Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who is Francoise Grenier (Garnier)?

She is among the many “marriageble women” in the colony of New France (1600 - 1650) who’s origins have been generally labelled as “unknown” or “unsubstantiated” and recognized as “Metis” by Historian Dick Garneau. They include Jeanne Du Roucy (Voizy?) wife of Nicolas Pelletier, Francois Tourault wife of Jacque Archambault and Marguarite Langlois wife of Abraham Martin. This discussion addresses what this means historically and genealogically.

The substance of this discussion was gleaned from the internet, and has not been substantially referenced. It is left to readers to do their own internet research and draw their own conclusions.

Descendants of Francoise Grenier have posted on the web that her parents were: Guillaume Grenier and Michelle Marille. This has not been substantiated in official genealogy databases in Quebec. These “official” Quebec sources simply state that her “origin” is “unknown".

From my research, no family member has done any sort of research in France to back up her parental names. These names have simply been provided by several of the Langlois Families on many genealogical websites.

Genealogical historians of Francoise Grenier such as Gagne, Trudel and Auger all show bias! The assumption is that she was one of Robert Gifford’s (New France) recruits on board ship in the spring of 1635. This is a false claim for the following reasons:
  1. No documentation, comment, account, log of events or names in New France archives indicates specifically that Francoise Grenier and Noel Langlois met on board ship. If she were on board, this would  have been very noteworthy and Gifford, if he were a friend of Longlois, would have made some sort of record. Being married in July soon after arriving to New France is not reasonable evidence that the couple knew each other earlier.
  2. Giffard made several voyages to Quebec between 1621 and 1627" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Giffard_de_Monce]. It is likely that Gifford knew Francoise Grenier casually as a child or a young women of 15 in New France before he was captured by the British in 1628. It is also reasonable to say that she would have been given at a young age to people in the colony for upbringing by her Native relatives.
  3. Many indigenous children were trained by “Madame Hebert”, and others, beginning in 1617 and onwards–even during the English occupation of 1629 - 1632. More likely they were of “mixed blood”. All these children had French names or were provided French names as part of their “Frenchification”.
  4. It is unlikely that an acculturated or “Frenchified” child would have been described as “savage” by anyone in the colony, especially Catholic priests, though privately everyone would have been aware of their origin.
  5. Historical sources on the web indicate that Madame Hebert had a household of indigenous children whom she dressed and tutored daily in all aspects of French culture. The girls she taught would never have returned to their families in the bush and would become a “girl of marriageable age” in the colony. It is reasonable to assume that more girls than boys were harboured by Madame Hebert and others.  This outcome would have been very pleasing to Champlain!!
  6. There are two main reasons for the loss of aboriginal identity of the children: One, as previously stated, acculturated children would not be considered or recorded as “savage” and two, church records were destroyed in New France by fire before 1650. The reconstitution of records would have been very difficult and would account for many, many discrepancies.
  7. Since it is factually true that indigenous children were acculturated in the colony, it is reasonable to assume that any adult of “unknown origin” or “unsubstantiated origin” must be included in genealogical records as indigenous until  proven otherwise.
Further, New France historical activity is recorded but records of this traffic were very few:
  1. New France inhabitants traveled by cargo ships to and from France continuously over the years starting from 1608. Many people in the early 1600's were aboriginal or mixed blood "Metis" residents who embarked or disembarked ships as they anchored off the settlement of New France.
  2. Some indigenous and certainly the mixed blood people were included in the deportation of New France residence by the British in 1629. Many returned after 1632, some much later, after France regained the settlement.
  3. European women and children were significantly absent on records preceding 1629--though the men who came from France were significantly recorded from the very beginning. When it was indeed significant, such as the arrival of Mrs Hebert and her husband and family in 1617,  such traffic was recorded. Since new potential wives were absolutely important to a majority male colony in the early days, one could ask why were they not clearly recognized in ships logs etc.?
  4. Champlain, in a discussion with an aboriginal chief, stated that it was his desire to have their two cultures mixed together to make a hardy new assimilated people for New France. That was before he later discovered that young Frenchman in the much restricted French culture tended to assimilate with the unrestricted culture of North American native population. Natives were not fully assimilated into French culture as Chaplain predicted.
  5. The New France migration of Native/Metis families back to France in 1629-1632 introduced the   likelihood that some of the males and females may have married into the French population of France and even had children there before they returned to New France. The implications are substantial! Even professional genealogists can't duck this possibility---they can only hide behind their statistical screen!
Modern family DNA testing for Francoise Grenier, as were many others with "unknown" origins, has been made by several direct matrilineal descendants that indicates she is classified in the European Haplogroup of “J”. Formal native markers were not found. This, however is not conclusive evidence disqualifying Native origins: Over many family generations grandmothers may have been adoptees into the family, thus terminating previous native markers. DNA testing of Francoise Grenier herself (not possible now) would be the only way to fully substantiate her suggested origin. 

In addition, the history of Canada virtually makes DNA unusable as a testament of implicit origin. Visitors to the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, and maybe other locations in the Maritimes  archaeologically   places Europeans settlements and temporary villages in Canada from 700 to 1000 years ago. The Vikings and their families settled on the shores of Newfoundland. European fishing ships frequented the upper St. Lawrence and Labrador coast in the summer months before 1400. Temporary villages were set up along the shoreline for processing. It is likely that some villages were occupied for at least two seasons. While historians agree that the Vikings had their families with them, there is no reason to doubt that European fishing ships did not have some families on board in it's yearly voyages to Canadian shores. The implications of these facts in our history tell us that we cannot discount the possibility of more recent mtDNA (European female DNA) introduced into the indigenous population. Metis (French and Native) people, as well as many Natives who met the French for the first time, carried both European and Native markers in their respective populations but only one (or the other) marker can be observed with present DNA testing---not both. Virtually half the population could be Metis but testing will not find Native markers. For these reasons DNA is ruled out as an acceptable proof of origin for those  in the colony whose origin is "unknown"

  • Update:  November 30, 2013. A new DNA test called an "autosomal" test now uses thousands of snp markers of all ancestral grandparents to determine a "percentage" of Aboriginal ancestry. Some only report 2% or higher. This can only get better over time as more markers are found! 

The onus has been placed on readers to accept or reject this conclusion and, if rejected, to substantiate an alternative interpretation with documentation such as church baptismal records or an alternatively plausible theory.

Roland E. Belanger BA. BEd. 

Conclusion concerning Francoise Grenier by Luc Lacroix, Aboriginal Genealogist.  Here is a copy of his report (generally circulated on the web):

UPDATE SEPT 26, 2014
From  Judith Pidgeon-Kukowski, Wyandot Nation (Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Records) for Beaumont Quebec, La Nativite; de Notre Dame, 1688 page 3)

I recently received an email from Judith Pidgeon-Kukowski, Wyandot Nation, who has provided information that lends a great deal of credence to Francoise Grenier’s aboriginal origin!

I believe that there is now sufficient evidence to verify that Francoise Grenier (of unknown origin) was indigenous and of Algonquin Stock (using, of course, family oral tradition for this specific origin)

Here is a link with other supporting documents:
http://www.lardie.behindnelliesclock.com/francoise_grenier.htm (website of Peggy large)

(I have made backup copies of these documents in the event that this link is lost)

Essentially these documents verify the findings of Luc Lacroix (document provided above)! Arguments by some genealogists that Jean, (grandson to Francoise Grenier and Noel Langlois), had a Native mother can’t be substantiated, especially when one reads his baptismal record 15 Jul 1688 provided above.  The following finds his mother being traced back to France: http://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/GenealogieQuebec.aspx?pid=1016   This leaves only his father Noel (jr) whose parents are Noel (Sr) and Francoise Grenier. And, yes, for those who are ney sayers, please by all means try to find another Jean Langlois that fits the land grant document in which a Jesuit states that Jean is an “Indian”!

In addition, I have sufficient doubt that Noel is fully French. I suspect that he is Innu (Montagnais) mixed blood. PRDH are negligent in documenting his birth in France approximately 1605, (St-Leonard-des-Parcs, Alencon, Normandy) They cannot substantiate this. The only database that has credence for the origin of Noel Langlois is fichierorigine in Quebec! They do not list any individual unless there is proof of origin.

It is far more likely that Noel originally came from New France, migrating to France in 1629 (with the English occupation) then returned later after 1632 when France regained control. Noel's parents that are listed cannot be verified either. Please by all means prove me wrong! His birthdate would be, more correctly, about 1610-1611 in New France. He would be 6 to 7 years of age when given to Marie Rollet to be educated.

With both parents, Noel (Sr) and Francoise, having native physical features their grandson would, indeed, also have Native features identified by a Jesuit priest in the land grant in question.

Roland Belanger BA BEd, Elder Montagnais Metis First Nation