Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rebellion and Acts of Treason

As I continue to delve deeper into Louisiana’s Colonial history -- as well as my ancestral connections to several important individuals and family lines -- I am finding interesting stories of rebellion and acts of treason. 

In 1768, the French Louisiana Territory was to be handed over from French to Spanish rule as was agreed to in the Treaty of Fontainbleu.  This was 11 years before Spain declared war against Great Britain, which ushered Louisiana into the American Revolution 1779. The handover was an attempt by the French to ease tensions between the two nations and to ensure that the territory would not fall into the hands of the British at the end of the French and Indian War.

The Louisiana Territory at this time was primarily inhabited by French and German settlers along with several native tribes. Most of the influential people of the area were of French descent. These inhabitants were not content to let their territory be handed over to Spain and to accept Spain's restrictions on trade. This, in combination with a fairly slow handover and a weak Spanish military presence, opened the door to the rebellion.

The rebellion itself was aimed at forcing the Spanish Governor Antonia de Ulloa to return to Spain. Ulloa was, in fact, forced to return to Spain in October of 1768. However, that did not end the rebellion. The ruler of Spain quickly dispatched Alejandro O'Reilly and a fleet of ships to end the rebellion. O'Reilly successfully put down the rebellion and executed the leaders of the rebellion. This firmly established Spanish rule of the Louisiana Territory.

As I looked closely at the names of several of the conspirators who were accused of treason and were eventually put to death as a result of their participation in the rebellion, I discovered a few interesting aspects of history and more ancestral connections. What I did discovered was at least three of the six men (Lafreniere, Villere, Noyan) who were put to death for their involvement in the rebellion, were related to Karl Frederick D’arensbourg. As I mentioned in an earlier post, D'arensbourg is my 6th generation great-grandfather. This means that those participants in the rebellion are also related to me. 

I have more research to do. However, learning about this aspect of Louisiana's history and my ancestral connection to another revolution that took place in Louisiana is fascinating.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Following The Paper Trail and Discovering Another Manumission Document

Manumission Document
 the Missing link to My
Native American Ancestry
Part 1
Manumission Document
 the Missing link to My
Native American Ancestry
Part 2

My ancestral research continues to take me along many interesting twists and turns. One in particular I now believe has connected me and my Louisiana ancestry to a Native American line.  

It all came about while I was researching another one of my Louisiana Creole ancestral lines. Interestingly enough, this ancestral connection was two generations down from Agnes Mathieu and Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo.  Given the document I have discovered, I can now claim  descendency from Rouensa, Chief of the Illiniwek Indian tribe in the late 17th/early 18th century, via his daughter, Marie.  Here is how this all came to be.

One of Agnes Mathieu’s and Mathieu Devaux dit Platilla’s grandsons, Francois Mathieu -- son of Louis Mathieu and Claire Eulalie Peytavin -- was married to Rosette Philomena D'aresnbourg. She was the daughter of Gilbert D'arensbourg and Celestine Bulter. Rosette Philomena D'arensbourg, my 2nd generation great-grandmother was my first link into the D'arensbourg family tree.

For several years I had experienced some challenges locating the parents of her father, my 3rd generation great-grandfather, Gilbert D’ARENSBOURG. He was my next major link into the D’ARENSBOURG family of the "Cote des Allemands" or German Coast and to the progenitor of this family, Karl Fredrick D'Arensboug, a Swedish officer who worked for the Company of the Indies and arrived in Louisiana in 1721. Karl D’ARENSBOURG was to play a vital role in the history of the German Coast as well as that of New Orleans.  There exists a line of mixed-race Creoles of color among the D’ARENSBOURGS,  from which my family descends. Many stories have developed over the years about how such came to be.  

Some have said that the Creoles of color branch of the D’ARENSBOURGS most likely derived from former slaves, who after emancipation took on the D’ARENSBOURG surname as their own. This explanation could be quite believable and convenient, especially if the family’s official historian was attempting to explain away the miscegenation (race mixing) that occurred between several of the D’ARENSBOURG men and their former slaves. These men and their concubine often cohabitated and eventually D’ARENSBOURG produced mixed-race offspring, one of which was my 3rd generation great-grandfather, Gilbert D’ARENSBOURG. He was listed as a quadroon (meaning one parent was white and the other mulatto -- half black/half white), according to the Louisiana standard of racial classification.

What finally led me to the discovery of my Native American heritage -- and a completely different story of my ancestral connection to the D’ARENSBOURG surname -- was when I located a slave manumission document dated November 28, 1799. Listed on the two pages written in French were the names of a one-month-old boy named Gilbert, a nine-year-old girl named Manette, both listed as quadroons, and their mulatto mother named Felicite, who was listed as the concubine of Pierre Frederick D’ARENSBOURG, Jr., who had died just 13 days earlier.  

This family of three was being granted their freedom by Elizabeth Duclos DE SALLE, widow of Pierre Frederick D’ARENSBOURG, Sr., and mother of Pierre Frederick D’ARENSBOURG, Jr. After the death of her son, Elizabeth had the awesome task of determining the fate of this slave woman and her two children. Rather than selling them on the auction block, she decided to grant them their freedom. The manumission document explained that the reason for granting their freedom was “in recognition of the good and faithful service" that Felicite had rendered for at least the last four years of Pierre Frederick D’ARENSBOURG's life. Elizabeth Duclos DE SALLE most likely knew of her son's cohabitation and relationship with his slave concubine, Felicite. I would have to suspect that the children who were born were most likely Elizabeth's quadroon grandchildren. 

Karl Frederick D'Arensbourg 
   (1694 -1777)

As I further researched the background of Elizabeth Duclos DE SALLE, I discovered that she too was of mixed-race ancestry (French and Native American). In fact, she was the granddaughter of a full-blooded Indian named Marie “Aramepinchone” ROUENSA and a French military officer. ROUENSA, herself was the daughter of François-Xavier Rouensa, Chief of the Kaskaskian tribe. 

Stories have been written which tell of Marie ROUENSA and her conversion to the Catholic faith, which set into motion a sequence of conversions among her native people. This turn of events laid the basis for the founding of the Franco-Indian settlement of Kaskaskia in 1703, a momentous event in early Illinois history. This was at least 15 years before my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana was founded in 1718.

Many have read about the Native American woman, Sacajawea, who helped Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the Louisiana territory after 1803. I believe I have discovered my family's "Sacajawea" in finding Marie ROUENSA, my 7th generation great-grandmother 100 years earlier. Equally exciting, is the connection to the Swedish D’ARENSBOURG family of the "Cote des Allemands." Connecting these two lines of my heritage is truly amazing for me. As it turns out, Pierre Frederick D’ARENSBOURG, Jr. was the grandson of Karl Frederick D’ARENSBOURG. Seeing that Pierre had a quadroon son with the now freed woman, Felicite, that would make this one-month-old boy, Gilbert, the great grandson of Karl Frederick D’ARENSBOURG. Finally, I had discovered the link to my ancestral connection into the D’Arensbourgs of "Cote des Allemands." (see pedigree chart).

Michael Nolden Henderson

FRANCES     ?    (Albert Henderson)
NELLIE MATHIEU   (Thomas   ? ) 
CHARLES MATHIEU  (Georgiana Legaux)
                                                                           |                                           I
                                                                           |                                           |
                                                                           |                                           |
                                                  Louis Mathieu / Claire Eulalie Peytavin             |
                                                       |                                                               |
                                                       |                                                               |
                                          Mathieu DeVaux dit Platillo / Agnes Mathieu             |
                                                                                  GILBERT D’ARENSBOURG /(Celestine Butler)
                                      I                                                                                                I
                                      I                                                                                                I
                PIERRE Fredrick D’Arensbourg JR.                                                       FELICITE                                                  
                   (Mixed Race)                                                                                   (Mulatto/ Mixed Race)
                              I                                                                         I      (Quadroon /Mixed Race) 
         KARL FREDRICK D’ARENSBOURG                                         I
                                                       ALEXANDRE DUCLOS DESELLE/ ELIZABETH PHILLIPPE                                                        
                                                                               (French)            |     (Mulatto/Mixed Race) 
                                                      MICHEL PHILIPPE  /Marie “Aramepinchone” ROUENSA
                                                                               (French)           I     (Full Blood Native Indian)
                                                            FRANCOIS XAVIER “ MAMENTHOUENSA” ROUENSA
                                                                                     (Full Blood Native Indian)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Manumission Reveals Mysteries and Other Interesting Ancestral Connections

It's been a few days since the airing of the PBS program, History Detectives” and my segment titled "The Galvez Papers." I am still excited about having had a chance to share part of Agnes’ story with a wider, national viewing audience. If you didn’t see the program, you can still do so online; just go to and type in "Galvez Papers" or click here:AGNES MANUMISSION

My original intent with this blog was to share information about my 4th generation great grandmother, Agnes. She had a very interesting life as a Creole slave and then a free woman of color in French and Spanish Colonial Louisiana. Her manumission (freedom papers) was an important find. It allowed me to better understand the connection of my colonial slave ancestor and her French consort named Mathieu Devaux dit Platilla. It also connected me to a significant period of time in the history of Louisiana and America. 
Since my last blog post, I have been thinking about some other information I have discovered from the manumissions of other female members in my family tree. I realized that Agnes has become the center of focus and a prime example of the lives of these amazing women. Each of these female ancestors connects my family tree to other significant historic figures inLouisiana’s Colonial past. 
What I am finding after making these discoveries is a window into other noted family lines that are well documented. I am now starting to understand how important these manumission documents are in unveiling historical facts and revealing long lost truths about the lives of those who sought to be free.
So far I have uncovered four such manumissions of female ancestors in my family. Rather than start another blog about their lives, I will share information about them here.
Stay tuned for a look at the manumission of the mulatto slave woman named Felicite (my 4th generation great grandmother) and her two quadroon children (one of which is my 3rd generation great grandfather Gilbert).