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Le Neuf Family Research Project

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Special Announcement: New Findings Published

January 2013: Update

R.-Yves Gagné is proud to announce the publication of the first part of a series of articles, called "Les origines des familles Le Neuf et Le Gardeur", in the Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 63 :3 (Automne 2012) : 174-198. This first part uncovers the real origin of the Le Neuf family which he traced back to the 14th century in Thury Harcourt and not back to England as has been falsely reported by d'Hozier and others. Furthermore, he demonstrates that the origins of the Le Neuf family was not noble.

The other parts will be published in the upcoming issues of the Mémoires and will include more information on the Le Neufs and findings regarding the Le Gardeurs.

You can order copies of this first article from the Société généalogique canadienne-française (SGCF). You can visit the SGCF web site or write them at:

Société généalogique canadienne-française
3440, rue Davidson
Montréal, Québec H1W 2Z5
CANADA

R.-Yves Gagné, who graduated from McGill University with a Doctorate, is an emeritus member of the Société généalogique canadienne-française, and published more than 40 articles in the Mémoires of the said Societé in the past 12 years. He has made significant research contributions to several families including d'Aigneaux d'Ouville, Baillon, Longueval (Amiot), Daoust, Morel de la Durantaye, Monteth, etc.

[I have followed Yves' Le Neuf and Le Gardeur research closesly over the last few years. He kindly shared hints of his progress with me. His finished report far exceeds my fondest hopes regarding what he might find. He is expert at locating original records and deciphering them. All his work is impressive, but given my particular interest in these families, this series of articles promises to answer the many questions the Le Neuf and Le Gardeur descendants have had regarding their ancestors. Yves has set a standard for researching French ancestors that challanges all of us to do more and track down original records. John P. DuLong]

 

Note: The Following Information Refers to the Original LeNeuf Project

Research Published

Our article on the Le Neuf family has been published, please see the 2 December 2000 update for all the details. 

This web site is dedicated to reporting on the progress of the Le Neuf Family Research Project. The following information will be found here:

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Who are the Le Neuf Brothers?

The Le Neuf brothers--Michel Le Neuf, sieur du Hérisson, and Jacques Le Neuf, sieur de la Poterie--came with their mother, children, and Le Gardeur kinsman to New France in 1636. They were the first French nobles to settle permanently in Canada.

Jacques Le Neuf left a mystery behind when he registered his proof of nobility with the Superior Council of New France. He provides a rich family tree of Le Neufs extending back to Richard Le Neuf in the fourteenth century. However, Jacques does not indicate how he fits into this lineage. Rather, he has two Le Neufs back in France (one of them was a Catholic priest) write a deposition stating that Jacques is part of the Le Neuf family. These two French Le Neufs are clearly identified in the Le Neuf family tree, but neither their exact relationship to Jacques, nor Jacques' place in the family tree are spelt out. I published Mary J. Barry's translation of Jacques' nobility proofs and my concerns about missing information in "The Le Neuf Family Nobility Evidence," Michigan's Habitant Heritage 12:3 (July 1991):73-80.

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New Findings Regarding the Le Neufs

With the help of Jeanne Marie Cazin of Caen, Normandie, I was able to find an explanation for the missing information in Jacques' nobility proofs. She found for me the marriage record of Jacques' parents in the Protestant Register of Caen. His parents, Mathieu Le Neuf, Sieur du Hérisson, and Jeanne Le Marchant, were married in December 1599. This marriage record names the parents of the groom as Jean Le Neuf and Marguerite Le Gardeur, and the parents of the bride as Mâitre Gervais Le Marchant, sieur de la Celloniere et de la Rocque, lieutenant de monsieur le bailly de Condé sur Noireau, and Venote de St-Germain. I now know who Jacques' parents were, and that they were Huguenots. I suspect that Jacques covered up his background in his submitted nobility proofs to avoid detection of his Protestant background. I published my findings in "The Family Secrets of the Le Neuf Origins in France," Lost in Canada?17:2 (Spring 1993):58-71. Regrettably, Jean Le Neuf, the husband of Marguerite Le Gardeur, is not mentioned in the family tree Jacques submitted. So the mystery of how the Canadian Le Neufs descend from Richard Le Neuf is still not solved.

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Ongoing Research Efforts

Although I am still very interested in solving the Le Neuf lineage problem, I have been too busy working on my book to work on this project. Nevertheless, I have passed on the information I have to two very capable researchers, René Jetté and Yves Gagné of Québec. They are now actively researching a lead first suggested by Marc V. Ruessmann, another Michigan genealogists, that Venote de St-Germain might be related to the important St-Germain family of Normandie. René has prepared a paper in French for publication in Québec which summarizes the known facts and theories regarding the Le Neuf family and their connection to the St-Germain family. He hopes to have it published in the Mémoires of the Société généalogique canadienne française in 1996.

As more progress is made solving the Le Neuf lineage problem, I will summarize what has been accomplished here. The work that René and Yves is doing has the potential of pushing the Le Neuf pedigree back to the higher nobility and might lead to royal connections.

I must point out that genealogical projects are never conducted in isolation. This Le Neuf research has truly been a joint project. I must thank Jeanne Marie Cazin and Alain Heude of France who gathered some of the key data regarding the Le Neufs. Also, Mary J. Barry, Robert A. Lonsway, Leona C. Derosia, and Marc V. Ruessmann gave me assistance and encouragement.

Keep watching this page for further updates.

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Le Neuf Arms

The Le Neuf arms are De gueules à trois coussinets d'or, les houppes posées en sautoir [On a red field three small cushions of gold, the tassels laying saltire crosswise].    A colored depiction of the arms can be found in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Cabinet des Titres, Armorial général, Normandie mss. vol. 20, Caen part 2, p. 626, ca. 1696.  These were the arms recorded for Gabriel Le Neuf, sieur de Montenay, écuyer, seigneur de Sourdeval.  His exact relationship to the Canadian Le Neufs is not yet known.  A drawing of the arms in black and white is found in Louis-Pierre d'Hozier and Antoine-Marie d'Hozier, Armorial général de la France, 13 vols. (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1738-1908), vol. 9, part 2, p. 861. 

Although we do not know at this time how the Canadian Le Neufs fit into the French Le Neuf family, we do know that their distant cousins, Pierre Le Neuf, priest, sieur de Courtonne, and François Le Neuf, esquire, sieur de Montenay, brothers dwelling at Caen, Normandie, attested before Ollivier and Bougon, royal scriveners, on 5 May 1673, that Jacques Le Neuf, sieur de la Poterie, formerly of Caen, was of the same family and carried the same name and arms. (George-Pierre Roy's Lettres de noblesse, généalogies, érections de comtés et baronnies insinués par le Conseil Souverain de la Nouvelle-France, 2 vols., Beauceville: L'Éclaireur, Ltée., 1920), vol. I, pp. 57-65). While Jacques Le Neuf was acknowledged to be of the same family and carry the same arms, Roland-Yves Gagné in an email to me warns us that there is no evidence that he or his brother every used these arms, or for that matter any arms, while in New France.

Furthermore, Gagné points out the errorneous assignment of different arms to Michel Le Neuf, sieur du Hérisson, the brother of Jacques Le Neuf. According to Édouard-Zotique Massicotte and Régis Roy's Armorial du Canada français (2 vols., Montréal: Beauchemin, 1915-1918 vol. 2, pp. 24 and 113), Michel Le Neuf used D'argent, à trois hérissons de sable [On a white field, three black hedgehogs].  The first impression is that these arms are an obvious pun on his alais and might refer to property his family may have once owned in Normandie. However, Gagné points out that these are actually the arms of a family surnamed Hérisson from Bretagne and has no relationship at all the the Michel Le Neuf or any other members of the Le Neuf family (Henri Jougla de Morenas, Grand armorial de France, 7 vols., Paris: Les Editions Héraldiques, 1934-1952; reprint ed., Paris: Frankelve, 1975, vol. 4, p. 297).

If either Jacques or Michel Le Neuf used the family arms, then they did so by presumption, even with the permission of their distant cousin. They were commoners related to nobles and possing as nobles in New France. Had they remained in France and had lived long enough, then they might have had arms assigned to them for the purposes of taxiation in 1696. The following generic arms were found for a Jean Le Neuf, merchant, bourgeois of Caen, of unknown relationship to our Canadian Le Neufs, registered in the Armorial général de France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Cabinet des Titres, Armorial général, Normandie mss. vol. 20, Caen part 2, p. 261, ca. 1696):

The blazon would be D'or parti de sinople à trois barres d l'un en l'autre. Scanning pages before and after this illustration there are several similarly blazoned arms. The clerks assigned to collect the 1696 tax on arms would simply make up bogus arms and assign them to anyone they thought could afford the tax including merchants and well off peasant. It appears that this Jean Le Neuf was the victim of this tax scheme and was assigned rather hideous arms.

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Updates

27 November 1996:

Finally! The microfilm reels arrived from the Bibliothèque national de France. There are four reels loaded with documents from the Cabinet des titres. We ordered these documents to be microfilmed back in June 1996. It took almost six months for the order to be filled. These reels contain documents relating to both the Baillon and Le Neuf projects. A backup copy of the reels will be made to be kept with me and the original reels will then be forwarded to my Québec associates. We will start analyzing them as soon as possible, however, it will probably take several months to work our way through all the material. Although specific detailed information on our Le Neuf research findings will have to wait for publication of the article René is preparing, I might be able to convince my colleagues to present a brief but general report on our analysis of the documents at this web site.

I want to thank the individuals who contributed financially to this project. I have recorded your names and I will make sure you are mentioned in the acknowledgements of the article.

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28 June 1996:

René Jetté, Yves-Roland Gagné, and I recently received from the Bibliothèque nationale de France an invoice for the microfilm copies of the documents we are seeking. These documents cover the St-Germain family, which the Le Neufs are related to and this connection might lead back to a royalty. There are a total of 1,059 manuscript pages and the bill comes to approximately $368.05 USA. We have paid the bill and are now waiting for the microfilms to arrive. Any donation you might want to send to help us complete our work will be appreciated. In turn we will be happy to mention your assistance in the acknowledgment section of the publications we intend to complete.

Once we receive the microfilms we will have to double check their citations and contents. A duplicate copy of the microfilm will be made before the original is sent to René and Yves in Québec. The documents will then be analyzed and evaluated. It will take several months to completely go through this large set of documents. We must then take the new information we learn and incorporate it into an article summarizing our findings. We are still many months, if not years, away from finishing this project.

Although over a thousand documents sounds impressive, it might very well turn out that only five to ten percent of them will be of value. Also, there is no guarantee that we will prove the Le Neufs are related to royalty. However, these documents will at a minimum improve what we know about their connections to other local Norman noble families.

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17 September 1997:

The Le Neuf project has taken a back seat to the Baillon project for over a year now.  A review of the documents we recieved from France found nothing of substance.  We are of course greatly dissapointed.   However, there were several difficult to read documents that Yves was going to concentrate on and read through again.  I have not yet received his final report on these documents.   Once our Baillon articles are published, we will get together and decide how to proceed on this project. 

The next step will probably involve hiring a researcher in Caen, Normandie, France, to go through the notarial and tabellion records.  When I visited the Calvados Departmental archives in 1994, I found that the tabellion records for Thury-Harcourt, near Caen, which we need to view, were in such bad condition that they had been pulled from use.  They were going to be restored and possibly microfilmed.   We hope that by time we are ready to hire a researcher that these tabellion records will again be available.  We already know from a preliminary survey of these records, which Alain Heude did about ten years ago, that Le Neufs are frequently mentioned in them.  We suspect that there might be some other notarial and tabellion records from this area that will concern our Canadian Le Neufs and their ancestors.  With the help of these records we might be able to learn more about  the grandparents of the Canadian Le Neuf brothers, namely,  Jean Le Neuf and Marguerite Le Gardeur, and Gervais Le Marchant and Venote de St-Germain.  Also, we would like to find more clues to the relationship between Michel Le Neuf, sieur du Hérisson, and Anne du Hérisson, his probably illegitimate daughter.  Unfortunately, research in the Calvados Departmental is made problematic due to the destruction of many records caused by the Second World War.

René's summary report of our findings, with some speculative theories regarding possible Le Neuf links to royalty,  was never submitted for publication with the Mémoires.   He wanted to wait until the analysis of the documents were completed.   Since we found no additional proof for our speculation, it is unclear what will become of this draft paper.  The fate of this report, and any modifications that should be made to it, will have to be on the top of our agenda when we refocus on this project.

Recently, Eric Dubois called to our attention two interesting Le Neuf notarial contracts from Québec that he has partially transcribed.  You can view these transcriptions at his Le Neuf Info web site.

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17 January 1998:

Yves and René have been reviewing Le Neuf documents that I received from the Cabinet des titres back in 1990. Unlike the other documents we received from the Bibliothèque nationale on microfilm regarding the St-Germain and Marchant families, these documents relate directly to the Le Neufs. Although I have already gone through them once and found nothing, we thought, given my limited French abilities, that Yves and René should carefully read through them. Basically, going through these documents has been an exercise in eliminating possible connections. Yves and René have found nothing to place the Canadian Le Neufs in exact relationship to their French cousins. There are still more documents that I have to copy and forward to Yves and René, but it is unlikely that they will yield any definitive information. In addition, Yves has been carefully reading through all the notes Archange Godbout left behind regarding the Le Neufs.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that we must hire a genealogist to go through the surviving notarial and tabellion records in the Calvados departmental archives. This will be expensive and we seek your financial assistance. If you would like to donate to this project, then please send your check to John P. DuLong, 959 Oxford Road, Berkley, MI 48072-2011. We can accept either American or Canadian checks. Any funds we raise will be used only for the Le Neuf project. Please make the check out to John P. DuLong. We will thank contributors in our future publications summarizing our research. Several people have already donated in the past and we extend are gratitude to them. If you want to see some progress made on this issue, then please consider donating to our project. On our Catherine Baillon project we have asked for and received donations in the past. These donations helped us complete our research and led to the publication of an article documenting a royal gateway lineage. Judge us by our successes. If you have confidence in us, then consider donating. Although there is no guarantee of success on any genealogical project, we are reasonably sure that we should be able to make some progress on learning more about the Norman background of the Le Neuf brothers.

For those of you who descend from Marguerite Legardeur, the wife of Jacques Le Neuf, sieur de la Poterie, and the daughter of René Legardeur, sieur de Tilly, and Catherine de Corday, dame de Repentigny, there has already been an interesting breakthrough made along the Corday line. Bertrand Pâris has traced Catherine de Corday's paternal lineage back to the Middle Ages and published it in his La Famille de Corday, with the contribution of Paul Leportier (Mayenne, France: Éditions Régionales de l'Ouest, 1994). It might still be possible to order this book from France using the ISBN number of 2-855554-069-0. However, there were only 650 copies printed. This is a thoroughly researched, nicely illustrated, and well done genealogy on the Corday family tracing them back to Hughes de Corday in the twelfth century. You might also be pleased to find out that you are a distant cousin of the famous Charlotte de Corday, who stabbed to death the revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat in his bath tub and was guillotined for her efforts in 1793! For a summary of this research I suggest you view the information at Denis Beauregard's site under the surname Legardeur. Please note that those of you descending from Pierre Legardeur, sieur de Repentigny, or Charles Legardeur, sieur de Tilly, the brothers of Marguerite, also share this interesting lineage.

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2 September 1998:

Just a quick update to let you know we are stilling working on the Le Neuf project and that we are making some progress.  Several months ago, Yves found an interesting clue regarding a family related to the Canadian Le Neufs back in France.  He tracked down this information and shared it with René and I.  Since then we have been systematically examining publications relating to this information.  We have also ordered two sets of documents relating to this breakthrough from the Cabinet des titres of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.  We are still waiting for the microfilms to arrive.  Yves has also been in communication with a genealogist back in France regarding this information.  Meanwhile, René has updated the paper he wrote previously about the Le Neufs to reflect our new findings.  Once we analyze the microfilms we will update the paper accordingly and submit it for publication.   Perhaps we will have something ready for publication in 1999 or 2000. 

There are some interesting possible gateways back to a royal connection opened up by this new information.  However, we have not yet been able to verify them. 

I regret having to be so vague about our progress, but we have invested an enormous amount of time and effort into this project and we do not want to be scooped by other researchers. 

[Note: I have not heard about any progress regarding this project since 1998, hence the reason I have striked out the donation request and address, 28 August 2001.]  On a related topic.  A message was posted on soc.genealogy.medieval, dated 3 August 1998, regarding a new joint research project to trace the ancestry of the Le Gardeur family.  I only know the names of three of the members of this team, Janko Pavsic, Denis Beauregard, and Robert Chartrand.  Denis Beauregard is well known for his superb French genealogy web site.   The team members are looking for persons willing to share the costs for interlibrary loans relating to their Le Gardeur research.  Of course, the Le Neufs and the Le Gardeurs were related to one another.  The research team hopes to make a breakthrough tracing the Canadian Le Gardeurs back to royalty.  Shares in the project are $32.00 USA per person.  If you are interested, then send you check (payable to Janko Pavsic) to:

Janko Pavsic
335 Murray
Greenfield Park, QC J4V 1N6
CANADA

(450) 672-2909 or 237-7371

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15 February 1999:

Finally, the microfilm reel of documents we ordered to be copied from the Bibliothèque nationale de France arrived last weekend. It will soon be in the capable hands of Yves and René for their thorough analysis. I merely looked through the reel to verify that all the documents we ordered were indeed on it before shipping it to Québec. Even from my quick review, I could see that there were some intriguing documents that should help verify the line we are currently working on. If my initial impression is correct, then we are moving closer to publishing our results. I think you will be pleased with our findings when they come to light.

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2 March 2000:

I can not believe that almost a year has gone by since I last updated this web page. Recently, two readers contacted me by email and asked for updates. Therefore, I thought I better add one to the web page as well.

A lot has happened on the project in twelve months. The documents we ordered on microfilm contributed to our understanding of several families in the Le Neuf pedigree. Unfortunately, they did not lead to confirm a suspected royal lineage. Nevertheless, with the help of M. Paul Leportier of France and others, we have learned much more about the ancestors of the Canadian Le Neufs. At this point we are actively pursuing another very promising lead back to royalty. We have been able to verify most of the generations in this possible royal gateway, but there are some critical links between generations that rely on weak evidence. As a result, we are earnestly trying to find proof for these links.

René is once again updating our manuscript paper and we hope to submit it for publication soon. Our goal is to publish our paper in the Summer 2000 issue of the Mémoires. Please understand that there is no guarantee that we will meet our goal or that we will be able to deliver a royal lineage. We might only be able to present a summary of our research to date with a pedigree showing the Le Neuf maternal ancestry stretching back for several more generations than previously known.

I know that I keep mentioning our manuscript and the hope that it will be published soon. We do not mean to frustrate you. But please understand that we have reasonably high standards and we will not publish before we feel comfortable with our results. Once our work is published, I think you will be very pleased with it.

Meanwhile, as part of the project, I have learned of a new web site selling valuable French genealogical works online. The address is http://www.eurogeneal.com.   It is offered by Héraldique & généalogie, a leading French genealogical journal. We purchased G. A. de La Roque's Histoire généalogique de la Maison d'Harcourt (1662, 4 vols., 4550 p.) on microfiche for our project. In addition, I purchased Père Anselme's Histoire et généalogique et chronologique de la Maison royale de France (1726-1733, 9 vols.), with Potier de Courcy's supplement (3 vols.), and La Chenaye-Desbois' Dictionnaire de la noblesse (3rd ed., 1863-1876, 19 vols.) on CD-ROM.  These two multi-volume works from the eighteenth century are valuable tools for researching French noble families.  Despite the default view of the microfilms being fuzzy, and some other peculiarities of the viewer, I am satisfied with these products. It is relatively easy to zoom in on the pages and make them easier to read. It was a breeze to install them and I started using these CD-ROMs immediately. Being use to waiting six months or longer for orders from France to arrive, I was extremely pleased when this products arrived in just a few days! Ordering was easy and secure online and I used my credit card, therefore, there was no hassle with the exchange rate. I would highly recommend this service. I just hope that Héraldique & généalogie continues to add other titles. For more information about these books and other tools you can use to trace French noble ancestors, you might want to view my Bibliography for Tracing French Noble Families.

Lastly, on the 17 January 1998 update, I mentioned La Famille de Corday by Bertrand Pâris.  I just wanted to let you know that this excellent genealogy is still available. You can order it from Éditions Christian, 14, rue Littré, 75006 Paris.   You can view the 2000 catalogue for Éditions Christian at Karolus web site. By the way, if you are going to visit Paris, you have to visit the Éditions Christian bookstore, it is fantastic.

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2 December 2000:

Our article summarizing our findings on the Le Neuf research and presenting an ancestry back to Charlemagne through the Le Marchand family has finally been published.  The citation for the article is as follows:

René Jetté, Roland-Yves Gagné, John Patrick DuLong, and Paul Leportier.   2000.  "Les Le Neuf: état des connaissances."  Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 51 (Autumn): 209-227.

We strongly recommend that you look at our complete article and the generation-by-generation proofs we submit.

Our article discusses what we were able to find about the Le Neuf brothers' ancestry.  We concluded that our Canadian Le Neufs were most probably not descendants of Richard Le Neuf in the fifteenth century, the first proven ancestor of the noble Le Neufs of Normandie.  The relationship of the Canadian Le Neufs to the Norman Le Neufs was most probably further back than Richard Le Neuf.  However, we were able to trace the maternal, Le Marchand, ancestry of the Canadian Le Neufs back through the Middle ages.  There are also some very interesting speculations and clues regarding the Esneval family in the footnotes.   M. Leportier, who helped us with our article, has published some interesting research on several related Norman families and we cite his work in our article.   Lastly, we present for the fun of it a table showing the relationship between the singer Céline Dion and Elizabeth "Sissi" of Bavaria, the wife of Emperor Franz-Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through their descent from Jean de St-Germain and Jeanne de La Poterie, ancestors of the Le Neuf brothers.

You can order this back issue of the Mémoires from the Société généalogique canadienne-française (SGCF), 3440, rue Davidson, Montréal, QC H1W 2Z5, Canada.  You might also want to consider joining this fine society in order to regularly receive their excellent quarterly. You can visit the SGCF web site for additional information.

Enjoy.

Note: René wrote a significant update that should be read in conjunction with this article. Here is the citation:

René Jetté, "Du neuf sur les Le Neuf," Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 53:2 (Summer 2002): 143-144.

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28 August 2001:

With the publication of our article and findings, we have decided to close this research project.  This web page will stay in place to let people know about the history of the project.  We will also post corrections and updates about the Le Neufs and their ancestors here.  Thank you for your interest in our project.  We have enjoyed doing the research and our pleased with the results.  However, we now want to move on to other projects.

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22 February 2003:

Our article on the Le Neufs has been translated into English and is being published by the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan. It is being done in three parts. Here is the full citation:

Jetté, René, Roland-Yves Gagné, John Patrick DuLong, and Paul LePortier. "The Le Neuf Family: State of Knowledge." Michigan's Habitant Heritage, 3 part series:

  • Part I, 23:4 (October 2002): 149-159;
  • Part II, 24:1 (January 2003): 1-9;
  • Part III, 24:2 (April 2003): 49-55.

You can order these issues from the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan.

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This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1995 by John P. DuLong and associates, Berkley, MI. Created 23 November 1995. Modified 19 January 2013. The heraldry art work on this web page was accomplished using Adobe Illustrator CS and Armorial Gold Heraldry Clipart ver. 15.4.