Marie Olivier Sylvestre: A Special Name In History

Marie Olivier Sylvestre: A Special Name In History

Roch Manitoubeouich was a man who’d had a life full of adventure, excitement, and hardship.  He’d spent many years deep in the forests of New France, travelling with Olivier LeTardif as an interpreter and guide, furthering the interests and trade of the Company of 100 Associates.

Finally, though, after many years of hard work, Roch settled down with his young wife Outchibahanoukoueou.  The Huron man and his Abenaki bride would be entering the next stage of what had already been a full life by many standards.  Enjoying a more idyllic pace at the Huron settlement at Sillery near Quebec, the couple welcomed the birth of their first child in September of 1625, a girl they named Ousibiskounesout.

Roch and Olivier LeTardif had remained close friends – years of travelling in the wild had forged a strong bond between the two men.  Olivier attended the baptism of the baby girl, given the Christian name Marie in honor of the virgin Mary.  LeTardif was named the girl’s Godfather, and as was custom at the time for a Godparent, he conferred his name “Olivier” on the small babe.  The missionary performing the girl’s baptism added another name, Sylvestre, meaning “one who comes from the forest, or “one who lives in the forest”.   Thus begins the real journey of Marie Olivier Sylvestre Manitoubeouich.

Marie’s early childhood would have been one filled with family, likely in a Longhouse built near Jesuit buildings in the settlement.  Religion was an important part of life at Sillery, as was trade, and most of the Hurons at the settlement also had small farm plots to work.

As Marie reached the age of 10, she was legally adopted by Olivier LeTardif.  Roch’s old friend was generous, and knew that Marie had the best chance of success if she was educated and reared in the same way as a French girl of means.  Olivier placed her as a live-in boarder and student with the Ursuline Nuns at the Ursuline Monestary.  This school was founded by a missionary group of Ursuline nuns in 1639 under the leadership of Mother Marie of the Incarnation.  The school is one of the oldest institutions for the learning of women in North America, and is still in operation today.

After some time at the Ursuline school, Marie was sent to live with Guillaume Hubou and his wife, Marie Rollet. Guillaume Hubou was a company man, working with the Company of 100 Associates for some time and even receiving a land grant from Champlain.  Olivier LeTardif knew Guillaume likely because of the company association, and considered him a close personal friend.  Guillaume’s wife, Marie Rollet, had been a widow, and when she married Guillaume she was much older than he was.  Being past child-bearing years, the couple had no children of their own, but housed many orphans and Native children being taught by the Jesuits.   Marie Rollet is listed as a godmother to many converted Native children.

Life in New France was challenging during this time.  Communities were not large, in fact, the entire population of New France was under 4000 people.  Everything within the colonies was controlled by the Company of 100 Associates, and by extension, the Church.  Most of the men in the colonies were Company men on some level, and it’s no surprise that these company men tended to stay together and forge meaningful relationships and take care of their own.

In this chaotic time a decree was established to create working guidelines for the Colony known as the Church Indenture Decree.  By modern standards, these guidelines would be considered harsh and strict, but for the world of New France at the time, these guidelines were considered the lifeblood of survival to the colonization efforts.  With populations being small, it was very important that everyone procreate to increase the size of the colony. Parents in New France were expected to see their sons married by the age of twenty, and their daughters must be married by 16, or the Father would be forced to appear before the court.  Then every six months, the Father of the family had to appear in court once again until the eligible unwed child had finally found a mate.  This encouraged arranged marriages, and oftentimes girls as young as 12 were given away in marriage.  Some of the other restrictions of the decree were in place to ensure the monopoly of the Company as an instrument of the Church:

  • Merchants were not allowed to hold business meetings or gather in any numbers. These gatherings were considered a threat to the stability of the Company monopoly.
  • It was strictly forbidden to trade non-French goods.
  • It was illegal for townspeople to rent houses or rooms to tenants from the country. It was felt that this might encourage a reduction in the peasant population, which could potentially threaten farming production and food supplies to larger settlements.
  • Farmers were not allowed to move into town or they would be heavily fined. Once again, the leadership feared a drain on the population of food producers and highly penalized those who disobeyed.
  • People were not permitted to sit on benches in front of the house after 9 pm. They were supposed to be procreating and adding to the population.
  • All books, apart from religious texts, were banned.

Imagine then, the kind of world Marie would have lived in as she was considered an educated woman and grew old enough to marry.  Of course, Olivier LeTardif would be very interested in the type of person his adopted daughter was to marry, a suitor would have to be suitable to a woman of her station and means.  Housed with Guillaume Hubou and his wife, Marie would have seemed like an extremely acceptable candidate for a loyal company man to take as a wife.  Martin Prevost was just such a match.  A devoted company man, and a friend of LeTardif and Hubou, Martin bore the title of Storekeeper Clerk which today would be the equivalent of a Warehouse Manager.  He was quite a bit older than Marie, 33 years old to her tender age of 12, but in this time such unions were very common.  Given the rules and guidelines of the colony highly pressuring singles to marry, most girls were engaged or married by the age of 12.

In New France there was quite a disproportionate amount of men to women, so eligible women were often contracted to come over from France to marry colonists.  This also meant that many French men who wanted wives turned to the Native populations to find mates.  However, many of the couplings between the French and Natives were not “official”, and therefore on November 3, 1644 when Martin Prevost married Marie Olivier Sylvestre, it was the first official documented marriage between a French person and a Native person in Canada.  This was the beginning of a long tradition of intermarriage between the two cultures, and many Metis people can trace their heritage back to these marriages.

Religion was an integral part of living in the colonies of New France. Royal Decree and Religious Decree were essentially the same thing, and increasing the population in the New World was considered a religious duty.
Religion was an integral part of living in the colonies of New France. Royal Decree and Religious Decree were essentially the same thing, and increasing the population in the New World was considered a religious duty.

Martin and Marie settled down to start their own family, enjoying high status within their community at their home in Beauport.  The land had been granted to Martin by the Company of 100 Associates.  Martin’s job as clerk meant that he was likely the very person who put together the equipment and supplies for the Maisonneuve expedition that established the colony at Montreal.  It was a tumultuous time, with pressure from warring Native tribes, the warring English, and competition for resources making it more and more difficult for the Company of 100 Associates to maintain their monopoly.   Still, Marie and Martin had 8 children together, and things seemed wonderful, but a series of tragedies left their mark on the couple.

In 1661, Marie and Martin lost three children in 1 year.  A girl, 12 years old, died in January, and two of her younger siblings, a 6 year old girl and a 4 year old boy passed away on the same day in March.  With all of the comings and goings to the settlements and the lessened immunity of the half-native children, it’s likely that an epidemic of some sort killed the children.  There were many young people who died in this area during this time period.  It must have been devastating for the couple to face this loss while still needing to continue with their lives and raise their surviving children.  Surely, this loss and the difficult times took their toll on Marie.  She gave birth to Therese, the couple’s youngest child in 1665 – and barely three months later, Marie herself passed away.  She was in her late 30’s.

Martin must have been crushed.  Not only was he trying to provide for his family in this difficult world, he had lost three children and his wife and now he had five small children to raise on his own.  The Company of 100 Associates was in serious financial straights, but fortunately, Martin was already established as a farmer and a trader in the community.  When the Company of 100 Associates dissolved in 1663, their charter having been revoked by the church and crown, it opened up trade to an extent that had not been before experienced in New France.

In 1665, Martin re-married.  His new wife, Marie d’Abancourt was herself a widow twice over.  Her late husband had been a company man, and in keeping with tradition, the company took care of their own.  It must have been an attractive and necessary match for Martin, who was likely struggling under the burden of raising his children alone and trying to grow his own business interests.  Martin’s new wife had children from her previous marriage, so was well prepared to be a mother once again.

Martin lived to be 80 years old, most certainly a ripe old age for the time.  He stayed at his home in Beauport until he became to ill to be alone, and was moved to the Hotel Dieu. It is interesting to note that this hospital was the first hospital in North America and was run by the Ursuline nuns.  Martin died at the Hotel Dieu in January of 1691.

The tale of Marie Olivier Sylvestre and Martin Prevost is one that is weaved throughout the history of many Metis people of today.  The drive and ambition of the French court for wealth and land, the ambitious striving of the Company of 100 Associates, and the passion of the Church for converts began a legacy that resounds through the halls of history to this very day painting the family tree of Metis people across Canada and the World.

If you’d like to read the first part of Marie’s Story, you can find it here.

44 thoughts on “Marie Olivier Sylvestre: A Special Name In History

  1. Omg!!! This is amazing!!!! It’s my great grandmother!!!! She’s a very special women!!!!
    I’m going to share it with my family!!

  2. Marie Olivier Sylvestre Manitouabeouich (Ousibiskounesout) was my 9th great grand-mother on my Father side, She was one of my 12 First Nation ancestors found so far that are coming back within 24 different bloodlines of my family tree that are leading to indigenous sources. She is to me, a very important one because she is the very first “Indien” girl legally married (with written proof) with Martin Prevost, a french Voyageur and automatically, the very first young woman in New France to give birth to offsprings that will be the Genesis of the Metis Nation in the Country.

    1. I am related to you with the Lacroix family as well, who married in the Lepine family. Hi. Marie was an ancestor in my family as well, on the Manaigre side of the family.

      1. Hello Keith,
        I am related to the same ancestors as well as Olivier Le Tardif. My mother was born a Tardiff. You are the second person I have come across who states that they are related to Marie’s brother, Etienne. But others say that Etienne is not a child of Marie’s father Roch. Can you provide a resource for information about Etienne’s family connection. From what I have read, Etienne was an interesting man.

    2. Martin and Martin are my 8G Grandparents through Jean Baptiste and Marie Giroux. So happy to find more information about them. Thank you!

    3. I’m related to Martin Prevost through blood. How and who can I reach out to same blood line? Also my mothers side came from same area early 1600’s (Chauvin)

    4. Marie is also my 9th great grand-mother from my dad’s side of the family. I also have found many First Nation ancestors within the bloodline.

  3. She was my 9th great aunt. I am descended from her brother Etienne.
    It’s so good to find my native heritage after recently taking a DNA test leading to a first cousin who had done extensive genealogy.

  4. Marie and Martin are my 8th great grandparents. I cant get enough of their story. So proud to they are my ancestors

  5. i still havent found out what happened to marie parents were they killed ..sick ?/////??????
    also im a descendant of marie

    1. Jean Baptiste got married 18 August 1683, not born.
      He married Marie Giroux at Beauport

  6. The person who did my genealogy (a professional) wrote that Marie and Martin had a boy on the 18th of August 1683: Jean-Baptiste Prévost/Provost and I’m in part from that bloodline. But your text above says Marie died before then. O-oh! Can anyone help me to discern info?

    1. Nathalie – the information in the article was the best average from multiple sources. Unfortunately many of these dates are obscure and somewhat inaccurate as there was no real recordkeeping at the time. We do our best to find information and try to confirm from multiple sources, however sometimes there are still conflicting dates. Thank you for your input!!

    2. Hi I need some infirmation about (your) 🙂 Jean-Baptiste Prévost ‘s wife — Marie Giroux from Beauport ?
      Father Toussaint Giroux? If is a yes… I’m just happy.

    3. Hi! Nathalie,

      Martin Prevost and Marie Olivier Sylvestre Manitouabeouich are my 7XGGP.

      Jean Baptiste Prevost was b. 16 May 1662 in Quebec City d. 11 May 1737 in St-Augustin, Quebec.

      Jean married Marie Genevieve Sedilot on 03 Feb 1712 in Ste-Foy, Quebec.

      Marie Sedilot was b. 29 Aug 1685 in Quebec City d. 16 Dec 1749 in Ste-Foy, Quebec.

  7. My son’s grandmother carried the Provost name and is directly connected to Marie Provost as great great ..I think 5 times grandchild. Nice to know my son has many relatives who share this great history.

  8. This is so interesting. Martin and Marie Prevost are my 8th great grandparents. I just love reading all the info they have. I hope to make a trip up to Midland to visit the shrine. Not that far away so heres hoping.

  9. Martin and Marie Olivier – my 7xggrandparents…have to wonder how much of Marie’s aboriginal culture was passed on to their children…………m

  10. Marie and Martin are my 8th GGP This is so amazing. This runs on my mothers side. I find it so interesting to read and what they lived with at the time.

  11. Martin and Marie are my 9 th ggp. Especially neat is their grandchildren married into my grandmothers (salois) and grandfathers(belisle) side of the family. Pretty cool

  12. This is amazing. I have recently traced my lineage back to this woman and reading her story feels surreal. She would be my 10x great grandmother.

  13. I should also say I find it really cool that my grandmas name was Mary Oliver and that is the side of the family that traces back to Marie Olivier.

  14. Marie is my 10x ggm on my grandmother’s side. I never knew that I had any First Nations roots. I believe there is more First Nations ancestry down the line but I am waiting for the paperwork and confirmation.

  15. I am cousins to you all ; ) My uncle, an amateur genealogist, traced our family back to Marie Sylvestre and Martin Prevost. I find this stuff fascinating.

  16. Martin and Marie are my 11th ggp along my father side of the family. I just received a copy of the genealogy from my cousin, this is so fascinating! I can’t stop researching my lines of my family!C

  17. Greetings to all relatives through Marie Olivier Sylvestre, my 11th grand-mother from my mother’s side. As my mother, a french canadian from Lambton married a french man, I do live in France but I do cherish my metis/first nations roots.

    1. Ousibiskounesout is also my 8th great grandmother on my father’s side. Wow, didn’t know I had so many connections to relatives. I am very proud if her and all of us.

    1. Bonjour,
      Du coté maternel et paternel Marie Sylvestre olivier Manitouabeouich est mon arrière grand ggg mère je suis de la 12 eme Génération 🙂 Bonne Journée.

  18. Marie and Martin are my 10th great grandparents. My family and i, recently discovered that we are apart of the blood line. truly Amazing. the thirst to learn more and experience more of this part of my heritage, grows stronger and stronger. I cant get enough of their story. So proud that they are my ancestors and to be a decendant of 2 great people.

  19. My grandfather was 8th generation from Martin and Marie. His name was David E. butler. He came from Therese and Michael Giroux, Marguerite and Francis Vachon, jean Baptiste and Angelique Grenier, Marie Jeanne Vachon and Joseph Hilde Butler, Pierre Hildie Butler and Maie Louise Grenier, Francis Heildie Butler and Amelia Rancourt, Thomas Butler and Mary Vachon, David E. Butler and Sophia LaFountaine, he was David E. Butler m. Alice Tremblay. In all the connectins, I have not actually seen a Butler listed. Hope I followed this correctly and if so, am very excited…

  20. About a month ago, I learned that I was descended from Marie Tardif Olivier, through my 2nd Grt gramma, the Metis, Rose Delima Provost Begin. I was sooo thrilled to finally find that Native connection, that Begin family lore talked about, but, couldn’t pinpoint! Mike Jolin, Welland ont Canada.

    1. Did you ancestors of Marie know that the Metis Nation of Ontario will not represent anyone who is a descendant of her and Martin Prevost due to political.issues.

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