
  • Polonie Angele, 23 years — soon to marry Francois Leborgne
  • Hypolite, 16 years (son)
  • Jean, 13 years
  • Elise, 11 years, born in La Rochelle
  • Emilie Malvina, 9 years, born in La Rochelle
  • Severe Celinia, 7 years, born in La Rochelle
  • Gratien, 3 years (son), born in La Rochelle

But they weren’t the only Girardins on the list.  There were four other Girardin family groups on La Salamandre:

  • Francois Girardin (43) and Anne Bertaud (35), their one-year-old son, Joseph, and his three children from a previous marriage — Benjamin (18), Theodore (16), and Hypolite Eduoard (10).
  • Joseph Girardin (38), Jeanne Pautrot (39), their daughter Sophie (13), and their son Pierre Hermine, born on the way to Miquelon.
  • Joseph Briant (48) and Genevieve Girardin (46), and their children — Marie Anne (20), Louis (18), Julie (16), Pierre (14), Francois (12),  Prosper (10, son), Benjamin (8), and Emilie (6).*

Who are these Girardin?  They are Polonie Angele’s aunts and uncles.  They are found together as siblings with their parents (Pierre Girardin dit Manceau and Catherine Leger) in a variety of censuses taken in Miquelon and St. Servan (France.) Tracing out Francois Leborgne’s traveling companions is harder.  The only other Leborgne who traveled on his ship, La Revanche, is a 17 year-old named Laurent.  It is possible, but unclear, whether they were brothers. Other Leborgnes made the journey though — just on different ships.

  • Marguerite Leborgne (27) arrived on La Caravane with her husband, Alexis Poirier (37) and their daughter, Eugenie Marguerite, probably born at sea.  Alexis’ mother, Marguerite Vigneau, and two of his sisters (Louise Genevieve and Marguerite Melanie) were also aboard the ship.
  • Nicolas Leborgne (35) arrived on La Salamandre with his wife, Marie Elisabeth Briant (36), and their son Louis (10).  (Originally I claimed Louis was from an earlier marriage, but the comment below has me thinking that the Miquelon returnee list erred when Louis was listed as his grandmother’s son —  it is much less creepy this way.)
  • Jeanne Leborgne (38) arrived on La Lionne with her husband, Jean Giffard (52) and their children — Rose (7) and Louis (2).  Jean’s daughter from an earlier marriage, Angelique (22), was also aboard the ship.

Who were these people and how did they relate to Francois?  It is hard to tell from the Miquelon censuses.  The Leborgnes only appear once (1776) — and no one’s name and age matches those found in 1816. However, there are genealogies on the web that help piece together the puzzle, if you are willing to play the 6 degrees of separation game.

  1. The Archive of St. Pierre and Miquelon lists Michel Leborgne, Genevieve Sceau, and their children Michel, Francois, and Jean as present in Miquelon in its 1776 census.  The boys are too old to be Euphemie’s father — but could they be her grandfather?
  2. The Louis Girardin descendency page lists Francois Leborgne, husband of Polonie Angelique Girardin, (Euphemie’s parents) as the son of Francois Leborgne and Rosalie Bonnevie — which seems to indicate that it is Euphemie’s grandfather listed in the 1776 Miquelon census.
  3. To tie the knot a bit closer, there were Miquelon Bonnevie.  They were also present for the 1776 census.  Armand and Catherine Godet live there with their children Pierre, Modeste, Marie, Amand, Jean and Rosalie.
  4. But wait, there is more…. Evangeline’s Cousins, an Acadian genealogy website, lists the children of Michel Leborgne and Genevieve Sceau as Michel, Francois, Jean, Marie Anne, Jeanne, Louis Nicolas, Genevieve Francoise, Rosalie Perrine, Marguerite and Anastasia.  The ages of the eldest three children (none of whom returned to Miquelon) are in the right order and are within one year of the kids listed in #1.  The children in italics match the birth order of the returning Leborgne refugees.
  5. Curiously, the 1776 generations of Leborgne and Bonnevie were quite tangled.  The Blou family page at Acadian-Cajun Genealogy shows Francois Leborgne as the spouse of Rosalie Bonnevie.  So does the Caissy family page.  These records also show that two of their siblings also married: Michel Leborgne married Marie-Madeleine Bonnevie.  Amand Bonnevie (junior) married Marie-Anne Leborgne.  In addition, The listings also show that Francois Leborgne (senior) and Rosalie Bonnevie died before Miquelon was repatriated.  She died in 1809, he died in 1810 — which explains why they weren’t on a boat in 1816.
  6. According to the returnees list of the Archive of St. Pierre and Miquelon, Marie Modeste Bonnevie (an elder sister of Rosalie in #3), her husband Joseph Doucet, and two of their adult children sailed  in 1816 to Miquelon on La Revanche, the same ship that Francois sailed on.  This Marie Modeste also appears as Joseph Doucet’s wife in the Blou and Caissy family pages listed in #5.

All of this might be coincidence.  All of this still needs to be verified with primaries.  But I believe this: Polonie Angele Girardin was not the only one to travel with the comfort of family to Miquelon in 1816.  Although his parents died in France, Francois Leborgne came over with family too.  He and his brother Laurent traveled with their maternal aunt and her family — while their paternal aunts, uncles, and cousins (Marguerite, Jeanne, Nicolas, and Louis) returned on other ships.


I also looked briefly to see how many of the in-laws traveled in large numbers to Miquelon in 1816.  The families of Bertaud, Pautrot, and Bonnevie only sent one representative each.  The Doucet and Godet/Gaudets sent three representatives.  The Giffards sent six.  The Briand/Briants sent thirty family members back to Miquelon.  And the Vigneaus and Poiriers sent thirty-four representatives each.  Wow.


Do you know more than I do?  Have a different reading of the facts?  Please share!


*There are two intriguing stories suggested in the listing of this family.  First, the Briants’ oldest daughter was also accompanied by her husband Joseph Miniot (38.)  They returned to France in September 1816.  Perhaps he was homesick.  Second, the Briants’ daughter Julie married Pierre Lucas in 1820, but died in 1821.   Perhaps she died in childbirth.

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Euphemie Leborgne of Miquelon

Genevieve Euphemie Leborgne's signature from the baptism record of Marie Isabelle Leborgne.  March 7, 1862.  St. Felix de Kingsey, Quebec.

Genevieve Euphemie Leborgne’s signature from the baptism record of Marie Isabelle Leborgne. March 7, 1862. St. Felix de Kingsey, Quebec.  Screen shot from familysearch.org

Genevieve Euphemie Leborgne was born in 1820 on Miquelon, 84 square miles of island off the coast of Newfoundland.  Miquelon is a French possession.  Yes, France still has a North American colony in the twenty-first century.  This makes my 3G grandmother the most recent ancestor to arrive from France in my tree — even though it is probable that her ancestors had been in the new world since the 1600s.

I didn’t discover Miquelon through Euphemie’s birth record, which I don’t have, nor through her marriage record, which claims she is of Danneville, Quebec.  No, I found the geography of Euphemie’s birth through a random Google search that brought me to a page listing the people who returned to Miquelon in 1816, and those who were born there between 1816 and 1822.

Miquelon has had an unusual history of settlement.  When Europeans first arrived in Canadian waters in the 1500s, Miquelon was used as a temporary fishing base by the local natives. The Europeans decided to use it the same way too — and did so until France built a permanent fishing base there in the 1670s.

But Miquelon’s history was destined to be colorful.  The island (and its sister island, St. Pierre) gained and lost residents according to the political fortunes of European nations during the 18th century.  The British kicked the French out in 1713.  The French kicked the British out in 1763.  The British kicked the French out in 1793 — but deserted the islands in 1796.  No one lived there until France regained control in 1816.

Euphemie’s parents were among the refugees who resettled Miquelon in 1816.  Her father, Francois Leborgne, returned on La Revanche.  Her mother, Polonie Angele/Angelique/Angelie Girardin, returned on La Salamandre.  Euphemie’s sister Pauline Angele arrived three years later, Euphemie herself followed the year after that, then four more siblings (Malvina Emelie, Francois Marcel, Severe Celina, and Esther Gratienne,) each born two years apart, arrived too.

Miquelon did not hold on to Euphemie and her family for long after their repatriation.  They are hard to trace but Euphemie and her mother, Polonie Angele, show up in the records of St. Felix de Kingsey, Quebec in the 1840s — and as far as I can tell, none of this branch of the Leborgnes ever went back to the islands.


The timeline of European control of Miquelon can be found here.

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