Tag Archives: Newfoundland Mi’kmaq

Terms of Union

“What fair and equitable basis may exist for federal union of Newfoundland and Canada?” Seventy years ago, Newfoundland decided to ask Ottawa that question.

Joseph_Smallwood_signing_Newfoundland_into_Confederation-11-Dec-1948 - Terms of UnionTwo years later, they’d sorted it out to their satisfaction. The Terms of Union stipulated what would change and what would remain the same for Newfoundland industry, resources and people.

Spelled out in the Terms of Union was the continuation of Newfoundland’s denominational school system and the right to sell margarine. The status of the Mi’kmaq of the island and the Innu and Inuit of Labrador? Not a mention.

The Constitution Act (1867) in Section 91(24) says that the federal government has jurisdiction over “Indians, and lands reserved for the Indians”. In this instance, “Indians” includes Inuit. So you’d think that the Canadian government would assume responsibility for the indigenous peoples of the new province whether or not there was explicit mention in the Terms of Union. But it didn’t happen, creating a Canadian anomaly. A province without officially recognized indigenous populations.

It isn’t that no one thought about it during negotiations. Here’s what happened, from my Putting It Back Together (1983:116).

“Subsequent to Union”

During the two weeks following September 29, 1947, the section which dealt with the Indian Act was removed, reintroduced, and then pencilled out in three different versions of the National Convention subcommittee report. No decision was made by the time of Confederation, and it was agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Committee on Newfoundland Indians and Eskimos which could “more appropriately” discuss the matter “subsequent to Union.” This committee sought an opinion “as to the precise legal extent of the federal government’s responsibility insofar as Indians and Eskimos residing in Newfoundland and Labrador are concerned” from the federal Department of Justice. In the reply of April 14, 1951, the Justice Department said, “It is the responsibility of the federal government to formulate and carry out all policies that are directed at dealing with Indian or Indian problems [sic].”

[Public Archives of Canada: Claxton Papers, Min. of Justice, Min. of Mines and Resources, 1949-1951]

So why didn’t Ottawa assume its responsibility? Joseph Smallwood Canada-welcomes-Newfoundland first day cover postcardsaid in a 1982 radio interview that he intended the Indian Act to apply. But he did not want people to lose the vote and other rights of citizenship that went with that. However, the federal government reformed the Indian Act soon after, giving status Indians most of the rights of other citizens.

The Canadian government was actively pursuing assimilation of indigenous peoples in policies and practices. So perhaps it served the purposes of both nations. Newfoundland did not lose control over people and lands to Canada. And Canada did not have to add to its responsibility toward indigenous peoples. It didn’t exactly work out as planned, as the next 70 years showed.

Flat Bay, Newfoundland

The Mi’kmaq community of Flat Bay in Bay St. George is on YouTube. Below is a 16 minute documentary about the west coast Newfoundland village (Feb. 2017).

You can also download the accompanying report on Traditional Land Use and Occupancy. In 86 pages, the authors give a good overview of Flat Bay’s history, traditions and kinship networks.

Flat Bay is an important historical and political centre of the Newfoundland MI’kmaq. Its people have been central in the fight for official recognition as a First Nation. But if you’re driving across Newfoundland, you’re likely to miss it. It’s well off the TransCanada Highway at the end of a road that goes nowhere else. This has been good for Flat Bay’s preservation of identity. From the conclusion of the report, here’s a bit of the reason why.

flat bay tluos cover photo
Flat Bay, photo from TLUOS cover page

[The Mi’kmaq] settled in Flat Bay, due to its abundance of eel, access to the interior by the “river highways,” and provided isolation while allowing closeness to trading partners on Sandy Point.

…Originally a patchwork community was knit together due to their natural river boundaries. Hundreds of people bound together, through various means, surviving off the bounty of land and water, slowing closing the distance between them through the relationships that established the bloodlines we document in this study. For a time, the communities, Flat Bay West, East, and St. Teresa’s, were divided by the dialogue of outsiders. Divisions [were] drawn along… place name, family name, income and occupation, education, dialect…

As the community began to shrink for these reasons and others, the residents undertook policy, whether they did it consciously is still up for debate, of their community’s regeneration… Flat Bay was not unlike a thousand other small communities… of Newfoundland; the difference was someone else was writing our story. [pp 57-58]

google map flat bay
Google map of Flat Bay (click to enlarge)

Flat Bay History and Families

Flat Bay has been writing its own story, in terms of maintaining a strong Mi’kmaq community, for a long time. They literally write their own story in this study, in its authorship and use of interviews with residents. It begins with a concise history of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq and of Flat Bay. The authors then trace the history of industrial and subsistence economic activities, social and trade contact with nearby communities, and the effect of game laws. Education, language and the role of women are discussed in terms of tradition and change. The final section is an easy to follow history of the major Mi’kmaq families in the town: Benoit, King, Webb and Young.

It is an excellent study. Thanks to authors Calvin White, Hailey Burroughs, Mary Elsa (Dale) Young and Ivan White.

Mary Francis Webb

Mrs. Mary Webb was a midwife, one of the best known and most respected on Newfoundland’s west coast. She was also a healer using traditional Mi’kmaq medicines. She was a craftswoman. She farmed, raised animals, fished, hunted, trapped, and cut wood. She raised children and grandchildren.

midwife mary webb obit
Page 31, newspaper unknown. Click to enlarge.

Her first language was Mi’kmaq. In school, she learned English. From her Codroy Valley neighbours, she learned Scots Gaelic. As an adult living in Bay St. George, she learned French. These were the languages of early 20th century west coast Newfoundland. Her fluency meant she could speak with clients in their own language.

A “lay midwife”, Mary Webb had no formal training or accreditation. She started as an assistant and learned by experience. There were other midwives in Bay St. George: Susan Benoit and Emily Ann Paul in Flat Bay; Minnie Blanchard, Philomena Ryan and Philomena Sheppard in St. George’s; Rose Curnew in Stephenville Crossing. Formally trained midwives worked for the Grenfell Mission (see my Tempting Providence). Mrs. Webb was noteworthy for the great distances she travelled in her work. In all seasons at all hours, she went as far south as the Codroy Valley and north to Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands.

Midwife or doctor: social change

Until the mid-20th century, women in outport Newfoundland had their babies at home. The midwife arrived shortly before a woman’s due date and she or her assistant stayed for several days after the baby’s birth. A doctor was called if necessary. Emergencies happen, of course, so the midwife might be called early and she had to deal with complications if a doctor could not get there in time.

In the 1950s and ’60s, cottage hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices opened in rural areas. More vehicles and new roads made travel to larger centres easier. Hospital births became the norm. Health care became professionalized. mary webb in kitchen, from her grandson FrankInformally-taught midwives and healers were longer central to it. Mrs. Webb was among the last generation of lay midwives in Bay St. George.

She passed on her knowledge of traditional medicines to those interested in learning. And she embodied being Mi’kmaw. Her fluency with the language and traditional skills, her pride in her heritage, her self-respect. All these things were noted by those who knew her. For those who were part of the Mi’kmaq cultural and political revitalization in the 1970s, Mrs. Webb was a reminder of who they were and what they were fighting for.

She was born in 1881 in the Codroy Valley, daughter of Ben François and Mary Young. In 1903 she married John Webb of Flat Bay in Bay St. George. He died about 1930. She remained in Flat Bay, with Norman Young as her life companion. She died June 3, 1978.

Ancestry Search

Thirty-three years ago I started doing Newfoundland Mi’kmaq genealogies. Over the years, I’ve added and corrected information and marked changes in families. This Mi'kmaq Ancestry Tony John Glenwood Nfld 1997weekend, I sadly updated the database with the death date for Tony John of Glenwood.  

FNI President and Vice-President Tony John and Calvin White hired me to do family history research in central Newfoundland. Tony’s parents, Greg and Mary, became my “Glenwood parents.” Tony never needed help tracing his own Mi’kmaq roots; he knew his family ancestry through his father’s side and his mother’s, the Francis family of Clarke’s Head.

Tony was instrumental in establishing a political voice in the 1970s and in getting recognition and rights for all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq. Thank you, Tony, you will be missed. (Here’s more from the Gander Beacon.)

Mi’kmaq Ancestry

For those of you searching for information and documents about your Newfoundland Mi’kmaq ancestry, it can be difficult and time-consuming but doable. Start with the internet if you don’t have family or neighbours to ask. (I have links for family trees that I found good, and also books that give Newfoundland family or community history.)

Google a name or a pair of names, husband and wife or parent and child. I add Newfoundland in my search phrase to weed out those of the same name(s) from elsewhere. Same thing with community names or regions: without adding Newfoundland, you also may get material from elsewhere. For example, “Bay of Islands” alone will give you New Zealand sources as well as Newfoundland.

To find a husband and wife, I try their first names and his surname. You’ll have better luck getting records for their children that may not have the mother’s maiden name on them. You might also luck into their marriage record that likely will have her birth name.

Table_of_Consanguinity_degrees_of_relationship-Sg647112c-wikicommons
How to calculate ‘greats’ and ‘removes’. Click to enlarge.

You’ll find other people’s ancestry pages and discussion forums. With large genealogy sites, see if there is an index of names or use an internal search box. With genforums, people’s questions often can provide answers to your own questions. If someone says “X’s wife’s name might be Y,” search for X and Y together and see if you find more.

If they’re available, look at sources in online genealogies. They usually are numbered endnotes that say where the information came from. You need this information if you want to get the actual record itself.

Church Records and Archives

If you’re looking for church records, don’t just assume that if your family is of a particular religion now, that your ancestors were all married within that Church. Many people were married by whatever minister was handy. Sometimes you’ll find different marriage dates. This discrepancy may be explained by Church and unofficial marriage. If clergy were not available, people may be married “by the custom of the country”, by a layreader or someone who presumably said “time you two got married.”

For documents, the Provincial Archives is your best bet. There is a fee, of course, for their service. You can contact the Church itself for parish records. Some have their records and others have sent them to the Archives. Again there is a fee and, whether Church or archives, the more information you provide, the faster will be their search.

Few records actually have anything indicating ethnic ancestry on them. Your best bet for that is some census years that included it. Newfoundland census information is online but ethnic identification was not included in the transcription. The Archives have the originals. Reliability of information varies between census district and year.

Name Variations

And spelling variations of surnames! There are some well-known ones, like LeBlanc/White and LeJeune/Young but others you might not think of. Swyers might be Swyer, Swoir(s) or even Squires. Sometimes the difference in spelling means they are from different families and sometimes it’s just different spellings for the same people. You have to judge each one as you encounter it. If you can’t find someone under one name, type in variations. In long lists like Church records, if I’m not sure, I just type the first few letters in my search box and see what comes up.

Names like Young, White and Bennett may have been anglicized but also might not have been. You might think, good, I’ve found a Young, must be the Acadien/Mi’kmaq ones, but not necessarily. They may be different and unrelated families.

First names also vary significantly. Samuel and Lemuel for instance – likely same person. Some Church records have the Latin forms of first names, so Jacobi was probably known as James; Joannes, and variations, as John. There are also a lot of people with the same name married to people with the same name in the same region. So the John White married to Mary Young you find may not be the ones you are looking for. Look for corroborating information – place of birth, baptism date, name of a parent, sibling or child to be sure you’ve got the right ones.

Record Keeping

Question marks and sources are your new BFFs. Note where you got a piece of information. You won’t remember later. And if you or your source is unsure of anything, note that too because you’ll forget that uncertainty later.

Amazon link for Family Tree Maker 2012
Click for Amazon link

I have switched to Family Tree Maker 2012 and am still learning how to use it. Quite different than my favourite 2006 version. You’ll see I am slowly going through your queries but please be patient. Learning a new system means it takes me even longer than usual to find anything relevant for you. If I don’t reply to your comment, it means I have nothing useful. While I would like to tell you that directly, I don’t want to clog up the comments section with “sorry, got nothing.”

Newfoundland Mi’kmaq Books

watercolour Mary R. McKie, Library and Archives Canada - Newfoundland Mi'kmaq booksThe telling of a place often is told through the people who make up the place. Conversely, the telling of a family can be told through the place they lived.  Here are books about places or families in Newfoundland that may be of interest to those researching their origins.

Many prolific writers and storytellers have told Newfoundland’s past and present.  There are also historical sources and contemporary analyses of Newfoundland Mi’kmaq.  I have not included those here.

These books are about specific family or community history. They Painting Mi'kmaq Encampmenthave real names and details of family history as well as the history of areas in which Mi’kmaq people lived.  The exceptions are those by Kevin Major, Horwood and Butts, Erin Sharpe, Percy Janes, and Barbara Rieti.  You may not think of Major’s book when you think “history”, and it’s worth reading.  Horwood and Butts’ book tells about the pirate Peter Easton in Newfoundland.  Sharpe’s article, through the eyes of one young woman, gives the reasons why people track their Mi’kmaq ancestry. Percy Janes’ novel beautifully presents place; Corner Brook in the first half of the 20th century. Rieti studies witchcraft beliefs in all of Newfoundland, but includes Mi’kmaq people and areas.

Oil portrait Mi'kmaq woman 1840s artist unknownPlease let me know if you know of a book that should be here.  The titles below are links to find them. If you buy from Amazon, doing so through my links (or ‘Search Amazon’ box in right sidebar) means a fraction of every sale goes to me.  For that, I am most appreciative. Afterwords bookstore in St. John’s (245 Duckworth 709-753-4690, on Facebook) has a lot of Newfoundlandia.

Relevant, but included elsewhere in this site, are Earl Pilgrim’s Drifting Into Doom, my own Nogwa’mkisk:  (Where the sand blows):  Vignettes of Bay St. George Micmacs (out of print) and Lark Szick’s Young/LeJeune Family.

New books added Jan. 12, 2017!

Click book titles (in green) for info and purchase

Andersen, Raoul and John Crellin Mi'sel Joe: An aboriginal chief's journey St. John's: Flanker Press 2009 (Amazon)
Cover of Walking a TightropeBartels, Dennis & Alice "Mi'gmaq Lives: Aboriginal identity in Newfoundland" in Walking a Tightrope: Aboriginal people and their representations Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier U Press 2005, eds. Ute Lischke and David MacNab (Amazon)
Bennett, Don The Legacy of William Haynes, Jesperson Press 1997 (out of print, at MUN libraries, St. John’s & Corner Brook)
Bennett, Don The Trail of French Ancestors, printed by Robinson-Blackmore, 2002? (Try the booksellers in the mall in Corner Brook)
Butt, Kirk Early Settlers of Bay St. George Vol. 1: The Inner Bay Vol. 2: The Outer Bay (Tidespoint)
Clarke, David J. A History of the Isles: Twillingate, New World Island, Fogo Island and Change Islands CreateSpace 2012 (Amazon)
Clarke, David J. An Historical Directory of the Isles: Twillingate, New World Island, Fogo and Change Islands CreateSpace 2013 (Amazon)
Clarke, David J. Stories From These Shores: Newfoundland & Labrador, and the Isles of Notre Dame CreateSpace 2014 (Amazon)
Collins, Gary  Mattie Mitchell: Newfoundland's Greatest Frontiersman Flanker Press, St. John’s 2011 (Amazon)
Cormack, W. E.  Narrative of a Journey Across the Island of Newfoundland  St. John's, Nfld. 1873 (online - see top left for formats. You can also buy Journey Across... Newfoundland on Amazon)
Crummey, Michael River Thieves Toronto: Doubleday/Anchor 2002 (novel, about Exploits and Beothuk - Amazon)
Downer, Don Turbulent Tides: A social history of Sandy Point ESP Press, Portugal Cove 1997 (Tidespoint & Indigo)
Feild, Edward (Bishop) Journal of the Bishop of Newfoundland's Voyage... to the south and west coasts... and Labrador... in the year 1848 Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, London 1849 (online - see top left for formats)
Feild, Edward (Bishop) A Journal of a Visitation in the "Hawk" Church Ship... in the year 1849 Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, London 1850 (anglicanhistory.org)
Felt, Lawrence & Peter Sinclair Living on the Edge: The Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland ISER, MUN, St. John's 1995 (Amazon)
Finn, Tom Westsiders: Stories from old Corner Brook Petra Books 2010 (Amazon)
Harvey, Stuart L.  The Forgotten Bay:  A historical survey of the settlement of Lark Harbour and York Harbour in the Outer Bay of Islands, Newfoundland 1997 (online and in libraries)
Horwood, Harold Corner Brook: A social history of a paper town Breakwater, St. John's 1986 (Amazon)
Horwood, Harold & Ed Butts Pirates & Outlaws of Canada: 1610 to 1932 Doubleday, Toronto 1984 (Amazon)
Jackson, Doug (ed. Gerald Penney) On The Country: The Micmac Of Newfoundland Harry Cuff Publications, St. John’s 1993 (Amazon - sometimes okay prices, sometimes not!)
Janes, Percy House of Hate (fiction, Corner Brook) Breakwater, St. John's 1992; first pub. McLelland and Stewart 1970 (Amazon)
Jeddore, John Nick Moccasin Tracks: A memoir of Mi'kmaw life in Newfoundland ISER, St. John's 2015 (Amazon)
Johnson, Frederick Let Us Remember the Old Mi'kmaq Nimbus, Halifax 2001 (NL and NS historical photographs compiled by Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq - Amazon)
Kendall, Victor G. and Victor Ramea's Family Tree Corner Brook 1995
Lawrence, Bonita "Reclaiming Ktaqamkuk: Land and Mi'kmaq identity in Newfoundland" in Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental justice in Canada, Julian Agyeman et al. (eds.) UBC Press, Vancouver 2009 (Amazon)
MacFarlane, David Come From Away Abacus 1992 (Goodyear family, Grand Falls-Windsor, WWI - Amazon)
MacGregor, William Report by the Governor on a Visit to the Micmac Indians at Bay d'Espoir 1908 (pdf) Governor MacGregor's Report also is available in paper and Kindle on Amazon.
Major, Kevin As Near To Heaven By Sea Penguin/Viking, Toronto 2001 (Amazon)
Norcliffe, Glen Global Game, Local Arena: Restructuring in Corner Brook, Newfoundland ISER, MUN, St. John's 2005 (Amazon)
Old Newfoundland Books, Quarterlies and Magazines (list of online sources)
Osmond, Roy M. Families of the South Arm of Bonne Bay 1800s-1930s Woody Point, 1987 (Libraries)
Peyton, Amy Louise River Lords, Father and Son:  The story of the Peytons and the River of Exploits Flanker Press, St. John’s 2005 (Tidespoint)
Quigley, Colin Music from the Heart: Compositions of a folk fiddler U. of Georgia Press 1995 (Emile Benoit, Bay St. George - Amazon)
Rieti, Barbara Making Witches: Newfoundland traditions of spells and counterspells McGill-Queen's University Press 2008 (Amazon)
Rogers, John Davidson Newfoundland Vol. V, Pt. IV of A Historical Geography of the British Colonies Clarendon, Oxford 1911  Forgotten Books Classic Reprint Series 2012 Esp. ch. 8 for Mi'kmaq history (Amazon sometimes, or libraries)
Saunders, Gary L. Rattles and Steadies: Memoirs of a Gander River man Breakwater Books, St. John’s 1986 (Amazon)
Seary, E. R. and Wm. Kirwin Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland McGill-Queen's University Press 1998 (Amazon)
Sharpe, Erin “The Invisible Mi’kmaq” in Culture & Tradition Vol. 29 2007, St. John's: MUN Folklore Dept.
Simmons, Colin The Simmons Family of Newfoundland 2009 (Simmons, Pike and Pynn families, Lower Island Cove and Mosquito - Amazon)
Speck, Frank Beothuk and Micmac  New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation 1922 (online - see top left for formats, also on Amazon hard copy and Kindle)
cover Cindy Styles 3 or 4 years an IndianStyles, Cindy 3 or 4 Years an Indian Friesen Press 2015 ("A little story about one girl's attempt to claim her heritage, and the maneuvering by the Canadian government to discredit that heritage." - Amazon blurb. Kindle, paper, hardback eds.
Tocque, Philip Newfoundland: As it was, and as it is in 1877 (Kindle - Amazon)
Tulk, Janice E. "Our Strength is Ourselves": Identity, status, and cultural revitalization among the Mi'kmaq in Newfoundland (MUN, School of Music, PhD Diss. 2008 Collections Canada PDF
Vautier, Clarence The Coast of Newfoundland: The southwest corner Flanker Press, St. John's 2002 (Amazon)
Whitehead, Ruth The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Mi'kmaq history 1500-1950 Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, 1991 (Amazon)
Whitehead, Ruth
Tracking Doctor Lonecloud: Showman to legend keeper Goose Lane Editions, 2002 (19th century NS Mi'kmaw in USA; identity, cultural knowledge and entrepreneurship - Amazon)
Whitehead, Ruth Niniskamijinaqik, Ancestral Images: The Mi'kmaq in art and photography Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, 2015 (Amazon)
Wix, Edward (Bishop) Six Months of a Newfoundland Missionary's Journal from February to August, 1835 (Reprint of original Smith, Elder & Co. 1836 - Amazon) Also at anglicanhistory.org)

Drifting into Doom: Book

link to DRC Pub for Drifting into Doom by Earl B. Pilgrim
Click to see on DRC Publishing

It was a dark and stormy night when I began reading Earl Pilgrim’s Drifting into Doom: Tragedy at Sea. Winter rain blew at the windows and tree branches hit the house. Reading about two men drifting in a dory during a January 1883 storm on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, I got chilled and thought “I knows how you feel!” Then I recollected myself, realized I was in a warm house, on a couch, with the wind and rain outside. No, I had no inkling of how Howard Blackburn and Tommy Welsh felt.

The story of the Banker schooner Grace L. Fears and the loss of one of her dories is itself a harrowing one. Trawling cod from tiny two-man boats set off the side of a schooner was a hard way to fish, especially for the dorymen. Many lives were lost on the Grand Bank fishery. This is the story of the loss of Tommy Welsh, a 16 year old 1890 painting, G. F. Gregory, Storm King at seafrom Grand Bank on the south coast of Newfoundland. It is also the story of the saving of the life of his dory mate, Howard Blackburn, an experienced fisherman originally from Nova Scotia who worked out of Glouchester, Mass.

Blackburn got the dory to shore near the tiny settlement of Little River (later called Grey River) on Newfoundland’s south coast. His frozen fingers and toes could not be saved but his hands and feet were by the skill of a local woman called Aunt Jenny Lushman. She was helped by a Mi’kmaq woman named Susie Bushney. Experienced healers and midwives that they were, neither woman had ever dealt with frostbite so severe. But Mrs. Bushney’s advice and Mrs. Lushman’s steely nerves kept Blackburn alive.

Howard Blackburn in later life sailingBlackburn went on to become a well-known businessman in Glouchester and a world adventurer. His dorymate Tommy Welsh was buried in Little River. The story of these men was not lost on the Grand Banks. Accounts were published at the time and Pilgrim uses these to tell a tale that lets you get to know them, the Blackburn family, the fishing company personnel and the people of Little River and Burgeo. As the cover blurb says, it keeps you “spellbound”.

The Lushman Family

Another story came from this one. Aunt Jenny Lushman lives on her own with her grown children. There is no Mr. Lushman.  That’s the other story. As a photo of Grey River by Holloway 1933result of publicity over Blackburn’s rescue, the story of what happened to Mr. Lushman came to light. It is also one of unbelievable happenstance and hardship. Probably it too is not an isolated case of people lost and believed gone, but it is one that became known and loose ends could be tied up. It is as epic as is the story of Howard Blackburn.

Jenny Lushman’s husband and one son left Little River for the United States in search of work. I found the story of what happened to them in a December 1912 Newfoundland Quarterly article by Sir Edward Morris.* You’ll want to be tucked up in your Snuggly while reading it too. Thank you, dear reader Jim F., for this book. And Newfoundland filmmakers? Movie here!

*See my transcription of Morris’ NQ article at A Tale of the Sea and  my post A Tale of the Sea, etc. for more. The entire Dec. 1912 NQ can be seen at the MUN digital archives (link in previous paragraph). For books on Amazon by Earl B. Pilgrim, click his name.

Musée Acadien PEI

If you have a drop of Acadien blood in your veins or if you just enjoy Permanent gallery, Acadian history, Musee Acadien, Miscouchethe distinctive sound of an Acadien fiddle, a place for you to go is the Musée Acadien in Miscouche, near Summerside.

A library full of binders of historical records, drawers of documents 3 generations of Acadian women with petsand compilations of genealogical research. I was there with only a few hours to spend, and a broad interest in all Acadian families with any connection to Newfoundland Mi’kmaq.  That’s a pretty tall order for assistance from archivists.  I figured I’d just poke around and get a feel for what was there.  Instead, files and books were pulled out and stacked on a table for me.  “Here, these might help you,” museum director Cécile Gallant said.

The emphasis is on Acadian family history.  But there are some church records from the nearby Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation.  I started there, recording information as fast as I could.  I flipped through other files, recording names Earle Lockerbyand dates that seemed relevant to “my” people.  I looked at two huge published volumes of Acadien genealogy by Jean Bernard.  Vol. 1 was “A”: in PEI, for Arsenault.  It was also in the gift shop.  I bought it.  It seemed likely that everyone in PEI is somehow connected to the Arsenault family.I also bought Earle Lockerby’s Deportation of the Prince Edward Island Acadians.  If I could read French, the gift shop has many books on Acadien history that I would love to have.

Museum exhibit rooms

A quick tour of the exhibit rooms.  A whole room with a permanent 3rd painting in Acadian series by Claude Picard, Musee Acadien PEIexhibit of paintings by Claude Picard, depicting the creation and official adoption of the Acadien flag in the 1880s.  In another room, a temporary display of the lives and work of Acadien women.  Exquisite photographs, both professional and family snapshots.  Spinning wheels and kitchen tools, knitted and sewn goods, the implements and products of women’s hands.

St. John the Baptist Church cemetery beside the museum.  Names so familiar to me from Newfoundland west coast families.  I’d see these same names if I went to a graveyard in Louisiana.  Same families, but their move wasn’t voluntary.  In the 1750s, when Britain Cemetery gates, Miscouche beside Museumtook control of North America, the expulsion of the Acadiens began.  Many were sent to what’s now the US, especially Louisiana where they became Cajuns, adding their heritage and language to the cultures already there.  Others were “returned” to France on ships, to a homeland they’d never seen before.  Acadiens escaped to Quebec and Newfoundland or hid out and were missed by the British. Some stayed in their new homes.  Some returned to their homeland when it was safe.

carved panel telling Acadian history on side of Museum building, MiscoucheIn the museum and the cemetery, you get a sense of how vast Acadian history is in time and geography, and how strongly rooted it is in this small island.

 

Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, Ile St-Jean

The church and graveyard at Mont Carmel on the west coast of PEI. Here, the island feels Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, Ile St-Jean now PEIlike it should be called by its old name, Ile St-Jean, when it was part of Acadia. First seen at night, it’s scary and beautiful. The archway looming overhead in the twilight, the rows of headstones white and dark against the setting sun. ‘Oh My God’ isn’t blasphemous here. You feel the power of God – in the form of the Roman Catholic Church – on this windswept bluff with the church and cemetery from coast line photo Jim Stewartdark brick monolithic shape on the horizon pointing skyward.

Revisited in the daylight, still imposing but less frightening. I wander the graveyard – and see the names. Aucoin, Arsenault, Gallant, Poirier. Names I’ve known for decades, names from my genealogy database. Maybe not the same individuals, but the same names. My people with these Poirier grave Mont Carmelnames are from Newfoundland, and more likely connected to Nova Scotia. But I know there are connections between Newfoundland and this island. The people buried here are related to mine. This was all Acadia, with families that spread throughout the area.

I’d see the same names in graveyards in fence post cross memorial Sylvere Aucoin photo Jim StewartNova Scotia, Quebec, Louisiana, France.  Same families. In the 1750s, the British deported Acadiens to Louisiana and France. Some escaped to Quebec and the west coast of Newfoundland, away from British control. Others remained where they were, hidden. Some returned to their homeland when it was safe and some stayed in their new homes.

Acadien history in a graveyard

Acadien history is rich and has spread across North America for two and a arch at graveyard entrance photo Jim Stewarthalf centuries. On the west coast of PEI, it is everywhere around you. In this churchyard, it is awesome.

I don’t think to see if the door to the church is open. I am overwhelmed by the power of the building. Go in? Not when there is no Mass. It doesn’t occur to me to treat it as a monument, a landmark of beauty and detail of arch Mont Carmel photo Jim Stewartarchitecture – to sightsee. I step gingerly around the building, not going too close, afraid of it I guess.

A large brick house is beside the church, the priests’ house I assume. I see a car there, but no people. I imagine black-cassocked priests flocking around. Probably I’d have got a shock if a real-life present day priest or brother had come out, likely in jeans and sweatshirt. The new SUV sitting out front looks out of Interior of church from shepaintsred blogplace. So I’m glad nobody came out, maybe glad I didn’t try to go in the church. I like the picture I have in my head. But I’m glad that someone went inside: at shepaintsred, you can see what I missed.

The feeling of family reverence I had in the graveyard has stayed with me. Seeing names so familiar to me that they could be Magloire-Gallant Road sign, Mont Carmel PEImy own family. The solidity of community roots showing in rows of gravestones, hundreds of years of ancestors present with you.

(Click photos for larger views)

Qalipu Band of the Mi’kmaq Nation

Monday it was announced:  Mi’kmaq people of Central and Western Newfoundland are now members of the Qalipu band under the Indian
Jim John and Dorothy, Gander River 1979Act.  It’s been 39 years since they began politically organizing for that recognition.  Hallelujah, and about time.

I’ve wondered if it actually would happen in my lifetime.  I have spent my working life on and off involved in this process.  I began in 1979, as a new graduate student at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  Over the years, I’ve continued working for the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI).  The early enthusiasm I felt every time there was a hopeful word from Indian Affairs faded long ago.  All we have to do is show x, y or z?  Yep, sure thing.  Sorry, heard that before.

I’ve never really understood the reluctance by Canada and Newfoundland to give people Qalipu St. George's, Newfoundland, view from the beachthe recognition and status to which they are entitled.  It was a fluke (or trade-off) when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 that excluded the new province’s First Nations from status under Canada’s Indian Act.  At the time, it would have limited their rights of citizenry.  Status Indians did not have the vote and other rights taken for granted by most of us.  But the First Nations of Newfoundland and Labrador also did not have the benefits and recognition that inclusion in Indian and Northern Affairs legislation accorded.  And, in 1949, a major overhaul of the Indian Act was already in process.  In 1951 the most restrictive aspects of ‘wardship’ were removed from the Act.

In the early 1970s, Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland and Innu and Inuit in Labrador began working for the same rights and recognition as their kin in the Maritimes and Quebec had.  Together in one association at first, they split into separate groups to pursue their Sign entering Miawpukek (Conne River) reserve, Newfoundlandobjectives in the best way for each of them.  The FNI was born in 1972, representing all Mi’kmaq people of the island.

In the early 1980s the Baie d’Espoir community of Conne River split off.  As a small predominantly Mi’kmaq community, they believed they’d have better luck on their own than working with a larger Mi’kmaq population spread across a wide area.  And they did.  It took direct action, like a government office occupation and a hunger strike, to do it.  In 1984 the people of Conne River gained Indian Act status.  Three years later, land around the village was designated as Miawpukek reserve.

FNI to Qalipu

Soon after, Indian Affairs allowed people with direct kinship to Miawpukek to apply for “off-reserve” status.  That gave them individual rights like post-secondary Larry Jeddore with moose in Glenwood tannery 1983education and non-insured medical benefits.  Of those eligible to apply, many did.  However,  people like the late Glenwood chief Larry Jeddore did not.  He had been born in Conne River of a chiefly family.  He spoke the Mi’kmaq language.  And he was one of the founders of the FNI.  But he wanted to see all Mi’kmaq people of the island recognized.  He didn’t live to see it but he fought hard for it.

FNI Larry Jeddore in Glenwood band office 1983Agreement in principle to register all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq as members of a landless band was reached in 2008.  And finally the new band, Qalipu, exists.  Without reserve lands, members receive only the benefits of “off-reserve status.”   However, it is official recognition of what they have always known and kept alive:  their ancestry, heritage and community as Mi’kmaq people.

Newfoundland Mi’kmaq Family History & Genealogy

If I don’t reply to your query, it is because I have no information. I don’t want to add to the comments with ‘I don’t know’. If you can help answer someone’s question, please post!

The internet is a good place to find out about your family history.  Unfortunately, it ain’t as easy as the tv ads for ancestry.ca look.  Often those ads with cheerful people clicking on a leaf and finding some fascinating bit of information about their great-granddaddy come on as I’m struggling to figure out whether this Peter is son of this Paul or that Paul.  It’s all I can do to not throw a shoe at the television.

There is a lot of information on the big genealogy websites like ancestry.ca and Newfoundland Mi'kmaq genealogy websites 1775 James Cook mapgenealogy.com.  And there are lots of other sites with information where you don’t have to pay a membership fee.  Some have vital statistics on them – birth and death records, census information etc.  Others are the product of family researchers.  Below are sites related to Newfoundland Mi’kmaq families that I have found useful.

A word of warning:  do not rely totally on any one source as the gospel.  Primary records have enough inconsistencies of fact and, with websites, you have the added possibility of error of transcription.  Dates get typed in wrong, names get misspelled.  There’s lots of room for error.  Plus some information is simply inaccurate or conflicts with other sources.  So with primary documents and the internet, be judicious, check and double-check.

Genealogy Websites

(see Newfoundland Mi’kmaq Books for more sources)

* Acadian Genealogy (by Lucie LeBlanc Consentino – many Nfld. west coast families)
* Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History (click a surname)
* Andersons (Fortune and Burgeo, BOI)
*  Benoit (by Jasen Benwah, plus other Nf Mi’kmaq fams)
*  Desc. of Gabriel Billard (marr. Miriam Durnford)
 *  Desc. of Michel Boudrot/Boudreau Lt. Gen. (1600s Acadie, marr. Michelle Aucoin)
*  Bras d’Or Families (by John Scott, incl. Jesso, Boutilier, & other fams & regions)
*  Bras d’Or Indian Village Band Assoc. (Maliseet-Micmac Vital Stats, LeJeune gen, Nfld. Mi’kmaq)
*  Canadian Genealogy & History Links (Nfld page)
Chegau – Mi’kmaq Treaty Descendants (Chego, etc. family tree by Donna Marie Launey
Chegau Mi’kmaq Family DNA (Donna Marie Launey)
*  Chiasson Family
Desc. of Charles Crocker (by Elizabeth Sheppard Hewitt)
*  Desc. of Daniel’s Harbour (Payne, Brooks, Park families)
*  Doucet Family
*  Gallant Family (PEI, by Linda Keefe-Trainor, click ‘tree’)
* (Gallant) Haché-Gallant Family
*  Gaudet Genealogy (Mark B. Arsland: France, USA, Canada, NL)
*  Desc. of Edward Gaudon (Joe Gaudon, Sept. 2000)
*  Genealogy in Time (links to many sites)
*  Mi’kmaq Ancestry of Jerry Gerrior (Gerrior/Girouard and others)
*  Desc. of James Hall (NS & NL – click no. link at left for gens)
*  Desc. of George & Jane Harvey (Town of Isle aux Morts)
*  Herridge-Nurse Family History (Matthews, Garnier, Strickland, etc.)
*  Jesso Family (most Nfld. west coast families)
*  Labrador (Southern) Family History (Labrador Cura, by Patty Way)
*  LeBlanc/White (‘Steve’s Genealogy Blog’)
*  LeBlanc & MacLean Families (Trish LeBlanc – Rootsweb, link goes to surname list)
*  Lefresne-Robinson Family, South Coast of Nfld (Rootsweb, link to surnames)
*  LeJeunes of Cape Breton & Nfld (by Lark Szick)
*  The Ancestry of Henry LeJeune/Young (by Kirk Butt, see note below on BSGGS for this)
*  Desc. of Jacques LeJeune (Robin K. Young gen. home page)
*  John Young (LeJeune) of Bras d’Or NS (by Kevin Young)
*  Dr. William Litchman (South Coast families, Lushman etc.  Click a Publications title for content. Also see his “every-name index” for Burgeo-LaPoile 1921 census, below.)
*  Desc. of George Lomond (by Sharon Dillon; also Dillon, Knott, Currie)
*  Maliseet & Micmac Vital Statistics (NB Church Records – 346 pg PDF so it takes a long time to load)
*  Marche Family (see note below on BSGGS for access to this huge family tree)
*  Mattie Mitchell Webpage (by Fred Powell)
*  Muise Family (by Doris Muise)
* Desc. of Philippe Mius d’Azy (by Yvon Cyr)
* (Muise) Four Generations of d’Entremonts (Musée des Acadiens)
*  Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics (‘accept’ then search)
*  O’Connell Family Tree (most Nfld. west coast families)
*  Payne Families
acadien flag*  PEI Family Lineages (flag by Acadian names)
Donald J. Perrier of Alberta, Canada
*  PEI Genealogical Society
* Pike Family History & Genealogy Resources (by David Pike)
* Rowe of Newfoundland (by M. John Rowe, see Ch. 11 for Reault/Rowe of Bay St. George and Port au Port
*  Roy Family, through Marie Aubois (by John R. Nelson)
*  Rumbolt, Hann, Lane & Howarth Genealogy Pages (Northern Peninsula, Bay of Islands)
*  Jacques St-Pierre’s Family Tree (Doucet, Muise, LeJeune, et al. Hover over “Last Name” at top right for drop down menu of names)
Southwest Coast of Newfoundland, Women’s History (by Cape Ray Lightkeepers House, Virtual Museum of Canada. Mini-bios. I found site hard to navigate, but just click around it – interesting)
*  Vatcher Family History (by Ed Vatcher)
*  Wendy’s Ancestral Tree (Cajun/Acadian families, go to paternal Pitre line)
* Western Newfoundland Family Lines (Rumboldt, Payne, Matthews, Hiscock, Eleniak, White, Caines, Vatcher, Brake, Snook – names with dates and places of birth and death)
*  Wheeler Descendants (mainly Twillingate area)
* Stephen A. White, Genealogist (LeBlanc and others & Acadien history)
* Ancestors of Wayne Harvey Young (LeJeune & Stone)

For other family trees, genealogical and vital statistics information and sources, go to Bay St. George Genealogical Society.  There is a lot of material in the main site, but for $10 a year membership, you get to go in the ‘Members Only’ section.  There you find many of the invaluable papers on Newfoundland family history written by Allan Stride among other materials. NL GenWeb and Newfoundland Grand Banks are also great resources for vital statistics data.

Also see Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. Register for full access to their materials. The society has a quarterly journal The Newfoundland Ancestor.

A wonderful source for information on Burgeo history and families is the 1925 Diary of Burgeo by Joseph Small. Also valuable for those interested in south coast families is Dr. Litchman’s index of the 1921 census for Burgeo-LaPoile, available in Kindle format at Amazon.


Some of these sites are easier than others to navigate around.  I’ve linked to home pages whenever possible so that you can see what’s there.  I’ve used all these sites, so know it is possible to get around if there’s more information there.  If there’s so much information that you don’t know how to find who you’re looking for, try searching with ‘control’ and ‘f’ keys on PCs or ‘command’ and ‘f’ on Macs and type the name or place in the little search box.  At least within the ‘page’, that will find them.

These links are valid as of now, March 2011. (*Checked & updated March 2016.)  They may change or be removed in future.  They’re not my sites so I apologize in advance if problems develop with them.