Sunday, January 8, 2012

You are French Canadian Except...Another Trip down Genealogy Lane

I was in the fifth grade in a German American community in Northeastern Iowa.  We were studying immigration in school and each of the kids was to find out their ethnic roots. On my Father's side of the family, I knew it was all German Lutheran, like the majority of my classmates.  (Most of the Irish Catholic kids in the area went to the parochial school.)  Yep, it was a Garrison Keilor Lake Woebegon upbringing.
The Joe DeSotel Family, Clayton County, Iowa  Arrow is my Grandfather, Emil Krist DeSotel.  Photo taken about 1915 as the youngest child, Marie, appears to about 3 years old.  Left to right:  Otto, mother Emma (nee Timm), Charles, Marie (Jaster);  Emil (my grandfather), Joseph M. DeSotel (father - my great grandfather) and Hilda (Aulerich).

I never knew my paternal grandfather as he has passed away before I was born.  But my maternal grandfather was The Grandfather.  He was a carpenter but had operated a car repair/gas station in a small farming community while he raised his family.  And build, man could he build anything.  I remember watching him build a boat in his basement and then moving the parts to the garage.  And Fish!! He loved to fish, and trap. But I never knew why until I asked him that day after fifth grade class, Grandpa, what are we?  And his reply was, "Child you are French Canadian except for the parts that didn't run fast enough.  Those parts are Indian!"  And that was how I found out my mother was not German American on her paternal side.
As only Grandpa could tell it.  Grandpa had quite the sense of humor - more about that later.
Emil's confirmation photo.  He is the 2nd boy from the left in the 2nd row from the top.  The family has recently converted to Lutheran from Catholicism when Joe M. DeSotel married Emma Timm, who was a Lutheran.

The DeSotel family originated in France and the first one in the family to immigrant was Pierre DeSautels dit Lapointe who arrived on the shores of Quebec City, Canada in 1653 when he was 22 years of age.  Pierre the First was instrumental in the founding of the city of Montreal in the province of Quebec.  He was one of seven persons on the boat that could write his name, having received an education in his hometown of Malicorne-sur-Sarthe, France. Like his father and grandfather in France, Pierre was a tailor by trade.

I won't bore you with begats down that many centuries, but one of Pierre's sons, Pierre II was present with Cadillac at the founding of Detroit in 1701.  It was the first known presence of a DeSautels in America.

The family became French fur traders (and the origin of the native american lines in the family although there is a reference to one of the Canadian wives as being a native American) and successive generations came down the Mississippi River.    My  great-great grandfather was born in 1834 and eventually settled in Guttenberg, Iowa.  After working in the lead mines in Galena, Illinois, he had crossed the river and taken up farming for a living..  His wife remained in Canada and they led mostly separate lives, he returning home for brief periods with long absences.  This martial arrangement was quite common for many fur trappers, some even having Angelican wives at 'home' and native american wives while 'trapping.'

His son, Joseph Maxime DeSotels, was born in Canada and by 1856 had joined his father in Iowa.  The name became 'americanized' to DeSotel.   Two sisters remained in Canada with their mother.  Joseph Maxime DeSotels was known in the area as French Joe until his death. His wife never joined him in Iowa, remaining in Canada until her death.  Joseph entered in the farming profession with his father, French Joe, and married Mary Brouillette in 1864 in Richardsville.They had thirteen children, one of whom was my great grandfather who was (you guessed it Joseph) Joseph DeSotel, born 1873 as the seventh child.  Apparently both Pierre and Joseph were family names as every generation seemed to have at least one.

An interesting story is found about Mary Brouillette DeSotel. The DeSotel family had determined to have a family portrait done in Guttenberg.  Because of the large number of children, it was decided to have two pictures taken.  One of the father and sons; and one of the mother and daughters.  Joseph and his sons drove to town and had their picture taken, but unexpectedly, Mary died the following day never having had her photo taken with the daughters.  Undaunted, the family propped Mary up and had her picture taken - the only picture ever taken of her--after her death.  While seeming macabre by today standards, such photos were quite common then in 1896 when she passed away.  So thanks to the earnest work of a family member who wrote an extensive genealogy (Roger and Margaret Handke) and graciously shared with distant cousins, I have xerox copy of the photo of my deceased great-great grandmother.

The seventh son, Joseph (born in 1873), married Emma Timm and they are the family pictured in the very first photo and are my great grandparents.  Which brings me to my grandfather....
Emil (on the right) in his garage in Luana.

Grandpa was a very good carpenter and he and my father built many homes in Monona, Iowa, as I was growing up.  I can remember if he cut a board wrong, he would curse and cut the board up in foot long lengths.  This was before power saws and it wouldn't take him long either.  Two strikes to drive a nail with a hammer, one to set and one to drive.  One-Two.  I watched him and my father many days when I was little.
By the time I was seven, though, I was done with that.  I had my pony to occupy my time.
Me with Heidi in 1957
Grandpa was quite the practical joker.  I remember my dad telling about the time he put a cherry bomb in the river to float it by so the explosion would scare his fishing companion.  Emil had miscalculated the current a tad and the bomb went off UNDER the boat and blew the minnow can 10 foot into the air.  With a good sized hole, they had to beat it back to shore double quick before the boat sank.  They made it -barely and Emil had to repair the first boat he made which was a 10 footer simple row boat-type, but it had a small motor on it.  He then embarked on building his second boat, a fourteen footer that could seat four people easily, with a windshield, steering wheel, and 50 hp evinrude motor.

I remember another time he sank his car up to the bottom of the body when it fell through the ice when he was ice fishing and my dad had to go help him get it out of the 'drink'.  Once he told someone who asked what he was doing while building a new post office that the hole he was working on was for the air mail and that they would be delivering it by helicopter daily.  It was really an air conditioning vent; but the whole town was excited they were going to get airmail via helicopter.

Grandpa loved his grandkids and we returned it.  He was the PERFECT grandpa.  How I wish I still had the desk he made for me when I was four.  It had my name on the side (it was built like a 1950's school desk) in big Red Letters - MERIDY.  For my brother he built a rocking horse (my brother was only two that Christmas).

From my native american roots, I got very dark brown eyes and ability to tan easily.  Quite often growing up during the summer, I could tell new acquaintances I was Cherokee or Sioux and they believed me.  My brother would tan so dark, he could convince people he was half african-american.

If you found my blog looking for your ancestors and descend from the DeSotel family (spelled DeSautels in some parts of  America) I would be happy to share my information with you.

I hope I haven't bored you all to tears with my begat stories.

1 comment:

  1. Geneology is a twisty road. Until a couple of years ago, my northern Michigan husband thought is ancestry was French-Canadian. One of our daughters started looking into it and discovered he is absolutely a Scottsman not a Canadian.

    One of the most interesting things we discovered was that my mother's mother (my grandmother's) father had 2 families. When his first wife died, he married his oldest son's fiance'. . Ooops! I would love to know the story behind that. She was my great grandmother.

    I love your family stories. Keep sharing them.