Article printed in "The Valley Breeze" newspaper March 25, 2010
 

French adventure-seekers make Tom Ward what he is today

WOONSOCKET - Just like the TV show, "Who Do You Think You Are," there were surprises in store when genealogical researcher Sylvia Bartholomy went hunting for the ancestors of Valley Breeze Publisher Thomas V. Ward using just a couple of grandparents' names.

Challenged to work quickly, she and volunteers at the American-French Genealogical Society on Earle Street traced his mother's line back 400 years to the original brave souls who, like English Pilgrims traveling to Cape Cod, left France in the early 1600s to settle the St. Lawrence River area of Quebec.

Ward entered into the process with no information about his lineage. Four days later, he had a collection of names and a couple of lively stories to weave into his sense of who he is.

"It's truly amazing," he said of the results of a marathon research in the library on Earle Street.

Bartholomy went back 12 generations to France to find the adventure-seeking men and women who are the root families for Ward and many of French Canadian descent in this area.

For generations they lived in Berthier, Quebec, a town midway between Montreal and Quebec City, and now Bartholomy is urging Ward to schedule a visit to that town on the river.

Bartholomy concentrated on the French-Canadian side of a family - his mother Simone Mousseau Ward, and his grandparents, Albert Edward Mousseau, who was born in Berthier, in 1884, but was married in Woonsocket in 1909, and Sarah Page Mousseau, who was Woonsocket born of parents from St. Maurice, Quebec.

The Ward side hails from Sligo, Ireland, a bigger research challenge for a library that's concentrated until very recently on the Quebec region of Canada where records are vast and detailed.

Digging into the 17th- and 18th-century Mousseau lines, Bartholomy traced an unbroken line back to 17th-century France, providing an overview that promises many stories still to be uncovered.

Two stories emerged immediately.

The first is that the Mousseaus descend from a famous explorer, Nicholas Perrot, fur trader, explorer and peacemaker among Indian tribes, including Native Americans in Wisconsin.

Perrot, born in the Burgundy region of France in 1644, traveled to today's Canada with the Jesuits.

He opened direct trade relations with the Potawatomi and established himself as an Indian diplomat by settling a dispute between the Potawatomi and the Menominee. Perrot returned to Montreal with furs in 1670.

According to Bartholomy's notes, Nicolas married Marie Madeleine Raclos, one of the "King's Daughters" who traveled to New France to marry the French soldiers who were making their homes in the new land.

Bartholomy says the story of Marie Raclos is unique because she traveled with two sisters and their father who accompanied them and stayed for a few months to see two of the three married off.

Most of the 800 King's Daughters were without means and certainly traveled without the protection of parents.

Marie and Nicolas had 11 children and Ward descends from Michael Perreault, born 1712.

Nicholas Perrot died in 1717 and was buried in Becancour.

Bartholomy was excited to find a second story that speaks to the character of Ward's ancestors.

Louise Brodeur, born in 1610 in France, arrived in Canada in 1658, according to Bartholomy, who says she had been twice widowed in France yet had the courage to make the two-month journey across the ocean. Her second husband had been Jean Sauviot dit Lavergene, father of Marguerite, Ward's ancestor.

Marguerite and her sister Marthe had married quickly and on the same day, Sept. 16, 1658, in Montreal. Marguerite married Jacques Mousseau.

Jacques had arrived in Montreal in 1653 as part of The Grand Recruitment when artisans and craftsmen like blacksmiths and leatherworkers, shoemakers and farmers were paid stipends to create a new community in New France. Jacques had been a longsawyer and worked as a land clearer. He signed a work contract in France and was promised 75 livres per year as well as 114 livres in advance wages.

In Montreal, he received a land grant and became a soldier in the militia.

Jacques and Marguerite had seven children born between 1659 and 1671.

This line of Mousseaus is traced straight to Ward. Descendents are Jacques' son, also Jacques, born 1665, followed by his son Joseph, his son Jean Baptiste, born 1726, his son Alexis, his son Louis, his son Olivier, his son Gustave, his son Albert Edward, his daughter Simone and finally her son Thomas Ward.

Bartholomy is now challenging Ward to follow the other lines on the French Canadian side of family.

Ward replies that one of his four children may pick up the project or it may have to wait until his son Steven, now 12, is a bit older.

Bartholomy warns the research "is very addicting."

The American-French Genealogical Society library at 78 Earle St. is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Reach it at 765-6141 or see the Web site at afgs.org .

 
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