Wednesday, November 19, 2008

St. Joan of Arc -- Family Relationship?

It could be that the mother of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was a distant (24) great grandmother of my mother, Margaret Jane Jerome. That is, if you can believe the relationship calculations of the website. They collect thousands of genealogical databases from their members and share that data to help members research their family history. I utilize the services of this extremely large collection of data in researching family relationships. The data found there depends upon the accuracy of those members who collect and submit the information to Administrators of this website rate their estimates of relationship accuracy with a five star rating. In computing this particular chain of relationships, each link was given a four star rating.

The online Wikipedia encylopedia tells her story:

"Joan of Arc (c. 1412 – 30 May 1431) also known as "the Maid of Orleans," was a 15th century Catholic saint, and national heroine of France. A peasant girl born in Eastern France, Joan led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, claiming divine guidance, and was indirectly responsible for the coronation of King Charles VII. She was captured by the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court and burned at the stake when she was nineteen years old. Twenty-four years later, the Holy See reviewed the decision of the ecclesiastical court, found her innocent, and declared her a martyr. She was beatified in 1909 and later canonized in 1920.

Joan asserted that she had visions from God that told her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege at Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

Joan of Arc has remained an important figure throughout Western culture. From Napoleon to the present, French politicians of all leanings have invoked her memory. Major writers and composers who have created works about her include Shakespeare, Voltaire, Schiller, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Twain, and Shaw. Depictions of her continue in film, television, video games, song, and dance."
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joan of Arc

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Andre Jerome - First Settler, Kittson County MN

(The following article was published in the Centennial Edition of the Kittson County Enterprise in Hallock, Minnesota, on 29 June 1983)

Andre Jerome First Settler in the County

Was Picturesque Figure Of Mixed Blood and Hardy Stock; Suffered At Hands Of British For Activity As Aid Of Louis Riel - Rob't Thomson Second To Settle.

The country's history materially enriched by the story of Andre Jerome, it's first settler, mainly because his career contacts different phases of early history. In the first place, Jerome was a French-Cree mixed blood one of the Metis of the border country in the fur-trading period. Since he was the accused of participation in the first Riel rebellion his activities are woven into other chapters of the pioneer record. Andre Jerome, one of seven sturdy brothers of the Red river country, was born near Fort Garry in 1821. He traced his history back to the French Huguenots, his paternal grandfather having migrated from France early in the 19th century. The seven sons were endowed with the intelligence and courage of their French forbears and from their mother's people inherited splendid physiques, and the hardlihood and skill and cunning of the redman. Early they became coureurs de bois and voyageurs, performing the tasks which gave the great forests of the north a glamor that still envelopes it. The lives of these brothers were intigingly typical of the fur-trade era in the Red River valley, their antecedants, their activities and their manner of living were true to type.

Of Andrew Jerome, Mr. J. E. Bouvette wrote in the silver anniversary edition of the Enterprise in 1906 (the noted pioneer was still living then):

From this hardy and nomadic parents our subject inherited the characteristics which made him one of the most noted scoutes and voyageurs of his time. Though well up in years he is a man of able proportions and physique, is straight as the pathways he marked through the wilderness, has keen, expressive blue eyes which commonly hold a kindly sense of humor and good fellowship, but in anger are cold, stern and penetrating. The earlier part of his life he spent amid the influences of the forest and trail, and was for many years interested in scouting, carrying messages and pathfinding for the Hudson Bay company, Captain Hugh S. Donaldson and General H. H. Sibley, when the latter was agent for the American Fur company. When the Indian outbreak occurred in 1862 he proved of great value to the government, aiding in the suppression of the revolt.

Was Riel Aide

"He took an active part against the British government in the Riel rebellion and O'Donahue Fenian raid of 1869-70, and was imprisoned at Stony Mountain penitentiary in Manitoba, and was put through a sweat process by being bridled like a horse and obliged to break stone day and night to cause him to disclose the secret operations of his leaders, but his word was bond never to be broken and he stood his hardships and cruelties until finally liberated.

"He is as familiar with the leading Indian languages of this region as he is with the paths of the forest. The vast Northwest lay like a map before him and he knows every trail. It is doubtful if there is a human being who has passed through as many thrilling scenes and events of pioneer life as did Andre Jerome. He is an interesting conversationalist and can tell of some interesting buffalo hunts in the early days. Mr. Jerome settled on his present homestead (this county) 33 years ago last May. He married early a Miss Margaret Goslin and has a family of nine children, all of whom are living and are prominent farmers in this county."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Renville Family Reunion in Kittson County

Renville Family Reunion * August 30, 2008 * Caribou, Minnesota

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chief Little Crow

One of our native Minnesotan ancestors was Miniyuhe, daughter of Chief Big Thunder, of the village of Kaposia near Fort Snelling. Miniyuhe was wife of Joseph Renville I (1753-1806). Her brother was Chief Little Crow.

(From Famous Native Minnesotans; EMuseum; Minnesota State University, Mankato)

Little Crow was born Tayoyateduta (His Red Nation) in ca. 1810 in the Mdewakanton Dakota village of Kaposia. He was the first son of the chief, Wakenyantanka (Big Thunder), and his wife Minneakadawin (Woman Planting in Water) and the grandson of Chetanwakuamani, who was noted in history for signing the Zebulon Pike treaty of 1805. Little Crow grew to be a very ambitious man, and one without physical fear. He acquired a reputation of being a brave warrior. During these years, he also learned to read and write English. When his father accidentally shot and killed himself in 1846, Little Crow became the chief of his tribe. Two of his half-brothers attempted to assassinate him shortly thereafter, but only succeeded in wounding him. Little Crow banished them, and when they returned, had them executed.

When treaty negotiations began at Mendota in 1851, Little Crow was elected as the speaker for his tribe. After these negotiations were completed, he became the first chief to sign the Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux. Little Crow thought that this treaty would enable his people to "never be poor". This was not the case however. Almost immediately, trouble began. The government did not want the Sioux to own their own land, which was one of the stipulations of the treaty. Although they protested, the chiefs had no choice but to sign the revised treaty. Part of the money from the sale of the land was paid to traders instead of to the tribes, to be held in "trust" for future purchases. However, the Indians never saw any returns from the money.

. . . . More

. . . . and more.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

"Jolly" Joe Rolette

Joseph Rolette (23 October 1820 – 16 May 1871) was a well known American fur trader and politician. His father was Jean Joseph Rolette, often referred to as Joe Rolette the elder, a French-Canadian and a trader himself. Joseph Rolette’s mother was Jane Fisher, and the couple divorced after Joseph was born. Jane's relatives took young Joseph to New York. As his sense of adventure developed he headed back west in 1840 and by the time he was 21 he was working for his fathers partners in the Red River valley area of Minnesota. Some of the best-known names in Minnesota history (Henry Hastings Sibley and Ramsey Crooks) were active and running a fur trading company in the area. While in their service Joseph Rolette rebuilt a trading post at Pembina. He was responsible for the building and the defense of the post as well as managing the business being conducted there.

In 1842 young Rolette put into a place a unique method of transportation. He created a line of carts that ran on the Red River Trails between Pembina and the head of Mississippi navigation at Mendota, Minnesota. As a result a substantial portion of the trade enjoyed by the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada was diverted to the United States. Rolette ran this concern with his mother's brother. By this time the trading post had grown and a Canadian native, Norman W. Kittson, was managing it. Kittson adopted the system of Red River ox carts, growing and adding more lines until it consisted of several thousand vehicles.

During the late 1840s Rolette also had a hand in defending the posts, both from commercial rivals and unfriendly Native Americans. At one point he burned down a rival post which was trading whisky for furs, a transaction that was illegal during that time. In 1845 he married Angelique Jerome (sister of my great grandfather, Andre Jerome). Together they had eleven children.

In 1851 he was elected to the Minnesota Territorial Legislature and served four terms. It was from his time in the legislature that the best-known story about him originates. A bill making St. Peter the capital of Minnesota was about to be enacted and, as he was chairman of the enrollment committee, bills of this nature had to pass through him. Rolette took physical possession of the document and disappeared for the rest of the session, not returning until it was too late to pass any more bills. St. Peter did not become the capital and it ended up in St. Paul where it remains today. According to the story, he spent the week away from the legislature drinking and playing poker in the Fuller House Hotel with some friends.

During the Civil War he was unable to get a commission in the Union army and by the end of the war had lost much of his fortune. His health declined and he died on May 16, 1871.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

George Washington's French-Canadian Spy

Henri Gosselin, now retired from being editor of a Catholic newspaper in the East, wrote a book about a hero he learned about in studying his family history. Clement Gosselin was a French-Canadian who served as a spy for General George Washington during the American Revolution. He did this even though his Bishop warned him that he would be excommunicated if he should participate on the side of the Americans.

Eventually, he was wounded in the last battle of the war, at Yorktown, was promoted to Major and retired. Clement Gosselin was a brother to Joseph Marie Gosselin (born 1740) who is in our direct ancestral line. My great grandmother was Marguerite Gosselin, wife of Andre Jerome, and the great granddaughter of Joseph Marie Gosselin.

The book, entitled "George Washington's French Canadian Spy", is now out of print. Because of our relationship, the author has provided me with a copy. It is exciting to read about how a distant cousin helped in the making of the history of our nation. Not only did he serve with the patriots of our country against the British forces, but he actively recruited many other French Canadians to do the same.

An article about the author, Henri Gosselin is at, and an article about the book is at

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Blessed Dina Belanger (1897-1929)

Perhaps a more interesting cousin than Rudy Vallee, descended from our same de Rainville ancestors of Quebec and Normandy, was Dina Belanger. She was also known as Sister Cecilia of Rome. As a nun, she was a music teacher in Quebec who died at the early age of 32. She shunned attention, but wrote the Autobiography of Dina Belanger, published in 1984, at the order of her superiors.
After the archbishop read her book, he began proceedings to publicize her story. She was the first native of Quebec to be Beatified by the Church on 20 March 1993.

More about her is at and many other sites on the internet.

Rudy Vallee, a cousin

For those who are younger, Rudy Vallee (1901-1986) was one of the most popular singers of his day. He is remembered as the first crooner, before Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. A radio star in the 30s, film comedian in the 40s and 50s, Rudy turned to Broadway for success during the 60s.

He was the first radio talk show host. "The Rudy Vallee Show" was one of radio's great sensations, and introduced new talent to its audience. After attending Yale, he put his own band together, the Connecticut Yankees, which featured him on saxophone. One of the band's first gigs was at New York's Heigh-Ho club, where Rudy's trademark salutation, "Heigh-Ho, everybody!" was born.

Patriotism led him to enlist during the First World War, but he was released after just a few months when he was found to be too young to serve in the military. During World War II, he joined the Coast Guard, where he was conductor of their band.

The point of all this introduction was to introduce you to another 'cousin'. Rudy was a direct descendant of Jean de Rainville from St-Thomas De Touques, Diocese Of Lisieux, France. So are we. My grandmother was Eliza Renville (Mom's mother), which is one of the Americanized ways to spell the family name. Rudy's ancestors, the Vallees and the De Rainvilles came from France to Quebec and it was there that a marriage between Michel Vallee and Marie Anne Louise Rainville occurred on October 29, 1731.

Mom probably never knew she was related to Rudy Vallee. If she did, I don't remember her ever mentioning it although she was well aware of what a star he was.

His official website is at: