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The Origins of the Acadian Michel Forest

 John P. DuLong

 First Draft, 4 April 1996
Second Draft, 22 November 1997
Third Draft, Web Page, 8 December 1997
Fourth Draft, Web Page, 19 July 1998
(used as the basis for the published articles)
Fifth Draft, Web Page, 15 November 1998
Sixth Draft, Web Page, Notice of DNA Results, 17 May 2008
Seventh Draft, Web Page, Conclusive DNA Results, 25 November 2011

Please cite, quote, or photocopy only with
the written permission of the author.

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Full Vindication

I would like to direct your attention to the Association des Forest d’Amérique’s analysis of Forest Y DNA samples at  Several descendants of Michel de Forest have been tested for their Y DNA as well as a few descendants of Jesse de Forest.  They simply do not match.  It is now clearly established that there is no genetic relationship between these two men.  According to this webpage:  “Ceci prouve que l'hypothèse de John P. Dulong sur l'origine de l'acadien Michel de Forest est correcte.”  That is, the mysterious 1658 list of colonists brought over by Sir Thomas Temple to Acadia is completely bogus.  Michel de Forest’s ancestry must be sought in France and not in the Netherlands.   He is not the same person as Gereyt de Forest!

Partial Vindication

We might be well on the way to seeing an answer to the question of whether or not the Acadian de Forests are related to the New York de Forests. DNA testing on the Y chromosome of several descendants of Michel de Forest have led to establishing the modal haplotype for him, that is, a unique pattern for his DNA. When this is compared to the DNA data submitted for a descendant of Isaac de Forest, the son of Jesse de Forest, of New York the genetic distance score, based on comparing 31 markers, is 12, which means that they are not related. (This test was done using the DNA comparison tool at ysearch and user ID 5K3G7 for the Acadian de Forests and ID YXX4Z for the New York de Forests.)

Keep in mind that this is just one test of the New York DNA. While several Acadian de Forests have contributed their DNA to the study, as of May 2008 only one descendant of Isaac de Forest has been tested. Due to the possibility of a "non-paternity event" several more New York de Forests must submit their DNA to insure the confidence we might have in any conclusion.

If, as my research would indicate, further testing shows no relationship between these families, then I would say that my hypothesis that Michel de Forest is not related to Jesse de Forest would be verified.

To keep an eye on this research you can visit the DeForest DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. I want to thank this group for the hard work they are doing to investigate the genetic history of the de Forest family. Let us hope


This will be a working paper on the origins of the Acadian Michel Forest. I will be placing this working paper on the Internet as a web page. The address for this page is:

I have wanted to write a piece on this subject for a number of years, but it always got pushed back because of other priorities. However, due to a lively discussion in April 1996 on the Usenet News group soc.genealogy.french, I have decided that it would be appropriate to layout what I know and believe about this issue in a paper rather then a string of postings and follow-ups. (For those interested in reading the Usenet News discussion, you can find them using the Power Search feature of DejaNews at Just search in the old files for dulongj and forest, grab one of the entries, and then select view thread.)

Because this is a working paper, it is by definition incomplete. I will continue to add to this web page as my knowledge of this issue evolves.

I welcome your comments regarding this working paper.  You can email me at dulongj at  As I receive your comments I will incorporate any substantive corrections into subsequent drafts. I would especially appreciate hearing from anyone who has stumbled upon original documents concerning this case that I have not seen.

At some point, when I feel that the paper is complete, I will submit it for publication, possibly to Janet Jehn's Acadian Genealogy Exchange or to the Les cahiers de la société historique acadienne. Once the paper is published I will turn over photocopies of any documents or letters I used to prepare this paper to the Centre d'études acadiennes at the Université de Moncton, New Brunswick.

I want to thank Denis Forest and Caroline-Isabelle Caron (who is doing her doctoral research at McGill University on the process of writing the Forest family genealogy) for commenting on an earlier draft of this paper.  Any mistakes you find remain mine.

July 1998 Update: I received a draft of the French translation of the first half of this paper from Denis Forest.  He is doing a wonderful job on the translation that will be published in the newsletter of the Association of Forest, Foret, and de Forest of America (AFFDA).  In light of some of his comments, I have made some modifications and improvements here to the English version.  Also, I have been in communication with Lois Stewart of the Society of Descendants of Johannes de la Montagne.  The de la Montagne are descended from the Walloon de Forest family.  She has summarized this paper for the readers of her society's newsletter (Stewart 1998).  In addition, she is encouraging her society to cooperate with the the AFFDA to conduct more research on the Forest family in the Netherlands.

Also, in July 1998, I made contact with Janet Jehn, editor of The Acadian Genealogy Exchange, who has agreed to publish this paper in her journal.

October 1998 Update: This paper has been published twice as:

DuLong, John P.  "Les origines de l'acadien Michel Forest."   Translated by Denis Forest.  L'Association des Forest, Foret et de Forest d'Amérique [Newsletter], in two parts, part 1, 5:2 (Summer 1998):1, 3-9; and part 2, to be published soon in 5:3 (Fall 1998).

DuLong, John P.  "The Origins of the Acadian Michel Forest."  Acadian Genealogy Exchange 17:4 (October 1998):103-121.

After the second part of the French version comes out I will make photocopies of the letters and other private communications I site.  I will then contact the Centre d'études acadiennes and see if they will accept the originals.

November 1998 Update: Denis Forest sent me a copy of the second half of the French translation to correct.  I assume it will be published soon.  As promised, I wrote a letter to Steve White, of the Centre d'études acadiennes, asking if he would welcome the contribution of my papers on this case.  I will let you know the outcome of this offer.

Denis Forest has also communicated to me in an email, dated 15 November 1998,  the following information:

As to the Association pursuing research on the origin of Michel it was commented at length by the executive and the board and also during the general assembly in Verner ON in August. The feeling is that due to the very low financial means of AFFDA, the Association at this time is not willing to venture money in such an important project. It has been recommended that research could be supported on an individual basis. I will try to co-ordinate the efforts of those who are interested and publish their progress in the Bulletin. I will keep a close eye on any research protocol being submitted. Myself having to go to France on a regular basis, I will tried to investigate the Parthenay hypothesis. It has been made clear to all members present publishing family histories, that until further proof being found, the origins of Michel are unknown and at the best they could mentioned that he was most likely from France and probably catholic like many other Acadians. We will not accept publishing article with any other mention than the one above until genealogist researcher are satisfied with new primary evidence of the contrary are being found. Finally, I want to thank you for all the work and efforts you have put into the writing of this paper and we are privilege that you have accepted choosing our Newsletter for the French publication of your article.

In turn, I am very pleased with the opportunity to have my paper translated into French and published by the AFFDA.  I thank Denis for the wonderful job he did translating the paper. 

White's Position on the Forest Origins Controversy

At the American Canadian Genealogical Society Conference, on 24 September 1999 in Manchester, New Hampshire, I had an opportunity to talk with Stephen A. White, the renowned Acadian genealogist , about the Forest family.   Here are my rough notes of our conversation. 

White asked me what I thought of the Forest write-up in his new book, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles Acadiennes, Part 1, 2 vols. (Moncton, NB: Centre d'études acadiennes, Université de Moncton, 1999), vol. 1, pp.621-632.  I told him I did not put much trust in the Walloon lineage because of the missing list.  He pointed out that in his notes he says that the lineage must be treated with caution. He then went on to make the following points:

  1. Given Fr. Vincent-de-Lérins' inexperience and the period he worked in (the 1950s and 1960s), he most likely accepted the letter from the London friend at face value and did not pursue it further.
  2. Despite this priest making some rather naive comments about other branches of the Forests family, White is willing to cut him some slack, seeing that we do not have first hand knowledge of his motivation.
  3. It is very difficult to find documents in the Public Records Office of the United Kingdom.  White has a friend who searched for the document, more than a cursory search, but did not find it, nevertheless, it could still be there.
  4. The absence of the document neither proves or disproves the theory.  He is aware of other documents in Acadian research that were once available but that can no longer be found.
  5. It was not unknown for people abjuring their faith to change their names during the Michel's life time.
  6. And lastly, what surprises him about the extract of the missing list is that, unlike many other passenger lists from that period, it lists the parents.  This is very unusual.

I thought White's observations, though they are somewhat in contradiction with my analysis, should be mentioned.  It is my hope that my notes accurately recall his position.  It would be my pleasure to host or cite anything he might want to write further on this issue.  I disagree with his position and remain skeptical of the existence of the list and Michel Forest's supposed Walloon lineage.  However, it is important for people to understand that this is still not a settled issue.   We need more information.

March 2000 Update: After this article was published I wrote to the Centre d'études acadiennes offering to donate the correspondence I reference in it.  However, I never heard from them.  I am not sure what I will now do with these letters.  Perhaps I will ask the Center for Louisiana Studies if they would be interested in these items.  I am open to suggestions. 

June 2001 Update: I have been remiss in not announcing a completed dissertation on the Forest family.  Several months ago it was sent to me and I should have made note of it on this web site soon after I received the copy.   Caroline-Isabelle Caron finisher her doctorate in January 2001 at McGill University, Montréal.  The title of her dissertation is Se créer des ancêtres.   Les écrits historiques et généalogiques des de Forest et des Forest d'Amérique du Nord, 19e et 20e siècles.  Her work is an interesting study of how genealogical information about a family, in this case the Forest family, changes.  To quote from Dr. Caron's abstract: "From research project to research project, these genealogists were influenced by the time period, the social, cultural, and commemorative settings in which they wrote, in New England, New York, Acadia, Québec, Louisiana, and Ontario.  Their research techniques, their processes for acquiring and exchanging knowledge, and the manner in which they wrote their narratives, revealed their aspirations, their self-representations, those of their families and their ancestors, as well as their gender, class, and ethnicity."  Her work does not help us identify the origins of Michel Forest, but it does give us a very good idea of how we descendents of Michel Forest have used genealogy to build an image of our ancestry that we could identify with and claim as our own.  She also touches on the democratization and feminization of genealogy.  I do note that she is not optimistic of anyone ever finding the 1658 list of immigrants (see p.202, n. 104).

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Compared to French Canadians, it is difficult to find the origins of many Acadian families back in France or other parts of Europe. This is due in part to the poverty of the early settlement, to illiteracy among the Acadians, to a lack of officials responsible for keeping records, to the continually shifting political control over the colony, and to region's turbulent history and consequent destruction of records. According to Rev. d'Entremont (Entremont 1991) the origins of only about a hundred male immigrants to Acadia are known for sure based on surviving records. Consequently, finding the French or European origin of an Acadian ancestor is an important accomplishment.

For several years, there has been a general theory expressed concerning the origins of the Acadian Michel Forest. He was the founder of an Acadian family that has many descendants now living in the Canada and the United States. Hence the importance of this theory for his many descendants. According to this theory, Michel Forest is part of the de Forest family of Huguenots who lived in the Netherlands before coming to North America. The history of this prestigious bourgeois family is covered in several books (E. De Forest 1914; J. W. De Forest 1900). The de Forest genealogy reaches back to Gaspard de Forest who in 1450 was living in Avesnes, French Flanders. The de Forests, because they where French-speaking Protestant Walloons from French Flanders, sought refuge from religious persecution in the Netherlands. Several of them became involved in various New World colonization efforts including the New Netherlands (New York) and French Guiana.

Unfortunately, as this paper will show, the evidence linking Michel Forest to the de Forest family is weak and questionable. This general theory that Michel Forest is part of this de Forest family comes in two specific formats.  One of these sub-theories has already been abandoned by its proposers, and the subsequent sub-theory they advocated relies on a single document that cannot be found. Over time people come to accept even vague genealogical theories as truths just because they have been published. Novices in particular ignore the contradictions and lack of evidence, and continue to pass on suspicious information to other unsuspecting friends and family. When this happens we deprive ourselves of a chance to investigate a theory further and either come up with better solid evidence to prove it or move on to another theory and search for evidence to test it. I believe that the wide acceptance of the general de Forest theory has harmed the search for Michel Forest's origins. A genealogical theory lacking adequate support, but that has received wide acceptance due to it being published in a variety of reference works, by its nature eventually invites criticism. This paper will be a criticism of the Walloon de Forest theories of Michel Forests origins.

I also feel obligated to write this report because in the past I tried to clarify the theories involving the origins of Michel Forest in letters that were published (DuLong 1981 [repeated in Jehan {1972-, 5:ii-iii; 1988, 7-8}, and mentioned in Oubre {1986, 746}]; DuLong 1987). I now regret that I wrote these letters precipitously.   They were written before I had completed much of the research and analysis that will be found in this report. Therefore, I too have been more part of the problem than part of the solution. I hope to rectify this situation here.

What do we know about Michel Forest?

We know very little about Michel Forest. He appears on several census records. However, to my knowledge, there are no parish register records (De Ville, Rieder, and Rieder 1975-1983) or notarial records for him.  According to the available censuses we know the following about him:

1671, Census of Port Royal, Michel de Forest, laborer, age 33. His wife Marie Hébert, age 20. Their three children: Michel age 4, Pierre age 2 and a half, and René age 1. His land under labor is two arpents, and he has 12 horned beasts (cattle) and 2 sheep (L. Forest 1977, 38; P. Gaudet 1905, 58; Hebert 1980, 461).  His first wife, Marie Hébert, was the daughter of longtime Acadian colonists Etienne Hébert and Marie Gaudet. She was born around 1650 and married Michel around 1666 (L. Forest 1977, 38).

1678, Census of Port Royal, Michel Forest, a widower, no age given, is recorded as owning four acres, three cows, two calves, and one gun (Entremont 1971, 230; 1979, 56). He has six children: Michel age 12, Pierre age 10, René age 8, an unnamed male (probably Jean-Baptiste) age 3, Gabrielle age 6, and Marie age 4. From this report we gather that his first wife was dead sometime between 1675 and 1678.

1686, Census of Acadia, Michel Deforest age 47. His wife Jacqueline Benoist (or Benoît), age 13. His six children: Michel age 19, Pierre age 18, René age 16, Gabriel age 13, Marie age 11, and Jean-Baptiste age 9 (Hebert 1980, 503).  He is reported as owning one gun, 8 cows, 4 pigs and 5 acres.  His second wife, Jacqueline Benoist, was the daughter of Martin Benoist and Marie Chaussegros. She was born around 1671/1672 according to the 1678 census (Entremont 1979, 56, n. 29) and died at the reported age of 82 in October 1755 while in exile in Virginia (L. Forest 1977, 38). Given her reported age on the 1678 census, should would be about 14 or 15 in 1686, therefore, she probably married Michel around 1686.

1693, Michel does not appear on the census. His three eldest sons, Michel, Pierre, and René, are on the census (Entremont 1979, 56, n. 29). His second wife appears as the spouse of Guillaume Trahan on this census.

The censuses do not state anything about Michel's origins. They do give us a rough estimate of his age. We can guess that he was probably born between 1638 and 1639. We can also infer that he must have arrived in the colony by 1665 since his first child is born in 1666 or 1667. We know that he died between 1687, the birth of his daughter Marguerite, and 1691, the remarriage of his second wife, Jacqueline Benoist (Entremont 1979, 56, n. 29).

Abbé Forest (L. Forest 1977, 29) indicates that Michel was given land east of Port Royal on the Dauphine River (now the Annapolis River). However, to my knowledge, there is no document clearly establishing Michel's ownership of any land. This lack of documentation is not uncommon for many Acadian parcels of land.

Lastly, concerning his origins, there is a family tradition among the Forest descendants living on the Gaspé peninsula of Québec that their immigrant ancestor was from French Flanders and that he had converted to Catholicism (L. Forest, 1977, 6, 49-52). However, no document found in Acadia contemporary to Michel supports this tradition. It is unclear when this tradition started, but it at least goes back as far as Charles Forest , who was married to Marie-Anne Poirier at Bonaventure on 3 November 1820. Apparently, this oral tradition was current around the mid-1830s when Charles told it to his sons. Oral traditions can be notoriously incorrect (for example, see the analysis of Alex Haley's use of oral tradition in Mills and Mills 1981). They may contain some truth, but they must be verified by documents.

This is the sum of the information we know with relative confidence regarding Michel Forest.

What are the theories regarding the origins of Michel Forest?

L.-U. Fontaine, a columnist for La Presse of Montréal, reported on an address that Virlet d'Aoust made to the Société de géographie in Paris, France, on 5 February 1892 (Vincent-de-Lérins 1955, 17). In his talk, d'Aoust mentioned that Jessé de Forest and his sons founded New York. Fontaine mentioned that there were some Forests living in L'Assomption County, Québec. Soon after this report, the prominent genealogist and archivist Placide Gaudet responded on 25 February 1892, in L'Evangéline that "Ce n'est pas le cas" (this is not the case). He was concerned that people would jump to the conclusion that the Québec and Acadian Forests were related to the New York Forests. He stated that the Forests of Canada do not descend from Jessé de Forest but from Michel Forest who was born in France in 1638 and probably came to Acadia with Governor d'Aulnay around 1650 at the age of 12 years. Vincent-de-Lérins objected to Gaudet's probabilistic approach to Michel's origins. Thus starts our controversy with the theory that the Acadian Forest family might be related to the Forest family of New York. (I want to thank Caroline-Isabelle Caron for clarifying this controversy, Caron 1997).

There are actually two specific theories that fall under the general theory that Michel was a member of the Huguenot de Forest family that settled in New York. To avoid confusion, I will label these sub-theories as the Jessé theory and the Gérard theory, after the purported grandfathers assigned to Michel.

The Jessé theory claims that Michel is the son of Henri de Forest and the grandson of Jessé de Forest. This theory was fully expressed in the first edition of the Père Vincent-de-Lérins' Histoire de la famille Forest published in 1955 (Vincent-de-Lérins 1955). Père Vincent-de-Lérins, S. O. Cist., was born Jean-Pierre-Lévi Forest in 1882 and died in 1972 (D. Forest 1996). Before we proceed with Père Vincent-de-Lérins' version of Michel's origins, let us review what is known about the characters involved in this theory (this summary is based on E. De Forest 1914; J. W. De Forest 1900; L. Forest 1977; Vincent-de-Lérins 1955, 1965).

Jessé was the son of Jean or Jehan de Forest and Anne Maillard or Maillart. Jean had married Anne around 1570. They were originally from Avesnes in French Flanders, lived for a while at Sedan, France, and eventually fled to Leiden in the Netherlands to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. They had at least four children: Melchior, Jessé, Gérard, and Anne (J. W. De Forest 1900, 46; E. De Forest 1914, 1:9).

Jessé de Forest married Marie du Cloux, originally of Sedan, around 1601. They had three children including Rachelle, Henri, and Isaac. Jessé was involved in an aborted attempt to found a colony in Brazil, actually French Guiana. He died on 24 October 1624 in French Guiana. His children did not follow him to South America, but instead settled at New Amsterdam (New York city) several years later. Some have mistakenly credited Jessé with being a founder of New York (for example, J. W. De Forest 1900), but he never even visited the city.

Henri de Forest (or Hendrick de Foreest in Dutch) was born on 7 March 1606 at Sedan, France, and married on 1 July 1636 at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Gertrude Bornstra, of Friesland. He departed on 25 September 1636 for New Amsterdam, Gertrude staying behind. Henri died on 26 July 1637 of a fever off the coast of Virginia. The couple had only been married for just over a year, but they had been separated for much of this time. According to the Jessé theory during a three month period they conceived a son named Michel who eventually migrated to Acadia and settled there. There is no evidence in any document uncovered to date to support this theory. Gertrude eventually came to New Amsterdam with her second husband, Andries Hudde, in 1639. In the settlement of Henri's property, there is no mention made of any children, which would normally appear in such a case (E. De Forest 1914, 1: 99-101; 2:355-356).  Specifically, Riker (1904, 128-129), the historian of Harlem, New York, states that Henry died childless and his estate fell to his wife.

According to Père Vincent-de-Lérins' (1955, 14-16) version of the Jessé theory, Hudde and Gertrude returned to the Netherlands (Riker 1904, 130). Père Vincent-de-Lérins speculated that Michel came to the New Netherlands after the death of his mother. He further suggest that when he arrived he found that Doctor Jean de la Montagne, the husband of Rachel de Forest, his aunt, had possession of his father's property. Frustrated, when Michel came of age, he decided to join Temple's expedition to Nova Scotia.  There are no documents submitted to backup this story.

The role of Thomas Temple in both theories is important, so I will review his career here (Ryder, 1979). Acadia had been captured by Major Robert Sedgewick, of Massachusetts, for the British in 1654. Temple, an Englishman, became the governor of captured Acadia, which the British referred to as Nova Scotia, in 1657. He remained governor of Nova Scotia until 1670. During the period of his governorship Temple spent most of his time in Boston, an absentee governor. However, he did arrive in Nova Scotia on 1 May 1657 with a party of settlers. Temple is an interesting man, a real survivor. Appointed governor by Cromwell he ended up being knighted when Charles II was restored. His governorship of Nova Scotia was much more an economic arrangement for him, a business deal if you well, then it was a political career.

According to both theories, Michel was supposedly among the settlers who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1657. Once in Nova Scotia, Michel settled down and married a local woman and decided to stay in the colony when the French took it back from the British in 1670. By then he already had assimilated to Acadian culture and had a family.

By 1965, the second edition of the Histoire de la famille Forest abandons the Jessé theory. There were no primary documents or secondary publications to support it. Despite the elaborate weaving of a circumstantial tale, the theory just did not fit well. In particularly, the chronology of Michel's conception, and the lack of any children mentioned for Henri and Gertrude, doomed this theory.

The Jessé theory was repeated in Arsenault's Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens (1965; 1978). Despite its original proponent abandoning the theory, it continues to resurface and will probably take decades to disappear. I cannot help but wonder how many genealogists have stumbled upon this theory, gone over the same materials others have, arrived at the same conclusion that the theory is false, and then started out again searching for the truth. I fear that they are in the minority and that many Forest descendants still have the Jessé lineage recorded on their pedigree charts.

In 1965, in the second edition of the Histoire de la famille Forest, the Gérard theory arises out of the ashes of the Jessé theory (Vincent-de-Lérins, 1965, 26-30). Père Vincent-de-Lérins is still the author of this edition, but in collaboration with Abbé Lorenzo Forest, P. S. S., and Albert Forest, a civil engineer. This new theory claims that Michel is really Gereyt de Forest, the son of Crispin de Forest, and the grandson of Gérard de Forest, who you will recall is the brother of Jessé de Forest and the son of Jean de Forest. A quick review of the basic genealogical facts of this lineage is called for at this point. These facts are verified in surviving primary documents, including the Walloon register (Bibliothèque Wallonne de Leiden, 1518-1811, microfilm 0199828) and other sources (see E. De Forest 1914). For the remainder of this article I well rely on the 1977 version of this story found in third edition of the Histoire de la famille Forest. Abbé Lorenzo Forest is the prime author of the third edition with the collaboration of Père Vincent-de-Lérins and Albert Forest (L. Forest 1977). This edition contains the same Gérard theory. There is now a sixth edition available, which also contains the same Gérard theory (L. Forest 1990).   [I want to thank Denis Forest for sending me a copy of this edition.  This book can still be ordered from the Association des Forest, Foret, et de Forest d'Amérique, whose address is listed below.  Although I am suspicious of this book's theories regarding the origins of Michel Forest, it does contain a lot of valuable data about his descendants.]

Gérard married Esther de la Grange, around 1610, probably in Leiden, the Netherlands. This couple had Crispin as one of their six children (L. Forest 1977, 18, 21). Crispin married Marguerite Bornstra on 1 July 1636 at Amsterdam, the Netherlands (L. Forest 1977, 22, 27; E. De Forest 1914, 1: 75). Marguerite was the sister of Gertrude who married Henri de Forest, Crispin's cousin, in a double wedding. None of these facts regarding Crispin and Marguerite are in question. However, it is the assumed facts regarding one of their children, who is the center of attention in this theory, which are troublesome.

According to this new and improved theory Michel Forest is really Gereyt de Forest, the son of Crispin de Forest and Marguerite Bornstra. In order for this theory to work a number of points must be accepted. I have listed here these points with my observations about them as counterpoints:

1. Point: According to the census records, Michel was born about 1638 or 1639. Gereyt was born on at Leiden on 18 June 1637 (L. Forest 1977, 22).

Counterpoint: Just because two people with the same surname were born around the same time does not prove a common identity.

2. Gereyt had cousins, the children and grandchildren of Jessé, living in the New Netherlands. Also, his grandfather, Gérard, had signed a contract on 8 August 1636, to finance half the cost of establishing the settlement of Fort Orange (Albany, New York) (E. De Forest 1914, 2:350-352). This colonial initiative was under the leadership of Kiliaen van Rennsselaer (L. Forest 1977, 27-28).

Counterpoint: There is no dispute with this well documenting information. However, the presence of relatives in the New Netherlands would make it less likely that Gereyt would relocated in Acadia where he had no kin at all.

3. Gereyt had motivation to leave the Netherlands and come to the New Netherlands. He was the only son of Crispin and therefore heir to his father's share of his grandfather's investment in Fort Orange. Abbé Forest and his colleagues (Forest 1977, 28) state that Gereyt came to the New Netherlands because of this inheritance.

Counterpoint: The whole issue of an inheritance at Fort Orange is problematic. Gérard died in August 1654, in the Netherlands.  According to J. W. De Forest (1900, 55, 186), the probate records of The Hague indicate that the estate of Gérard de Forest, widower of Hester de la Grange, was partitioned on 7 June 1656.   His heirs are listed as Crispin des Forest, Sara des Forest, widow of Barent von de Kaskelen, and David de Toit, husband of Hester des Forest.  They are dividing an estate valued at 15,325 florins.  J. W. De Forest does not mention Gereyt as one of the heirs. Nor does he discuss any outstanding sums owned by Van Rennsselaer to Gérard or any properties at Fort Orange.  It seems unlikely that Gérard still held any property interests in the New Netherlands at the time of is death.  It is possible that Van Rennsselaer may have already settled accounts with Gérard long before 1654. In fact, it might be that Gérard still owed Van Rennsselaer money since E. De Forest (1914, 1:78) reports that Gérard had trouble paying his share.  Abbé Forest (1977, 30) points out that the records for Fort Orange were destroyed in a fire in 1911. Thus, we cannot verify in original documents if Gérard had any active interest in the settlement around 1657.   Furthermore, we do not known if Crispin was dead in 1657 when Gereyt supposedly migrated to the New Netherlands to claim an inheritance he would have received through his father's death. 

4. Gereyt came to the New Netherlands around 1657 at the age of 20 (L. Forest 1977, 28). When he was in the Dutch colony he was supposedly unable to claim his inheritance. Frustrated, according to this theory, Gereyt decided to join Temple's expedition to Nova Scotia.

Counterpoint: There is no evidence that Gereyt ever came to the New Netherlands. This is pure and unnecessary speculation. Since Temple's expedition left from England, it would be just as easy to argue that Gereyt left for Nova Scotia from there rather than meeting up with it in Boston, Massachusetts. I find it somewhat amazing that a person who is the heir of his father and his grandfather, a man of modest wealth, would find it necessary to leave the Netherlands to make a life for himself. Were there no assets back in the Netherlands for him to live comfortably on? Also, I find it difficult to believe that he would not have verified his inheritance in the New World before departing the Old World. Lastly, if he wanted to settle in the New World, then why did he not stay in the New Netherlands, where his cousins lived, and which was Dutch and would remain so until 1664 (Morris and Morris 1976, 53). I just do not understand Gereyt's motivation in this scene.

5. Gereyt is found on a list of colonist brought to Nova Scotia by Sir Thomas Temple. This document clearly names him, his parents, and his birthplace. According to Abbé Forest (1977, 29) a friend from England provided the following information (my translation):

We have found in the archives of the Minister of Colonies, at London, in the papers of Thomas Temple, a list not dated--but probably from 1658--giving the names of a certain number of recruits for Acadia, at that time in the hands of the English, since 1654.

At the top of this one reads the name of "Gereyt de Foreest, son of Chrispyn de Foreest and Margrita Bornstra from Leiden."

Counterpoint: This is the center piece evidence that the whole case rests on. I will deal with it in the next section.

6. While Acadia or Nova Scotia was under the control of Temple, the only way someone could settle in the colony was under British auspices.

Counterpoint: Temple's control of the colony probably only extended to the immediate neighborhood of Port-Royal and a few other sites. The Acadians were known as an independently minded people (Griffiths 1992). Their indifference to authority, whether French or British, often frustrated administrators. There is no reason why a French fisherman or laborer could not have moved into a site up river from Port-Royal and settled in with the Acadians despite Temple's tenure. We must keep in mind that on the small fringe of British controlled Nova Scotia much of Acadia was still open territory. Moreover, it is possible that he might have landed in Acadia before the British came.

7. Chronological inferences that can be derived from the Acadian censuses indicate that Michel most likely came to Acadia during Temple's reign as governor of Nova Scotia. Otherwise, he would have had to come to Acadia at a young age, say 11, and would have remained single for about sixteen years (Vincent-de-Lérins 1955, 17).

Counterpoint: Michel's marriage around 1666 does lend credence to the idea that he came during the period of British control, 1654-1670. However, Placide Gaudet was the first to suggest that Michel de Forest came over to Acadia as a youth with Governor d'Aulnay around 1650 before the English takeover (G. Forest n. d., no. 80-032). It was not uncommon for young children to be apprenticed or placed in service at a young age during the seventeenth century. According to Bujold and Caillebeau (1979, 38), Governor d'Aulnay was recruiting young men to voyage to Acadia between 1645 and 1650. Furthermore, a marriage delay of sixteen years is understandable. He had to mature to adulthood, perhaps wait for his period of servitude to end, maybe spend some time setting up his own farm to become independent, and then had to wait for an eligible bride to mature given the shortage of marriageable woman in the colony. This could take up sixteen years. Surely, the fact that his second marriage was to a girl of 14 or 15 indicates that there was a serious shortage of eligible women in the colony even as late as 1686.

8. The archives at Amsterdam and Leiden fail to mention anything else about Gereyt after his birth. There is no marriage or death information for him in the Netherlands (L. Forest 1977, 29).

Counterpoint: The fact that the available records, consulted so far, do not mention Gereyt after his birth is not proof that he migrated to Nova Scotia. It is unclear what records Forest and his colleagues checked. In fact, we do not even know if Gereyt survived to adulthood. Compared to births and marriages, deaths were the least likely to be recorded during this period. For instance, we do not have a recorded death for Crispin. The deaths attributed to the other de Forests in Gereyt's lineage are just approximations derived from other records (L. Forest 1977, 18). Gereyt could have come to Nova Scotia with Temple in 1657. However, he could have also died in childhood, became a Dutch soldier and died in battle, died at sea, migrated to England, Ireland, Germany, or South Africa, etc. We just do not know Gereyt's fate until an exhaustive search is done to recover other records dealing with him. And it is always possible that he simply slipped into obscurity and his death was never recorded anywhere.

9. Gereyt settled down on land near Port Royal and married an Acadian woman, Marie Hébert. You well recall that his family were Huguenots, so he converted to Catholicism at the time of his marriage. At the same time he changed his name from Gereyt to Michel. Gereyt is not the name of a saint, so, following Catholic tradition, he took the name of St-Michel. This name was purposefully chosen because his great great-grandfather, Michel Maillard, was the last Catholic ancestor in his lineage (L. Forest 1977, 29). Michel Maillard was the father of Anne Maillard, the wife of Jean de Forest, who in turn were the parents of Gérard.

Counterpoint: This is an interesting point that continues to mystify me. Although Acadians were predominantly Catholic, they were not a priest ridden people. There were few clergy to supervise their spiritual needs throughout their history in Nova Scotia. Also, these independent people probably would not have put much pressure on Gereyt to convert. There is no record of his abjuration. Furthermore, there was no need for him to change his name to Michel. It is true that Catholics are encouraged to use Christian names, that is, to select the name of a saint for their children. However, Gereyt is not a heathen name. It is Dutch for Gérard, a perfectly acceptable name. I know that it is a Dutch name because Gereyt's grandfather Gérard is referred to as Gereyt in the Walloon registers (Bibliothèque Wallonne de Leiden, 1518-1811, microfilm 0199828). In addition, several Dutch genealogists replied to a posting I had on soc.genealogy.benelux regarding the name Gereyt. They indicated that Gereyt is the older northern Netherlands (Frisian) spelling for the modern Dutch name Gerrit, that was also spelt Geryt, and that it is the same as Gerhardt in German and Gérard in French (Bouma 1996; Griët 1996; Hamrick 1996; Hassebroek 1996; Louw 1996; Mazee 1996). Lastly, I checked and found out that there were several Medieval saints called Gerard (Delaney and Tobin 1961). Gereyt could have simply went by Gérard. Furthermore, Crispin, as anyone who has read Shakespeare Henry V can tell you, is also a saint's name. Therefore, Michel could have named one of his children Gérard or Crispin without fear, but instead, they all have rather common French names. The story of Gereyt having to change his name to Michel is a stretch for us to believe.

10. The Gérard theory is bolstered by the Forest family traditions originating around 1830 of a protestant ancestor from French Flanders (L. Forest 1977, 6, 49-52).

Counterpoint: Family traditions are not trustworthy sources of information, especially after three or more generations. They can and should only be used as clues.

11. Lastly, Abbé Forest (1977, 5-7) emphasize that Michel went under the name Michel de Forest and that the surname de Forest, as compared to Forest, is widespread mostly in the north of France.

Counterpoint: Surnames in the seventeenth century were still a recent invention in most parts of Europe, as was the idea of consistent and correct spelling. We should not be surprised to see the surname appearing variously. This is indeed the case among Michel's children and grandchildren where the name can appear as de Forest, Forest, or Forêt. Eventually, it seems that most of his descendants eventually dropped the "de." Also, the use of the particle "de" is problematic. Many people added it to their name to enhance their prestige in the false belief that it implied nobility (Trudel 1994). Or, the "de" simply meant from, as in from the forest. It is completely possible that the name de Forest appears in other parts of France. For example, Gérald Forest (n. d.) and Maurice Caillebeau (1980) found de Forest families living in Poitou during the seventeenth century.

In addition to all these points and counterpoints, I ponder why a person of Gereyt de Forest's status, background, and likely education did not play a more important role in colonial affairs. He probably would have been literate and this alone would have made him an important member of the community and likely to be mentioned in administrative papers. However, this is not the case. Like Maurice Caillebeau: "Je trouvais un peu étrange que le fils d'une notable famille protestante de Flandre devienne un modeste laboureur catholique des premiers temps de l'Acadie" [I find it a little strange that the son of a notable Protestant family of Flanders would become a modest Catholic laborer at the beginning of the Acadian colony] (Caillebeau 1980).

This Gérard theory is certainly stronger than the Jessé theory. It dovetails reasonably well with historical events and does not suffer from a tight chronology. It relies on some well documented facts. For example, it is clear from the Walloon records and secondary sources that there was a Gereyt de Forest. However, most of the theory delves into speculation and demands a lot of its believers. The key to the theory is the mysterious 1658 list of settlers.

What searches have been done for the Temple list of colonists?

Ultimately, the entire Gérard theory rests on a single document, the 1658 list of colonist. It is this list that makes the whole story believable. To understand the status of this list as evidence we have to ask some questions. Does it qualify as a primary document? What is the importance of this list for Acadian genealogy in general? Where did the list come from? How do we know it is true? Is it a lost document? Without this list there are no original documents that back up the theory. There are only vague family traditions, circumstantial facts that do not contradict possible but unlikely events, and naming patterns that may not be reliable. All of these alternative forms of evidence are weak substitutes for the 1658 list.

As it stands the 1658 list of colonist can not qualify as a primary document. A primary document is a piece of evidence that was collected at or near the time of the event by someone who is knowledgeable about the event and has an interest in properly recording it (Greenwood 1990, 62-64). In contrast, a secondary document is a record that originates well after an event and includes published accounts such as family histories. Genealogists prefer to use primary documents as evidence since they are more likely to be accurate than secondary documents.

We really do not have the 1658 list. What we have is a secondary document, the Forest family history, referring to a letter, another secondary document, that refers to the list, a possible primary document. Other than the English friend who saw the list and reported it to the Forest family history authors, no one else has reported seeing the list. Until the list is found, properly cited, and analyzed it must be considered a secondary document and therefore liable to the limitation of a secondary documents.

Finding the 1658 list of settlers, and transcribing it completely, would be an important contribution to the origins of several Acadia families in the late 1650's. In particular, the half-English Melansons, Jean Pitre dit Bénèaque from Flanders, Lawrence Granger from England, and Roger Casey from Ireland might be found on such a list (Arsenault 1978, 2: 481, 583, 686-687, 726). All of these men show up around this period in Acadia. Are they mentioned on the list? We simply do not know. Lists of settlers or passengers do surface occasionally for the seventeenth century, but they are rare. It is a tragic loss for Acadian genealogy if this rare list did exist, was not adequately cited, transcribed, and analyzed, and has subsequently disappeared.

Realizing the value of the 1658 list for Acadian genealogy, I wrote to Abbé Lorenzo Forest, the author of the third edition of the Forest family history and genealogy. Abbé Forest was kind enough to answer my questions that I put to him (L. Forest 1982, 1983). From him I learned that the English friend had sent this information to Père Vincent-de-Lérins in 1950. Abbé Forest has never seen this letter, does not know the name of the English friend, and has been unable to locate the letter among the papers of the deceased Père Vincent-de-Lérins. Recently, Denis Forest, the secretary of the Association des Forest, Foret, et de Forest d'Amérique, meet with Abbé Forest and discussed the list and double checked the papers Père Vincent-de-Lérins left behind (D. Forest 1996a, 1996b). Again, neither the list nor the letter from the English friend were found. In fact, Abbé Forest could not recall if Père Vincent-de-Lérins received information about the list via a letter, a copy, a telephone call, or some other form of communication. Denis Forest (1996a) reports that neither Abbé Forest or Père Vincent-de-Lérins actually had their hands on a copy of this list. According to him, "They were told and took note of it." Abbé Forest also mentioned to Denis Forest that he has hunted for the list and asked others to search for it, but without success. Lastly, Denis Forest also reported that members of his association have also tried to locate the list, again without success.

As it now stands, we have not only a missing primary document, but also a missing secondary document, the letter or other mysterious communication reporting on the 1658 list.

An important principle of genealogical research is that all facts should be well documented (Lackey 1980). Preferably the proofs should be primary documents or respected secondary documents citing original documents. Documentation must be cited appropriately so that other genealogists can find and review the documents for further analysis. This allows for the replication of work and the reevaluation of other's work. Without the proper citation of documents, genealogy would be the simple operation of faith in what others say about their ancestors. However, almost all of us have meet people exaggerate about their ancestry to gain prestige. Furthermore, some people, passing themselves off as professional genealogists, will lie to their clients and present them with prestigious pedigrees (Remington 1991).

Without a proper citation we do not know the origin of this 1658 list. We can not judge its authenticity either. I suspect that Père Vincent-de-Lérins may have had doubts about this document as well. If not, then why did he fail to use this information in his 1955 first edition of the Forest family history? If the letter from the English friend had been sent to him in 1950, then why not use it then? However, there seems to be some confusion about the chronology of when the letter arrived. In conversations Abbé Forest has had with Denis Forest, he has reported that the letter with information from the list arrived after the publication of the first edition of the Forest family history (D. Forest 1996a).

After writing to Abbé Forest, I decided to try and track down the 1658 list. Consequently, I started by consulting printed guides to British documents. I searched the printed British Calendar of State Papers (Green [1884] 1965; Sainsbury 1860) in vain looking for this list. By the way, there is no Ministry of Colonies, only the Colonial Office, I assume that this is what the English friend meant. I did find information about Temple's expedition including the following order:

1657. April 14.

Order of the Council of State. A convoy to be provided for several ships bound to Newfoundland, and instructions given to the commander to make one of them ready with all speed to carry Col. Thomas Temple and his company to his plantation in Nova Scotia or Acadia, in order to his settling in the forts and government there, according to his patent and commission from his Highness. [Interregnum, Entry Bk., Vol. CV., p. 790] (Sainsbury 1860, 456)

Also, I found mention of the ship and its captain in the following source:

1657. Nov. 12.

From: Capt. Peter Butler, Satisfaction, Down

To: Navy Comrs

After receiving Col. [Thos.] Temple and his company on board, sailed for Boston, New England, and then made for St. John's Fort and Port Royal, intending for Newfoundland; but meeting with violent storms, and getting short of provisions, returned for England; neither he nor his company are ashamed to speak of the goodness of the Lord in preserving them from such great dangers. [References. Vo. 174. 69] (Green [1884] 1965, 460)

We know, from subsequent events, that Temple and his company eventually did make it to Nova Scotia. However, this is the only information I could find about his expedition in the published calendar of papers for the Colonial Office. There is no mention of a list enumerating the members of his company.

Over several years, 1982-1987, I systematically made contact with any archives, library, or society that had any papers from Temple and would possibly hold this list. I wrote to the Public Record Office in England (Chalmers 1983), the British Library's Department of Manuscripts (Higgins 1982), the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (Roberts 1982), the National Archives of Canada's Manuscript Division (Walden 1982), the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (1987?), the Houghton Library at Harvard University (Rathbun 1987), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Library (Howitson 1983), and the Massachusetts Historical Society (Gutheim 1983). According to the officials who responded, none of these institutions hold the missing list or know of its whereabouts.

Several years ago I shared my growing concerns about the existence of the 1658 list with two leading Acadian genealogists Steve White and the late Rev. Clarence J. d'Entremont.

On 18 June 1984 I discussed the case with White on the telephone. He told me that he too had searched for the list unsuccessfully. Nevertheless, he was inclined to believe the story because of the wording of the quote from the English friend sounds as if it was from the seventeenth century. On 17 August 1992, I visited the Centre d'études acadiennes in hopes of finding the list there. Again I was disappointed. While at the Centre d'études acadiennes I had the opportunity to view the manuscript draft of Steve White's Le Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes (forthcoming). In White's draft on the Forest family (binder no. 9, pp. 13-15) I found that he thoroughly discusses the known facts and both the Jessé and Gérard theories. White mentions that his colleague, Paul Delaney of London, searched for the list and did not find it. He also states that a search of archives in the Netherlands finds no further mention of Gereyt de Forest. He concludes that the origins of Michel remain questionable due to the lack of a reference for the 1658 list.

Rev. d'Entremont's stand on the issue of Michel's origins is much more certain (Entremont 1989). To say that he is skeptical of the Jésse and Gérard theories would be an understatement. He finds them "imaginative," not grounded in sound facts or documents. He too has searched for the missing 1658 list and has been unable to find it. In particular, his letter focused on the Gaspesie tradition. He argues that the tradition of a French Flanders or a Dutch origin and Protestant background only goes back the nineteenth century. However, the testimony of the Acadian refugees on Belle-Isle-en-Mer, in the La Rochette Papers, does not mention any origins for Michel (see Rieder and Rieder 1967-1973, 2:59). Furthermore, he points out that the foreign origins of other family founders, such as the Melanson brothers from England, and Granger from Plymouth, England, are mentioned. Those families that trace back to a French ancestor are silent on the origin of their ancestor, as in the case with Michel.

Recently, I have learned that Denis Beauregard, who runs the impressive Francogène web site ( and produces the electronic Généalogie de l'ancienne Acadie, shares my skepticism of the Walloon Forest origin theory for Michel (Beauregard 1996.) He mentions that he has never found any mention about Gereyt de Forest in any of the books regarding Albany, New York, that he has searched through at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Likewise, I have not found any mention of him in the books on colonial New York at the Burton Historical Collection in Detroit, Michigan. On his Généalogie de l'ancienne Acadie web page, Beauregard (1997a, 1997b) states that it is probable that Michel came from Poitou, the home of many other Acadian settlers, but he also mentions the Gereyt de Forest approach as a hypotheses or speculation only.

It is clear that leading Acadian genealogists have realized the importance of the missing 1658 list and are skeptical about the Gérard theory in the absence of the list.

What is the status of the Temple list of colonists?

As a result of my search for Temple's 1658 list of colonists, and the efforts of others, I believe that we must agree that this document's status can only be that it either once existed but was not catalogued properly and was subsequently lost or that it never existed.

I have pondered if it is possible that the list might have existed at one time, but has since been lost. I have rejected this as unlikely. The list was found in 1950's or 1960's. This was after World War II. Although many documents were lost during the war, especially during the Blitz, this document was apparently used after 1945. The puzzling thing is that there is no reference to this document in any of the published guides to British documents that I have consulted so far (Green [1884] 1965; Sainsbury 1860; Wilson 1992). Although calendars for archived documents can be incomplete or inaccurate, usually, even in the case of a lost document, once a document has made it into a collection, there is a paper trail. The guides will sometime clearly indicate the nature of a document even if it is now missing. For example, my wife's Anglo-Irish ancestor's will from the 1850's is listed clearly as having once existed, but the document was destroyed during the Irish Civil War of the 1920's.

If a document is not mentioned in a published index or calendar, then it would have meant that Père Vincent-de-Lérins' English friend either spent several hours hunting through uncatalogued papers, that he was a suburb researcher who knew the Colonial Office collection's best kept secrets, or that he was very fortunate. Finding a document in an unprocessed collection, or a document that is out of place, is challenging. I find it difficult to understand why, if a person went to this effort, he did not do a thorough job describing the process, transcribing or copying the document, and citing it properly.

In addition, if the 1658 list did exist but was misfiled, then there were many opportunities where scholars working on Temple and his period in Nova Scotia history might have found it. Several historians have used the major collections in the United Kingdom and North America (Howland 1932; Rawlyk 1973; Reid 1981; Ryder 1979). However, none of them mention seeing the document. And Howland (1932) was doing his research before the 1950's. Although they are historians and not genealogists, they would have likely realized the importance of the 1658 list and mentioned it.

If we concede that the 1658 list is now lost, then we must ask if we still feel comfortable accepting a vague report of it as evidence. I am not opposed to using lost documents to prove a genealogical case. However, I have to have some evidence that the document really did exist and was reliable. For example, if Père Archange Godbout, the renowned French Canadian genealogist, who made several research trips to France before World War II (Godbout [1925] 1979), reports the contents of a document that has subsequently been destroyed, then I would tend to believe it. Why? For a number of reasons. Père Godbout would have given a proper citation for the document. I would know where it should have been found. I could also compare other documents he reported on that still survive to see how accurate he related the information they contained. Lastly, I know who he is and understand his qualifications as a thorough researcher. In contrast, the reference to the lost 1658 list is just too weak for me to accept it.

In the absence of a reliable citation and transcription of the entire list, I believe that we must suspend belief in the Gérard theory. We simply do not have a single primary document to support any version of the Walloon de Forest theory. We do not have a citation for the critical Temple 1658 list that points to its exact location in any British collection. We do not have the contents of the full list. We do not have a photograph or complete transcription of the list. We do not know the name, or qualifications, of the English friend who sent the letter. We do not know if the information the English friend sent is accurate. We have no way of judging the authenticity of this list. We do not know if the document ever really existed. Without the list, the Gérard theory melts away. Consequently, I believe we must accept that Michel's origins are unknown at this time and that most likely the list never existed.

Beauregard (1997b) does point out that Abbé Forest, starting in the 3rd edition of the Forest family history, does add the qualifier "peut-être" (perhaps) before introducing Michel's parents as Crispin de Forest and Marguerite Bornstra. However, this is not enough. The Gérard theory, with all its allure, is presented too strongly given the lack of evidence to support it.

Regrettably, the damage has already been done. The pedigree charts of many Acadian family historians now reflect either the Jessé and Gérard theory of Michel's origins because these theories have been widely published (for example, Arsenault 1978, 2:544; Cyr 1981, 4-8; 1985, 107-111; Jehn 1972-, 5, ii-iii) and is repeated on several web pages, in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), and in the Family Ancestral File. I believe that the time has come to remove these pedigree sheets and to start over with a fresh perspective on Michel's origins. To cling on to the Gérard theory is to stifle the opportunities to find Michel's origins.

What other options are there for pursuing this issue?

It is time to restart the search for Michel Forest origins. From my experience working on the Baillon (DuLong 1997a) and Le Neuf (DuLong 1997b) projects, I am well aware of the costs, time, and effort it takes to accomplish research on the origins of seventeenth and eighteenth century European immigrants. In the case of these projects, my colleagues and I had the benefit of substantial clues regarding the homes of these ancestors.  We formed research associations that helped us pool our resources and divide the labor according to our respective expertise. I recommend the same team approach for the renewed search for Michel's origins.

In particular, I believe that the Association des Forest, Foret, et de Forest d'Amérique (AFFDA) could play a strategic role in this renewed effort. For those of you unfamiliar with this organization, you can contact them at:

Association des Forest, Foret, et de Forest d'Amérique
Care of Denis Forest
Ste-Marcelline, QC, Canada J0K 2Y0
Phone: (514) 883-3255
Fax: (514) 883-3215
E-Mail: dforest at
Web Page: http://www.MEDENT.UMontreal.CA/~forestd/

The AFFDA could: (1) organize the research team and support it; (2) finance the research effort, which will involve hiring professional genealogists to do research in Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, and the Family History Library in Utah; (3) act as a clearinghouse to give out the most updated information on the research effort; (4) request donations from its members and others to support the project, (5) publish the final results of the project, and (6) make an effort to replace the inaccurate information already out there. This research team could be an officially recognized subcommittee of the AFFDA.

There are several options opened for pursuing Michel's origins. Mostly, these options involve testing the Gérard theory and either proving it or discarding it with evidence. However, I also suggest another option that we could test, what I will call the Parthenay theory.

The Gérard theory should be systematically investigated to either finally prove or disprove it.  This means a thorough and exhaustive search for the 1658 list must be conducted. Although I strongly suspect that it does not exist, I believe we have a responsibility to do our utmost to track it down. I know from the library science literature that reference librarians only provide patrons with correct information 50 to 60 percent of the time (Bopp and Smith 1995, 21). I do not have similar numbers on archivist, but I assume that an official responding to a letter will not invest hours in searching every possibility. Therefore, it is possible that the librarians and archivists I contacted missed the crucial document. The collections, especially the Public Records Office in England, should be thoroughly checked by a professional genealogist. If successful, then we would get the 1658 list. If not, then we would at least get a list of records checked in the process.

It is also possible that I did not contact the correct institutions. Perhaps the document is sitting gathering dust in another British library or archives. Again, a professional genealogists with knowledge of British genealogical and historical sources should be consulted.

Another approach for finally testing the Gérard theory is to work backwards from Gereyt de Forest. We could hire a professional genealogists in the Netherlands to try and trace the fate of Gereyt. On one hand, if we find that Gereyt married and died in the Netherlands, then this would disprove the Gérard de Forest theory. On the other hand, we might find that Gereyt signed away his property rights to a kinsman in the Netherlands before departing for the Americas. I have already checked the index to Walloon church records (Bibliothèque Wallonne de Leiden, 1518-1811, microfilm 0199828), and could not find anything regarding him. However, a professional genealogists consulting other Dutch religious, notarial, and court records might be able to find reference to Gereyt.

Although it is worthwhile to tackle these approaches, they all basically are dedicated to testing the Gérard theory. There is another theory, the Parthenay theory, not tied to the Walloon de Forest family at all. Among the papers of Gérald Forest, at the Centre d'études acadienne (G. Forest n. d.), I found that he was pursuing the possibility that the Acadian Michel de Forest might have been related to Pierre de Forest, from the parish of Ste-Croix, village of Parthenay, diocese of Potiers, in Poitou (see G. Forest, n. d., nos. 80.019 and 80.032). Pierre was the son of Michel de Forest and Renée Bernadeau. He came to Montréal where at the age of 28 he married Elizabeth Langevin, daughter of Louis Langevin and Jeanne Gateau of Montréal, on 10 April 1741 (Charbonneau and Légaré 1980-1990, 24: 261).

Gérald Forest evidently believed that perhaps these Parthenay de Forests might be related to the Acadian Michel de Forest. Certainly, the names Michel and Pierre appear in both families. There is a flurry of correspondence between Gérald Forest and researchers in France during the 1970's and 1980's. Among the letters is one from Pierre Arches of Parthenay (Arches 1977), stating that he found the following marriage record in the parish register of St-Laurent de Parthenay:

Le 29 avril 1637, Michel Deforest, agé de 32 ans, ci devant serviteur domestique de Mme d'Orfeuille, fils de feu Michel et de feu Nicole Patavin épousa Renée Bernardeau ... fille de feu Jean et de Françoise Chauvin.

Assistaient au mariage, du côté de l époux, Perrine sa soeur et du côté de l'épouse, Pierre, Jean et Marie ses frères et soeur.

[29 April 1637, Michel Deforest, 32 years old, formerly the servant of Madame d'Orfeuille, son of the late Michel and the late Nicole Patavin, married Renee Bernardeau ... daughter of the late Jean and Françoise Chauvin.]

[Attending the marriage, on the side of the husband, Perrine, his sister, and on the side of the wife, Pierre, Jean and Marie, her brothers and sister.]

The chronology of these events do not fit in well with what we know about Pierre de Forest in Québec or Michel de Forest the Acadian. I suspect that the year of the marriage was mistranscribed. On the photocopy of the letter it looks like it was changed from 1697, which would make more sense, to 1637. It is very unlikely that a couple married in 1637 would have a 28 year old son marrying in 1741!

Despite this discrepancy, there are tempting clues here that perhaps Michel de Forest the Acadian is a distant cousin of Pierre de Forest from Parthenay who settled in New France. We know that kin relationships had an influence on the decisions people made to migrate to New France (Guillemette and Légaré 1989). Michel de Forest's move to Acadia may have inspired Pierre de Forest to migrate to New France.

In general, when studying an ancestor, I find it is usually profitable to play the odds. That is, I try and find out what were the common patterns among the people my ancestor lived with. If most of them came to a particular area at the same time, then the odds are that my ancestor came at the same time, therefore, I should first look for data involving my ancestor during that period. If I had to play the odds with Michel, then I would guess that he was like most other Acadians, that is that he was French, Catholic, and from a province boarding the Atlantic Ocean. The odds are against him being Walloon and Protestant. The Parthenay theory fits in better with the probability that we have for most Acadian settlers. It is a theory well worth exploring.

To test the Parthenay theory, a search would have to be done of the parish registers for Parthenay and nearby villages. The Family History Library apparently does not have any of the Parthenay parish registers on microfilm.   Therefore, a professional genealogist will have to be hired to go through these registers in France. Notarial records for Parthenay and nearby villages for the 1640's and 1650's should also be checked. Also, the papers of Gérald Forest at the Centre d'études acadienne must be carefully reviewed to insure that we do not cover ground he already has gone over.

We should thank Gérald Forest for refocusing on Michel's origins, and not just accepting the Gérard theory, or the Jessé theory, uncritically. Unfortunately, he is unavailable to consult on this project. I understand that he passed away either in 1995 or 1996.

Once all these approaches are investigate, and if no solution to the problem is found, then I am at a loss on how to proceed. We simply lack any other clues regarding Michel's background. Perhaps a thorough search of all available Acadian administrative documents in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom might reveal some more mentions of him. But it is unlikely that these mentions will have substantial genealogical clues regarding Michel's origins. Watchful waiting would be our only alternative. By this I mean, we will have to monitor the success of other Acadian researchers in locating the places of origins for their ancestors. If someone makes a breakthrough, then we should analyze the situation and see if it might make sense that Michel came from that same area.

To adequately test these theories, since it deals with research in Europe, will require organization and financing. It is my hope that the AFFDA will adopt this research project as part of its mission. I do not think that a single genealogist, struggle on his or her own, will make sufficient progress in a decade of research on this project. However, for a project team with talented genealogists on it, this is a project that could be accomplished within a few years.


To borrow a now worn phrase from American political parlance, "mistakes were made" in the case of Michel de Forest. The handling of the 1658 list, even for the 1950's or 1960's, was amateurish. Certainly, at that time there were many notable models of well documented and cited genealogical works. For example, Père Godbout's (1968) article on the St-Jehan passengers to Acadia. Given the weak nature of this evidence, the authors of the Forest family history never should have stated there theory as if it was a proven fact. It is not.

The bottom line is that we must get out and start looking again, there is more work to be done. Either we find the mysterious 1658 list, or we move on and try alternative scenarios. We have a long way to go. Let us make sure we document our progress as we proceed so that others will not go over the same turf. Again, the Forest Family Association could play an important role.

I suspect that we will not find any supporting evidence for Michel's origins. We might have to settle with the probability that Michel Forest came to Acadia from France before 1665 as a Catholic. I expect that this will not please some family historians who will want to cling to the Walloon de Forest origins theory for Michel. They will hold on to it tenaciously because it leads back to bourgeois origins and extends back several hundred years. I wonder if this would be an easier theory to abandon if Michel only purportedly traced back to Walloon peasants.

Given the lack of evidence available to us now, I believe the prudent thing to do is to treat the Gérard theory as mere speculation. It must be tested and proven correct or wrong with evidence, not further speculation. I realize that there will be some dedicated people out there who will continue accepting this theory despite the lack of evidence. In order to accept it, all they must do is assume that Michel joined with a New England adventure in a recently captured French territory, ignored more comfortable opportunities in the Netherlands and even the New Netherlands, changed his given name, abandoned his faith, and once appeared on a mysterious list of non-French settlers that has since disappeared. Seriously, what do you think? Possible, yes, probable, no.

Lastly, I would like to point out that I too am a descendant of Michel Forest. Nothing would please me more than to be proven wrong about his origins and to find that he is indeed Gereyt de Forest. The Walloon de Forests are a fine family with an interesting history. I have a surplus of peasant ancestors and am always happy to find bourgeois or noble ancestors because you can often trace their ancestry back several more generations in Europe. So please, someone out there who is a better researcher than I, or who has access to the records in Great Britain and the Netherlands, prove me wrong. If someone can find the 1658 list of Temple colonists with Gereyt's name on it, then please show it to the world. It would be a significant contribution to Acadian genealogy.


Letters and Emails

Allis, Frederick S. 1987?. Letter to John P. DuLong. Editor, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Boston.

Arches, Pierre. 1977. Letter to Gérald Forest. Professeur, Lycée E. Pirochon, Parthenay, 2 December. Found in G. Forest n. d., no. 80-019.

Bouma, Jan. 1996. Email to John P. DuLong. 9:05 16 April.

Caillebeau, Maurice. 1980. Letter to Gérald Forest. Poitiers, 4 Juillet. Found in G. Forest n. d., no. 80-019.

Caron, Caroline-Isabelle. 1997. Email to John P. DuLong. Québec, 12:47 19 November.

Chalmers, C. D. 1983. Letter to John P. DuLong. Public Record Office, Surrey, United Kingdom, 1 February.

De Ville, Winston, Milton P. Rieder, Jr., and Norma Gaudet Rieder, trans. and comp. 1975-1983. Acadian Church Records. 5 vols. New Orleans: Polyanthos, Inc.

Entremont, C. J. d'. 1989. Letter to John P. DuLong. Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, 16 January.

Forest, Denis. 1996a. Email to John P. DuLong. Ste-Marceline, Québec, 23:31 8 April.

__________. 1996b. Email to John P. DuLong. Ste-Marceline, Québec, 23:58, 9 April.

Forest, Lorenzo. 1982. Letter to John P. DuLong. Montréal, 8 January.

__________. 1983. Letter to John P. DuLong. Montréal, 6 April.

Griët, Robert. 1996. Email to John P. DuLong. 6:29 13 April.

Gutheim, Marjorie F. 1983. Letter to John P. DuLong. Winthrop Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, 1 November.

Hamrick, Chuck. 1996. Email to John P. DuLong. 21:32 11 April.

Hassebroek, John. 1996. Email to John P. DuLong. St. Catherines, Ontario, 3:37 11 April.

Higgins, P. M. 1982. Letter to John P. DuLong. Assistant Keeper, The British Library, Department of Manuscripts, London, 17 May.

Howitson, Brenda. 1983. Letter to John P. DuLong. Chief of Special Collections, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Library, Boston, 19 July.

Louw, Ramon P. M. de. 1996. Email to John P. DuLong. 14:40 11 April.

Mazee, Kees. 1996. Email to John P. DuLong. 2:00 12 April.

Rathbun, Jennie. 1987. Letter to John P. DuLong. Houghton Reading Room, The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 12 November.

Roberts, S. G. 1982. Letter to John P. DuLong. Research Assistant, The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, London, 1 June.

Walden, David. 1982. Letter to John P. DuLong. Archivist, Public Archives of Canada, British Archives, Manuscript Division, Ottawa, 20 December.


Forest, Gérald. N. d. Gérald Forest Collection, no. 80 Centre d'études acadiennes, Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick.

Bibliothèque Wallonne de Leiden. "Card Index of Members of the Netherlands, France, Germany, etc.," 1518-1811, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, microfilms 199755-199953.

This is an index of Walloon church records in the Netherlands before 1812. For more information see Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1973).


Arsenault, Bona. 1965. Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens. 2 vols. Québec: Le Conseil de la vie française en Amérique.

__________. 1978. Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens. 6 vols. Québec: Éditions Leméac Inc.

Bopp, Richard E., and Linda C. Smith. 1995. Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Buffinton, Arthur Howland 1932. "Sir Thomas Temple in Boston, a Case of Benevolent Assimilation." Colonial Society of Massachusetts Transactions 27: 308-319.

Bujold, Nicole T., and Maurice Caillebeau. 1979. Les Origines françaises des premières familles Acadiennes: Le Sud Loudunais. Poitiers: Imprimerie l'Union.

Caron, Caroline-Isabelle.  2001.  Se créer des ancêtres.   Les écrits historiques et généalogiques des de Forest et des Forest d'Amérique du Nord, 19e et 20e siècles.  Ph.D. diss., McGill University.

Charbonneau, Hubert, and Jacques Légaré. 1980-1990. Le Répertoire des actes de baptême, mariage, sépulture et des recensements du Québec ancien [1621-1765]. 47 vols. Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal.

Cyr, Leo G. 1981. Madawaskan Heritage, The Genealogy of Our Family: A Branch of the Cyr (Sire) Family in the New World. 1st ed. Washington, DC: N. p.

__________. 1985. Madawaskan Heritage, The Genealogy of Our Family: A Branch of the Cyr (Sire) Family in the New World. 2nd ed. Bethesda, MD: N. p.

De Forest, Emily (Johnston). 1914. A Walloon Family in America. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

De Forest, John William. 1900. The De Forests of Avesnes. New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse, and Taylor.

Delaney, John J., and James Edward Tobin. 1961. Dictionary of Catholic Biography. New York: Doubleday.

De Ville, Winston, Milton P. Rieder, Jr., and Norma Gaudet Rieder, trans. and comp. 1975-1983. Acadian Church Records. 5 vols. New Orleans: Polyanthos, Inc.

DuLong, John P. 1981. "Forest Discrepancy in Arsenault." Acadian Genealogy Exchange 10 (October): 114-115.

__________. 1987. "The Melansons and de Forest Colonists on the Satisfaction." Huguenot Trails: The Huguenot Society of Canada 20 (December): 9-10.

Entremont, Clarence J. d'. 1971.  "Recensement de Port-Royal, 1678."  Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 22 (October-November-December): 226-247.

__________.  1979b. "Census of Port Royal, Acadia, 1678." French Canadian and Acadian Genealogical Review 7 (Spring): 47-66.  [English translation of Entremont 1971.]

__________. 1991. "Origine des Acadiens." Cahiers de la Société historique acadienne 22 (October-December): 128-143.

Forest, Lorenzo, Abbé, P. S. S. 1977. Histoire de la famille Forest des origines à nos jours et de deux branches de cette famille: La branche Québécoise et la branche Gaspésienne. In collaboration with Père Vincent-de-Lérins and Albert Forest. 3rd ed. N.p.

This work can be found at the Salle Gagnon, Bibliothèque centrale, Montréal, and a photocopy of it is in the possession of the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan.

__________. 1990. Cinq siècles d'histoire familiale, 1450-1975. In collaboration with Père Vincent-de-Lérins and Albert Forest. 6th ed. Joliette, Québec: Société de généalogie de Lanaudière.

Gaudet, Placide. 1906. "Acadian Genealogy and Notes." Report of the Public Archives of Canada [for the Year 1905], vol. 2, Appendix A, part 3, 3rd and 4th paging, [introduction, i-xxxiv], 1-55, and 1-372.

Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1973. Church Records of the Netherlands: Walloon or French Reformed. Salt Lake City, UT: Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, series C, no. 23.

Godbout, Archange. [1925] 1979. Origine des familles canadiennes-françaises. Lille: Société St-Augustin. Reprint, Montréal: Éditions Élysée.

__________. 1968. "The Passenger List of the Ship Saint-Jehan and the Acadian Origins." French Canadian and Acadian Genealogical Review 1 (Spring): 54-73.

Green, Mary Anne Everett, ed. [1884] 1965. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1657-8. Reprint ed. Vaduz, Germany?: Kraus Reprint Ltd.

Greenwood, Val D. 1990. The Research Guide to American Genealogy. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.

Griffiths, Naomi E. S. 1992. The Contexts of Acadian History, 1686-1784. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Guillemette, André, and Jacques Légaré. 1989. "The Influence of Kinship on Seventeenth Century Immigration to Canada." Continuity and Change 4: 79-102.

Hebert, Donald J. 1980. Acadians in Exile. Cecilia, LA: Hebert Publications.

Jehn, Janet B. 1972-. Acadian Descendants. 8 vols. to date. Covington, KY: N. p.

__________. 1988. Corrections & Additions to Arsenault's Histoire et Généalogie des Acadiens. Covington, KY: N. p.

Lackey, Richard S. 1980. Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records. New Orleans: Polyanthos.

Mills, Gary B., Elizabeth Shown Mills. 1981. "Roots and the New 'Faction': A Legitimate Tool for Clio?" The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 89 (January): 3-26.

Morris, Richard B., and Jeffrey B. Morris, eds. 1976. Encyclopedia of American History: Bicentennial Edition. New York: Harper & Row.

Oubre, Elton J.  1986.  Vacherie, St. James Parish, Louisiana: History and Genealogy.  Thibodaux, LA: Oubre's Books.

Rawlyk, George A. 1973. Nova Scotia's Massachusetts: A Study of Massachusetts-Nova Scotia Relations, 1630 to 1784. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Rieder, Milton P., Jr., and Norma Gaudet Rieder, comps. 1967-1973. Acadians in France, 1762-1776. 3 vols. Metairie, LA: Privately printed.

Reid, John G. 1981. Acadia, Maine, and New Scotland: Marginal Colonies in the Seventeenth Century. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Remington, Gordon L., ed. 1991. "Special Issue: Genealogical Deception." Genealogical Journal 19 (1 and 2): 3-80 [the entire issue consisting of six articles is devoted to the topic of fraudulent genealogies].

Riker, James.  1904.  Revised History of Harlem (City of New York): Its Origin and Early Annals.  New York: New Harlem Pub.

Ryder, Huia [in collaboration with the editors]. 1979. "Temple, Sir Thomas." Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, vol. 1, pp. 636-637.

Sainsbury, W. Noël. 1860. Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, 1574-1660. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.

Stewart, Lois.  1998.  "Doubts Cast on Any Relationship Between the Deforests of Leyden and the Forests of Acadia."  The Society of Descendants of Johannes de la Montagne News Letter 15 (Spring and Summer): 1472, also see mention of emails on 1513.

Trudel, Marcel. 1994. "Du 'dit' au 'de', noblesse et roture en Nouvelle-France." Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 45 (Spring): 23-34.

Vincent-de-Lérins, Père, S.O. Cist. 1955. Histoire de la famille Forest depuis des origines jusqu'à nos jours, et de la branche Gaspésienne de cette famille par un de ses membres. 1st ed. N.p.

The original manuscript for this work is in the Bibliothèque du Monastère Cistercien de Rougemont, no. 2761.

__________. 1965. Histoire de la famille Forest des origines à nos jours et de deux branches de cette famille: La branche Québécoise et la branche Gaspésienne. In collaboration with Abbé Lorenzo Forest and Albert Forest. 2nd ed. N.p.

A copy of this work can be found in the Gérald Forest Collection, no. 80.009, Centre d'études acadienne.

White, Stephen A. Forthcoming. Le Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes. Multiple volumes projected. Moncton, NB: Centre d'études acadiennes, Univ. de Moncton. Currently in manuscript form at the Centre d'études acadiennes.

Wilson, Bruce G. 1992. Manuscripts and Government Records in the United Kingdom and Ireland Relating to Canada. Ottawa: National Archives of Canada.

Web Pages

Beauregard, Denis. 1997a. Généalogie de l'ancienne Acadie., 21 November.

__________. 1997b. Généalogie de l'ancienne Acadie [Spéculations et erreurs], 26 November.

Dulong, John P. 1997a. Catherine Baillon Royal Connection Research Association., 16 November.

__________. 1997b.  Le Neuf Research Project., 17 September.

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