Tag Archives: Mi’kmaq

Journey to Anne Marie

Marie Rundquist writes about her journey into her family history. Not the history she heard from her mother and grandmother, although it’s part of the story. The story Ms. Rundquist tells starts with a DNA test she took.

View_of_New_Orleans_Under_My_Wings-j-l-bouqueto-de-woiseri-1803
“Under My Wings Every Thing Prospers” New Orleans, J. L. Bouqueto de Woiseri 1803

The test didn’t lead to what, and where, she expected. Instead, it took her on a long journey through US archival history and then to Nova Scotia.

Marie Rundquist lives in Maryland and was born there. She decided to do a DNA test to learn more about herself, and the results surprised her. Some genetic markers didn’t add up with what she’d been told. So she started looking for the pieces missing in the family stories but present in her genes. Her tale is fascinating. I read part of it on the Cape Breton University website.

I am bemused by the popularity of DNA testing. It’s interesting, sure. Useful for medical information, of course. But its value for identity, for who you are? As the memes say, if you need a test to tell you that you are X or Y, you’re not.

journey - The_Acadians_mural_panel_4_Sylvia_Lefkovitz michelle-macneill-wikicommons
“The Acadians” panel 4, Sylvia Lefkovitz 1956, Université Sainte-Anne NS

So I surprised myself when I became engrossed in Ms. Rundquist’s story. Even the scientific bits. She explains DNA testing so that even I can understand it.

The journey starts

Then she starts the story, or stories. One her mother and grandmother told her. The second begins with the mtDNA test. It shows genetics through the maternal line. For Ms. Rundquist, the two didn’t match. Some genetic markers showing place didn’t make sense with the geographic history she had been told.

Acadians_2_Samuel_Scott_Annapolis_Royal_1751 NS art gallery wikicommons
“Acadians” (Inset) by Samuel Scott, Annapolis Royal 1751, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Like a forensic sculptor, she fleshed out the genetic skeleton. Her clay was archival materials and a community of relatives. The relatives weren’t those she knew. They were the list of genetic matches provided by the DNA testing company.

With their help, archives and her mother’s stories, she traced a journey back in time. She found a new history. Some parts intersected, others were way off. But put together, it’s a fuller story. Still not complete, but with new layers that mesh even if gaps remain.

M_S_Kendall-1899-micmac-indian-camp-ns-cropped-private-collection-pd-wikicommons
“Micmac Indian Camp in Nova Scotia” by M. S. Kendall 1899 (private collection)

The gaps are as interesting as the filled spaces in the way Ms. Rundquist writes about what this means for her self-identity. If you’ve ever said “I know I’m X but I don’t know how,” or “I thought I was X but found out I’m Y,” read this.

It shows the beauty of a journey. There are some answers, but best are the loose ends. They invite pondering, by readers as well as the writer, about lost history and the nature of identity.

You can get Marie Rundquist’s books, Revisiting Anne Marie and Cajun By Any Other Name at DNA-Genealogy-History. You can read my DNA Tests for a far less inquisitive look at family origins. Gallery Gevik has more of Sylvia Lefkovitz’s incredible art.

Mi’kmaq Images

Mi'kmaq Images - Ruth Holmes Whitehead
Click for Amazon link

Ruth Holmes Whitehead’s new book Niniskamijinaqik, Ancestral Images: The Mi’kmaq in art and photography is beautiful. If you are interested in Mi’kmaq history, it is also essential.

It puts faces to names. That is what makes it so valuable to Mi’kmaq genealogy researchers. Even more, Ms. Whitehead’s descriptions set those people and places in a historical and cultural context.

It is a picture book: Mi’kmaq rock carvings and paintings, sketches and photographs from European contact to the 1980s. The photograph on the cover is of Molly Muise of Annapolis Royal NS. A tintype from the mid-19th century, the full image is described in the preface:

“Molly’s photograph may be the earliest surviving photographic Mi'kmaq images Molly Muiseportrait of any of the Mi’kmaq. (Her name was originally French ‘Mius,’ and is now spelled Meuse.) She is wearing a peaked cap with double-curve beadwork, a dark shirt, and a short jacket with darker cuffs, over which she apparently has draped a second short jacket with its sleeves pulled inside, as a short capelet. Her traditional dress with the large fold at the top is held up by suspenders with ornamental tabs. In her hands she may be clutching a white handkerchief.”

Mi’kmaq Images and Information

Descriptions of clothing styles, as in this picture, or surrounding landscape or structures or implements – anything that might contribute to knowledge of who and where people were, and how they lived. Documents that give further insights are quoted in whole or relevant part in the description or endnotes.

Dates of birth and death, family members, name variations, and historical references are given. She also gives conjectures about who someone may be, making the basis for her conjecture clear. If conflicting information is in records or recent research, that is mentioned.

Mi'kmaq Images Mr and Mrs Frank JoeDescriptions of two photographs of Frank Joe and wife and their home in Bay St. George show this preciseness and detail of information. Ms. Whitehead remarks on a sled and the type of cabin construction shown in the photo of their home. On the other photo (shown here), she discusses in detail the family history of Frank Joe and his wife Caroline.

When your eyes are tired from looking at family groups on your computer screen or deciphering old documents, you can take a break with this book. You may also find a new piece of your puzzle or a new avenue to search. Even if you don’t, you’ll see a beautiful record of the past.

 

The Acadians: Review

Bill Smallwood takes a complicated period of history and makes it more complicated – Smallwood-Acadiansand that’s good. The Acadians, the first novel in his Abuse of Power series starts in 1749 with the British looking for a site to build a fort in Nova Scotia. They choose a harbour they rename Halifax. It ends in 1757 with British soldiers and sailors choosing tracts of “unoccupied” Nova Scotia land to homestead. The Acadians have been deported and the Mi’kmaq are being ‘cleared’ off their lands. The French have been driven back, and Nova Scotia is open for British business.

The facts of it: war between the French and British for control of North America, deportation of long-time Acadian settlers to France and the future United States, and war with and suppression of First Nations. We know these things from living in the Maritimes or reading history. By situating the facts in a story, Smallwood brings them to life and explains the intricacies of ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘why’.

Deportation_Grand-Pré-wikicommons
Deportation at Grand Pré 1755, by George Craig 1893

Connecting the dots of history

I have read a lot about the colonization of North America and the history of the Mi’kmaq and Acadians. I have been to Halifax many times and traveled around Nova Scotia. So I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the history and geography of the region. But this book made so many things click into place for me. Instead of a spreadsheet of facts, the story gave me a flow of events, places and reasons. The dots were connected.

Deportation_of_Acadians_order 1755 Grand Pre,_painting_by_Chas Wm Jefferys 1923
Col. Winslow reads Order of expulsion, Grand Pré 1755, by C. W. Jefferys 1923

The main character in The Acadians is William Gray who was in real life a clerk to Governor Cornwallis. Smallwood promotes him to British Navy Lieutenant in order to permit him to travel to the extent he does and be privy to the discussions that he is. But it is not only from his perspective that we look. We get to know all the players involved; British, colonial American, French, Acadian and Mi’kmaq. Fear and confusion, bravery and avarice – we see the emotions and actions of all sides. Only the Mi’kmaq remain relatively unknown to us, and I’m sure that is remedied in later volumes.

Smallwood lets history shape story

It is history that shaped Smallwood’s story and character rather than the other way around. Most of his characters are real people. Events are based on letters, logs and other documentation of the time. When he creates or alters events or characters, he explains why and gives what is actually known in notes. So you can become involved in the story and also keep track of the real events. He references his sources and changes in chapter endnotes.

Citadel Hill Fort-photo-D-Stewart
Fort at Citadel Hill, Halifax, today

My only quibble is that footnotes would save having to flick to the end of the chapter each time. You can, of course, ignore the notes but they contain archival sources as well as additional bits of information, quotes from letters and official records as well as the points at which history and this story deviate. That, I found, adds to the story.

The Acadians, 1749-1757 is the first of seven in the Abuse of Power series: The Colonials and the Acadians, 1757-1761; Crooked Paths, 1755-1862; The Planters, 1761-1921; Expulsion and Survival, 1758-1902; Rebels, Royalists and Railroaders, 1841-1910, and Lives of Courage. You can read more at Mr. Smallwood’s publisher Borealis.

Sadly, Mr. Smallwood passed away on May 7, 2019. Here is his obituary. The 8th, and final, book in his series is published.

Newfoundland Mi’kmaq

Stephen Gallant (July 13/19) This St. John’s Evening Telegram article is about Stephen Gallant and his wife Elizabeth Gaudet of Stephenville, Bay St. George. From…