MSS-063-Acadian Voyageurs

Episode 063-July 1, 2017

In my mind, I never put the words “Acadian” and “voyageurs” together. But today’s guest, author Claude Ferland, did just that in his book, Cadien et Voyageur: Un parcours singulier au Pays d’en-Haut. (Header image: Shooting the Rapids, 1871 by Frances Anne Hopkins (1838–1919))

Header image 2

Acadian Voyageurs

During our interview, Claude and I discussed the following:


  • Claude became interested in this topic after reading about Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s 1789 and 1793 expeditions. He learned that the only two men who made both expeditions had Acadian surnames.During the French regime, fur trading companies hired voyageurs to conduct business in the interior, mostly around the Great Lakes. Contracts were signed in front of a notary.
  • After the British took over, the territory was expanded toward what is today the Northwest Territories and on to the Pacific. Many more voyageurs were needed. The Northwest Company and the Hudson Bay Company were the two primary employers.
  • There were a couple of smaller companies, like the Michilimackinac Company and one of Mackenzie’s own (his company eventually merged with another).

Alexander Mackenzie

  • Alexander Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1762 and moved with his father to New York in 1776. Because of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the senior Mackenzie sent his son to live with his aunts in Montreal for safety reasons. There Alexander became an apprentice at a small fur trade firm. He then joined the Northwest Company and rapidly rose through the ranks. He was put in charge of the Athabaska area, the frontier north of Lake Winnipeg.
  • In 1788, Alexander met the Acadian Joseph Landry, who signed his contracts using the shortened form, Cadien. A year later, Mackenzie gave Landry the important position of steerman.

1789 and 1793 expeditions

  • In 1789, Mackenzie’s expedition reached the Arctic by mistake. In 1793, he
    Mackenzie rock

    This photo was taken by John Harvey at the Alexander Mackenzie monument on the West coast of British Columbia on Wednesday, August 8th, 2001.

    crossed the Rocky Mountains. The route through the Rockies proved to be too difficult, so the expedition was not very profitable for the Northwest Company. But Mackenzie is recognized for his discovery of these vast territories north of the western plains and west of the Rockies.

  • Mackenzie published a bestseller in London in 1801, was knighted by the king, came back to Canada in 1804, and eventually retired to Scotland in 1812 where he married and had three children. He died in 1820 of Bright’s disease.

Acadian voyageurs

  • Less than one percent of voyageurs were Acadian. These recruits were usually from one of three areas: Lake Saint-Pierre; l’Assomption, northeast of Montreal; and l’Acadie, southeast of Montreal.
  • Acadians were twice as likely to have top jobs (like steermen, bowmen, or guides) among the voyageurs as were the Canadians.

Joseph Landry and Charles Doucet

  • Voyageurs at Dawn

    Voyageurs at Dawn, 1871 by Frances Anne Hopkins (1838–1919)

    After fifteen years, Claude still cannot identify the parents of these two voyageurs. However, he found clues in Harry Duckworth’s book, The English River Book. It’s based on a journal and account book of the Northwest Company of 1786. Duckworth suggests that Landry and Doucet are from Sorel, a small town south of Lake Saint-Pierre. Monsieur Ferland, however, believes they came from the islands around Lake St-Pierre.

  • Joseph Landry and Charles Doucet were the only two voyageurs who made both of Mackenzie’s expeditions. They both probably remained in the Northwest Territory after the expeditions as free men fur trading on their own. They are mentioned in a journal by a fur trader who was Mackenzie’s cousin. The University of McGill has several fur trade journals in its collection (see Sources below).
  • Some of these Acadian voyageurs and their descendants have adopted the dit name Cadien. Several were born Lanoue and came from the area of Napierville and l’Acadie. The Landry and Doucet families also used the nickname Cadien.


Claude Ferland

  • Claude FerlandYou can purchase Claude’s book, Cadien et Voyageur: Un parcours singulier au Pays d’en-Haut, from his website ( He hopes someday to have the book translated into English.
  • Besides the main content of his book, Cadien et Voyageur has some interesting appendices: genealogical information on the Acadians such as Landry, Doucet, and Lanoue; information about the Mackenzie voyageurs; and notes on the main explorers of the Northwest.
  • Besides Landry, Doucet, Lanoue, and Cadien, Claude’s book covers many other Acadian surnames, including the Martins from l’Assomption, Guédry dit Labine, Dugas, Forest, Lebrun, Roy dit Cadien, Boudreau, Henry dit Cadien, Robert, Leblanc, Comeau, and Granger.
  • Claude also has a blog in French on his website and a professional Facebook page. He sometimes writes articles in English for his Facebook page.Do you have an Acadian voyageur in your family tree?


French-Canadian Blogs

Michael Reno, a Maple Stars and Stripes listener, has a blog dedicated to his (and maybe your) ancestors, Guillaume Regnault and Marie de la Mare. Michael has covered the family in France, Guillaume’s life in France and emigration to Canada, and his possible activities in the new colony. According to Michael, his research attempts to “clarify some inconsistencies and errors in Guillaume’s story.” Upcoming posts will cover the stories of Guillaume’s wife and mother, among others. You can find his blog at

Do you know of any other interesting blogs that focus on our 17th- or 18th-century families? Email me at maplestarsandstripes [at] gmail [dot] com, and perhaps I’ll feature that blog on an upcoming episode.

New MSS Facebook group

In past episodes, I’ve mentioned the vagaries of Facebook pages. Not all people who like a page see every post. It’s not a very reliable way to disseminate information.

So I decided to start a private Facebook group instead. By the end of the year, I would like to migrate everyone over to that group and rely less on the page. The benefit is that you will better be able to participate in and initiate discussions. I’m also hoping to encourage our podcast guests to join the group, at least for a month or two, to be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

I will also post the notice of the opening of trip registration for our Nouvelle France Tour 2018 in that group first. So please take a moment to go to and ask to join. If you’re a newbie, be sure to go up to the file tab where you’ll find Top 10 Tips for Beginning Your French-Canadian Genealogy.

Affiliate links

Some of the links in the show notes are what are called “affiliate links.” That means they are links to products whose seller has agreed to pay this podcast a commission when you buy their product through a link on this website. Through, we also get a commission for anything else you buy at the same time or shortly thereafter. You, however, don’t pay a cent extra for the product. So it’s a win/win and an easy way for you to support the podcast. So any links that take you to Amazon are usually affiliate links. Most of the others are not, and I will mention when they are. So thanks to all who have already supported the podcast in this manner.


Rusty’s Mom II left a review in iTunes. It says, “I wish I had discovered these podcasts before I started building my tree, it would have prevented me from making some mistakes and certainly would have made everything easier. I love the structure of these podcasts – each one has some language hints, some news, as well as a lecture about genealogy research or history or culture. All of it is fascinating and well-presented. Lots of interviews with other experts such as French-Canadian genealogical societies or researchers such as Lucie Leblanc Consentino. And the show notes are helpful to summarize what you learned and where to go for more information. Thank you.”

Rusty’s Mom II is not the first person to mention that they wished the podcast had been around when they were beginning their research. So may I encourage you to think of who you know that is beginning their French Canadian research and might benefit from the lessons taught in Maple Stars and Stripes, especially the Language Tips in episodes 1-41 as well as the Dissecting the Records episodes? And remember, not everyone is tech savvy. Take the time to show them how to set up an iTunes account or to use a podcatcher to subscribe to podcasts. I’m sure they, as well as I, will be very grateful when you do.

Jeanne Chevalier in French

Back in episode #57, Lynne Levesque told us the story of her ancestor in her book The Life of Fille du Roi Jeanne Chevalier. Well, Lynne has recently announced that her book is now available in French for those who would prefer to read it in that language. Titled Jeanne Chevalier, Fille du Roi: Son Histoire, it is available in paperback on and and will be available as an e-book by the end of June. The links are in her blog post.


Here are four more podcasts recommended by your fellow genealogists:

Join Us in France image Join Us in France

Producer Annie Sargent is one of our community helpers. If you are planning a trip to France, or if you want to relive past moments spent in France, then this podcast is for you.


Learn French image

Learn French with Daily Podcasts

For those of you who would like to build up a bit of proficiency in the French language



104 histoires image104 Histoires de Nouvelle-France

In French, this podcast covers topics like the Reconstituted Families of New France, How were Letters Sent to New France?, and What Did They Drink in New France? A great reason to begin with Learn French with Daily Podcasts and then practice your newly-acquired skills with 104 Histoires de Nouvelle-France.


Apprendre imageApprendre le français avec l’actu

From Radio France and in French, this podcast provides “practice in easy French with transcript provided.”


French-Canadian News

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The American-French Genealogical Society

  • Saturday, July 15: Jan Burkhart will present How to Read and Use the Various Repertoires in the Library.
  • Saturday, July 22: Jan Burkhart, Fran Tivey, and Sue Musial will explain How to Use the Library, the Film Room and the Cemetery Headstone Index

Classes are held at the AFGS Library, 78 Earle Street, Woonsocket, RI, and begin at 10:00 AM.

The Quebec Family History Society

  • Friday, July 28, from 10 am to 4 pm, at the QFHS Heritage Centre in Pointe-Claire, Quebec: the Quebec All Day Genealogical Seminar. Topics will include how to find your ancestors in Quebec using church records, censuses, notarial records, land records, coroners and other legal records, plus practical techniques if you wish to put your Quebec or other family trees on Ancestry. Reservations are required. For more information and pricing, go to their website

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