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Many clients call to say they already know their Native line but they need to get documents to prove the ancestry is true -- since they need this proof to apply for some type of org or service.
When we ask clients who their Native ancestor was, they usually give the names of French people. This is because most of early Canada was populated by the French, and the Northwest Company fur trade hired thousands of French men to go get furs, and they encouraged those men to take Native wives. Today, thousands of Native families have French surnames, and many of them don't even know it.
Some of the names have been changed over the years and are now spelled as if they are English -- for example -- Bushie (Boucher) -- Gardippy (Gariepy), Diabo (Dailleboust) and so many others.
Documents from archives prove who parents of a person were, because they are legal records that were recorded and archived (by the church or the government) for an event like marriage, birth, baptism, death, census, etc.
Other documents for Native families can include Indian band rolls, Metis scrip records, fur trade contracts, journals, letters and so many other types of records.
There are many ways someone could have been recorded as having been Native in records, starting with Native names. Some examples of recorded Native names are Manit8abe8ich, Pigar8ich, Capi9ek8e, Wanokne.
Other times the word "sauvagesse" was used to describe a female Native person. The terms "esclave panis" (slang for Pawnee slave), "panis" (slang for Native), and "tete plat" (Flat Head) refer to people who were Native.
Census might list someone as "I" in the race column for Indian, "M" for Metis or Mulatto, or many variations of "breed" -- "FB" French Breed, "SB" Scottish Breed, "HB" Half Breed, etc.
Sometimes the person was named by the priest with a combination of Christian name and which Nation they came from. Some examples of this would be "Marie de la Nation des Cris" (Marie of the Nation of Crees) or "Mageleine Coustinaie" which may appear to be a French surname but is actually a French way of writing "Kootenay", which reveals she was part of the Kootenay Nation from the interior Rockies in the west.
There are so many ways someone could have been recorded as Native in archived records that it would be impossible to list them all.
When we ask clients who their Native ancestor was, we are looking for an actual Native name, or the first recorded indication that someone was Native. Many people give us a French surname for their great grandparent who was visibly Native, thinking that this is the first person who left a Native village or reserve.
For Metis persons, this is usually not the case, as most Native Ancestors who were the first person with a recorded Native name were farther back than this. If you are not familiar or do not know whether your suspected ancestor's name was Native or not, we can help you figure that out.
Many First Nations persons have a long line of French or other surnames in recorded archives too, although they have proof that their family were part of a Native village or reserve more recently.
But just because one surname might be known in one area as being Native, does not mean all people with that surname are Native. For many French families, there were one or two men who had unions with Native women, leaving offspring. That does not mean all people with that surname are Native.
Imagine your Uncle marries a Native woman. Their children would be Native but that doesn't make your whole family Native. So when looking for information online, just because you might have cousins who are Native, doesn't mean you are too. If your own direct ancestors (grandparents) did not have Native blood, then you are not Native.