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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Why we lost touch 4 generations ago …

Most everything my Nanny knew about her maternal grandfather’s family was fiction.  Her great, great grandfather was not a ward of Napoleon sent to Canada for his safety.  Instead her great, great grandfather died of cholera in 1834 — setting into motion the first migration in his family line since they arrived in Ste. Croix, Quebec, Canada four generations before.

So why was all of Nanny’s accurate Greenwood (previously Boisvert) information limited to the family of her mother’s siblings?

Photo credit: family photo

Nanny’s mother Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins (right, standing) next to her brother George Greenwood (3) and above her mother Adele (Charbonneau) Greenwood (1), Eugenie (Boisvert) Merlet (4), and Charles Henry Arthur Greenwood (5.)  Minnie’s elder brother Edward is not pictured.  Photo credit: family photo.

I think the answer lies in geography.  Many of Minnie’s siblings and their children stayed on in the Adams/Pittsfield, MA area.  Those who didn’t — like my Nanny — visited often.

Nanny’s grandfather’s siblings arrived in Adams, MA in the late 1860s.  The Greenwoods first showed up in the 1870 census.  They formed a single household headed by their widowed mother.  They didn’t stay together for long.

The Greenwood household that starts on line 7 includes widow Phebe Greenwood (Euphemie Leborgne), Edward, Alfred, Frances, Jennie (Angelle), Anthony. Hubert and Marie are no longer with the family.  Source: 1870 U.S. Census. Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts. Phebe Greenwood household.

The Greenwood household that starts on line 7 includes widow Phebe Greenwood (Euphemie Leborgne), Edward, Alfred, Francis, Jennie (Angelle), Anthony. Source: 1870 U.S. Census. Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts. Phebe Greenwood household.

In 1880, Edward and Alfred are the only ones still found in Adams.  They both had wives and were raising young families.  Their mother Phebe and brother Francis can’t be found.  Perhaps they had returned to Canada.  Perhaps they were elsewhere in the States.  Perhaps they were dead.  I haven’t found any clues yet to tell me what happened.  Their sister Jennie and brother Anthony were no longer in Adams. but they can be found boarding in Manchester, NH.

In time, Edward died (1888), Alfred and his wife joined their daughter’s family in Schenectady, NY,* and Jennie disappeared like her mother and brother Francis (probably due to a name change at marriage.) Only Anthony persisted in nearby Manchester, NH– but it is easy to imagine that the families didn’t keep in touch.  By time his brother died, Anthony would have been living away for over a decade and raising his own young family.

In the end, the lack of geographic proximity to a dead brother’s family probably had a lot to do with why my Greenwood family’s Canadian history was imagined so much. And it comforts me to think that Edward’s siblings had become far-flung. How painful would it have been if they couldn’t pass on their stories while living in the same small town?!


*Alfred and his wife Eliza (Hill) left Adams and  followed their daughter Louisa to Schenectady, NY where they lived out the rest of their days.  (Alfred’s wife only appears in the George Lawson household in 1910, Alfred persists with his daughter’s family into 1920 and 1930 as well.)

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Never publish before confirming with your mom….

gen_dobbins family after church copy

Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins surrounded by her three daughters, two sons-in law, five of her six grandchildren, and Claire Greenwood. Source: family photo.

In front: three Reed daughters, two of the three Tully kids, and Minnie’s daughter, Lillian.

Middle row (left to right): Gertrude (Dobbins) Tully, Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins, and Claire Greenwood.

Back row: William Tully, Sheldon Reed, and Mary Dobbins.

I had Claire and Gert confused.  In fact, I had thought that Gert was caught in bad light — but now that she is Claire Greenwood, maybe she is a well-preserved spinster cousin!

Still open to theories….

Update: Claire Greenwood married into the family.  She is Minnie’s elder brother, Edward’s son Arthur’s wife.

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Tangled Root: Claire Greenwood

Ancestry.com is offering U.S. census searches for free through July 6.  And with a couple of quick searches I came close to solving a photo mystery.

gen_dobbins family after church copy

Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins surrounded by her three daughters, two sons-in law, five of her six grandchildren, and Claire Greenwood.  Source: family photo, @1955.

My mom knows the name of everyone in this photo.  Standing (left to right): Claire Greenwood, William Tully, Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins, Sheldon Reed, Mary Dobbins, and Gertrude (Dobbins) Tully.  The only adult crouched below is my mom’s mother, Lillian (Dobbins) Reed, surrounded by her three daughters and near two of Gert and Bill’s three kids.  (You know who you are — but I didn’t identify you since you are living.  Grin.)

My mom also knows that this photo was taken in Pittsfield, Massachusetts one Sunday after church — and that some of the kids were quick and untamed and managed to change into their play clothes before the adult plan for the photograph could be carried out.

What Mom doesn’t know is how Claire Greenwood is related to everyone else. With Ancestry’s help, I found a clue.

Source: Ancestry.com

Source: Ancestry.com

Although the image is faded, it lists Clara Greenwood as the three year old daughter of Fred and Lizzie Greenwood of Adams, MA in 1880.  That makes Clara a cousin to Minnie as their fathers were brothers (who married on the same day in 1871.)

The only problem I have left is the fact that Clara looks to be the age-peer of Minnie’s daughters — not three years younger than Minnie herself.  So is the Claire in the photo above a well-preserved, spinster cousin?  Is she the daughter of the Clara in the census’ brother, a namesake niece?  Or is she someone else altogether different?

Got a theory?  I would love to hear it.

Oh, and any labeling errors are mine (I didn’t run the picture past my mom before posting.)

Update: I labeled everyone wrong, which I explain here.  Basically, I switched Claire Greenwood and Gert Tully around.

Update II: Claire Greenwood married into the family.  She is Minnie’s elder brother, Edward’s son Arthur’s wife.  She is not a long lost connection to Eduoard Boisvert’s sibling line.  Drat.  🙂  But she was a beloved family member that my mom’s family saw whenever they visited Pittsfield.

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New Details of Eduoard Boisvert’s Life

Turns out that Eduoard Boisvert was named, in part, after his father, Louis Hubert Boisvert.  I discovered this while browsing the St. Felix de Kingsey (Quebec) parish records today.  I have never seen my great, great grandfather’s baptism record before — and I never knew that his middle name was Hubert.

The first half of Eduoard Hubert Boisvert's baptism record.  Screen shot from familyseach.org

The first half of Eduoard Hubert Boisvert’s baptism record. Screen shot from familyseach.org

Eduoard Hubert Boisvert.  Baptized August 11th, 1847.

The second half of Eduoard Hubert Boisvert's baptism record.  Screen shot from familyseach.org

The second half of Eduoard Hubert Boisvert’s baptism record. Screen shot from familyseach.org

To blacksmith, Hubert Boisvert and his wife, Genevieve Euphemie Leborgne, of Kingsey (Quebec.) Godfather: Eduoard Chene (Hubert kept the family tradition of naming children for their godparents alive — even after moving from Ste. Croix.) Godmother: Emelie Leborgne (one of Euphemie’s relatives?!)

I also discovered when, and where, Eduoard’s father died.

Louis Hubert Boisvert's burial record.  Screen shot from familyseach.org

Louis Hubert Boisvert’s burial record. Screen shot from familyseach.org

Louis Hubert Boisvert was buried on June 9th, 1866 in the parish of St. Felix de Kingsey.  He was 48 years old.  I wish the record also revealed how and/or why.  I imagine this was not just a personal loss but a family tragedy.  Four years later, his widow and children had moved 285 miles away to Adams, MA where Eduoard and his siblings supported their household as laborers and mill workers.


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Updated Arrival Tree

I was wrong.  I don’t have 13 boat-riding French immigrants in my family tree, I have 51.  51 different French ancestors took ships to get here in the seventeenth century!

My arrival tree doesn’t look like this …

My hastily drawn arrival tree.  March 2013

My hastily drawn arrival tree. March 2013.

It looks like this …

Updated Arrival Tree (still hastily sketched.) March 2013.

Updated Arrival Tree (still hastily sketched.) March 2013.

And now I am fascinated by my ancestors sheer numbers, and I am curious to unlock their stories.  This is what I know so far …

Angele Houde dit Desrochers paternal and maternal lines descend from the same immigrant ancestor, Louis, born 1617 — but are traced through separate sons.  The paternal side descends from Louis, born 1675; the maternal side descends from Simon, born 1680.

There is more of this duplicitous poetry in my enlarged tree (which is really Louis Hubert Boisvert’s enlarged family tree) – it begins (paternal paternal) and ends (maternal maternal) on the same three immigrants: Etienne Boisvert, Thomas Hayot, and Jeanne Boucher.

Indeed, 10 of my ancestors show up more than once in this arrival tree.  Plus there are two sets of siblings.  I guess these duplications will save me some research time down the road.

And I should probably mention that I took a short cut to find all this information so quickly.  In my original arrival trees, there are several branches that ended in unknown — but the only one that I hadn’t really looked into yet was the line for Louis Hubert Boisvert’s mother.  I started with his parents’ marriage certificate as a source for his maternal grandparents’ names (there are a lot of Houdes out there to sort through) and then entered them into the search engine at the highly respected, and PRDH verified, Genealogy of Canada.

Detail of Antoine Boisvert and Angele Houde dit Desrochers marriage record.  Drouin Collection, accessed April 13, 2013.

Detail of Antoine Boisvert and Angele Houde dit Desrochers marriage record. Drouin Collection, accessed April 13, 2013.

Amongst my new ancestors is Helene Desportes, reputed to be the first French child born in Canada (1620.)  I also have a couple of less famous ties that intrigue me because they intersect with stories that I am familiar with through my research into my Boisvert line and Sillery, Quebec: I am a descendent of one of Pierre Pinel’s victims and a descendent of neither his (nor Gilles’) sister, Marie Pinet, too.

There is still a lot of mystery here.  One thing I do know is that my arrival tree looks even more top heavy than it did before.  And I am shocked.  Shocked that 51 ancestors made the trip here in the seventeenth century.   I would have been terrified to spend that much time at sea.



Antoine Boisvert’s Ancestors

Etienne Boisvert by 1650

Thomas Hayot about 1636

Jeanne Boucher about 1636

Michel Lemay about 1655

Marie-Michelle Dutost about 1655

Pierre Pichet about 1655

Catherine Durand about 1665

Nicolas Silvestre about 1660

Jean Nepveu about 1650

Anne Leodet about 1653

Mathieu Choret about 1645

Sebastienne Veillon about 1647

Marguerite Lerouge about 1680

Total: 13

Angele Houde-Desrocher’s Paternal Ancestors

Louis Houde by 1658

Marin Boucher by 1636

Perrine Mallet by 1636

Gervais Bisson by 1654

Marie L’Hereux by 1654

Mathurin Trut by 1658

Pierre Garemon by 1631

Madeleine Charlot by 1631

Jean Demers about 1643

Jeanne Voidy about 1653

Jean Lavoie by 1684

Michel L’Homme by 1658

Marie Barbe Valade by 1658

Andre Bergeron by 1673

Jean Demers (repeat)

Jeanne Voidy (repeat)

Pierre Grenon by 1676

Marie Lavoie (sister of Jean Lavoie) by 1676

Jean Huard by 1662

Mathieu Amiot about 1635

Marie Milville by 1650

Guillaume Jourdain by 1678

Guillaume Constantin by 1661

Pierre Masse by 1644

Marie Pinet by 1644

Total: 25 (minus duplicates, 23)

Angele Houde-Desrocher’s Maternal Ancestors

Louis Houde (repeat)

Marin Boucher (repeat)

Perrine Mallet (repeat)

Francoise Frechet by 1677

Simon L’Herault by by 1655

Suzanne Jarousell by 1655

Gervais Bisson (repeat)

Marie L’Herault (repeat)

Marin Boucher (repeat)

Perrine Mallet (repeat)

Jean Beaudet 1664

Marie Grandin by 1670

Francois Garnier Pellerin by 1662

Jaqueline Fresson by 1662

Francois Garnier dit Pellerin by 1662

Jacqueline Fresion by 1662

Jean Hamel by 1666

Nicolas Gaudry by 1653

Noel Marin by 1640

Pierre Desportes by 1620

Francoise Langlois by 1620

Jacques Gauthier by 1672

Etienne Boisvert (repeat)

Thomas Hayot (repeat)

Jeanne Boucher (repeat)

Total: 25 (minus duplicates, 15)

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Rethinking my family tree

Next spring my son will face the family heritage project at school.  I have been thinking about this a lot lately because he is currently expressing grief over not knowing his birth parents.  And I feel for him — enough to talk to our post adoption counselor about search policies (he must wait until he is 18,) and enough to start thinking about how we will handle the heritage project when it comes up.

Our school tries to make the heritage project inclusive of adoptees by making the family tree just one part of what must be displayed on the poster board.  The bulk of the poster is actually dedicated to one’s family’s heritage.  But what exactly is that supposed to mean.  The Korean-ness I have managed to pass on to him is half-baked and I have pretty much failed to pass on any of the other family ethnic traditions we can lay claim to.  Sure we have attended some Korean cultural events and eat kielbasa and wide varieties of pasta, but if I am honest, I have been raising my kids less on ethnicity and more on sports, Ipads, and cheddar cheese.

My mental preparations for how I will support my son through this school-sanctioned identity crisis has gotten me to think about genealogy in a different way.  Instead of focusing on the question of who are my people, what if I focused on the question of how did my family get here?  This might not solve any issues for my son (or domestic adoptees), but it gives me a way to include my adoptive kids more significantly into my family tree.  Below is a quick sketch of the when and where of my family’s migration to North America.

My hastily drawn arrival tree.  March 2013

My hastily drawn arrival tree. March 2013.

I love this oddly branching tree.  It is a quick reminder of the push and pull of how my family got here.  We came in three waves.  We arrived in the seventeenth century after as the Reformation and Counter-Reformation and the Scientific Revolution shook up European practices and created opportunities in the “New” World.  We arrived in the nineteenth century as the Industrial Revolution changed economic practices and sent people searching for new stability.  And we came in the 2000s, products of globalization and adoption politics.

This tree makes me feel closer to all my accumulated ties – the Italian, the French, the Irish, the German, the Jewish, the Korean, the Norwegian, the Swedish, and the Polish.  And it gives me confidence that if I can find a tree that I feel is particularly suited to me, my son will too.

If thinking about the when and why rather than the who of your family inspires you, I would love to see your arrival trees too.

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