MSS-028-Researching Your Northeast Métis Ancestors

Episode 028-February 10, 2015

Many French-Canadians have been told that there is Native ancestry in their family tree. What signs should you look for? How do you research your Native ancestry if you find it? Today Paul Bunnell, the Koasek Tribal Chief & Genealogist as well as the author of several books on the Métis, will share his experiences with us. Then as a follow-up to episode 24’s family relationships, we’ll take a look at other relationship terms describing a person’s position within a family structure.


Source- Wohngebiet Westlicheabenaki

French-Canadian News

Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

Upcoming classes at the Vermont Genealogy Library:

  • DNA Tests: Maternal and Paternal Lines
  • Resources & Tools at VTGENLIB.ORG
  • Finding Cousins with Autosomal DNA (Part 1)


The American-Canadian Genealogical Society

  • Brick Wall Sundays on the first Sunday of each month from 1 PM to 4 PM at the ACGS Library in Manchester, New Hampshire. Bring your brick walls and hopefully find a solution.


The Franco-American Centre, Manchester, NH

  • Mardi Gras celebration– Tuesday, February 17 from 6 to 9 PM at Millie’s Tavern. There will be live music from Joe Deleault and the Reel Tuckermans beginning at 7.
  • Spring 2015 session of Cinema Français-Wednesday, 18 February from 6:30 to 9 PM at the Dana Center Lecture Room, Manchester. See the film Louis Cyr: L’homme le plus fort du monde (“Louis Cyr: The Strongest Man in the World”). In keeping with the the spring theme of “Extraordinary Personal Strength,” “the movie brings Cyr from his early life as a shy French Canadian working in a textile mill to the fame and glory of being renowned as the strongest man in the world.” Guest lecturer Robert Perreault will add unique insights to Cyr’s journey. Each film is preceded by a brief presentation of key concepts and followed by group discussion of how the film relates to the theme.  All films are in French with English subtitles.  Presentations and discussions are in English.
  • Prèt-à-Parler, or “Ready to Talk”- On the first Tuesday of each month, practice your French. It’s very informal, and all levels are welcome.

NERGC 2015

  • The New England Regional Genealogy Conference-April 15-19 in Providence, RI. February 28th is the deadline to sign up at the early-bird rate. Learn more details in episodes 26 and 27 or on their website.


Listener Emails

Kathi’s three-part question:

1) Since I am not Catholic, I don’t know the differences between some of the church officials in the birth/baptism/death records, e.g., prêtre vs curé vs vicaire as well as some others

A prêtre is someone who has received the sacrament of holy orders. If he has been assigned to a parish of his own, he is the parish priest or curé. The curate or assistant priest in a parish is the vicaire. See episode #14.

2) A discussion of old occupations would be terrific. Heck I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a difference between a cultivateur and a fermier; a journalier vs a laboreur….etc.

There are several places to find translations. One of the easiest is the list of occupations found in the appendix of the Key to the Repertory, which everyone can download for free by signing up for the Maple Stars & Stripes newsletter at There you will find all the occupations that occur in the records and their translations.

My 1814 French-English dictionary gives the following definitions:

  • Laboureur– a husbandman, tiller, or plowman
  • Journalier– a journeyman
  • Fermier– a farmer
  • Cultivateur-a cultivator, tiller, or husbandman

Is there a native French speaker who can clarify the nuance of these words? In what circumstances would you use one over the other?

3) I get very confused with many location names in Quebec.  For example, I can’t always decide if a name is a parish name or a town name or both.  For example… St-Michel.  Napierville? Vaudreuil? St-Michel Archange?

I recommended three resources. See episode #16 for more details:

The Guide to Quebec Catholic Parishes and Published Marriage Records by Jeanne Sauve White

Quintin’s Parish and Town Guide to the Province of Quebec is out of print but can be found on WorldVitalRecords if you have a subscription, or you can probably find it at a library near you.

The American-French Genealogical Society’s Reference & Guide Book for Genealogists which includes a list of parishes with their corresponding towns and counties.


Peter asked: Should we use the present day location terms or the actual terms during the time the person lived?

My recommendation is to always use the geographic location in use at the time. If people may not be familiar with the early name, it’s a good idea to clarify, such as ‘He was born in Ville-Marie, today known as Montréal.’

The second part of Peter’s question concerned the accuracy of using location software with historical place names. “Some software like Heredis and Legacy will use the location wording to find the actual location on a map. Also Family Tree Maker will provide a drop down list of modern day locational info.”

How do Maple Stars and Stripes listeners handle this? If you enter the city as ‘Ville-Marie (Montréal),’ does the software pick out the name in parentheses? If anyone has tried this, please let us know your results.


Julie pointed out that in episode 27, in the audio and also in the show notes, I said “avons inhumée” meant “have baptised.” That was, of course, an example of the brain being on vacation. It does mean ‘have buried’ and has been corrected on the chart in the show notes.

Also, Dianne pointed out that I translated ‘la veille’ as ‘the day before’ rather than ‘the night before.’ So I went back to check, and my 1814 French dictionary does give as one of the meanings ‘the day before.’ But I believe Dianne is correct. In the context of baptism or burial records, the term is used to mean ‘the night before.’ So that’s been corrected on the chart also.

Thanks, everyone!

Language Tip #28- Relationship Clues

In episode #24, we covered the most common terms relating to family relationships that you will find in most French-Canadian documents. But there are still others that might be just THE clue you need to determine an otherwise unexplained connection or event.

The Children

Remember what we learned in the Language Tip for episode #2. To make a masculine noun or adjective feminine, we most often add a final E.

When a baby is baptized ‘ondoyé,’ it means he was baptized provisionally, usually by the midwife or the father of the child, because they feared the child would die before being brought to the church for baptism.

Children Terms









Age Indicators

Age Indicators











Marital Status

Several words have more than one meaning, depending on the context. Such a word is garçon, which can indicate age or marital status.

Although most women used their maiden names throughout life, they probably adopted the American custom of taking on the husband’s surname when they migrated there. Then they are sometimes referred to as, for example, Jeanne Paquet née Bouchard, meaning Jeanne Paquet born Bouchard. From this we know that Jeanne’s maiden name is Bouchard and she is married to Mr. Paquet.

Marital Status Terms









Economic Status

Economic Status Terms



Titles of Address

Titles of Address




Family Associations

Family Associations




Search for these words in your documents. Does it clarify an event or a relationship in your family?

Researching Your Northeast Métis Ancestors

Paul Bunnell has researched his family’s history for thirty-eight years. He is the author of more than thirty books and is preparing more than twenty more for publication. He is especially known for his Loyalist and Métis research and is currently the Koasek Tribal Chief and Genealogist.

In the interview, we discussed:

1) his early connections to his Native ancestry which was hidden for several generations. Paul descends from Abenaki, Huron, Mi’kmaq, and Wampanoag ancestors.

2) sources he used, such as-the Drouin collection, Our French-Canadian Ancestors series by Thomas LaForest, and newspaper articles indexed by Daniel Johnson available online on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website. Clues from these resources led back to sources such as the Jesuit Relations, marriage records, census records of Acadia for 1671, 1673, and 1698 (scroll down left sidebar to ‘census records’), the Québec census of 1666 and the passenger list for the St. Jehan from France in 1636.

3) clues that may point to Native ancestry: a first name of Catherine; no last name; a non-French sounding surname [see Suzanne Sommerville’s article explaining the use of the 8 symbol in Native names]; if a person’s occupation on a census record indicates something like basket maker or snowshoe maker; a high instep; residence in mission areas such as Montreal, Haverhill/Newbury area of Vermont, Trois-Rivières, or Sillery.

Paul’s list of missions
  • Missions among the Abenakis:
  •    Mission of the Holy Guardian Angel
  •    Baiogula Mission
  •    Chigoutimini Mission
  •    Mission of St. Francis de Sales
  •    Mission of St. Francis Xavier
  • Huron residences:
  •    Mission of St. Ignatius
  •    Mission of the Immaculate Conception
  •    Mission at the Seven Islands
  •    Mission of St. Joseph
  • Missions among the Illinois
  • Missions among the Iroquois:
  •    Mission of Lorette
  • Missions on the banks and at the mouth of the Mississippi River
  • Residence of Montreal
  •    Nipisikouit mission
  • Missions among the Outakouacs:
  •    Saguenay mission
  •    Mission of Sault de Sainte Marie
  •    Forest Missions
  •    Tadousshac Mission
  • Mission at Three Rivers

4) the Acadian Métis– a mixture of Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, and Maliseet with the Acadians. Acadian history is very complex. From 1524 to 1605, the early French fishermen mixed with the Natives. From 1613 to 1632 when the English took over, some of the French went to France, but others hid out in the forests and lived among the Natives. In 1632 the French could live openly again, mixing also with those who returned from France. When the English took over again in 1745, the same thing happened. In 1755 the English dispersed the Acadians all up and down the east coast of the English colonies, with some ending up in France and Louisiana.

CAUTION: When some French and Native mixed families were dispersed to France and then returned, documents might just say they were from France. It’s difficult to detect the Native connection. It appeared as if they were born in France.

5) the Québec Métis– occurred because of the fur trappers spreading out from Montréal, moving west and down the Mississippi. French trappers would sometimes take Indian wives. Also, English captives would sometimes be adopted into tribes, even becoming chiefs like Joseph Gill (scroll down to sixth page), creating an English-Native blend.

6) Current DNA projects

  • Paul belongs to the Amerindian ancestry site which raises funds to conduct DNA research on supposed Native lines.
  • The Doucet project-Germain Doucet had a son whose DNA proved he was Native.
  • A DNA test showed that Paul’s Native lines trace back to Apache (N.Mex), Argentinian, Navajo, Brazilian, Arizona Hispanic, Mexican, Puna, and Amazonian. He speculates that these lines derive from Indian servants and slaves who were brought back from Nicaragua to Québec by the Jesuits.

7) Travel destinations


Courtesy of Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations

Huron/Wendat traditional homesite at Wendake: See the authentic reconstruction of a Huron/Wendat village

8) Recommended research sites



Paul Bunnell’s French and Native North American Marriages, 1600-1800 (6 volumes)- includes clues found in marriage, census, and church records; Jesuits accounts; land grants; maps; treaties; and newspaper accounts; as well as his The New Loyalist Index Vol. 6 (Métis serving with the British)

Gail Morin’s First Métis Families of Québec (now in the MSS Boutique)


How to contact Paul

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11 comments on “MSS-028-Researching Your Northeast Métis Ancestors

  1. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    Hi, Sandra. Fermier did, much of the time, have to do with the management of a farm, but it did not always have the meaning of cultivator, one responsible for the actual planting, growing, and harvesting of crops on a certain plot of land, especially in New France. Often, it indicated that an individual had been hired to oversee a farm under a leasing agreement; the land had been “farmed out,” so to speak. Other enterprises could also be “farmed out”.

    Modern technology has provided access to old dictionaries. The meaning of the word in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can be found at

    The word fermier derives from the French verb “affirmer”. And in the context of the fur trade it refers to a “bail” or lease granted to someone—an agent, a contractor— to take charge of the details of the trade.

    Fermier was translated as farmer by writers in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century even when the context made it plain that no farm, in its modern sense, was involved, so that, even in the 1969 Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry about LE SUEUR, PIERRE, (Pierre-Charles), the French version speaks of “une exploitation minière” of which “Iberville et le fermier général L’Huillier” were members; but the English version reads “to exploit mines” of which “Iberville and the farmer-general [sic] Alexandre L’Huillier were members.”

    Thus, a fermier could be an agent in charge not of a “farm” but of mines, and, very often, in charge of the fur trade. A recent article about the archaeological dig at Fort St. Joseph (Niles, Michigan) includes the comment that there were at least one, perhaps two, “farmers” present at the post, citing Marthe Faribault-Beauregard as a source. It is true she correctly transcribes the French word “fermier” used as a description given of two godparents. The Mississippi Valley Historical Review English version, however, translates the word as “farmer”. The men in question, Louis Hurtebise and Nicolas Lefebvre, can indeed be documented as agents of the fur trade, not as “farmers”.

  2. Sandra Goodwin

    Suzanne-Thanks for the thorough explanation. I’m sure that will be very helpful, not only to Kathi, but to many of us.

  3. Jodie

    Is there a reason you haven’t mentioned that you will be at the Worcester Public library on Feburary 24? 🙂

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      I forgot. I meant to mention it in the last episode, but after announcing everyone else’s meetings, I forgot my own!! But thanks for bringing it up. If anyone’s in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area on Tuesday evening, February 24, 2015, come on down to the Worcester Public Library at 6:30 PM for a PRDH workshop. Thanks, Jodie.

  4. Jean-Richard Pelland

    I think that for those having problems with Quebec place names, the search bar at may help with finding the official spelling of many places.

    (from their site)
    ‘The Commission de toponymie is the public body responsible for managing Quebec place names: names of natural geographical features (lakes, rivers, mountains, islands, peninsulas, etc.) and constructed ones (dams, embankments, bridges, etc.); and names of administrative units (wildlife sanctuaries, administrative regions, conservation parks, etc.), inhabited areas (cities and towns, village municipalities, Indian reserves, northern village municipalities, etc.) and roadways (streets, roads, boulevards, range roads, etc.). In short, the Commission has jurisdiction regarding all types of places. Source: ‘

    Jean-Richard Pelland

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Thanks, Jean-Richard. We have a similar site in America that’s been extremely helpful, and I always wished there was something similar for Canada. This is it!

  5. Douglas

    Please read Kim Tallbear’s Book entitled “Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science” and as well as another excellent book “Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond Paper”
    by Emily D. Aulicino.

    Good luck.

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