Saturday 13 August 2011

Do we as Catudals have a Native Indian heritage or not?

The answer is yes and no. If the question is directed as such: Is the Catudal line Native in any way? then the answer is no. If you follow the pure male line back to Jean-Baptiste Catudal dit St-Jean who came to New France in and around 1721 from France then it is clear in the genealogical record that the pure male line of Catudals is not Native.

The next question is did any child born a Catudal (or one of its dit names of St-Jean or St. John) marry a Native Indian or have children with a Native Indian? The answer again – as far as the historical record uncovered to date shows – is no. There is nothing in the historical record to indicate that anyone born a Catudal married a Native Indian. That is not to say that they didn’t. It is only to say that there is no baptismal record, no marriage record, no land claim, no Census record, nor any other records where this is seen to be the case.

We have to keep in mind though that pre-1900’s people did not openly admit to being a Native Indian or being a ‘half-breed’ or acknowledging on a Census that they were ‘Red’ if they didn’t have to. Now-a-days we have a romantic idea of what it is or was to be Native. Our forefathers thought different and they knew the harsh realities that came with being considered a ‘sauvage’.

There are DNA tests available, which can give conclusive proof of Native blood. The problems with those tests are that they can’t tell from which line or from how far back the Native blood is from.

The reason is that one of the genetic markers, which indicates whether one has Native blood or not, is either passed down from mother to child unchanged (but only the female child will pass this marker down to her children) or from father to son unchanged. This means that it cannot be determined from which generation the Native blood came from. The Indian bloodline could be from 2 generations back or from 1,000 years ago. There is nothing, to date, that can make that distinction.

A person who has both Native Indian blood and European blood is called a Métis. Each Métis Association and each area these Associations fall in, all have their own criterion as to when a person is considered a Métis. Generally, the main criteria is that you can prove a link to a Métis or to a Native Indian. That means that you must have primary documents, ie. Baptism records, for each generation, starting from you, back to the person who is Native. Métis status is recognized regardless of whether the Native blood comes from the paternal or maternal line.

There is DNA evidence to support and to also call into question a Native Indian tie-in for the Catudal family line. Firstly, not in support of a Native tie-in: Jean-François St-Jean ( Mélanie St-Jean’s father – another genealogist doing Catudal research) had a Y-DNA test done, which only looks at the pure male line, The results showed that his heritage is European without any Native blood. To be specific, his test showed that his paternal haplogroup is R1b.

Secondly, Michel Catudal (another researcher) wrote this in the group ‘Catudal’ on Facebook regarding us having a possible Native tie-in:

“My son, wife and myself went thru some genetic tests at McGill university when I was working on an engineering contract in Montréal and we were told that we have some genetic hearing loss traits only found so far among Iroquois. The only native information I have found in the Catudal family is in the Acadian branch of the family. As for my wife she is half Cherokee half Amish. I was told that we have Mohawks ancestors but didn't find anything to prove it. As for the hearing loss genetic traits, they were both identical in my wife, my son and I and the experts at McGill told us that they have found these only among Iroquois until they met us. Both Cherokees and Mohawks are of Iroquois descent. I do not know about the Abenakis, maybe they have common ancestors also.”

It isn’t clear exactly what tests Michel had but it does show that there is a possibility that he has some Native tie-in but from what line, paternal or maternal, is not clear.

Having said all of that, there are indirect Native Indian connections to some of the Catudal lines and here are two examples of those connections:

One of the Catudal tie-in lines to Native Indian starts at Marie Abenaquie who was a Micmac Indian , her daughter was Edmee Lajoie Briard LeJeune, her daughter was Marie Françoise Louise Gauterot, her daughter was Madeleine Terriot, her son was Pierre Robichaud, his daughter was Marie Françoise Leborgne Belisle, her daughter was Marguerite Robichaud, her daughter was Marie Josephte Pepin Lachance, her son was Pierre Chabot, his daughter was Philomene Chabot who was married to Maglorie Catudal.

The other line that has Native blood in it starts at Jean-Vincent Saint-Castin who married Marie Mathilde Pidiwamiska (also known under the name Mataconando and or Pidianske) in 1684. Their daughter was Anastasie Saint-Castine, her daughter was Marie Françoise Leborgne Belisle, her daughter was Marguerite Robichaud, her daughter was Marie-Josephte Pepin-Lachance, her son was Amable Chabot, his daughter was Philomene Chabot and her son was Barthelemy Catudal.

There are some Catudal families who have grown up with the common understanding that they have Native blood through the Catudal line, which on face value, begs the question “why would that sort of information have been passed down if it weren’t true?” Good question. I would like to give an example of how it is not always the case that what is passed down regarding Native heritage is true.

My grandmother Yvonne Catudal (née Tremblay) grew up knowing that her grandmother, Sophie Godard dit Lapointe was a Native Indian. All the grandkids grew up also having this information about our Native heritage. Close to seven years ago I met a cousin whose great great grandmother was also Sophie. She too grew up with the same information. She put me in touch with yet another cousin from another side of the family who also could trace themselves to Sophie and they too grew up with this information. So here we were, three people who had come from this particular line but who had grown up without contact to the others and all of us had been given the same information. You can imagine how surprised we were when I took a mt-DNA test, the one that tests the pure female line, and received the results showing that I did not have a Native tie-in. My Mitochondrial haplogroup is H, which means that my pure female line is European. Those people who have Native blood belong to Haplogroup A, B, C, D or X only. The story about Sophie being Native Indian is not true, at least it isn’t if the genetics can be believed.

The story could have originated because Sophie looked Native. She even had the nickname ‘Squaw’. Maybe the only reason she had this nickname was because she looked Native and not because she was.

I have come to learn that this phenomenon, of being under the impression or understanding that one has a Native heritage when in reality there is nothing to support the claim, is rather common.

Did you know?
Many people believe that having Métis status is the same as having Indian Status. It is not. The term Métis was the term given to the children who were the product of the early French fur trappers or other Europeans and Native Indian women.
If you obtain Métis status then, depending on where you are in Canada or the States, you may be allowed certain rights such as special fishing or hunting rights or perhaps be given an advantage when being considered for government grants but nothing much else. Métis do not have treaty rights – there are a few exceptions where some Métis bands have treaty rights but those are exceptions.


  1. Interesting blog post. Claims of Native heritage seem to be rampant in French-Canadian families. I grew up hearing the same stories about both the Catudals and the Sicards. I'd always heard we had Iriquois ancestry. I think sometimes the family thinks a relative "looks" native and that's what starts the rumor.

  2. Secret Genetics and our French Canadian Ancestry

    For many descendants of Canada French emigrants, stories persist of ancestral daughters who were born half Native. My own family had two such women who tied us to the original residents of the New World, public records of births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths and burials notwithstanding.

    In my extensive genealogical research, I have come across other French Canadian families who share these connections as well. What made it seem odd to me though, was that both parents of the half Native daughter were usually confirmed to be 100% European. A puzzle for some perhaps, but I found the answer to that enigma in Genetics.

    I surmise that sometime around the early 1800's, a spontaneous cellular anomaly occurred within a few French Canadian women which introduced what I call the "HNGM" gene. This benign strand may have replaced a portion of natural DNA in the reproductive system, the effects of which often skipped generations, making some female children unwitting carriers of it.

    My own half Native grandmother seemed an improbable circumstance, having two French descendant parents, but I could not deny the longstanding elder's stories that it was true. Even more amazing, her sister had a daughter who also became a half Native grandmother! Aunt and niece: both half Native - incredible!

    I was also intrigued that my 4x great grandfather Pierre never knew that his direct and subsequent female offspring would suddenly acquire the ability to produce half Native grandmothers. In many cases, these women never realized their superimposed heritage, because the honor was often bestowed long after they had passed.

    By virtue of this astonishing revelation, I have reconciled the record of fact with the father to son story of my heritage. I can now say with confidence that my 3x great grandmother was not only 100% French; but secretly 100% half Native as well.

    It all adds up quite nicely. My cousins will be very proud to learn they were right all along.

    written after a moment of clarity by M. Fortier (3x great grandson of Scholastique Payet dite St-Amour; 1st cousin 4x removed of Sophie Godard dite Lapointe)

    1. Thank you for your hilarious comment Mike. I wouldn't doubt that at some point you'll start to see discussions on the Internet about the newly discovered HNGM gene. Who knows, maybe there'll be an explosion of newly realized Indian princesses because of your discovery.

    2. Judy, my family's "legend" included stories of half Native ancestry in our Payet, Perrault, Godard and Therrien lines. All the subject women were described as Métis, including Sophie, who you describe on your blog as thought by your family to be whole Native. Of course, one cannot be both 100% Native and Métis.

      Sophie's father was a descendant of Etienne Godard of France, her mother the daughter of Pierre Payet also a French descendant, so for her to have been whole or even half Native would require my secret gene theory (LOL), presume a Native Milkman in the neighborhood, or be completely false.

      I wonder if the story you heard of Sophie's being nicknamed 'squaw' was fabricated as well. According to the word was used as an insult by the French. I don't know of any child or grandchild who would address or describe their mother or grandmother in any way but mère et grand-mère, and it is presumably they who left us this account.

      Thank you for scientifically putting this matter to rest with the help of not-so-secret Genetics! Your mtDNA test proved the invalidity of the (wishful?) claims our grandparents made. - cousin Mike

  3. It seems impossible to me when reading the history of the French fur trappers that most french canadians would not have some indian blood. When the frenchmen first came over to quebec there were no women but indian women. Only 5 men came with their wives. Thirty years later a boat came over and that had 700 french women from france but who did they marry. The metis offspring of the original french men who were there 30 years ago. Common sense French canadians mostly hide their indian roots.

  4. Actually, in 1608, Champlain founded Québec City with 28 men. In 1630 there were only 103 colonists. Many of these colonists were Jesuits, soldiers and fur traders. It stands to reason that the fur traders and perhaps some of the soldiers may have had children with Natives but it was very much frowned upon by the Church. Most times the children from these liaisons were raised with-in the Native community, hence, there weren't many who actually entered the French community and bred with the French. Of course some did, but the numbers are not as high as one might expect.

    In 1634 single women started coming over with the intent of marrying and starting a family in the New France colony. These women are referred to as the Filles à Marier (marriageable girls). Unlike the Filles du Roi, who came later, these women were not commissioned by the King. They came of their own volition. During the years 1634 and 1663, 262 Filles à Marier came to New France. Most social classes were represented by the Filles à Marier. Remember, just 3 years before these women started to arrive there were only 103 colonist certainly not all of whom may have had children with the Natives.

    The Filles du Roi (The KIng's Daughters)were a group of women who were sent over from France between 1663 and 1673 for the express purpose of providing a breeding stock for the New France colony which was mostly made-up of men at that time. During this 10 year time-frame approximately 770 women arrived in New France as Filles du Roi. These 770 women arrived over the course of 10 years and not all at once on a ship.

    I definitely agree that the French intermingled with the Natives and from these liaisons had children; the only thing is I question the amount.

  5. Geeze has anyone seen what actual band members look like on the east coast? Many are very white skinned.

  6. I want to write and say thank you for sharing this. I have been doing my husband's genealogy and we have also bee curious about Indigenous ancestry. Philomene Chabot was his 3rd great grandmother so you have helped solve this mystery. It is equally exciting and fascinating to discover that he has 2 direct native ancestors, and 2 ancestors belonging noble lineage (Jean-Vincent Saint-Castin, a French baron and Marie Mathilde Pidiwamiska an Abenaki Princess). I'm not sure how long it would have taken to find this out with out your blog. I'm looking forward to exploring more. Thank you so much for your energy!