From the community

Free Census records help locate Penobscots, Mi’kmaqs

Posted Oct. 31, 2013, at 11:06 a.m.

Eight years ago, I started off a column about Native American genealogy by recalling the time I took four young boys to Indian Island to see the gravestone of Louis Sockalexis, the Penobscot for whom the Cleveland Indians may have been named.

I knew the youngsters would like to see the stone with the crossed baseball bats engraved on it.

Here it is 2013, and Scott Saucier, Tony Saucier, Andrew Stepp and Matthew Stepp have a total of eight children who I hope will visit Sockalexis’ grave one day. Scott’s children are also part-Penobscot through their mom, so we’ll have to look for markers for Francis and Loring relatives, too.

What started me thinking about this trip again was was trying to find the column in which I cited an online census listing for Micmacs in Canada. I’ll get to that in a minute, and give you an updated web address for the Mi’kmaq censuses for Nova Scotia.

I found Louis Sockalexis in the 1880 census of “Oldtown Island,” as transcribed by the Mormon church on its Web site, www.familysearch.org. The census listed Francis Socklexis (note the different spelling), 39; wife Frances, 36; daughter Soluice, 18; son Lewis, 7; daughter Mary, 6. All were NA, Native American, born in Maine to parents who were born in Maine, according to page 563B of a census microfilm for Penobscot County.

By clicking on “previous household” or “next household” on the Web site, it’s possible to eventually view all of the Native American households in Oldtown for that year. I came up with these surnames, which I’ve put in alphabetical order:

Andrew, Barker, Butte, Chandler, Classian, Coly, Dana, Dennis, Duff, Francis, Fransway, Gabriel, Gabril, Hamilton, Hubbard, John, Joseph, Ketcham, Lewis, Lewy, Lola, Loving, Lyon, Mitchell, Nelson, Neptune, Newell, Nichols, Nicola, Orson, Penewait, Polis, Prous, Ranco, Ray, Saul, Shay, Sock, Sockbasin, Sockbesin, Sockis, Socklexis, Solomon, Stevens, Susup, Swassian, Thebads, Tomer.

Obviously, some of the spellings depend on how you read the names on the census. “Loving” is very likely “Loring,” and Thebads may be Thebado (Thibodeau).

The 1900 census for Indian Island lists Francis Socklexis, 54, ferryman; Louis, son, 28, baseball player; Alice Penewate, daughter, 26; Thomas Penewate, son-in-law, 29; and Charles M. Swassian, half-brother to Francis, 36.

Accompanying the enumeration is Schedule No. 1 of “special inquiries,” asking the tribe of each person and that person’s parents. Louis and his parents were Penobscot. Swassian, Francis’ half-brother, had a Passamaquoddy father and Penobscot mother, so he and Francis had the same mother.

In 1910, the head of household was Thomas Penewate, 43, living with Alice, 36, and children Frances, 9; Catherine, 7; and a baby girl not yet named. (Thomas seems to have aged 14 years rather than 10.) Also, “boarders” Charles Swassian, 47; and Louis Sockalexis, 38, laborer in the woods and river.

Louis’ Indian ancestry is listed as “full.” He died in 1913, so this was the last census where we find him. For more on Louis and Andrew Sockalexis, check Ed Rice’s books, “Baseball’s First Indian” and “Native American Trailblazer.”

I often get questions about finding an Indian connection several generations back. The thing is, a person who had but a small percentage of Indian ancestry may not have identified him- or herself as Indian on a census, or the census-taker may have made an error. Further, not everyone who has Indian ancestry is enrolled in a tribe.

Here’s another source on Indian ancestry, of particular interest to Mainers because of the Presque Isle-based Aroostook Band of Micmacs.

The website, which lists the Censuses of the Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia 1871, 1881, 1891 is sponsored by Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The updated website is http://www.cbu.ca/mrc/censuses-1871-1881-1891

These listings were the product of a doctoral thesis, “Change in the Real Property Law of a Cape Breton Island Micmac Band, Volume 2,” by Daniel P. Strouthes, who was studying land tenure systems of the Mi’kmaqs in Cape Breton. The data came from the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa.

Keep in mind that some tribal members did not live within the area surveyed. Many of them were listed as illiterate only because they didn’t speak English well, and census takers estimated ages in some cases.

An example of an 1871 listing is: Adley, Sarah, Age 58, House, Can Read, Widow, Wagmatcook (Middle River, a Cape Breton Reserve.) These censuses reveal many surnames Mainers would find familiar: Francis, Gabriel, Nicholas, Paul, Sappier and Tomah, among them.

My question was whether Strouthes’ transcription would match up with the one by the Mormon church on 1881 Canada, which can be accessed at www.familysearch.org.

In Strouthes’ 1881 database, I found 2-year-old Libby Muse living in Pictou County Little Harbour. On the Mormon Web site, she is “Libbie Moose.”

The next Bangor Family History Center public class will be held 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 639 Grandview Ave., just off Essex Street in Bangor. “Sourcing Your Family Tree” will be presented by Judy Reitze.

Earlier in 2013, FamilySearch.org opened up Family Tree to everyone, and added new functionality, including the ability to add pictures, stories, and (most recently) life sketches. In addition, it provides a search for historical records in FamilySearch.org directly from a person’s Family Tree record and the ability to add those sources to that person’s record. This search will become even more powerful as more records are added to FamilySearch.org. The functionality also gives genealogists an easy way to document their research.

This program is free, as are creating and accessing FamilySearch Family Tree.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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