This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series. This week’s prompt is In the News. To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index.
Newspapers are great sources of genealogical information. Some common newspaper finds are birth announcements, engagement and wedding announcements, and obituaries. However, modern-era newspapers can also give clues about distant ancestors — like this article about my 6x-great-grandfather Jean Joseph Etier.
I haven’t done any in-depth research about my French immigrant ancestors, so this article provides historical background and points me toward sources I should reference. One reason I haven’t researched these families is the language barrier of French church records and Spanish land grants. But because my ancestor is an early settler, historians have already done much of the translation work and published information about these families. It’s a great head start as I prepare to dive into source documents.
Jean Joseph Etier, son of Pierre Ethier and Marguerite Vaudry, was born near Montreal, New France, in 175_.¹ In his adult years, Joseph was known by the nickname “Montreal,” likely due to his birthplace.² He married Louise Simon, the widow of Joseph Barre, on September 22, 1777, in St. James Parish, Louisiana.³
I did not originally think Joseph Etier was part of Le Grand Derangement — the forced Acadian exile from Canada by the English. Joseph was born in Montreal, not in the coastal, maritime areas that made up Acadia. However, a closer reading of Acadian history taught me exiles often relocated to other areas — such as French-speaking Quebec — before moving to Louisiana.⁴ The timing of Joseph’s appearance in Louisiana (1770s) and location (St. James Parish) also make it possible his family was part of the Acadian migration. During this period, Spain allowed Acadians to settle along the Mississippi River in the area of present-day St. James and St. John parishes, using the exiled people group as a buffer between themselves and the English.⁵ Additional research into Joseph’s parents and grandparents could help me determine where they lived before Montreal and if they were displaced Acadians.
Joseph and his wife Louise lived in Pointe Coupee Parish before moving to the Ouachita River valley, where Joseph obtained a Spanish land grant.⁶ His land was located in present-day Caldwell Parish, along the eastern bank of the Ouachita River in the area currently encompassing the Columbia airport.⁷ I actually drive through this land each time I visit home! It is along LA-4, roughly between the Columbia Church of Christ and the intersection of LA-133.
Because Joseph was familiar with both north and south Louisiana, the commandant of Baton Rouge hired him to build a road between Baton Rouge and Monroe, then known as Fort Miro.⁸ When he returned from the mission, Joseph discovered his land had been given away in a grant to the Marquis de Masion Rouge.⁹ Fort Miro commandant Don Juan Filhiol testified on Joseph’s behalf, confirming Joseph had long been a settler of the area, but the land’s ownership remained contested.¹⁰
Joseph never saw resolution of his disputed land. He died on October 27, 1808, in Ouachita (now Caldwell) Parish.¹¹ It wasn’t until January 28, 1922, that Joseph’s heirs were issued a land patent through a — literal — Act of the United States Congress:¹²
Crazy how it took over 100 years to straighten out this recordkeeping mess!
Joseph experienced the rule of three nations while he lived in Louisiana: Spain from 1763 through 1800, a short time of nominal Spanish control after the territory’s transfer back to France, three weeks of French rule, and then the United States after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. These years must have been tumultuous — or perhaps not so much in the distant Ouachita River valley.
My Louisiana roots run much deeper than I ever thought — all because of Jean Joseph “Montreal” Etier, one of the earliest settlers of Caldwell Parish.
¹ E. Russ Williams, Jr., Encyclopedia of Individuals and Founding Families of the Ouachita Valley of Louisiana from 1785 to 1850, 2 vols. (Monroe, Louisiana : Williams Genealogical and Historical Publications, 1996), 1:243.
² “Marriage of two creates family’s descendants in Louisiana,” The (Monroe, Louisiana) News-Star, 1 Nov 1998, p. 1-C.
³ Williams, Jr., Encyclopedia of Individuals and Founding Families of the Ouachita Valley of Louisiana from 1785 to 1850, 1:243.
⁴ Tim Hebert, Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History (http://www.acadian-cajun.com : accessed 28 Mar 2019), “History of the Acadians.”
⁶ “Marriage of two creates family’s descendants in Louisiana,” p. 1-C.
⁷ Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records(https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=870380&docClass=SER&sid=op0tpw3x.rzs#patentDetailsTabIndex=0 : accessed 28 Mar 2019), entry for Joseph Etier, Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, no. 10122.
⁸ “Marriage of two creates family’s descendants in Louisiana,” p. 1-C.
¹¹ Williams, Jr., Encyclopedia of Individuals and Founding Families of the Ouachita Valley of Louisiana from 1785 to 1850, 1:243.
¹² U.S. Congress, Congressional Record, 67th Cong., 2d session (1922), 1565, “Widow and Heirs of Joseph Etier”; image copy, U.S. Government Publishing Office, Congressional Record (Bound Edition) (https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/crecb/_crecb/Volume%20063%20(1922) : accessed 28 Mar 2019).