Darryl R. J. Leroux is an Associate Professor, Department of Social Justice and Community Studies, at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He obviously is also an expert genealogist and historian. He recently published an article concerning the claims of indigenous ancestry in eastern Canada in the 1600s as made by thousands of today’s genealogists. He points out that many of these claims simply are not true and he backs up his claims with solid research.
The article is a brief summary of Leroux’s book, Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity. Leroux described his 12 years of research, including reading thousands of messages on various online genealogy forums. One of his most surprising findings was how numerous French women were transformed into Indigenous women on different forums in both French and English. This practice is called aspirational descent. It involves changing an ancestor’s identity to fit one’s current desire to shift away from a white identity. He points out that “one simply repeats false family stories passed down over the generations, ignoring the voices of Indigenous peoples along the way.”
If you suspect you have “Métis”, “Abenaki”, or “Algonquin” ancestry, you want to read Darryl R. J. Leroux’s article in TheConversation web site at: https://theconversation.com/how-some-north-americans-claim-a-false-indigenous-identity-121599.
Comment by Dick Eastman: I have no proof but I suspect the problem of people erroneously claiming descent from North American indigenous ancestors is not limited to eastern Canada. I am certain that similar false claims are common in the rest of Canada and all throughout the United States. Indeed, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren often repeated false family stories passed down in her family over the generations until she was corrected by a genealogy researcher.
In my own family, as I was growing up I was told that I had a Native American great-grandmother. She and my great-grandfather reportedly lived in northern Maine. While they lived in the United States, they lived a very short distance from the Canadian border. There were and still are many French-Canadians living in that area.
I also was told my Native American great-grandmother was bi-lingual, speaking both French and an American Indian language. Reportedly, she did not speak English. When I first started looking into the family tree, I assumed that story was 100% factual. I was wrong.
Once I dug into the original records, I found that a grain of truth had been expanded into a falsehood over the generations. In fact, I now know I had a STEP-great-grandmother who probably was Abenaki or Micmac or possibly a member of the Penobscot tribe. However, she was not my biological great-grandmother.
The christening records in the local Catholic church listed my grandfather’s date of christening and the names of his father and of his true mother, a different woman’s name from what I had been told by my elders. The marriage records in the same church also revealed that the woman I had been told was my great-grandmother was actually the SECOND WIFE of my great-grandfather. I later found a record proving that the the first wife had previously died in childbirth. The first wife obviously was my true great-grandmother.
My grandfather was four years old when his mother died. In short, my grandfather was RAISED by a Native American woman who was his step-mother. However, his biological mother obviously was a white French-Canadian.
Great-grandfather and his second wife did have more children and all the children were RAISED together by my great-grandfather and his Native American (second) wife.
In fact, I have since met a descendant of my great-grandfather and step-great-grandmother and he already knew most of the story involving two wives. Apparently he had been told the true story when he was growing up, unlike the story I had been told. While my cousin and I both share the same great-grandfather, we have different great-grandmothers. In short, my cousin has some Native American blood in his veins while I do not.
Does your family have a similar (false) story?