Most of my ancestors weren’t very adventurous folks. I can find branch after branch in my family tree where for generations, everyone pretty much stayed put. Except for those brave souls who ventured out and across an ocean or a continent. But, those are stories for next week.
Starting way back, from the early 1600s until 1910 or so, my father’s Keene family stayed along the coast in Massachusetts: Plymouth, Marblehead, Lynn, Salem, and Boston.
Until 1882, my father’s mother’s French-Canadian family had been in Quebec, Canada from the time it was Nouvelle-France, well over 200 years prior.
On my mother’s side of the family, her Norwegian grandmother immigrated when only 11 years old in 1878. Until then, her family had been in the Vest-Adger province in western Norway for generations, farming the same land.
My mother’s father’s Wells family was perhaps the most mobile, moving from Vermont to Wisconsin, then South Dakota, and Montana.
Currently, I live in California, where I was born. I am the third woman of four generations to have been born here: my mother’s mother, my mother, me, and my daughter.
And considering that we are neither Native American, Mexican, or Spanish (who were all here long before my family was), that’s a long time, about 130 years in a state that has only existed as a state since 1850.
My great-grandmother, Eva Kesterson Gard, moved to California from Indiana sometime between 1890 and 1896. She had been born in Indiana, as had both her father and mother.
She had my grandmother, Vida, in 1896, in Los Angeles.
My mother was born in 1921, also in Los Angeles.
I was born in 1958, but not in Los Angeles. Rather, I was born out on the California desert in Trona, a very small mining community.
When my daughter was born in 1979, my husband and I were back in the Los Angeles area.
And, there you have it: four generations of women in my family born in California. I’m sorry to say the run ended there. My daughter had her girls in Virginia. But, when they visited as little ones, they believed they were California girls, too.
On both sides of my family, through both my mom and my dad, I have long lines of documented genealogy going back to the 1500s. (And, really we ALL have long lines, don’t we?) Now, lest you think all this was accomplished through my own genealogy skills, I assure you, it was not. But, more about that as we come to it.
On my mother’s mother’s side of the family, the Gards, I have already written about my DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Revolutionary War Patriot, Jeremiah Gard. Jeremiah came from a rather well-documented family with roots back to Roger Garde (LeGard) and Phillippa Gist, who married July 4, 1610, in Devonshire, England. Both were born circa 1585.
I inherited quite a bit of genealogical material about this side of the family from my Nana Wells, born a Gard, who while never being very systematic about it all, thankfully kept the records.
Through my mother’s father’s family, the Wells family, I just learned a while ago that we go back to the Mayflower, and because of that, beyond. My ancestors who came over on that rickety little ship were John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Their daughter, Rebecca (or Mary), married Thomas Delano, whose father Philippe Delano (DeLannoy) came to North America in 1623 from the Netherlands.
This line is a rabbit hole that I could easily fall down and not be heard from for days as a result. Because the Mayflower passengers, their ancestors, and descendants have been so thoroughly documented, there is a wealth of information.
I am confident of our descent because of the research of my third cousin, Judy, who shares great-great grandparents, Matthias Wells and Alberta Pettingill, with me. Just this past year, she proved her descent from John and Priscilla Mullins through Matthias and Alberta and was able to join the Mayflower Society. This year, 2020, is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival, and one of my genealogical goals for 2020 is to join the Society like Judy.
On my father’s side of the family, I also have long lines through both his parents. His father was from Massachusetts, and his mother was French-Canadian Catholic. Both New Englanders and Catholics are wonderful record-keepers.
On my father’s mother’s, the Bergeron, French-Canadian side of the family, I have multiple ancestors documented well into the 1500s. Again, not through my own research, but rather that of my wonderful cousin, Peter, and the copious records kept by French-Canadian Catholics.
French-Canadians, through the history and records kept of early ancestors, especially the 700 or so Filles du Roi, are blessed with abundant information. Because of that, I have documented 41 Filles du Roi ancestors (women who arrived in New France 1663-1673), 28 Filles a Marier (women who arrived prior to 1663), and 11 Carignan Regiment (military men who served New France beginning in 1659).
Again, because these all were members of the Catholic church, the records are detailed and abundant, some going back to the late 1400s. A second genealogical goal for 2020 is to join La Société des Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan.
Through my father’s father’s New England Keene side of the family, I have broken down a long-standing brick wall and now have evidence that we descend from John Keen, born about 1578, in England. There’s a blog post coming, so hang tight, Keene family!
That’s it for today, dear readers. Thanks for hanging in there with me!
I had every intention of populating this post with stories of our visit to beautiful Quebec. Perhaps pictures of ten of my French-Canadian ancestors’ homes and villages. Maybe ten monuments or statues. At least ten stories; that should be easy, right?
Here I sit at home, nursing an awful cold, complete with stuffy head and a sexy smoker’s voice. Without the cancer risk. That’s a win, right?
All that to say that Québec, with a cold, in rain showers and snow flurries, didn’t sound like a very good idea.
Don’t you worry, though; I have a new plan!
How many ancestors can I name 10 generations back?
Beginning with me, ten generations into the past equals my 8x great-grandparents, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. In general, this brings us to the 1600s and to approximately 1,024 ancestors. Approximately, because, especially in small communities, as in New France, marriage between extended family members was quite common. This can result in pedigree collapse, decreasing the total number of ancestors.
Having ancestors from both New France and New England is an incredible leg-up for this family historian. Both cultures were fastidious record-keepers, and for the most part, those records have been very well preserved.
I won’t write about all the ancestors I know ten generations back, as I have a wealth of information. This post could turn into a book. A very long, and quite possibly boring, book.
Since this post began with my plan to write about my French-Canadian ancestors, that’s where I will stay. I have put in bold type the names of my 8x great-grandparents, those ten generations back. I have also separated with a line each couple from the next for easier reading.
André Bergeron was born February 6, 1642, in La Rochelle, France, to parents Pierre Bergeron and Catherine Marchand. A brother and three sisters were also born to the family while in France. He and his father immigrated to New France about 1665, and André was known to be working on the farm of Eustache Lambert in 1667. He died February 21, 1712, in St-Nicolas of Lévis, Québec.
Marguerite Demers married André July 9, 1673, in Lauson, Lévis, New France. She was born October 21, 1659, in Montréal, Québec, to parents Jean Demers and Jeanne Viody.
In 1681 census, André and Marguerite were noted as owning a farm with two cows. Eventually, the couple had 12 children, including my ancestor, Jean-Baptiste Bergeron.
Marguerite wrote her will on August 4, 1720, and her date of death is uncertain.
François Ferland was born in France to André Ferland and Marguerite Bariteau on September 9, 1633. He appears in the records of New France for the first time in 1676, and his occupation upon arrival was a servant. He died on September 25, 1713, at age 82. He was buried the following day at St-Pierre, Île-d’Orléans.
Jeanne-Françoise Miloy married François October 7, 1679 in St-Pierre, Île-d’Orléans. She was born January 19, 1652, in Québec. She passed away November 25, 1708 in St-Pierre, Île-d’Orléans. Her daughter Marie-Madeleine Ferland is my ancestor.
Guillaume Fournier was born sometime between 1620 and 1621, in Normandie, France. He was the son of Giles Fournier and Noëlle Gageut. He arrived in New France around the year 1651, based on the first record of him in Québec.
That record was his marriage, dated November 20, 1651. His bride was Marie-Françoise Hébert. He was 28; she was 13. Yikes!
Marie-Françoise was the daughter of Jean-Guillaume Hébert and Marie-Hélène Desportes. Marie-Françoise was baptized January 23, 1638 in Notre-Dame de Québec. Her father, Guillaume, was the son of the first French couple to settle New France, Louis-Gaston Hébert and Marie-Louise Rollet, my 10x great-grandparents.
Guillaume and Marie-Françoise had 14 children and were fairly prosperous farmers, according to census records. In the 1681 census, their property was listed as 3 rifles, 12 horned animals, and land worth 10 arpents, approximately 10 acres. I descend from their son, Simon.
November 21, 1703, Marie-Françoise was elected as a “wise woman” by the assembly of women in the St. Thomas parish. I find this remarkably touching. What an honor to be so highly esteemed. And how unusual for the women of this time to not only vote, but that their vote to be taken so seriously as to be recorded in the parish records.
Guillaume was one of the founders of the St. Thomas parish church. He died in 1669 and was interred in the churchyard. Marie-Françoise passed away March 16, 1716, at the age of 86, and was also buried at St. Thomas.
Thomas Rousseau was born in Poitou-Charentes, France in 1632, to Honoré Rousseau and Marie Boillerot. He emmigrated to New France in the summer or fall of 1663, approximately age 30. On March 22, 1664, he received Catholic confirmation in Québec. I wonder if he had been a Huguenot?
On October 5, 1667, he married Marie-Madeleine Olivier in Notre-Dame de Québec. He was about age 36; she was 30. Marie-Madeleine Olivier was born circa 1637, in Normandy, France, the daughter of Jean Olivier and Louise Prévost.
Marie-Madeleine arrived in New France September 25, 1667, on the ship Le St-Louis, which had departed from Dieppe, France. She married Thomas less than two weeks later.
By the time she emigrated, both of her parents had passed away. Which may give a reason for her decision to leave France. As an unmarried woman of 30 with no parents, her prospects in France were very dim. But, there was an opportunity for her to have a home and family in New France. Because Marie-Madeleine was part of the group of women known as Filles du Roi, or Daughters of the King.
At this time in New France, men outnumbered the women in the colony about ten-to-one. The king of France, Louis XIV, knew that without a healthy, growing population for defense, France was in danger of losing the territory to England. So, the Filles du Roi program was established, providing women with little prospects in France to have a opportunity for a new life in the New World.
Their ship’s passage was paid for by the government, and each woman was provided a small dowry. Upon arrival, they were most often housed in convents, under the supervision and protection of the nuns. But, the business of a Fille du Roi was to get married and have children. And, to that end, a sort of 17th century speed dating system was instituted. A meet-and-greet of sorts. At these events, introductions would be made, the men would plead their case, and the women could accept or deny any offer. The men who had a home ready and waiting would generally fare better than those who weren’t as prepared.
Thomas and Marie-Madeleine appear to have had a successful union, as they eventually had 12 children together. In the 1691 census, their property is recorded as being one rifle, four horned animals, and 15 arpents, approximately 15 acres, of land.
Marie-Madeleine passed away at the age of 53 on April 21, 1690 and was buried in Saint-Laurent, Île d’Orléans. I descend from their first child, Anne-Catherine.
Thomas married a second time in 1691, to Charlotte Bellanger, aged 41. They had one child together.
Thomas died at age 84, July 26, 1716, and was buried on the l’Île d’Orléans.
There is nothing especially remarkable in the lives of the men and women I have listed above. They were ordinary people, living lives that now, to me, from the comfort of my modern home, seem incredibly difficult and exhausting. Today, these men and women seem like super-heroes, able to cross vast oceans in tiny ships, endure minus 30-degree winters without central heating, and craft a home with their bare hands.
And, the women! If they survived all the above rigors of daily life, many, many of them lived long enough to have ten or more children. All without pre-natal vitamins, epidurals, jogging strollers, and disposable diapers.
Growing up, my siblings and I heard one particular family legend again and again.
But, we didn’t know it was a legend. It was presented as fact, a part of our heritage.
We were told that our Nana Keene, our dad’s mom, was “French Canadian/Indian.” (And, that was how it was phrased; there was no reference to Native American. I mean no disrespect.)
But, a simple DNA test seemingly disproved that in no time. A few years back, my husband and I tested with 23 and Me, mainly for the health information, but the heritage report was revealing. Not a drop of Native American. In the intervening years, the ancestry composition has been refined, but still doesn’t show a smidgen of NA. (The remaining 0.2% is unassigned.)
My Uncle George, my dad’s brother, Nana Keene’s son, also tested with 23 and Me. His ancestry results there showed no NA as well. George is one generation closer to the source than I am, so if nothing showed up in his results…
Since ancestry composition can vary due to the specific testing population of each DNA company, I also uploaded my raw DNA to My Heritage. Although the ancestry composition results were different from 23 and Me, there was still no NA in the results.
I also used Gedmatch and ran a Eurogenes 13 admixture panel. And, now, what do I see???
Look at that: 1.13% American Indian. Could there be something to the family legend after all?
I ran another composition report, puntDNAL K10. And, lookie that! Another little bit of American Indian has shown up!
Well, now, this is interesting!
My cousin Peter, as I have mentioned before, has done a marvelous work for our family in documenting Nana’s French Canadian family tree. It is a huge 80-page document, and I am still flabbergasted at the tremendous work Peter did.
I think it’s time to do a deep dive into that giant PDF and see if there’s any possible genealogical link to a Native American ancestor.
(A one-percentage point of DNA equates to about 7-10 generations back, if any shared DNA even occurs. Genetics don’t always equate to genealogy, due to the remixing of DNA that occurs in each and every succeeding generation. I might very well have a Native American ancestor, yet have no DNA at all from that person. We all have both a genetic family tree and a genealogical family tree.)
The first reference I found to Native Americans was in reference to Marie Marguerie and Jacques Hertel, who married August 23, 1641 at Trois-Rivières. Jacques was a soldier who arrived in New France in 1626. He lived among the Algonquins and was an interpreter for the Jesuits at Trois-Rivières.
It isn’t a stretch to imagine that over the last 350+ years that the story of someone who lived among the native people could morph into that person being a native.
Another ancestor, Gilles Bacon, served with the Jesuits mission to the Hurons around the year 1645.
Anne Le Neuf, born around 1632, was probably illegitimate, and her mother’s name is unknown. It is a possibility that her mother was NA. Her husband, Antoine Desrosiers, served with the Jesuits about the same time as Gilles Bacon. He was also captured by the Onondagas and held for 11 weeks in 1653.
Peirre Forcier, born in 1669, was killed by the Iroquois in May 1690.
François Pelletier married a Montgnais woman in April 1660, but she passed away before any children were born. This, too, could be a possible source of the legend.
And, that’s about all. Just possibilities. Theories. There could still be some distant branch with a Native American ancestor, as there is that 1 percentage point in my DNA. But, certainly nothing substantial enough for us to consider that we are in any way significantly Native American.
I don’t know the source of the story, and I might not ever. But, it’s time to set it aside and focus on the real stories.
Every family historian eventually stumbles upon this source of frustration and errors.
It’s not uncommon at all for several family members to be named exactly as another, be it a parent and child, a common saint’s name, or even after a deceased sibling.
I have all of these, and a few more, in my tangled family tree.
My dad, Charles Lawrence, Jr., was named after his father, Charles Lawrence, Sr.
My brother, Robert, named his son Robert.
My 2x great-grandfather, William Diamond Thompson, Jr., was named after his father, William Diamond Thompson, Sr.
In another line, I have three Samuel Ashtons in as many generations (my 5x, 4x, and 3x great-grandfathers).
In my DAR Patriot’s Gard line, my 3x and 2x great-grandfathers are both named William Gard. Both of them married women named Phebe.
My Uncle George (named for his grandfather, George Augustus Keene) had a nephew, George, son of his sister, Bea, (named after her mother’s sister) as his namesake.
Most of the duplicate names are men; it isn’t as common to name girls after their mothers as it is to name sons after their fathers.
But, of course, there are quite a few in my tree.
My Aunt Virginia named her daughter, yes, Virginia. My cousin went by Ginny Lou and Teenie, which just confused me more.
My Nana Keene had a sister named Beatrice, so my Nana, of course, named one of her daughters Beatrice, too. They were known as Big Aunt Bea and Little Aunt Bea. Nana also had a sister named Emma, so yes, her first daughter was named Emma.
The most confusing instance of the same name occurs on my Keene side. My great-great-grandfather, Washington Keen, married a Lydia Ann Kent. Their son, George Augustus, married a woman named Lydia Ann Thompson. George’s sister was named Lydia Ann after their mother. This resulted in three Lydia Ann Keenes in two generations. It took a while to figure that one out.
Over on my French-Canadian grandmother’s side, generation after generation of Joesphs and Maries make life difficult. It wasn’t uncommon for French families to name every child with those two first names (to honor Mary and Joseph), and then they would use the middle (or third or fourth) name to differentiate one Joseph or Marie from another.
Over on my husband’s German branch, his immigrant ancestor, George Henry Geyer, named most of his sons John and several daughters Anna. Reading his will and probate papers is a challenge!
All this makes me thankful for those unusual names that can pop up on occasion:
Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet, the first French colonists to New France (Canada) are my 10x great-grandparents. This year, 2017, marks the 400th anniversary of their family’s arrival in the New World. And, on the site of the home they built there, a new exhibition featuring them just opened up at the Musée de l’Amérique francophone, in what is now modern-day Québec City.
The exhibition only runs until October 29, 2017, so I’d better get a move on if I intend to see it before it closes.
Louis and Marie are related to me through my Nana Keene, my father’s mother, a tiny, 100- pound bundle of pure French Canadian fierceness. You might remember her from this photo:
I know this connection only through the amazing work of my cousin, Peter, whose grandfather, Eli, was my grandmother’s brother. In other words, we share the same great-grandparents, Osias Bergeron and Marie-Amelia Gaumond, making us second cousins.
I never knew these great-grandparents, but looking at the photo, and their happy faces, I think I sure missed out, don’t you?
Peter researched through an astounding number of records, in French mind you, to document each generation back to Louis and Marie. (And, that’s just the work he did on one line!) Then, he unselfishly shared it with our family. I must confess that I didn’t truly appreciate his astounding work until I began to do research, too.
Here’s the line, from Louis and Marie to me:
Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet,
their son, Jean-Guillaume Hébert,
his daughter, Marie-Françoise Hébert Fournier,
her son, Simon Fournier,
his son, Simon-Philippe Fournier,
his daughter, Brigette Fournier Buteau,
her son, Basile Buteau,
his daughter, Marguerite Buteau Mercier,
her daughter, Agnes Mercier Gaumond,
her daughter, Marie-Amelia Gaumond Bergeron
her daughter, Perpetue Bergeron Keene,
her son, my father, Charles Lawrence Keene,
and finally, 12 generations later,
me, Barbara Keene Garrett.
If I make it to the exhibit, I’ll be sure to report back!
No, I’m not repeating myself, nor getting addled. I did have two nanas growing up. Or so I thought.
I realized as a adult, going through some old letters, that I had a Nanna and a Nana.
It turns out that my mother’s mother, the subject of my last post, signed her letters to me “Nanna.” But, for years and years, I wrote to her as Nana.
Kids. So oblivious.
However, my father’s mother was Nana with one “n.”. And, she, too, was a formidable, strong, determined woman.
I grew up, however, not realizing just what a treasure she really was. She and my mother had their differences, and unfortunately, it affected my relationship with her. I was rather in awe of her (not quite fear, but close) all through my childhood. And, again, because I didn’t realize until I was an adult that she really did love me, I missed out on learning more from and about her.
She was the second wife of my grandfather; he was a young widower whose wife had passed away just over a year into their marriage. He married my grandmother in 1912 in Massachusetts about two years after his first marriage.
My grandparents had six children in all, their birthplaces spaced out across the US from Massachusetts to California. The story goes that they would travel until they ran out of money, then my grandfather would find a job until they had enough saved to carry on west.
They didn’t begin the journey alone; my grandfather’s parents joined them. In 1919, while in Illinois, my great-grandfather died two days before my father was born. My great-grandmother continued to live with the family for many years after they arrived in California, to the distress of my Nana.
But, as I said, she was a fierce little thing. She bore that burden and many more.
My grandfather was a chef, traveling with both the railroad and shipping lines. He was gone for long stretches at a time, leaving my grandmother with their growing family (and his mother, who apparently wasn’t much for help). Nana took in the neighbors’ washing, grew and sold vegetables, and sewed their clothes. She did what ever was needed to get by.
And, from all appearances, their family thrived. All the siblings grew up close to one another, and they all loved their mother fiercely.
My grandfather died when I was only 6 months old, leaving my grandmother a widow for the last 35 years of her life. But, I never heard her complain or feel sorry for herself.
You just did what you had to do, and that was that.
Nana lived to 102. And, a half. And, all except for the last few years she lived independently.
This is one of my favorite photos of her. Doesn’t she look fabulous? Just bit dangerous, too.