“This is an overwhelming experience — here’s this community [of Acadians] that is literally building itself from all corners of the world — it’s as if there were all of these related genomes rushing at each other at once trying to reconstitute!” Marie A. Rundquist, March 2006.
In October of 2005, my maternal ancestry, starting with my mother Nancy, and continuing with my Grandmother, Asselia, became extremely significant to me; this was the month that I received my mitochondrial DNA, (abbreviated as MtDNA,) test results from the National Geographic’s Genographic Project.
In July of that year, after watching an intriguing documentary about how a Dr. Spencer Wells of the National Geographic was researching how we all are connected back to our ancient ancestral origins through MtDNA or through y-chromosome testing, I logged on to the National Geographic website and ordered my MtDNA test kit. As a participant in this study, I had vigorously scraped the inside of my cheek with cotton swabs twice, once in the morning, and another time at night, sealing the swabs into two numerically encoded vials. I then completed a “consent form”, specifying that I was a female, placed the two numerically encoded vials that now held my DNA information into a puffy shipping envelope, and mailed them, anonymously, back to the National Geographic, wondering what the National Geographic would learn about my “ancient ancestral origins.”
As part of participating in the National Geographic project, I’ve learned that your MtDNA is passed within your maternal ancestral line unchanged from generation to generation. Envision your MtDNA as a genetic baton that your mother passed to you, that your mother’s mother passed to her, that her grandmother passed to her mother, and so on and so on, and you have the picture. The significance of MtDNA is that it can be used not only to trace our genetic ancestry, but it may also be used to trace the migratory patterns of our most ancient ancestors. The National Geographic Genographic Project, has, in fact, charted the migrations of our ancient ancestors all across the World, and continues to add new information as more individuals are tested in this program.
I know from my grandmother’s extensive genealogical research, that I am of English and Norman ancestry (through my Beville ancestors), of Swiss ancestry (through my Great Grandfather’s paternal ancestors, the Strobhars,) and I was certainly aware of my French ancestral history (through my Great Grandmother, Asselia Gaschet de Lisle Strobhars’s family line). The beautiful French names that you find in the tales of Asselia Strobhar’s family recounted in Pioneering in America with the Beville Family lead you from her childhood home in New Orleans, back to her grandfather’s home on the Isle of Martinique, and finally, with the story of Joseph Gaschet de Lisle, to the Gaschet’s ancestral home in Bordeaux, France. My father’s very British family history is clearly traceable for 300 years on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, starting with the arrival of Alexander Brown of Glasgow, in Jamestown, Virginia, from England, in approximately 1640.
What I did not know, and it is what my National Geographic MtDNA test result told me: that – based on my specific genetic mutations – (also referred to as a “markers” – that genetic characteristic which identifies them within populations and provides geneticists with an accurate method of tracking a people’s migratory history) – I could be assured that my maternal ancestors, which I inherited from with my own mother, Nancy, were directly traceable to the Aboriginal peoples who had originally settled North America, specifically those tribes that crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia into the Arctic and Sub-arctic regions of North America. Their descendents number among the Aleut, Inuit, and the Native American Indian populations of North America.
You can imagine my confusion. I nearly “fell out of my chair” as I read my MtDNA test results online, and followed the path of my ancestors, as shown on a map, across the plains of Central Asia, and upward through the Bering Strait into the Aleutian Islands and the Arctic Circle regions of Alaska and eastward into Northern Canada. I looked at the photographs of the Chuchki, Inuit and Aleutian people whom I found online; the tiny people with their distinctively Asian features bore little resemblance to the photographs of my Grandmother’s maternal ancestors (all women of French descent), and, as I am 6’2″ tall, I’d have to say, very little resemblance to me. I could not imagine striding into an Aleutian village in Northern Alaska and having anyone recognize me (or claim me) as a long-lost family member. This was a mystery to me, in perhaps the truest (and most unfathomable) sense of the word.
After I told husband Ed and my son Paul, about my “ancient ancestral origins” which the National Geographic had found, describing how my MtDNA test results showed that I was descended from the same group as the Inuits and the Aleuts, and how my ancient ancestors followed the herds from Siberia across the Bering Strait to North America, I called my mother and father, Frank and Nancy Pierce, and repeated my story. They were as perplexed as I was about our new-found ancestral history, and could not explain the results I had received from the National Geographic. I asked my mother what she knew about my Grandmother Asselia’s maternal line, as the only information that I had was that Asselia’s mother, Asselia Gaschet de Lisle, was from a well-established French family. My mother couldn’t immediately respond to my questions. However, she recalled that she did have a file, which my Grandmother Asselia had passed along to her before she died, which may hold the clues I was looking for. She promised to locate the file, and, reminding me that I was Celtic, hung up the phone.
So, without any further information to go on, but not about to let the absence of facts stand in the way of perfectly good information, I began to hunt for clues about my Native American ancestry using the best hunting tool around, my computer.
I began my journey, where I started, on my computer, at the National Geographic Genographic Project website. I typed in my unique identification number, that the National Geographic had issued me when I applied to participate in the project, entered the site, and studied my results. I reviewed my mutations: 16111T, 16192T, 16223T, 16290T, 16319A, 16362C, which identified me as a member of the MtDNA Haplogroup “A.” National Geographic presents you with an opportunity to share your mtDNA test results with others with similar markers; I checked the box authorizing National Geographic to pass my results along to the FamilyTreeDNA website. A few clicks later, my results had been made public; the world would know who I was and where I came from!
When I arrived at the FamilyTreeDNA website, after giving permission to FamilyTreeDNA to share my test results with others, I was prompted to enter everything I was willing to share about my earliest female ancestor, her name, for example, where she was from, her known port of departure from her country of origin and her known port of arrival into the United States. By establishing this base of family line information, I was helping the FamilyTreeDNA organization assist others who shared the same DNA test results determine common surnames and locations in their own family histories, possibly enabling the discovery of previously unknown family connections.
I had not read Asselia’s book, “Pioneering in America with the Beville Family” in detail (looking at the pictures doesn’t count). I did however know about my Great Grandmother Asselia Gaschet de Lisle Strobhar from my Grandmother’s stories, so I entered what I knew of her. When pressed for my great grandmother’s country of origin, remembering my Grandmother’s enthusiasm about her own French ancestry, I entered “France” and saved what little information I had entered to the FamilyTreeDNA MtDNA test result database.
As I studied the information provided on the FamilyTreeDNA site, and learned more about the genetic characteristics of Haplogroup A and the Native American population that shared this group of genetic mutations with me, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable about Asselia Gaschet de Lisle Strobhar’s, and likewise my Grandmother’s, my Mother’s, and my own French lineage. It simply did not make sense to me that my maternal ancestors would not have come from France or at least, another European country; I could not see how any of us would have been of Native American Indian descent. When I had enrolled in the National Geographic Genographic project and had sent in my $99.00 check to have my MtDNA evaluated to find my “ancient family origins,” I had expected my results to be un-dramatic, to identify me, for example, with other people of French and English descent, as this was my known family history. Although my Grandmother was born in Biloxi, MS, and raised in New Orleans, she had emphatically denied any Cajun associations when I had asked her about it in passing — so much so, that I never asked her about any Cajun people in our family again! I wondered if anyone else was as confused about their MtDNA test results as I was with mine. I decided to find out.
The FamilyTreeDNA website has a “matching” service available as well – not to pair you with your perfect romantic mate – but rather to group you with others who have had their DNA tested, for the purpose of sharing and discovering common family information. As a female, I can only have my MtDNA tested; I cannot discover, through my own DNA testing, anything about my father’s ancient genetic origins as I do not have, or share, his “Y” DNA. (At my instigation, he has done so and as a descendant of the Cro-Magnon people, he had no surprises.) However, a male may choose to find out about both his father’s and his mother’s ancient genetic lineage, and have both his “Y” and his MtDNA tested. When I’ve looked for individuals whose MtDNA test results match mine, I’ve found that, albeit few and far between, there have been both men and women who have my exact mutation string and they are as interested in discovering their family backgrounds as I am in mine.
I began researching the biographical information posted by various of my “MtDNA cousins” online, in the FamilyTreeDNA, Mitosearch.org, and other related MtDNA test result databases. Again and again, I found references to the term “Native American,” and family histories that pointed to a Canadian origin. Other than my Grandmother Asselia’s salute to her grandfather’s “well-known and large Gosselin” family” of Quebec that is noted on page 7-44 of Pioneering in America with the Beville Family, I had no other clues as to a possible Canadian connection from my Grandmother’s maternal line. Indeed, it appeared that Asselia’s maternal line had to be from France – as there was simply no evidence to the contrary in any of her published works.
I began searching for information on Native American peoples in Canada, attempting to gather some perspective on how Canadians and Indians related to me, or, barring that, to my Grandmother, who thought of herself as a person of “French descent.” As I sifted through the Internet, looking for information about Canada’s “First Nation”, I began to find references to the term “Metis” or “Metisse.” I had never heard the term before. I hopped onto a few Metis sites on the web, and very quickly I learned that “Metis” is a term that describes a Canadian (or North American) person of mixed French and Indian origins – and also indicates an Aboriginal line of descent. For many who are of “Metis” background, the story of their Native ancestry began at least twelve generations ago, when a French settler married a Native American woman (typical of the marriages that occurred in Nova Scotia during the early habitation by the French).
Finding little to help me resolve my newly discovered Native American ancestry, with what I was learning about the Metis in Canada, and what I knew of my French family lines on my mother’s side, I pulled out my copy of “Pioneering with the Bevilles in America” from my china closet and turned to page 7-44, where my Grandmother Asselia’s New Orleans story begins.
On page 7-44 of Pioneering in America with the Beville Family, the author, Asselia S. Lichliter, tells us about her own grandmother, Annais de Gosselin, stating “Your author has not done research in depth in Canada on the well known and large de Gosselin family,” but she tells us that “Her family had plantations on the Red River in Louisisana, where her father had moved from Quebec Canada.”
This one brief paragraph written by my Grandmother about Annais de Gosselin, along with a single photograph, and a caption describing her only as the “wife of Charles Gaschet de Lisle, Captain of Engineers, CSA” were the only clues available to me when I set out to discover my maternal ancestry. Following this single, fragile thread of information, I began to look for the facts regarding this hidden family line.
I consulted the Internet, and found that by searching for variations on the name Anais (the correct spelling) and Gaschet, her married name, I was able to retrieve some initial proof of Anais’ married relationship with her husband Charles, her petition for a Confederate military pension, and documentation of the date of her death. I also found interesting information about her father, Simon Gosselin ( the correct name, not de Gosselin) – that he was part of a “Police Jury,” and that there were several recorded transactions for home purchases in the name of Simon Gosselin. He was clearly a man of means and well documented for his day. However, what I could not find were any records of Simon’s marriage to Anais’ mother, nor could I find her name. I had reached, what genealogists will call, “a brick wall.”
The wall began to crumble, brick by brick, when my mother, Nancy, located my Grandmother Asselia’s “Gosselin File” – a sheaf of papers that traced my Grandmother Asselia’s own personal research into her maternal line. As my mother read my Grandmother Asselia’s family history, over the phone, and later as I studied her hand-written notes, I learned of her hidden pedigree. Asselia’s was a classically Cajun ancestry going back several generations in Louisiana – her own notes concluding with the birth of her Great Great Great Grandmother, Angelique David, to her mother Genevieve in Maryland. Chills ran up and down my spine. I closed my Grandmother’s book about pioneering with the Bevilles, realizing that with this new branch of our family, heretofore undiscovered, our family’s pioneering had gone wild! How I came to be looking at this file, with family names that were never mentioned in any of Asselia’s written family histories, was part of a mystery that I now felt I had to solve.
I reached into her “Gosselin file” and pulled out a photo-copy of a bona fide Louisiana marriage contract. I can imagine my Grandmother Asselia standing over a file drawer at a Parish courthouse, file in hand, pouring over the terms of her Great- Grandmother Harriet’s marriage contract to Simon Gosselin, the blond hair on the back of her neck standing on end. Locate Anais’ Gosselin Gaschet de Lisle’s photograph on page 7-44 of Pioneering in America with the Beville family; notice a woman of advanced years, a hint of a smile playing on her rather plump, attractive face. Now, look closely at Anais’ photograph; you’ll spot a definite twinkle in her dark eyes. I can only imagine that growing up in the Gosselin household of the mid 1800’s contributed substantially to that twinkle.
The marriage contract written between Anais’ parents “Miss Harriet Denell” and Simon Gosselin, “on this tenth day of January, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifty three” provides a snapshot of the family’s mad existence. It appears that the two were simply too busy having children to find time to get married; in fact, the marriage ceremony was performed on a more or less “ex post facto” basis, if only to legitimate, retro-actively, the births of the eight children they had together prior to the date they decided to tie the knot. “Article the Sixth,” found on page 2 of a contract that labors over, in a pre-nuptial vein, the absolute lack of responsibility each has for the other party’s possessions and debts prior to the marriage, tells the tale:
“The said intended husband and wife hereby acknowledge for their children, Samual Gosselin born September 8th 1838, Julius Gosselin born January 26th 1840, Mary Anais Gosselin born March 21st 1842. Martial Gosselin born March 25th 1844, Alfred Gosselin born February 26th 1846. Ann Eliska Gosselin born April 10 1848, Magdelene Ophelia Gosselin born April 5th, 1850. Octavia Gosselin born October 11th 1852, and desire and understand that said children be legitimated by the subsequent marriage of the aforenamed parties, and that they shall enjoy the same rights and privileges as if born during the marriage of the aforesaid parties.”
Simon and Harriet Gosselin’s “Grand Experiment,” if indeed there was one, was rendered obsolete by society and the passage of time, and as their first daughter, my Grandmother’s Grandmother Anais, teetered on the brink of pre-adolescence, her elder brothers approaching marriage-age, pragmatism and good sense ruled the day, any religious or other differences were put aside, and the marriage, now sealed by the State of Louisiana, was never put asunder.
On record as present at the Gosselin’s long-overdue marriage celebration were Mr. John J. Mortee (the marriage recorder), “[illegible].E. Lavine,” “P.C. Gosselin,” and “P. Gosselin.” All of the above names were recorded in the same hand. Based on the circumstances of the marriage, one of the witnesses in particular, the “[illegible]. E. Lavine,” had to be incredibly relieved – as she was most probably Celeste E. Lavigne, Harriet’s mother, who had waited thirty- seven years, through the birth of eight grandchildren, to see her daughter finally marry. Celeste would die five years later content in the knowledge that her grandchildren were truly legitimate in the eyes of God, Samuel B. Hall (the Presbyterian Minister of the Gospel called upon to perform the ceremony), and the State of Louisiana, and that each would therefore have the opportunity to marry well.
The article, “Lee’s Landing (or Lea’s Landing), Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana Submitted to the USGenWeb Archives by Robert Vernon, Nov., 2000,” relates the story of how Lee’s Landing was originally named. For me, the subtext of this story proved more fascinating. You’ll find out why when you read the article as I did (cited below):
About seven miles east of Ponchatoula on Highway 22 are a sawmill and a store. Here, on the south side of the highway is a sign which marks the Lee’s Landing Road. Down this road three miles from the store, there is a boat landing on the Tangipahoa River which was originally Lee’s Landing. Today the Lee’s Landing community is generally defined as the area within two miles in all directions east from the original landing. The first land owner in the area was Jean Batiste Denelle, who married Mary Elizabeth Ouvre. They owned two sections of land situated in St. Tammany Parish on the east bank of the Tangipahoa River. Shortly before Lavigne died, Mary Elizabeth Ouvre Denelle Lavigne sold in 1838 the bottom section of land to Alexander Lea, the logger who married Mary May. Since Lea’s logs were ramped at his landing before being taken to the mouth of the Tangipahoa River, the place came to be called Lea’s Landing. The belief that the landing was named for General Robert E. Lee is without foundation.
The original sign designating the community read “Lea Landing.” The present sign reads “Lee’s.” Perhaps the next sign will read “Lea’s Landing.”
Note: Mary Elizabeth Ouvre Denelle m. Antoine Lavigne 11 Sep 1819. Antoine died 13 Nov 1839.”
On the marriage contract of Harriet Denelle, and her husband Simon Gosselin, Samuel Gosselin, their first baby boy, is listed as born September 8th, 1838. Throughout history, parents, especially mothers, always want to help their children get off to a good start – and Mrs. Lavigne’s intentions were probably no different. The timing of the sale was significant, I believe, as the proceeds from the sale of her first husband’s property in 1838 would have been a timely gift for Mrs. Lavigne to make to her daughter as she ventured into motherhood and may have provided a financial boost for Simon Gosselin’s other property and business investments, which included a sawmill, documented in my Grandmother’s hand-written notes as “close to the Tangipahoa River.” The mention of the second husband, Antoine, whom Mary Elizabeth Ouvre Denelle (aka Celeste Oubre Denelle) married after the death of Jean Baptiste Denelle, explained the layout of tombstones in the Jean Baptiste Dinelle family graveyard. Mr. J.B. Denelle and the widowed Mrs. Lavigne’s names are appropriately paired for eternity in the Collins cemetery, as documented in the reference, “Collins Cemetery, Tangipahoa Parish, LA Submitted to the USGenWeb Archives by Don Johnson, Jan. 2000 for Doris Hoover Johnston Typed by Dr. Belford Carver, January 8, 2000,” (cited below):
“On one stone Jean Battiste Dinelle Benefactor of cemetery Born between 1770-1780 Died 10-1817 Land grand 1805 ne An Canada
Mary Elizabeth Ouvre Dinelle Lavigne 1-12-1788 11-13-1858 ne An St. James Parish”
The complexities of my maternal pedigree are equaled only by the pedigree of the Mary Elizabeth (Celeste) Ouvre’s surname as it relates to the history of the Cajun people in Louisiana. The name “Ouvre” cannot stand alone as a legitimate surname; in fact, it is not; it is a derived name, made up by its owner, which must be paired with the owner’s original surname, Huber, to have a bona fide, traceable context in the world of Cajun geneology.
Mary Elizabeth (Celeste) Ouvre, who would, in 1806 marry plantation-owner Jean Baptiste Denelle, originally of Quebec, was born into the German-Belgian-French-Acadian (let’s just call it “Cajun,” shall we?) world of Louisiana in the late eighteenth century. One such German immigrant family, the Hubers, found much in common with the Hebert and David families, who had arrived in Louisiana aboard ship in the late 1760’s, following a forced exile from their Acadian homes by the British and a twelve-year, interim habitation in Snow Hill, Maryland. In fact, there was so much affinity among the Hubers, Davids, and Heberts of the late eighteenth-century Louisiana that several marriages were recorded among the three during that time frame, including the 1787 marriage of Henrique Houwer (Huber), son of Andre Ouvre (Huber) to Angelique David, the Maryland-born daughter of exiled Acadians Etienne-Michael David and Genevieve Hebert, who would give birth one year later to Mary Elizabeth (Celeste) Ouvre (Huber) in 1788.
Jacob, the Huber family patriarch, and his wife Anne-Barbe Schauffine, arrived in Louisiana, from Germany, in about 1732, according to cited references found on Stephen A. Cormier’s website, “Acadians in Gray” (www.acadiansingray.com c. 2000-2006). By the 1770s, with the sons and grandsons of the Jacob Hubers, including Henrique’s father Andre, now fully integrated into Louisiana French- Acadian society, the recorded Huber family surname evolved into the more “French-sounding” derivation, Ouvre, with the initial “H” being silent (`oover). In subsequent generations, other Huber family surnames would proliferate among the Huber family descendants, including Houwer, Oubre, and the almost authentic American surname, “Hoover.” The gradual Americanization of the original Huber surname that occurred over several generations of Hubers in Louisiana adds to the general mystique (and difficulties in tracing descendants) of one of Louisiana’s pre-eminent founding German immigrant families, and keeps Oubre – Ouvre -Hoover family historians, and Stephen A. Cormier, solidly employed.
Along with the pivotal marriage record of Simon Gosselin and Harriet Denelle, my Grandmother’s ” Gosselin File” also contained her own, hand-written pedigree of her maternal ancestry, with notes. At this juncture, we MUST give credit to Lorraine Gosselin Harrison. She and other Gosselin family members compiled the entire document to define the descent of the Gosselins of Quebec. Asselia perhaps never even read the file. It was mailed to her by Lorraine, probably after Pioneering was completed.
Unknowingly, my Grandmother Asselia, by assembling the “Gosselin File”, prepared the way for me, more than ten years after her death, to begin my own search of my maternal line. My Grandmother Asselia’s research ends, along with her hand-written notes, in Maryland, with the birth of Angelique David in Maryland in 1765 to her parents, listed in my Grandmother Asselia’s notes as Genevieve Hebert and Michel David. Being a life-long Marylander, my interest was piqued as to why they had settled in my State – but after Genevieve and Michel’s names, all I saw was blank paper -I saw no more of my Grandmother Asselia’s hand-written notes that would have explained how or why these two individuals of obvious French ancestry, based on the surnames of their descendents, would have found themselves living in Maryland. At the time of my initial research into my maternal line, I knew little about Acadians and even less of their history. What my Grandmother Asselia did provide me, however sketchy her notes, was the lynch-pin of our Acadian ancestry, the fulcrum on which our Acadian past balanced with our present lives in the United States, the name of Genevieve Hebert, the daughter of Acadians Marguerite Gautrot and Michel Hebert of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.
My search for the marriage and children of Michel David and Genevieve Hebert yielded stories of forced exile, loss, and desperation, at once sad, horrific, tragic, and unexpected. Family names were no longer verified by researching the burgeoning census and birth records of Louisiana; instead, the family names of our ancestors appear, in long lists, on the registries of sailing vessels. Carrying the few possessions they were allowed to take with them in their hands, our early Acadian families, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and their many children crammed themselves on board these sailing vessels, destined for points south and across the Atlantic -after the British showed them a very hostile way out the door of their Acadian home in 1755. Genevieve Hebert and her husband, Etienne- Michel David, their children, relatives, and friends who were exiled from their home in Acadia to a temporary refuge in Snow Hill, Maryland survived the trip (reference, “Arrival of the Acadians in Maryland,” by Robert Dafford) and were therefore considered fortunate; others were exiled to France, and often died en route. Genevieve Hebert’s Acadian father Michel Hebert, for example, had re-married after the death of her mother, Marguerite Gautrot. He and his second family were exiled to France; Michel Hebert died at Sea. There were stories of exiled young children, toddlers, who, separated from parents who had died at Sea en route from Acadia to France, wandered hand-inhand into French hospitals after disembarking from their ships, only to die in their hospital beds weeks later. Published, first-hand accounts of this time in our history can be read – but how could they have been lived? Imagine your Acadian ancestors, family-oriented people of the highest integrity and honesty, who knew (and wanted) nothing more than productive lives as farmers and trades people – wrenched by the British from their lands, livestock, and businesses they had tended and managed with their own hands, their little children in tow, crammed together aboard ships, never to see their homes again. The heart-sickening trauma and devastation experienced by the Acadian families during their forced exile by the British, described in first-hand accounts, can be compared only to those reported by the German Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust.
Disembarked in Snow Hill, a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (the Free State), Genevieve and her husband Michel David, their family and neighbors, would contemplate their future. All possessions lost, their lands, livestock, and their homes stolen out from under them by British scoundrels of the highest order on whom History has spared no damnation, the exiled Acadians first thanked God for sparing theirs and their children’s lives. Genevieve, who had already lost her mother, would never see her father, Michel Hebert, who had died at Sea, again. But time was precious, and the couple could not afford the high price of grief; Michel and Genevieve had many children to feed, with many more promising to be on the way. Michel and Genevieve would rebuild their lives, and ten years later, after the birth of their daughter, Angelique, they, with other exiled Acadians, willingly boarded another sailing vessel, this time to leave Maryland’s Eastern Shore, their final destination a friendly French territory down south in Louisiana.
Genevieve Hebert carried my MtDNA from Acadia to the United States, unchanged. Her MtDNA had been the same MtDNA carried by her maternal ancestors before her – back to an earlier time, when we were “Pioneering with our Acadian Ancestors,” to coin my Grandmother Asselia’s phrase. My search for Anne Marie, and my Aboriginal ancestry was almost thwarted by another Genevieve Hebert who threatened to unravel the delicate MtDNA thread that I was so meticulously following from the United States back into our Acadian history in Nova Scotia. Genevieve S. Hebert (aka Genevieve Salomee Hebert) appears numerous times in Acadian records, as you’ll find should you wish to re-trace my steps on your own. Her lineage is deceptively similar to that of our Genevieve Hebert; and although I’m certain that she was from a fine family, Genevieve Salomee Hebert does not belong in our family tree. Do not follow her path; her lines are not ours!
My stomach knows that something isn’t quite right long before my brain gets the message; when my stomach analyzed the line I had traced back from Genevieve Salomee Hebert back to an Aboriginal maternal ancestor who had married a French settler, it reported that we were suspicious of this information; we had little confidence in its credibility, it was of poor quality – all of the things you want to hear from your stomach. Indeed, my stomach would not let my research (nor me) rest. After about two weeks of incessant nagging from my intestinal quarters on this matter, I awoke early one morning, advanced to my computer, and searched again, this time prodding the computer with complex search techniques that caused my high-speed CPU to labor, my fingers to ache from typing and my eyes to burn from staring at the screen. Pounding query after query into my keyboard, I reviewed scores of “hits”, refining my searches until I found gold – Genevieve Hebert’s and David Michel’s marriage record linking the right Genevieve Hebert decisively back into to my Acadian maternal ancestral line. My stomach told me that I could now pick up the thread and continue my journey back into my ancestral past. When you study the same record that I found, I’m sure your stomach will feel better too:
“Genevieve Hebert, daughter Marguerite Gautrot, m. Michel David 1/20/1744
I checked and double-checked my facts, and found multiple instances of the same marriage record appearing on an Acadian family geneology website, http://www.acadian-cajun.com ultimately finding a reference to the marriage as it was documented in Grand Pre Church Records of that period. Of course, like anything, once you solve a problem, it’s easy to solve the same problem again; but finding the right answer to begin with – that’s the trick!
From Genevieve Hebert, I followed my MtDNA thread back to her mother, Marguerite Gautrot, daughter of Francoise Rimbault. Referencing the family records reported on the www.acadiancajun. com website, I found that Marguerite married Michel Hebert, son of Michel Hebert (the 1st) and Elizabeth Pellerin) in Grand Pre in 1726. The Hebert name is legendary in early Acadian history, beginning with the arrival of Etienne and Antoine Hebert in Acadia, in approximately the 1640’s, from who knows where (was it France)? Indeed, the absence of information about the Hebert brothers’ origins is as legendary as the two brothers themselves. It’s amazing to consider that the original Hebert brothers, Antoine and Etienne, who were the starting point of so many illustrious and colorful family lines that wind their way through Acadian-Cajun families all over the United States and Canada, had in fact no pedigree. So was the nature of the New World – for many it was a new start, and for the Hebert brothers, perhaps a new identity as well. Genevieve Hebert inherited her ambiguous identity from her father, Michel, who was descended from Etienne, winding his strand among those contributed by her mother, into her family line. Her ancestral heritage was not untypical of other Acadians, the majority of whom were “Metisse” – a self- sufficient, articulate, and talented people who resulted from the marriages of their newly-arrived European settler and native Mi’kmaq (Pronounced “Mic-Mac”) parents.
From the early days of Acadian history, the Metisse, with their lively fiddle music and their Native traditions and customs, were the heart and soul of Acadian society, and their hard work and industry drove the region to prosper, which ultimately caused the British to covet their lands to such a degree as to wage war and as victor, drive Genevieve Hebert, her husband and children, their neighbors, family and friends, out of Acadia and into a forced exile. Genevieve Hebert’s maternal grandparents, Charles Gautrot and Francoise Rimbault, married in 1685 in see referenced website )Grand Pre, were a typical Metisse couple, each having a French/European father; Francoise Rimbault’s mother and Charles Gautrot’s grandmother were both American Indian.
(Note: A U6a genetic test result has been found for a participant who reports to be a descendent of Edmee LeJeune. 12/08/2006.
But, as Genevieve Hebert’s parents and grandparents discovered, for a French/European settler in the New World, the path to success was shared with the Mi’kmaq natives of the area – in matters of trade, economics, and agriculture. Indeed, the inter-family relationships that grew among the European/French and the Mi’kmaq natives who intermarried with amazing rapidity, became so strong as to obscure where the French part of the family ended and the Mi’kmaq part began, causing many of the children of these blended, “Metisse” marriages to take leave of the census and take up life with their Mi’kmaq cousins entirely. (That was a census joke – sorry, but it showed up, was appropriate, and I’m going to allow it to remain in my story).
Spiritually, the Acadians were tightly bound to the Catholic Church. Based on my very recent, non-scholarly impressions of Acadian history, I believe the Catholic Church played a large role in solidifying and “Catholicizing” the newly forming Acadian society, ensuring that all new Acadian babies were baptized in the Church, including those born of Native marriages, as well as those of Metisse and French/European parents. If a couple wished to marry, regardless of their pedigree, it appeared to me that a Catholic Priest was more than happy to officiate at the wedding ceremony. I’m sure that when called upon to report, any Catholic priest in the area at the time would have been on very solid footing in stating that there were no non-Catholics in the vicinity of Acadia, or its environs, thus quelling any need for further investigation by outside Church officials.
In studying the early Acadian census reports now documented on various Acadian websites, searching primarily for evidence of my own ancestors’ census data, I’ve noted that from census to census, there was a seemingly logarithmic increase in numbers of children born to and numbers of livestock acquired by the farmers and laborers who made up the mix of the Acadian population. The Acadian economy and the Acadian population were indeed booming. Most significant to our Acadian ancestry, was the relative fecundity of the Rimbault, Gautrot, Hebert, and David families, with an honorable mention going to my own great-great-great-great grandmother, Harriet Denelle of Louisiana who didn’t stand on ceremony, but instead forged ahead, giving birth to her eight children in advance of an official marriage certificate. In each family mentioned, numbers of offspring, and the duration of what is considered a normal, child-bearing lifespan, exceed all notions of what is “average” for a modern woman. As I counted the numbers of children had by my maternal ancestors, and considered their relative ages, it dawned on me that my maternal ancestors were truly Olympiads in the realm of obstetrics. If the dates and ages on record were correct, my maternal ancestors produced babies every few years, from their early marriages at eighteen and twenty, continuing well beyond the fragile age of forty and remaining active in this sense until their late forties, or perhaps early fifties. My ancestors’ reproductive success and the health of their offspring factored significantly in my being able to trace my maternal line back twelve generations – ending my search with Anne Marie, unable to proceed any further in my search, as Anne Marie’s parentage was not a matter of public record.
Part Ten: Anne-Marie (?)
The question mark following my maternal ancestor Anne-Marie’s name is no accident in punctuation; it is, however, a marker, or as some may interpret it, a stigma; either way, the question mark, as it appears after Anne-Marie’s name, indicates that Anne-Marie, wife of Rene Rimbault originally of France, had no surname (reference: http://www.leveillee.net/ancestry/d737.htm). Without a surname, Anne-Marie had no French/European heritage of her own to claim for her descendents. In the mid 1650’s, Anne-Marie married her second husband Rene Rimbault, her first husband, another French settler, having died, leaving her the widowed mother of a baby son, Phillippe Pinet. In her second marriage to Rene, Anne-Marie once again took her husband’s surname, appending Rene’s name to hers, obscuring her lack of documented pedigree behind the name “Rimbault.”
As often as Anne-Marie is characterized as “Metisse” by researchers, she is also branded “Mi’kmaq.” At once, Anne-Marie is settled into the relative obscurity of the “UNKNOWN,” and then she is thought to be “Aboriginal”. On the pre-eminent Acadian website, “http://www.acadian-home.org/frames.html,” site owner Lucie LeBlanc Consentino has lately advanced Anne-Marie to the status of “Unknown Origin – Probably or Possibly Native(with updates pending),” in reporting her marriage to Rene Rimbault.
For Anne-Marie’s descendants, now living throughout the Maritime regions of Nova Scotia, and in the United States, her inconsistently reported status proves confusing and frustrating. By all accounts, Anne-Marie is an Aboriginal, a true “Native” of the area, who, like other Mi’kmaq women, had married a French/European settler, newly arrived in Port Royal, single, without a French wife in tow.
I remain confident of Anne-Marie’s “First Nation” ancestry, and encourage others to feel the same way as I do. My journey started when I received my “Haplogroup A,” Native American” MtDNA test result, and continued as I traveled time, exploring each consecutive generation, until I had traced my MtDNA thread back to my earliest maternal ancestor, who is, without a doubt, Anne-Marie. The twelve generations that I explored on my quest for Anne-Marie are unique portals – views into the lives of my maternal ancestors. Other descendants of Anne-Marie are investigating these portals as well, exploring their own family histories, intertwined, yet separate from mine. I know that my newly discovered ancestors have only begun to tell their stories-and I will have to visit them again to hear more. Anne-Marie’s Amerindian story is but one in the (until now) hidden history of our Acadian ancestors; but to really “find” Anne-Marie, I must explore my new-found family roots further, learn more about Acadian and Louisiana history and discover the roles which Anne-Marie and other Native American Indians of her time had in the shaping of the New World. Marie Asselia Rundquist’s Maternal Ancestral Line
Notes: Detailed Record of Marriages Chronicled in Finding Anne- Marie
First Generation: Marie Asselia Rundquist, daughter, Nancy Beville Pierce married Edward Nowicki, January 19, 1997, in Rockville, Maryland.
Second Generation: Nancy Bevill Poore, daughter Asselia Strobhar Lichliter, married Frank H. Pierce III, December 21, 1952, in Washington, D.C.
Third Generation: Asselia Strobhar, daughter of Marie Asselia Gashet d’Lisle, married Emery Bruce Poore, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan.
Fourth Generation: Marie Asselia Gaschet d’Lisle, daughter of Marie Anais Gosselin, married Cecil Strobhar, 1906, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Fifth Generation: Marie Anais Gosselin, daughter of Harriet Denelle, married Charles Gaschet d’Lisle, about 1867, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Sixth Generation: Harriet Denelle, daughter of Celeste Mary Elizabeth Ouvre (aka Oubre, Hoover) married Simon Gosselin on 10 January, 1853, according to St. Tammany marriage records, File 2.
Seventh Generation: (Celeste) Mary Elizabeth Ouvre (aka Oubre, Hoover), daughter of Angelique David, married Jean Baptiste Ginel-Denelle, July 22, 1806 in St James Church, St James Parish, Louisiana.
(Celeste) Mary Elizabeth Ouvre Denelle married Antoine Lavigne, 11 Sep 1819.
Eighth Generation: Angelique David, daughter of Genevieve Hebert, married Henri Francois Houwer (Ouvre), September 24, 1787, in St. James Parish, Louisiana.
Ninth Generation: Genevieve Hebert, daughter Marguerite Gautrot, married Michel David, 1/20/1744, Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. Source: Parish Registers for Grand-Pre.
Tenth Generation: Marguerite Gautrot, daughter of Francoise Rimbaux, married Michel Hebert, 8 May 1726, in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. Source: Dictionnaire genealogique des familles acadiennes by Stephen A. White, published 1999, page 696 #5i
Eleventh Generation: Francoise Rimbault (Rimbeaux, Rimbaut, Raimbault), daughter of Anne Marie, married Charles Gautreaux (Gautrot) in 1685, in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.
Twelfth Generation: Anne-Marie, daughter of (UNKNOWN INDIAN) married Rene Rimbault, 1653, in Port Royal, Nova Scotia.
And at last – there she was, my ancestor Anne-Marie, an “unknown Indian” and the ultimate reason that I was so surprised at the results of my MtDNA testing.
Joint Copyright held by either Frank H. Pierce, III or Marie Rundquist -2006
E-mail the author Marie Rundquist
…to learn more about Anne Marie and her family’s history in Nova Scotia before 1755, read Marie’s book, Revisiting Anne Marie: How an Amerindian Woman of Seventeenth-Century Nova Scotia and a DNA Match Redefine American Heritage, published 2009 by Booksurge.com.