Mr. Brisson’s Office—Sainte-Blandine, 1925
In this sphere, located in Mr. Brisson’s office in the centre of Sainte-Blandine, a village on the southern highlands near Rimouski, the year is 1925. Several objects sit on the grandfather’s table, including a page from the book Remembrance.
A Settler Family of Mixed Ancestry in Sainte-Blandine
Grandfather Brisson, our semi-fictional, semi-real character, is descended from the founders of Sainte-Blandine. His ancestors, who initially settled in these highlands inland from Rimouski, primarily worked in the logging industry.
Genealogical research on the early settlers of the village of Sainte-Blandine revealed that the Brisson family included members of the Wolastoqiyik First Nation of the Lower St. Lawrence (also known as the Maliseet or Etchemins).
Around 1690, Charles Saint-Aubin, a son of the Frenchman Jean Serreau de Saint-Aubin, married a Wolastoqi woman from the Passamaquoddy bay in what is now Maine and adopted his wife’s lifestyle. The Saint-Aubin Wolastoqiyik, who also used the last name Thomas, went on to inhabit the St. John River region in what is now known as New Brunswick. Three of Charles’ sons lived as he did, according to a traditional Indigenous lifestyle. Two of them, Pierre and Joseph, would go on to become chiefs of their community. In 1827, their great-grandsons, Joseph and Louis-Thomas, secured the Viger reserve for their community. Several of their descendants served as chiefs of the Viger and Cacouna Wolastoqiyik reserves.
Between 1866 and 1915, several members of the Saint-Aubin family traveled to Rimouski and settled in Sainte-Blandine, marrying members of the Brisson family who were descended from Canadian settlers in the area. These families of mixed ancestry and their descendants still live in the area. In the 1881 and 1891 censuses, the occupation of the Saint-Aubin family is listed as hunting. Their hunting grounds likely included Sainte-Blandine, the Macpès lakes, and Pêche à l’Anguille, a site located at the junction of the Lac Chaud Creek with the Rimouski River. The Sainte-Blandine settlers, alongside the Saint-Aubin family, grew crops, logged, and hunted moose and caribou.
The Value of Archival Documents
Archival documents can provide abundant information on our ancestors’ ways of life. For example, notarized documents, preserved according to the exacting standards of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, are authoritative sources serving as proof of property ownership and transfers, marriages, etc.
These deeds include contracts that tell us more about the value of goods bought and sold by those who lived during this era, such as potato seeds and porpoise blubber. They also include after-death inventories, or lists of household items and their value at the time of a spouse’s death, to assist with distribution among the heirs.
Registers of civil status
We also have historical documentation on families thanks to parish registers, which include records of our ancestors’ baptisms, marriages, and burials before the government took charge of these records in the 1960s.
Changes to Indigenous Peoples’ Names
For over 10,000 years, the way of life of the First Nations was characterized by oral tradition and subsistence living in which hunting, fishing, and gathering were the primary activities. This way of life was completely transformed over the last seven centuries.
Registers help us understand how the names of First Nations families were transformed over the centuries due to marriage and Catholic baptism, pressure and incentives from the government, and a different conception of first names, last names, and nicknames. Two hundred years ago, the Wolastoqiyik had used names with Indigenous roots, such as Pierre Awanou Seck, Paul Wenascowemusay, or Pierre Ansidaymuway.
Norms and Customs: Deeds of Sale
During this era, the residents of Sainte-Blandine derived their subsistence from agriculture, hunting and logging, for the most part.
The following two deeds of sale tell us about the daily lives of Mr. Brisson’s ancestors and the people they knew:
1866, 21 August: Désiré Bégin, Notary: Sale by David Yockel to Sieur Xavier St-Aubin:
“Sold to Sieur Xavier St-Aubin, a hunter and farmer living in that same locale of St-Germain … a keel-boat of approximately eighteen to twenty feet with all accompanying sails, hawsers, anchor and poles that the purchaser declares full knowledge of and has in his possession … for the price and sum of four Louis d’or that the purchaser promises and obligates himself to pay as follows: 1st by the seed of three and a half minots [approximate equivalent of bushels] of sown rye (growing on a plot belonging to him in the place called Ste-Blandine, bordered to the north by 4th Lane, to the south by 6th Lane, to the south-west by Pierre Déchêne and to the north-east by Pierre Brisson). 2nd: Five and a half minots of potatoes growing on land belonging to Pierre Brisson in the aforementioned place of Ste-Blandine to the north of a creek located north of the frontage road … 3rd: Lastly, by the blubber of two herring hogs [harbour porpoises] as soon as he has killed some … ”
1866, 23 August: Désiré Bégin, Notary: Sale by Thomas St-Aubin and others to Uldéric Ruest:
“Thomas St-Aubin, Félix St-Aubin, François St-Aubin and François-Xavier St-Aubin, all farmers and hunters currently residing in St-Germain de Rimouski … have sold … 1st: The seed of two and a half minots of potatoes currently growing on land owned by the said Pierre Brisson in the place named Ste-Blandine to the south of a creek found there. 2nd: The seed of two minots of barley currently growing on the land of Nazaire Aimont in the place called Ste-Blandine … for the aforementioned buyer to harvest at a time of his choosing … in exchange for the price and sum of six piasters for the barley, payable upon demand in trade bills, and the potatoes for the sum of eleven shillings and eighteen cents, that the sellers recognize having had and received before today … ”
Signed by François St-Aubin and François-Xavier St-Aubin: Xavier and François Étams.
Médéric Tremblay, J. P. (1982, September). Un homme de cette sorte, Jean Serreau de Saint-Aubin (1621–1705) [A man of this kind, Jean Serreau de Saint-Aubin (1621–1705)]. La Société historique acadienne, Les cahiers, 13(3).
Michaud, G. (2003). Les gardiens des portages: L’histoire des Malécites du Québec [Guardians of the portages: The history of the Maliseet in Quebec]. Les Éditions GID.
Johnson, L. (1998). Louis Thomas-Saint-Aubin et sa famille: Deux siècles et demi de diplomatie et de revendications malécites [Louis Thomas-Saint-Aubin and his family: two centuries of Maliseet diplomacy and claims]. Paléo-Québec, 27.
Recensement de l’Acadie de 1708, sauvages de la rivière St-Jean [Acadia Census of 1708, savages of the St. John River]. (1708). Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec.
Gauvreau, P.-L. (1864, December 14). Vente de maison par François-Étienne St-Aubin à Luc Sylvain [Sale of a house by François-Étienne St-Aubin to Luc Sylvain]. Greffe du notaire Pierre-Louis Gauvreau, Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec, Rimouski, QC, Canada.
Taché, J.-C. (1876). Trois légendes de mon pays ou l’évangile ignoré, l’évangile prêché, l’évangile accepté [Three legends of my country, or the ignored gospel, the preached gospel, the accepted gospel]. Imprimerie A. Côté et Cie.