Metis and voyageur migration

Amazing how one little idea can turn into hours of obsession!

I started by looking for the name of the book that the excerpt about Madeleine Lestard St. Onge McTavish and Antoine Lafreniere originated in.  I found out the book is called Pionniers de Montagne Pembina by Odile Martel. In the process I learned more about how their son Olivier (and his son) were amongst a few original settlers in Pembina Mountains and founded the town of Saint-Leon. Antoine, Madeleine, Ovide and the others followed and the town grew.  Antoine gave land to build the church and Olivier developed his second lot into village lots.

So, where did they come from?  I had come across this info before but spent more time on yet yesterday.  The were voyageurs who had served at the British military post in Drummond which was closed down (land returned to USA) and the base was moved to Penetenguishene, Ontario.

Many, like Antoine, had married  local native or metis women on Drummond Island.  Madeleine was metis (Scottish – McTavish) and described as “native woman with red streaks in her hair”. She spoke Cree, Michif, English and French.  Her grandmother Madeleine Ouiouiskoin was Ojibwa from the Outowa Nation. I didn’t find out much about her other than she was baptized at 30 years old – the same day she married Jacques Vasseur of Montreal.  There is much speculation about Madeleine McTavish’s father.  One area of research shows that her parents and two siblings died in a boating accident and she was adopted by an aunt and didn’t learn about this until she was an adult – the time she began using the name McTavish.  The other is that her mother had her with a McTavish man before marrying the man she would have more children with.  Either way, it is certain that she was metis and so were her children.

So, they moved with the base and settled in the township of Tiny in Penetenguishene, Simcoe County, Ontario where they had been given land grants after their participation in the war at Drummond Island. Approximately 160 voyageurs and their families migrated to Tiny.

Then a generation or two later, many moved to St-Leon and throughout the Red River area.  Looking at the names on land grants in Manitoba from late 1800s you see the same family names as were in Tiny and Drummond Island. The voyageur spirit must have given them the ability to uproot their families from a comfortable settled town in Ontario to once again pioneer a land and establish a new community of metis and voyageurs. Madeleine was a grandparent when she migrated to Manitoba.

They are a very interesting family and I really enjoy doing this research. I’m learning about Canadian history, the metis people and it all leads to Canada today and the many strong metis communities that still exists across the country.  I learned yesterday that Simcoe has a very strong metis community and traditions dating back to the early settlers from Drummond Island.


  1. Well Jo; It’s interesting that is took you hours to ‘research’ this – if you would have check with me from the start because that’s where you took the picture from, I could have told you all of this. And by the way, what is your connection to Antoine & Madeleine ?

    • Hi Suzanne – I don’t know that I got the scan from you as it is available in a few places on the Internet – have we conversed before? I have no connection with Madeleine and Antoine other than they are my husband’s first ancestors on his mother’s side to settle in Manitoba. I am helping to trace his genealogy and we’ll focus his lineage on Madeleine since other family members obtained their Metis Status through their connection to her.

  2. No, we have not talked before… and I am pretty sure you got the picture from my rootweb blog. How is your husband, Lorin, related to Antoine and Madeleine?

    • Please post the link to your blog here so others who enquire about Madeleine and Antoine can check it out. I don’t recall ever seeing it but maybe I did as I’ve visited hundreds of pages in the last few months tracking down info.

  3. Oh, and by the way, Odile is my mother.
    and Antoine and Madeleine are my GGGGgrandfather/grandmother.

  4. Another cousin (Hello Suzanne!). Just a small correction: Antoine is buried in Lafontaine in Ontario. Madeleine moved to Manitoba with some of her children after his death. I am intrigued with the story about the drownings… do you have a source for this line of research? I have been looking forany trace of Madeleine (birth certificate, baptismal record) that would show a mother father godmother, etc.


    • Thanks for the correction. I am not sure where I came across the story about the drownings but if I recall correctly the person who stated the theory believed that Madeleine’s parents and 2 siblings died in a boating accident and that Madeleine was adopted by her mother’s sister. I also came across someone who has some documentation for Madeleine but I haven’t tracked any thing as I’m not a serious genealogist – just finding myself following threads of fascinating stories. I’ll check my browser history to see if I can find where some of it came from.

  5. I had heard the same story, but could not find any other evidence to support this. It is interesting to note that Donald McTavish died by drowning in the Oregon territory (this is well documented). As well, we know that Madeleine was raised by Genevieve Katrine Lafreniere and her husband Joseph St. Onge, and I believe she was adopted, since Madeleine is barely 9 years older than her adopted mother. So the story is plausible in parts… it is just that we have no evidence of the death of her biological mother… I wish we could locate her baptismal record…

  6. Hi – I find your research fascinating. As my dad had always told me stories of an Objibwe woman in our family history, I had not found anything to back this up until this evening…I have come across a few websites that talked about it and also your blog. I just wanted to say thanks for the research your doing and your time. Madeleine Ouiouiskoin is my 8th great grandmother. Until tonight I had never heard of Metis and also thank you for that too. If you find anything else out about the family I would be interested.. Thanks, Sean Penegor (Perigord)

  7. Hi Jo and Suzanne,
    Suzanne, I knew your Mom, fantastic work on the St-Léon MB history book that she did, and I’ve wondered, but have always forgotten to ask, who has the original picture of Antoine Lafrenière and Madeleine Letard-StOnge-McTavish? Maybe they have other pictures stashed away that no-one has seen? I find pictures do equal a thousand words because when I look at them, I am so impressed by their clothes and then I see peeking out, a pair of scuffed, dusty shoes… brings them back to the level of real people. I’d love to see more pictures. Thank you, Jo, for making this site available.

  8. Hey Jo, I love your blog. Can u help me? I’m stuck. I’m trying to figure out the names of the parents of Ovide Benjamin Lafreniere born June 27 1837 and died July 10, 1917 or 1918. I am a descendant of Jelen Marie Marguerite Langevin–she was my great grandma. i would appreciate any guidance. Deborah

    • Hi Deborah

      This is what I have info on. Hope it helps.
      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
      Ovide’s Parents:

      Antoine Lafreniere
      born: 1802-10-16 Baptized Maskinonge, QB
      married: 1826-08-17 Drummond Island, civil ceremony

      Voyageur NWC. Served on Drummond Island in war of 1812. One of 75 original families to receive land grant in Simcoe Township, town of Tiny in 1828. Son Oliver and his son Frederic were among the first colonists to settle in Pembina Mountains in 1877. Oliver and family moved to St. Leon in 1877 and received homestead lot 35-4-9. Later purchased lot 2-4-9 which he developed into village lots. Madeleine and family moved to St. Leon in May 1878 and received homestead lot 32-4-8.

      Madeleine Lestard/Letard St. Onge McTavish
      born: 1802 METIS Mackinac Island
      buried: 1883-12-08 St. Leon, MB

      Known as Metis and referred to as native woman with red highlights in her hair. Spoke English, French, Cree and Michif.

      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
      Antoine’s Parents:

      Antoine-Charles Lupin-Lafreniere
      born: 1762 Maskinonge, Que
      married: 1791 Louisville, Que
      died: 1826 Maskinonge, Que

      Marie-Josephte Banliac Lamontagne
      born: 1766 Louiseville, Que
      died: 1834 Maskinonge, Que

      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
      Madeleine’s Parents:

      Joseph Letard dit St. Onge
      married: 1810

      Catherine Genevieve Vasseur
      born: 1792-07-02 St. Ingnace, Mackinac Co.
      baptized: 1799-08-15

      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
      Antoine-Charles parents:

      Joseph Lupien-Lafreniere
      born: 1722 Maskinonge, Que
      married: 1750 St. Josephe Maskinonge
      died: 1790 Maskinonge

      Marie-Anne Dupuis
      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
      Marie-Josephte’s parents:

      Jean-Francois Banliac Lamontagne
      born: 1730 Riviere du Loop, Que
      married: 1753 Louisville, Que
      died: 1810 Louisville, Que

      Marie-Anne Lemaitre
      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
      Catherine’s Parents:

      Jacques Vasseur
      born: Montreal
      married: 1799-08-05 St. Ignace, Mackinac Co.

      Madeleine Ouiouiskoin
      born: 1769 OUTOWA NATION/OJIBWA Lac Courdes Oreilles
      baptized: 1799-08-05 (married same day)

    • look on the Penetanguishene Museum,they have a section there on all the Graveyards in the area including the Lafontaine

  9. I am from yet another branch of the Lafreniere/ Letard/St Onge/McTavish line (through Ovide Benjamin and Marie). We didn’t even know that we had ancestors from Manitoba when we moved here- let alone ones who founded towns! Thanks for the great information

  10. Great blog site Jo Jo. My GG grandparents were Contant Moreau b1819 and Marie Lafreniere b1833 and just last weekend visited their grave site at the St Croix church in Lafontaine, Otario. Marie was daughter of Madeleine Letard dit St Onge dit McTavish and Antoine Lafreniere. I understand Madeleine died in St Leon MB. Has anyone found her gravestone?

    • Hi Bill, I’m trying to trace greatgrandparents Louis Moreau and grandmother Marguereite Duquette who homestead in St. Leon in 1877 at south side of section 14 at Nortre Dame Lourdes. The Father Theobald Bitsche celebrated mass on the grounds in the house of Louis Moreau. Can you help me, thank you, Jacinta possible relative.:)

  11. Antoine and Maggie are my GGG Gp. My father Ronald Auguste Marie Lafreniere was born in St Leon,MB

  12. Hello i am resurching Joseph Letard St-onge and his daughter Marie Lousia letard stonge looking for Birth death Certificates that link them together i have Maries wedding Certificate but Joseph did not sigh this .thanks Sott

      • Hey Jo,
        Hope you are well.

        Thanks for the positive comments about my blog! I am now translating a French document entitled “Saint Leon Le Montagnard” produced in 1979 and adding new posts to my blog. It is so interesting to see how my ancestors were community founders of St. Leon, MB. (I am descendent of Antoine, Ovide-Benjamin and Olivier Lafreniere).

        Were you even able to find a copy of Odile Martel’s book Pionneers of Pembina Mountains?

  13. Hello, I’m a bit confused about Madeleine Lacombe’s mother. In the list of Voyegeurs by A. C. Osbourne there appear to be 3 Madeleine’s, Madeleine N., Madeline Lacombe and Madeline St. Onge. It also has listed that Oliver Lafreniere, married Lacombe’s widow. It does state that Madeliene N. is (nee Madeleine St. Onge), but if that’s the case she listed twice. Also how is it that Oliver Lafreniere married Lacombe’s widow and, she was married to Antoine Lafreniere? Very confusing indeed! Hope someone can clear this up. Thank you.


    1. LAFRENIERE, OLIVER, of lot No. 18, con. 15, Tiny, married widow Lacombe.

    2. LACOMBE, N.(nee Madeleine St.Onge )

    3.LACOMBE, MADELINE, became the wife of Louis Langlade, after
    whose death she married Leon Dusome. She is still living in
    Tiny. Her father died on Drummond Island, after which her mother
    married Oliver Lafreniere, with whom she came to Penetanguishene.

    2. ST. ONGE, MADELINE, married Antoine Lafreniere. She is buried at Lafontaine.

    • Madeleine Letard-StOnge-McTavish married Antoine Lafreniere. Her first marriage was to Charles Lacombe and they had a daughter, Madeleine Lacombe. Madeleine Letard-StOnge-McTavish came to Manitoba with her son Charles Lafreniere and is buried at St-Leon, Manitoba. Oliver Lafreniere (born about 1804), brother to Antoine Lafreniere-Lupien married Veronique Letard-StOnge. If anyone would like this part of the Lafreniere tree, please let me know. Mr Osborne’s info is very interesting, but I believe the documents I have do not support the bits of info he outlined.

      • I am a descendent of Antonie Lafreniere. I am trying to confirm I have Metis heritage. Can you help.

        • maybe we could help eachother?

        • Hi, did you find anything out on the Metis affiliation? Victoire Lefrenier was my Great Grandmother, daughter of Madeleine.

  14. Do you have a Marriage Certificate For Joseph Letard dit St. Onge
    married: 1810

    Catherine Genevieve Vasseur
    born: 1792-07-02 St. Ingnace, Mackinac Co.
    baptized: 1799-08-15

  15. Hi all, am trying to do family research so I can get it all together for my family. I am a descendant of marie louise st. onge and pierre giroux. any information would help. I am learning a lot of metis heritage as well through my bloodlines and finding it fascinating. Adelaide Giroux (later on married John Fletcher) is my 2x great grandmother. Pauline Fletcher (later on Boucher) is my great grandmother and her daughter Mae Bushey (later on Jackson then Brock) is my grandmother. 🙂 not much was done on my family line and I’ve been working very hard on it, nobody else got this far.

    • I have FB also to contact me Jana B Ingram

  16. Hello,
    I am hoping someone can help me!! I am confused by my ancestors. I am a decendant from Charles Vasseur b. abt. 1831 in Pentanguishene Ontario Canada and married Mary Ann McDonald, Charles later apparently married Elizabeth LeMay. I am looking for information on Charles and Mary Ann along with their parents. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

  17. Might I also add that my great great grandfather Toussaint Boucher was married to his second wife my great great grandmother Josephte Lafreniere and I would be very much interested to see her lineage. Also interested in Marie St. Onge’s line (she was married to pierre giroux). I have facebook Jana B Ingram or shoot me an email or text 7052575575

  18. Hello Jo,
    I am looking for any information on Pierre Giroux, born about 1815 on drummond islands, he is a decendant from the above mentioned. I have the family tree from Cindy Leutz, my husband is a decendant from this family, his grandmother Cecile Giroux was the great granddaughter of Pierre’s, her father Jacques was born 1842 in Collingwood, I have found quite a bit about Jacque and his children, but to no avail have I found anything substantial on both Pierre’s, the elder is mentioned in the Osborne files, and can link Jacque to the younger one.

    • Hi Cathy – I hope someone who reads this blog can help you out. Looks like you’re working hard on this!

      Good luck.


  19. my 4th great grandparents are Madeleine Ouiouiskoin and Jacques Vasseur. I am interested in the Voyageur Joseph S.-Onge who married Genevieve Vasseur in Mackinac 1810. she was Madeleine and Jacques daughter b. july 2, 1792.
    Would love any media associated with them.
    Thank you so much.

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