Monday, February 24, 2014

The Irish And The Métis In Saskatchewan, Canada

When you do genealogical research you really should not be surprised at the unusual record collections that Irish people can be found in. One such example is the North-West Territories Métis Scrip Applications found at Library and Archives Canada.

Firstly, some background: Throughout the late 19th century, settling the west was paramount for the newly confederated Canada. Clearing the title [rights to land ownership] of the region’s Indigenous peoples was integral to this process. As a means of extinguishing the Aboriginal title of the Métis, the scrip policy was implemented in the North-West, part of which is now Saskatchewan.

The Métis were dealt with on an individual basis. Scrip commissioners travelled to Métis communities and held sittings at various locations where Métis gathered to fill out applications for their entitlement. The basic premise to scrip was to extinguish the Aboriginal title of the Métis by awarding a certificate redeemable for land or money – the choice was the applicant’s – of either 160 or 240 acres or dollars, depending on their age and status.[1]

Some of these applications, for the years 1886-1906, are available to view online and were collected by an organization with a very un-PC title, North-West Half-Breeds Claims Commissions. This name resulted from the applicants having one parent who was Métis and another who was non-Métis, usually French-Canadian, but sometimes Irish.[2] However, many of the applicants in the collection are listed as having two Métis parents. A change to the eligibility rules on 1885 could have something to do with this.[3]

One such example is for Jennis Brunet and has the following information:
Brunet, Jennie - Concerning her claim as a child - Address, Fort Saskatchewan - Born, Edmonton, 1863 - Father, John Foley, (Irish) - Mother, Jennie, (Métis) - Married, April, 1879 at Fort Saskatchewan to Philias Brunet - Children living, two, Mary Charlotte born 1879 and Sarah Jeanne born 1882 - Children deceased, two, Mary Rose and another not christened - Scrip for 240 acres - Claim 51.[4]

Document from application of Jennie Brunet naming John Foley as her father

Some of the files can be a treasure trove of information. An application by Samuel Cunningham, for his deceased brother John, has the following:
Cunningham, Samuel; for his deceased brother, John Cunningham; claim no. 318; address: St. Albert; born: 1815 at Manitoba; father: Patrick Cunningham (Irish); mother: Nancy (Métis); married: 1848 at Lac Ste. Anne to Rosalie L'Hirondelle; heirs: Rosalie L'Hirondelle (widow), $16.00; Samuel Cunningham; John; James; Albert; Edward $16.00; Daniel; Alfred; Henry; Nancy, wife of George Gamon, $16.00[5]

Document from Samuel & John Cunningham application.

Unfortunately, navigating the Library and Archives Canada website can be quite complex. Start here if you think you have some Irish ancestors who were in Saskatchewan in the later 19th century. Then click "Show Arrangement Structure", followed by the links for "Pages 1.11", "Pages 1.12" etc.. This will open links for each individual application. A Ctrl+F search is the best way to proceed from there, using the word 'Irish" or the name of your ancestor.


[1] Camile, Augustus. Our Legacy. 2008. Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists. Available online at http://scaa.sk.ca/ourlegacy/exhibit_scrip: accessed 8 January 2014
[2] Library and Archives Canada. North-West Half-Breeds Commission. 2013. Available online at http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/aboriginal-heritage/metis/metis-scrip-records/Pages/north-west-commissions.aspx: accessed 8 January 2014
[3] Library and Archives Canada. 2013.
[4] "North-West Territories Métis Scrip Applications." From Library and Archives Canada. Application Brunet, Jennie; Available online at http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&lang=eng&rec_nbr=1497383 : accessed 8 January 2014. original data from: Microfilm reel C-14961, Volume 1342
[5] "North-West Territories Métis Scrip Applications." From Library and Archives Canada. Application Cunningham, Samuel for his deceased brother, John Cunningham; Available online at http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&lang=eng&rec_nbr=1508494: accessed 8 January 2014. original data from: Microfilm reel C-14961, Volume 1342

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