Immigration is in the news and I have asked myself this very legitimate question: did I become a Quebecker thanks to immigration?
I started by looking at the Gratton genealogy; my ancestor Claude-Jacques Graton emigrated from Poitou, France around 1668. He arrived with his wife and two children. He bought himself land in Beauport, had a child, Joseph, and after eighteen months, he left alone for France never to be seen again. That is nothing to brag about and I only hope that his genes weakened through the generations preceding me.
From one generation to the next, the Grattons married French Quebeckers. Am I a Quebecker whose French blood was never contaminated? Am I a Quebecker whose ancestors made sure that they remain in a Francophile cocoon immunized against all foreign infection? The Gratton line could lead me to believe that my “froginess” is pure. The Gratton genealogy is only half the story, I must now look into my mother’s ancestors. Here is where things go astray. I discover a British soldier, kidnapped children by the Abenaki Indians and mix marriages with Irish immigrants.
The story begins in England with Sergeant Samuel Gill sent across the ocean to defend the British colonies. At the end of the battle, he decides to remain and marries Sarah Worth in 1678; they settle in Massachusetts. Tragedy strikes when their son, Samuel, then nine years of age, is kidnapped by the Abenaki tribe and brought to Saint Francois-du-Lac. He is treated as one of theirs and adapts so well that he refuses to return to his parents even though his father wants to bring him back to Salisbury, Massachusetts.
A young girl named Rosalie James had also been kidnapped in Kennebunk, Maine. She was also brought to Saint Francois-du-Lac. They were both educated by Jesuit missionaries. When the question of marriage arose, the Abenaki held council to decide who they should marry. The Jesuits wanted them to marry each other to preserve the white race, however, a majority on the council were of the opinion that they should marry members of the tribe to mix their blood and preserve their descendants within the tribe. In the middle of the proceedings, the Jesuit missionary asked for an adjournment. That same night, he married Samuel and Rosalie. He was fourteen and she, twelve. The following day, the Jesuit Father explained to the Abenaki that the marriage had been celebrated as a result of divine intervention. When it is not the Government, it’s the Church that cannot mind their own business. I remind you that we are at the beginning of the 18th century more than three hundred years ago.
Samuel and Rosalie had seven children including Joseph-Louis, my ancestor. Even though he did not have Indian blood, he became chief of the Saint Francois-du-Lac Abenaki tribe, a feat that would be impossible today. Three of his brothers and sisters married members of the Abenaki tribe. Where was the missionary, protector of the race? For his part, Joseph-Louis married Suzanne Gamelin. For two generations, their descendants married Quebeckers until 1846 when Edward Gill married Hermine McDougall, an Irish refugee forced to flee her country due to the Great Famine. Another ancestor married Elisabeth McCaffrey. These Irish refugees were sent to the regions to work. I wonder if the Government had anticipated these inter marriages, which are a great way to ensure genetic diversity and a bit of colour to the regions. This was one hundred and fifty years ago.
The descendants from these mix marriages were integrated and assimilated within the Quebec culture, however, the process took several generations, and not three years as many maintain can be done today.
History does put things into perspective.