Mi'kmaq history and people: The First Benoit

By J Benwah

je'sn penwa
Thunder Cloud

Photo courtesy of Edna May Benoit.

Millicent Eunice "Milli" Chaisson (wife of John Alfred Benoit), my grandmother, was daughter of Josephine (and Lawrence Chaisson), who was daughter of Genevieve "Jane" Benoit (and Julien Chiasson) , who was daughter of Francois Benoit, Jr and Marie Duffenias. Francois being son of Francois Benoit, Sr. and Anne L'Official and grandson of Isabelle Shegone (Chego) (and Henri L'Official), and great grandson of Paul and Marie Chego, migrating Mi'kmaq.

Pjila'si (welcome),

Family history tells us that Francois Benoit is the father to most of the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq Benoits. It is also true that he is known as the first Benoit to settle here and that most of the Benoits and Bennetts connect to him.

The constant fighting between the French and English caused many upheavals and disruptions to an already changed way of life for the Mi'kmaq people. The British wherever possible drove out Mi'kmaq along with the French in its aim of securing the new world for the Empire. I won't get into the details of the various Acadian expulsions, but it is clear that many families were constantly on the run. It was for this reason that Francois Benoit was born in a French colony on Iles Malouines (Falkland Islands) off Argentina. He was of Mi'kmaq descent. The colony there was soon abandoned and his father, Augustin Benoit eventually settled at St. Pierre. Augustin's father Claude can be traced back to Port Royal that was set up in Mi'kmaq territory. Claude's father, whose mother was a Babin, settled in Cobequid -known today as Truro, Nova Scotia. They are descendant of Martin Dit-La Briere Benoist who came to Port Royal with his Mi'kmaq wife Marie Chaussegros back in 1671. There is much documentation available.

Rev Michael Brosnan, in his book "The Pioneer history of St. George's Diocese" refers to Henri L'Official, and his Mi'kmaw wife, Elizabeth (Isabelle) who became stranded in Baie St-George. Isabelle "Nanette" was daughter of Paul and Marie Chego (Shegone).

Rev Charles Francois Bailly, whose responsibility encompassed all of the Maritime Provinces in the 18th century, in one of his Missionary journeys to the town of Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia, christened Elizabeth Chego, future wife of Henri L'Official and daughter of Paul Chego and Marie who were Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaq-Maliseet Institute at the University of New Brunswick, records her sibling as follows:

Their future daughter, Anne L'Official married Francois Benoit. They were married in Baie St-George and the marriage was revalidated in St. Pierre on August 4, 1791. Ann's sister Marie had her marriage to Jean-Rene Camus revalidated on September 24, 1799 in Quebec City and records clearly identify her parents as Elizabeth Shegone and Henri L'Official. Francois and Ann took some of their first children, to Quebec City to the parish of Notre Dame du Quebec to have them baptized. Below is an English translation of the baptism record for son George:

"On the 16th of September, 1799, I, the parish Priest of Quebec City, undersigned, baptized, under condition, George, born the 7th of August, 1798 in St. George's Bay, Newfoundland, of the marriage of Francois Benoit, Fisherman and Anne L'Official. Godfather Raphael Monier, godmother Marie Bedouin who declared that they didn't know how to sign as did the parents of the child. J.O. Plessis ptre cure du Quebec".

Ships Registry in St. John's reveal that this Mi'kmaq family built a schooner in 1824. There is even a mention in the Mi'kmaq timeline at the University of Cape Breton, of this family building a schooner at Baie St-George. Francois Benoit, Sr. was the registered owner. Francois Benoit, Jr. was the skipper and married Susan Duffney, a lady of Mi'kmaq roots from Port au Port. Thus, there seems to be ample documentation of our ancestry.

Their children intermarried with other Mi'kmaq families and settled all over Baie St-George, Port au Port du Peninsule, Baie de Iles, Baie D'Spear and beyond. We are some of their proud descendants. In the next article we will discuss another Mi'kmaq family whose descendants reside in the area.

Compiled by Jasen Benwah

Local Mi'kmaq Researcher

Cape St. George, NL.(Ktaqamkuk)

Wantaqo'ti, (peace).

As appeared in The Georgian Newspaper, March 23-29, 2004


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