Tuesday, September 20, 2011

21 - Grandfathers

Their names are etched in my mind. Pierre, Germain, Joseph (old Joe), Francois, his brother Gabriel, John, John Henry and John Robert.  I am speaking of my Mi'kmaq grandfathers, the Lejeune men. I have read about their movements, where they settled, fled, and in my mind imagined their feelings based on what I learned. This knowledge is definitely not usual. I doubt there are many that can go back so many generations with details like the ones we are so fortunate to have as their descendants. We have this information because there are others that have taken the time and searched countless hours providing us with that which is now so dear to our hearts.

A lot of what we do know of these Lejeune men and women comes from church records. The Mi'kmaq were converted to Christianity early on with the baptism of their Grand Chief Membertou in 1620. The Jesuits converted many and as is important in this case, kept records of their sacraments. I have to hand it to them, because throughout the generations, they were devoted to receiving the sacraments when they could. This is largely how we know their movements and it allows us to piece together their stories as much as possible centuries later. While the conversion to Christianity appears to have been fairly amicable and not quite as bloody as other native nation conversions, it still appears to have been a rocky road at times.

There are traces of these men far back. One writing, which was originally in French, speaks of Pierre Lejeune as a type of Courier de Bois and it refers to him as "an espace du sauvage." The exact meaning of this phrase is not known, but it is translated loosely as "a type of savage." He fled into the woods when he refused to bring his people "fire water" and disappeared from the men who were looking for him. A valuable skill that was due to his Mi'kmaq upbringing.

In the Bras d'Or area, there is one grandfather in particular that some of us feel close to our hearts. His name is Francois Lejeune. Many of the Lejeune descendants, including me, come through his line. I also come through his brother Gabriel's line as a granddaughter as well.  I wonder if our attachment to Francois is because we have a little more of his story so to speak. He has left us with information that allows us to piece it together and in turn know him a little better than the others.

Francois was the son of Joseph Lejeune more affectionately known as "Old Joe."  His family spent time abroad in exile, but he was born in 1772 in Cape Breton. He was a farmer and owned a large plot of land in what is now Little Bras d'Or but was then called French Village. A portion of this land remains in the possession of some of his descendants to this very day.

Last year, the Chief of the Bras d'Or Indian Village Band Association, Nancy Swan, was kind to give me a link to a magazine article which mentions our common grandfather by name. The article in its entire form comes from Cape Breton's Magazine and can be found at this link:  http://capebretonsmagazine.com/modules/publisher/item.php?itemid=3694  It is an entry from the Journal of French Bishop Plessis' journey to Cape Breton in 1815, where he intended to visit the Mi'kmaq of the area. The portrait that the Bishop paints of the inhabitants of French Village is not flattering, in fact, he paints them to be lost heathens who engage in all types of debauchery. Knowing this history as I do now, there is always the Mi'kmaq version of events to be considered and that is definitely the case here. The article states,

"Francois Lejeune, the most prosperous inhabitant of the place, had prepared his house to lodge the bishop and the four ecclesiastics; a new small barn was to serve as a church and the portable chapel was set up immediately." pg. 54

The bishop goes on to speak of the people of the village and says "There is probably no place in the diocese of Quebec where the the catholic religion has fallen so low." page 54 The truth of the state of the  Catholic flock of Mi'kmaq on the island is something else in fact and has more to do with the fact that these people were abandoned by the church for a long period of time. The Bishop mentions that the people of the French Village had not seen a priest in four years and then they only saw a priest once per year before that for a period of eight days.  Later in the article, there is a statement that comes from the Mi'kmaq themselves in a neighboring village when they asked the Bishop for a missionary.  The Bishop says "....we were obliged to listen to their request and their lamentations on their need for a missionary," page 58 This was the recorded request of the Mi'kmaq:

 "We live like dogs, in danger of dying without the sacraments. Our children are ignorant of their religion. No priest speaks our language. Our elders have not heard a sermon in fifty years. What have we done to be abandoned in such a way? My father, will you do like the others and leave us without hope of bettering our future." page 58

The response was "These words were heart rendering. The bishop (he refers to himself here) understood them and promised to meet their request in a few years, provided they get used to paying their tithes more punctually than they did to Mr. Lejamtel  who will, from now on, spend two weeks with them each year rather than just one, until further notice." page 58  Later in the article, it is noted that Mr. Lejamtel did not speak the Mi'kmaq language.

I have to admit that when I first read the article, I was not feeling fondness for the Bishop, especially as Francois Lejeune had apparently worked hard to get things ready for him, probably awaiting the day with much anticipation. This is perhaps more importantly a glimpse into the real and changing world of the Mi'kmaq in the early 19th century and the attitudes that prevailed at the time.
Fur bag once owned by Francois Lejeune
and containing the original land grant

Making this man Francois Lejeune all the more real to us is the fact that he had the foresight to place his original land grant in a fur bag so that his family would know that it was important. This fur bag has been handed down through the generations and recently was given to the Nova Scotia Museum by its owner Mr. John Brennick, a Lejeune descendant. He allowed descendants of the family to photograph this bag this year and one of the photos was passed on to me. Due to the fragile state of the bag, it was not allowed to be opened, so it is possible that as it is examined by the Nova Scotia Museum that additional important documents may be revealed inside.

In addition to the bag, there is also a record of a protest of a name change forced upon him by the fairly new British government. Francois wanted to retain the name of Lejeune but was forced to change it to the English equivalent of Young, the name still used by his descendants today.

Last Will and Testament of Francois Lejeune

There is a last will and testament and on it is my G3 grandfather's name, John. He was granted a dollar as were most of his brothers and sisters. He is mentioned again when Francois recommends him with his sister Rachel and brother Philip to his wife if she should choose to bequeath the estate to one of them at her death.

Earlier this summer, I visited Little Bras d'Or and as we walked the grounds of St Joseph's Church, where so many of our family's records were kept, I wondered where the original grant had been. It turns out that I was staring right at it, or at least a portion of it.

That day I also found the site of my great grandfather, John Robert Young's home where my grandmother lived for a time growing up. This is the house in which my mother was born. It was located on a small lane named Young Road on what was once known as the Gannon Road. This house still stands today and relatives that we questioned in the area told us that at one time there were wigwams in the woods behind the home. At John Robert's death, the home was passed on to John Charles Young ,or Baba, as he was spoken of that day. The house remains in the family today but stands boarded up as you can see in the picture below.
John Robert Young's home on what was then Gannon Road

Just today, as I finished this post, I stumbled upon two more documents that reveal more of my Lejeune grandfathers. They were there all along, I had just missed them in the piles of papers I am accumulating on this amazing clan of mine. A will of Joseph Lejeune, where he names Gabriel Lejeune his heir, and a marriage certificate from  the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1754 naming Joseph Lejeune and his bride Martine Le Roy. Keep it coming ancestors. I know you are at work out there. 


  1. Hello Heather, I heard about your Blog from the Village of Little Bras D'Or site on face book. My name is Alan Ross of Kodiak Alaska. I am a direct descendant of Francois LeJeune's sister, Marie Henriette LeJeune Ross b. 1762 Rochefort France. She was my ggg grandmother. I have enjoyed reading a few entries in your blog, and look forward to reading more. I especially enjoyed "A Stranger In My Nation - My Journey to discover my Mi'kmaq Heritage".
    Best Regards, Alan S. Ross

    1. Hello Allan. Marie Henriette LeJeune Ross was my gggg grandmother. I too enjoyed reading Heather's blog. So much to learn!

  2. Hi Alan,
    I am glad you found the site! It looks like I have found another cousin!

  3. Hello Heather

    For a long time I have felt as though a part of me was missing. I understand about feeling like a stranger in my nation. My family did not speak to much of our Devison family and spoke only of the English heritage. I now know that I am of Mi'kmaq heritage and it feels, for lack of a better word, right. I am so excited to discover for Mi'kmaq heritage and to share it with my children. My family line descends from Chrystophle Lejeune and Louise Hache-Gallant. I am excited to find the Little Bras d'or website and can actually follow the names of my ancestors. Jean Baptiste Lejeune and Marie King, Catherine Young and Joseph Debison. I am excited to "meet" you, and to continue reading your blog. I'm not sure what my next step will be, but I do know that I am ready to begin.
    All the best, Rod Butts

  4. Nice to "meet" you too Rod. I am glad you found the site and I hope you do begin your own journey. It has been nothing but fulfilling for me and I have found only kindness from everyone on the path. I think many of us feel the emptiness that comes from the disconnect from this culture. It is heartbreaking that many of us knew nothing of it until now....but at least we do know. It was almost lost. It seems that we are cousins. I too have some of these names in my tree. The Bras d'Or Indian Village site, as well as their facebook site are excellent. Nancy Swan, the chief, and other members share valuable information and resources. Maybe someday there will be a powwow and we can all come and meet one another. :)

  5. Hi Heather, I too am related. Alan Ross is my cousin and I too hail from Marie Henriette LeJeune Ross. I live in Torrance Ontario Canada and if you know Nancy Swan, she is also my cousin. Her father and my grandmother, on my mothers side, were brother and sister. I knew from an early age about my Native Heritage even before I knew it for sure and was very PROUD of it. It's been so wonderful finding family I never knew about. Both my father and mother have connections to the LeJeune's through half brothers. Nancy told me about this site. Will be visiting it more often in the future.

    Melinda Gostick

    1. Hi Melinda,

      Wow, this is incredible that we are all connecting. Yes, we would be cousins. Nancy and I are also cousins as descendants of Francois Lejeune. You are fortunate to have known this history. We had no idea in my family..except for the occasional mention of it being a possibility. No one knew for certain until the documents emerged and I am so happy they did. Nancy and her council have been doing some incredible work on behalf of all of us over the years. I am grateful for all of it. I am glad you found the site. I hope you enjoy it. More adventures are coming in the next few weeks. :)

  6. Heather, I am from Fanny LeJeune m. James Quinn line. Noted on the Blog that some Ross family replied to you. I have been trying to trace down the female line back from Francois Joseph to a living female relative today for an mtDNA test so we can once and for all prove our Native ancestry.

    Originally I had our line connected to Jean Roy dit la liberte and Marie Aubois but was told that was incorrect. The Charles Roy m. to Marie Charlotte Chauvet is not the son of Jean Roy (Stephen White). The son Charles of Jean and Marie is postulated to have died at a young age (Stephen White).

    Now I am working back from Edmee.

    To date I have:

    Marie Charlotte
    Martine Roy
    Marie Tharsille (LeJeune) Ross
    (Jean) Genevieve Ross m. Basil Ryan
    Margaret Ryan m. James Downey
    Amelia Downey m. Michael Farrell
    Rose Farrell b 1900 d. ca 1968 m.????

    If we had a living female child of Rose we could have an mtDNA test done.

    Was wondering if this is something you or the Bras d'Or group could assist with? It would be important to all of us with our lineage based in this ancestry.

    The cost would be about $150-$200 but the outcome is priceless.


  7. Hi Thom,

    Nice to hear from you and I am glad you found the blog! I would be happy to speak with you about this via email. You can contact me at hmackay9999@aol.com


  8. I'm a descendant of Jean Baptiste and Marie Leroy as well...there's so much confusing info out there but I'm always excited when I stumbled upon someone else searching for the same roots!

    Shannon LeLievre-Pierangeli
    Victoria BC
    (I'm a great-grand daughter of Baptiste Debison)

  9. Hello Heather. Interesting blog. My mother Evelyn do Maynard Young so Edward Young from Bras D'or & Mahala Renouf of Mabou. Edward was so John & Anne LeJeunr Young .John was so Gabriel LeJeune & Mary Dauphinee & so on & so on. Still looking for more information.Have a good one. Clair Williams from Cape Breton.

  10. Hello Heather, name is John Mc Neil from the Detroit area and I have recently discovered that I am related thru John Cantwell and Rachel Le Juene .I am thrilled and proud to realize my heritage

  11. Hi John, Sorry I am late responding to this. I may have a document or two for Rachel Lejeune that I can send you. I believe I have a land indenture that says that she is the daughter of Francois and Margerite Lejeune which links you to that native line in historical documents. That is, if you can find the paper trail after that. (It's usually easier from that point down the line.) I would be happy to send it to you. I may have some other things as well. I know some other descendants of Rachel Lejeune that may have more. Let me know which of her children you descend through and I can ask around. Let me know if you would like the document and I can send it to you. Nice to meet another cousin!

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Hi cousin Heather, pleased to meet you, my name is Michel Jolin, Gr-Grandson of Emma (Lejeune) Begin of Bellechasse Quebec. My line has no direct ancestry to the Miqmac LeJeunes, but as we all started from Pierre the Father (The Miqmac LeJs comme from Pierre the son), I consider all Lejeunes/Young/Briar to be family! :)

    1. Hi Michel! I am happy that you found the site. There certainly seem to be a lot of us who descend through the Lejeunes! Yes, seeing as we all come from Pierre, I would say that we are distantly related!

  14. hauswren@gmail.comAugust 15, 2016 at 4:16 AM

    Hello! I think I am another relative (your Mother's Mother seems to be my Grandfather's sister!). Wondering if there is an email I can contact you privately at?

    1. Hi, I did send you a reply via email with my email address. I would be very happy to know if we are related.

  15. Hello! I live near Toronto, ON and my gg grandmother was Amelia (Millie) Young (Lejeune) 7 generations from Francois Joseph and Jeanne (dit Briard) Lejeunne. I am desperately trying to connect with my community to become an active member. I have begun to learn our language, and the culture through online classes at CBU and also here at Brock University. If there are any groups or organizations you could suggest I would so appreciate it. This has ben such an amazing journey for me this past year!!

  16. Hi Terra, I am glad you found the blog and I am thrilled that you are exploring this beautiful culture. It has brought me nothing but joy and great new friends. There are several groups for descendants of the Lejeune family. Some are connected with all descendants from the Lejeune family and then some are involved in learning and preserving the native branches of the family.

    There are several Metis organizations working, but I know for those of us who descend from Mi'kmaq in the Little Bras d'Or area in Nova Scotia, we consider ourselves to be non-status Mi'kmaq and not Metis as we descend through treaty signers. There may be some who do not see it that way however. There is always controversy on this topic.

    I am familiar with the Bras d'or First Nation (a community for descendants of these native families in the Bras d'Or area) and the Little Bras D'Or Indian Village band Association. You may find some information on their websites or facebook sites connected with them.

    Andre Lejeune has a facebook site for the Lejeune family in general that may be of interest. He has written a fantastic history of the family, but it is only available in French at present. These groups may also be able to connect you with other groups. I also descend through Francois Joseph and Jeanne Lejeunne, so we are distantly related!

  17. I am a descendant of Pierre LeJeune through my Grandmother; however my DNA doesn't show Native blood. I am very confused about the LeJeune's connection to the MicMaq people. Can my DNA be wrong or was Pierre and his sons not of the Native people

  18. Hi Anonymous, Well.....it depends from which Pierre you descend. It is very confusing. There are many with that name and not all have native lines. The original Pierre Lejeune came from France and was not native, but there were many marriages to Mi'kmaq women after that with his sons. It took us many years to piece our family history together. Also, families of the Bras d"or First Nation often have multiple Mi'kmaq lines and many come later than those early ancestors. There are 8 documented and verified lines in my family alone and more we have not bothered to document. Yours may be similar.

    The DNA piece is very confusing and even the ancestry sites will tell you to use a paper trail over the DNA if you have it. First, please know that not all of your ancestors are represented in the DNA you inherit. Brothers and sisters often have completely different DNA even with the same parents. We all get a different mix and there is nothing to say your native ancestry will show. Some of the family finder sites only go back 4 generations, so anything that far back would not be represented.

    Recently one of my friends, who is full blooded Inupiaq Inuit from Alaska shared with me that hers only showed 26% Native American and she says she has no knowledge of anything other than Inuit in her family. Many native communities in the states, where I am living, will not even consider using it. In my own family, we have members of my generation with higher percentage than my grandmother....so it appears to be random to some degree.

    If you are looking at MtDNA, it will only show if you are using your maternal line and it will go back to your earliest female ancestors. If your native line goes through a male at any point, it will not show.

    If you are trying to prove your native ancestry stick to the paper trails. If the lines are native, the information is out there in most cases. I am happy to be of some assistance if our lines are related. I will share anything that I have. There may be some information on the BFN ( Bras d'Or First Nation) site as well. Keep digging. It is fascinating to see your family history unfold, native or not.