Years ago, when I was just first beginning my research, I was introduced to my grandmother’s second cousin, Robert Marcoe. He believed that he and my grandmother were the great great grandchildren of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph.
This particular family legend later turned out to be untrue. I often wonder if anyone ever told Mr. Marcoe that he was wrong. I hope not. I would like to think that lived out his old age and died with his dream of a glorious familial past intact.
Years later, after breaking through a “brick wall” in my research, I was able to finally find the father of my 4x great grandmother, Nathalie Noreau, one of my grandmother’s ancestors:
ASCENT FROM MY GRANDMOTHER TO JEAN BAPTISTE NOREAU
LILLY CECELIA BALTHAZOR
Born 1911 in Wisconsin
Died 1984 in Wisconsin
PHILOMENA “FLORA” LETOURNEAU
Born 1875 in Wisconsin
Died 1968 in Wisconsin
Born 1835 in Quebec
Died 1908 in Wisconsin
Born 1809 in Quebec
Died 1891 in Wisconsin
Born 1782 in Quebec
Died 1862 in Quebec
JEAN BAPTISTE NOREAU
Born 1734 in Quebec
Died 1805 in France
When I did a subsequent Google search for my newly discovered ancestor, Jean Baptiste Noreau, I found a connection to Napoleon even more interesting than that Mr. Marcoe had dreamed.
His name turned up in a book written by a Robert Larin and published in 2006 about the French’s first attempt to settle South America. Jean Baptiste Noreau was one of the settlers in the late eighteenth century. In researching and writing his book, Mr. Larin had done me the favor of writing a biography of my ancestor. In that biography, he included the following letter, written by Jean Baptiste Noreau to Napoleon.
September 19, 1805
His Majesty, Napoleon I, Emperor of the French
At the beginning of March last, I left Montreal with my son to bear to your imperial and royal Majesty the wishes of the inhabitants of the French Empire in Quebec.
I arrived in New York, where my son remained due to illness. I embarked on the ship Thomas of New York under Captain Garduer. I arrived in Bordeaux on 27 March last and was detained by illness in a hospital. I sent to your majesty the package for which I was responsible. If you would like further information on the state of Quebec, I will be in Paris should you wish to speak with me.
I am your most humble, obedient and submissive servant.
Jean Baptiste Noreau
Additionally, Mr. Lorin gave the following account of my ancestor’s life:
Jean Baptiste Noreau was born in 1734 in Quebec. When the British conquered the French colony in 1755 he was apparently among those who resisted and was taken prisoner and sent to England. He was eventually released and made his way to St. Malo, France where, 1763, he married a young French woman, Anna Francoise LeNouvel.
Soon after their marriage, the new couple traveled to South America to take part in the French government’s plan to found a new colony in what is not French Guyana. They appear in the 1765 census there as part of the settlement of Sinnamary. This initial attempt at settlement was a failure, however, and Jean Baptiste returned to Quebec with his family.
He is listed as a member of the militia that fought the American forces that attempted to conquer Quebec in 1775. For the next 30 years he lived in Quebec, hoping, with many of his fellow countrymen, that one day France would return with its armies to repatriate them as French citizens.
In 1805, the 71-year-old Jean Baptiste Noreau, traveled with his son to New York City. His son took ill and he continued alone to France. It was there, from a hospital in Bordeaux, that he wrote his letter to Napoleon.
That letter, dated September 19, 1805, is the last that was ever heard of Jean Baptiste Noreau. He probably died there, aged 71. Perhaps he died with his own dreams intact, of his home once again being a part of the French Empire.
I wish I had the chance to share this with Mr. Marcoe. Sadly, I lost touch with him over the years. He passed away last summer. Belatedly, I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to him for helping to ignite in me a fascination for family history. I hope that it is appreciated by other members of our family that the day he died, July 14, is celebrated today in France as Bastille Day. On that same date in 1789, the people of Paris rose up in revollt, beginning the period in French history that ultimately led to Napoleon’s rise to power.
While some of your family’s legends may be true and some may turn out to be false, I can promise you that the truth you discover will be infinitely more fascinating than anything you can imagine.
Make it a part of your research to do a search on the Net whenever you find a new ancestor. Just never forget to make sure you’ve done your research and can prove that the person you are searching is indeed related!
Contact me if you have any suggestions for future posts, or if you have a question for me at firstname.lastname@example.org.