All My Relations, New and Old

Nancy and Barb Pyner

This image is of myself and my younger sister, at our old house on Cortes Island. Our father was James William Pyner. His father, William Pyner, came to Canada from England to find his two sisters (Mary Ann Pyner, and Priscilla Pyner), who were sent to orphanages in London before being forwarded to Canada as British Home Children. The girls ended up in Vancouver and in Nanaimo, and Mary Ann had a family, whose descendants do not know their own story. My maternal grandfather was Arthur Anderson, the youngest son of Alexander Caulfield Anderson, and grandson of James Birnie, of Cathlamet. James Birnie’s wife was Charlot Beaulieu, sister to Josephine Beaulieu/Rondeau, and daughter of Joseph Beaulieu, one of David Thompson’s men, and his Cree wife. Because of our DNA results, we now know that Joseph Beaulieu was a Hudon dit Beaulieu!

“All My Relations” — a phrase that the Métis often use. It began with the Canadiens: it was a tradition among the Canadien voyageurs that as they leave Montreal to enter the pays d’en haut, they stop to pay homage at the church of St. Anne, at the western extremity of Montreal Island. In her book, Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade [U of Toronto Press, 2006], Carolyn Podruchny has this to say:

St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, was the patron saint of Brittany and of New France. For centuries sailors and fishers had prayed to St. Anne before they set out on each journey. St. Anne became the patron saint of voyageurs as well. As men portaged around the rapids by the church, they stopped to pay homage to St. Anne, asking for protection during their voyage. The crews contributed donations to have prayers said for the prosperity of the voyage and a safe return as well as prayers for their friends and families.

This tradition continued, when the Canadiens took wives from the First Nations people they traded with, and inherited their wives families as cousins. They passed their relationships onto their mixed-blood children, and their children’s children also included the First Nations and mixed-blood cousins in their own families. But direct family relationships were also retained, though brothers worked in territories far away from each other. Those men who worked for long periods of time west of the Rocky Mountains received news of happenings in Montreal, or Rupertsland, from the new men who entered the territory. As a matter of fact, everywhere the Canadien and Métis voyageurs traveled, they carried news of their friends or of their family into the territories they visited, and exchanged news of Quebec, or of the west, with other Canadiens who were part of their family, or who knew members of their family. There were no newspapers: among the Canadiens and the Métis, the news came via word of mouth. But it was always true that Canadiens, and the Métis that followed them, “have long placed a great emphasis on maintaining strong relationships among families, extended families and communities, particularly when work was hard and the future uncertain. Nowhere were these bonds of kinship and friendship better renewed than during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. While Christmas Day was largely a religious event for most Métis communities, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it still remained festive.” [From: “Traditional Métis Socialization and Entertainment,” by Todd Paquin, Darren R. Préfontaine, and Patrick Young, online at www.metismuseum.ca/media/db/00724 ]

Now my primary reason for having my DNA done through AncestryDNA was the opportunity to connect with my Beaulieu ancestors. Stories that have come down in our history told us that Charlot Beaulieu Birnie, my great-great-grandmother, had a sister named Josephine Beaulieu, born in “Montana” in about 1810 (Josephine wed Joseph Louis Rondeau and both ended up in Minnesota). That date supported the theory that their father (my 3x great-grandfather) was the free-trader known to have been in the area around David Thompson’s Saleesh House in those years. From my research in the North West Company reels in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, we were already sure that this was true. Josephine Rondeau descendants, and Charlotte Birnie descendants, have both been working together to determine the truth.

There is an additional Beaulieu story, apparently told by Joseph Beaulieu himself to then-Nor’Wester James Birnie, when Birnie took a very young Charlot[te] Beaulieu as his bride while all were in the Snake River district, working under Donald McKenzie at old Fort Boise in 1819 or so. Either James Birnie, or Charlot, told their children that the Francois Beaulieu who traveled to the Pacific Ocean in 1793 with Alexander Mackenzie was Joseph Beaulieu’s brother. Though unprovable, we believed this to be true, and descendants of Francois Beaulieu also worked to solve this mystery, and could not. There was in their family a missing brother, possibly named Peter, who disappeared, and who might have gone out with the brigades to Red River…. Was this our Joseph? A DNA test will answer that question, won’t it?

It did, after a fashion. The first tests done by descendants of the Rondeau family, and other Birnie descendants, showed a tenuous connection between the Rondeaus and the Birnies, but no connection at all to the Beaulieus in the Athabasca. When my test was done, I discovered a few Rondeau descendants in my DNA results, but sadly no connection to the Athabasca Beaulieus. However, when my sister’s DNA came online only a week ago, it allowed a firm connection between the Rondeaus and the Birnies. If there are connections between the Athabasca Beaulieus and my sister’s DNA, we have not yet found them. There is a limit to this type of DNA, and both the Josephine Beaulieu/Joseph Rondeau connections, and those of the Athabasca Beaulieus, are just beyond the outside limit of Autosomal DNA.

At this point, we should talk about the three types of DNA Testing: Autosomal, mtDNA, and YDNA. With Autosomal DNA, your DNA comes from all your ancestors and gets mixed with every generation. It is, however, not necessary equally received, and equally mixed — you don’t get half of your father’s DNA, and half of your mother’s. I am realizing from my DNA test that I got more of my father’s DNA and less of my mother’s, while my sister received much more of the Scottish and Irish blood than I did! What that means is that she got the Andersons (from Scotland), and I got the Pyners (from Southern England). In all other ways — the Swedish, the French, and the Indigenous — we match.

The MtDNA test looks at the mitochondria that is passed on directly from a mother to all her children. (But mitchondria can be passed on by the men, too! See this: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dads-also-pass-mitochondrial-dna-contrary-long-standing-belief-180970940  ) This makes it perfect for investigating the maternal line, of course, but in my case that leads me through my mother, to her English mother, which is where I do not want to go! The YDNA test follows the Y-chromosome, and because women don’t have a Y-chromosome, we can’t take the test. But if you are a man, it will take you, in a direct paternal line, through your father to your grandfather to your g-grandfather ad infinitum. Well, for me, that is England, and not where I wanted to go, should I have had a brother who could have taken the test for me.

Though I questioned which was the best DNA test, Autosomal DNA is, for me, the best DNA test to take. It is the best way to connect you with your cousins, and connecting cousins is an excellent way to expand your research. At any rate, the second reason for me to take the DNA test is this: We have a member of the Beaulieu family marrying into the Birnie family — James Birnie and Charlot Beaulieu. Their eldest daughter, born at Spokane House, married into the Anderson-Seton family when she wed Alexander Caulfield Anderson. There are interesting theories about some of the Anderson-Setons, too, and one of them was that Alexander Caulfield Anderson was, in part, descended from a Native of India. Robert Anderson, his father, worked for the East India Company and married a woman who might well have carried the blood of a Native of India. This, from my book, The Pathfinder:

By 1806, Robert was employed as an indigo manager. In 1809 he married Eliza Charlotte Simpson, daughter of a high-ranking East India Company civil servant who managed the Salsette Mint, near Bombay. A year later, Robert owned part of an indigo plantation near Ruttanpoor, north of Calcutta. He and his business partner, Alexander Gordon Caulfield, had already produced a great deal of indigo.

Why did we believe she might have carried Indian blood? Because there were very few Englishwomen in India at that time, though there were more than there were on the North American continent. Still, it was not uncommon that HEIC men married Indian-English daughters of earlier HEIC men. Not only that, our family member, who does research in the India Office, did not find an English wife to Mr. Simpson in its records. We actually believed that it may be true that we, who were descended from Eliza Charlotte Simpson, might carry both the blood of a Native of India, and the blood of an Indigenous person from North America. It is, perhaps, another reason for me to take the DNA test, but I was pretty sure I already knew the answer!

Well, I was wrong. We were all wrong. When the test came back it showed that not a drop of our blood came from India! Another theory destroyed!

But the same DNA test tends to confirm the story that our Andersons, beginning with Dr. James Anderson LLD, had ancestors who came from Sweden via the fens! (We are not Scottish Andersons, though our Andersons lived in Scotland). My sister and I have 2% Swedish blood, 2% French, and 2% Indigenous blood. My French ancestors came from France, but how many of my English ancestors came over from France? How much of that French ancestry is from my Beaulieu ancestors, and how much from the Setons, or the Pyners? I don’t yet know.

Now, that French blood…The first thing I learned when I searched the Beaulieu name was that I seemed to be a Hudon dit Beaulieu! BOOM! I just about fell off my chair, and that’s no lie! Almost everyone that I matched to with a “Beaulieu” search seemed to be a Hudon dit Beaulieu, and when I searched “Hudon” only, I had thousands of matches! That changed my internal story. I know that the first Hudon dit Beaulieu, Pierre, came to Quebec in 1676, from Anjou, France. He married in Quebec and settled in Riviere Ouelle, on the St. Lawrence River. He and his wife, Marie Francois Gobeil, had eight sons: Pierre, born 1679; Joseph, born 1685; Jean Baptiste, born 1687; Francois, born 1689; Nicolas, born 1691; Jean Bernard, born 1694; Louis Charles, born 1697; and Alexis, born 1700. If all these sons had families (and they almost certainly did), it will be almost impossible to figure out which one is our ancestor when we think that our Joseph Hudon dit Beaulieu was already Métis (but we don’t now know. That is something we might have to re-think, too).

At this point I have a question. Have any of the Beaulieus who live in and around Frenchtown, near Walla Walla, done their Ancestry DNA? I presume, perhaps incorrectly, that they are descended from a Joseph Beaulieu who I tracked through the 1840’s HBC records for years, and who was presumed by some to have been a brother to Charlotte Birnie. I was never able to connect the two, and gave up the story — but a DNA test might just provide us the answer.

Well, to continue: I then looked at my DNA matches, and saw that there were people who were very close to me in relationship, though I had no idea who they were. Ann X was one of these people, and she and Joan Y were listed first as 1st-2nd cousins, and 2nd-3rd cousins. Below them was Kathy Z, listed as 3rd to 4th cousin. I wondered if I had found some descendants of one of these people mentioned in this post: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/british-home-children/ It seemed that no one had googled their ancestor’s name and stumbled on this post. Here’s the background to this story:

A year ago, my English cousin came to visit, and he dropped a project in my lap. He had discovered, only recently, that there were two British Home Children in our family: sisters to my grandfather who had been sent off to Barnardo’s Orphanage in London. Barnardo’s sent them to Canada, under the British Home Children program. Thousands of children came out this way: they were sent to farms and homes to be cared for and adopted, but most became farm-workers or domestics. Many were abused, few grew up with any love at all. Some died at the farms they worked at and others were beaten and starved. Girls grew up as “domestics” in Canadian homes; sometimes they were subjected to abuse and on occasion they were returned, pregnant, to the orphanage to have their child.

For those of you who have British Home Children in your family, you might want to join the Facebook page titled, “British Home Child Advocacy & Research Association,” to find out how you can learn more about your ancestor, and claim her or him! Once the Home Child is claimed, the claimant can order the records from the orphanage, and obtain pictures, stories, and whatever other items the orphanage may have in their files at the time the child was received, and then sent to Canada. The records go to direct descendants of the British Home Child, and only the direct descendants can order them. It is not free, and it takes a year or so before the records arrive, but you will, then, have their stories.

It is also important to remember that these children were taken from their homes and parents and sent to a foreign country where they were told they would have a good life. They suffered trauma that might resemble, in many ways, the trauma that Indigenous children suffered when they were forcibly removed from their families and put in residential schools. So when you know that your British Home Children ancestors seemed to do well (as ours did), and were happy (as ours seemed to be) — then be happy for them, but know that they were not always happy. According to people who tell their stories on the Facebook page above, their parents or grand-parents hid their stories from them and did not talk about their experience.

So, anyway, I looked at these names and thought, I wonder who they are. I sent messages to several and got a response, almost immediately, from a third. These three people were a mother and two daughters, and they did not know their story or even their names. So I let them on to the Pyners in Canada tree, which holds what I knew of the British Home Children in my family. The mother, Ann X, recognized the names and her memory came flooding back and she told me stories of some of the people who she had known, who were in the tree, and of others who were not yet there. She also told me the names of her mother and her grandmother, but I still couldn’t fit her into the tree and there were no records anywhere that gave me information.

I believed her: the DNA said she belonged where she said she belonged, and her stories were good, but I was stuck. I looked a little further down the page and found someone named Shane, who happened to bear the surname of a person in the tree, and who was a close relative. I messaged him, and got nothing back for ages. Then all of a sudden he responded, and told me he recognized the names I had listed in my message: they were his grandfather and his grandfathers two sisters and there was a third sister and her name was Dorothy — and BOOM! I got Ann X and her four daughters in the tree and Shane will be getting further information from his aunts (he has several), and they will also be added to the tree!

So, within a few weeks of having my DNA done, I have basically accomplished everything I wanted to do with it, with the exception of proving the connection between my Beaulieu and the Athabasca Beaulieus. That will come, or not, and it’s okay either way. While our Joseph Beaulieu almost certainly told James Birnie about his brother, Francois, going to the ocean with Alexander Mackenzie, we have to remember that the men who worked in the interior got their news from those who worked in territories that were far away from his territory. What it does tell me, though, is that our Joseph Hudon dit Beaulieu had a brother, Francois Hudon dit Beaulieu, who also worked in the fur trade and was possibly located in the Athabasca District. Will these two be found in the Hudon dit Beaulieu tree? I don’t know. I think they were Métis, and so were lost to those who were in Quebec. But I might find them: now that I know which Beaulieu tree to fill out, I can find them (or not) in the PRDH.

But in the end, the result of this DNA test has been, is that I have discovered new families that belong to me and to my sister. This year, “All My Relations” is a good phrase to use. Yes, there is more to discover, and another question to answer, and perhaps my sister’s DNA test will answer that one. Whatever else I can say about this, I have to admit that this experience — the results of this simple test — have blown me away.

So this is my Merry Christmas Post, written especially for “All My Relations,” new and old. This is for all my new cousins and friends, and for the old — whether they be someone I know personally, or someone I haven’t met yet. This is written for all my Facebook friends, or my Twitter friends — only a few of whom I have actually met. It is written for the fur trade descendants and Métis people who share their stories with me, so that I can  follow them up or complete the stories I have. It does not matter what story you are a part of: we are joined by our shared stories. We are all related, and my wish is the same for all. May All my Relations have good times together (or apart)! May we listen to each others’ stories, and have a chance to tell our own! May we complete each others stories. May we understand and appreciate other people’s journey and troubles, and may we help others through their difficult times. And may 2019 be better than 2018 has been, for all of us.

(Sentimental, eh?)

An update to this story: I sent a Christmas card to my new Pyner family which indicated I was Metis. From that point on, all communications from them stopped — abruptly. I am forced to presume they are racist — which (sadly) doesn’t surprise me, as I run into racism fairly often. The thing that makes me saddest, however, is that I found their entire family for them, and connected them to mine, and they could not even be bothered to say “Thank you.”

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2018. All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “All My Relations, New and Old

  1. Aboriginal Genealogy

    Thanks for sharing your quest. Have you posted all these relations on WikiTree? It is a great, free site to share information, and could be very useful for anyone with connections to the people you mention. Many of us don’t use Ancestry or Family Search, for a variety of reasons; WikiTree seems to be ‘neutral’ and strongly encourages people to include sources, which is so important when sorting out some tangled family lines.

    1. Nancy Marguerite Anderson Post author

      I haven’t. I haven’t heard of that (WikiTree) or at least I haven’t looked at it — I am speaking directly with descendants of Old Man Beaulieu who are also researching this connection, and with descendants of Josephine Rondeau. In fact it was they who encouraged me to do my DNA — I wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. I think we are so distant from our Cree Ancestors that I will not find them, and I think (if you are First Nations) most of you do not do DNA, am I right?

  2. Sharon

    Alexander Caufield Anderson is listed on WikiTree as a significant British Columbian; go to Wikitree.com and sign in as guest, either put his name in the search field, or find him as Anderson-30279. There are quite a few source references, but not much for is family connections. This sit is free, volunteer driven, with hopes of creating ‘one world family tree’. It would be great to have all the connections you have researched added, for others searching. And who knows, you might find something of interest. I know you are really busy, but adding your information would be a huge contribution.