Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

Is Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, the First Native American Literary Writer, My Great(x5) Aunt?

Collage by J. Outram

I always wondered if we had a writer hiding somewhere up in the family tree. My aunts write. I write. Now I have learned that a great(x5) aunt, Bamewawagezhikaquay, also known as Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, was a writer too: “the first Native American literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language, and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories” (Robert Dale Parker).

Each time I read Parker’s description of Jane I am in awe. Whether I can prove Jane is my aunt or not, I am thrilled to meet her, to read her works. 


How am I connected to Jane Johnston Schoolcraft?

Ezekiel Solomon and Marie Louise Dubois’s son was William Solomon. William had some children with Agibicocona, who I initially thought was my grandmother and Margeurite Solomon’s mother. William and Agibicocona did not marry. When Agibicocona died, William married Margeurite Johnston (sister of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, daughter of John Johnston) and had ten children.

Marriage certificates, birth certificates, and death records are important evidence in family history research. So far Bonnie and I have not found any official record that Margeurite Solomon was the daughter of Agibicocona or Margeurite Johnston. Many online sources suggest that Margeurite Solomon is Margeurite Johnston’s daughter, but there are some (although not as many) that suggest Margeurite Solomon is Agibicocona’s daughter.

In Lawrence Barkwell’s paper on Metis Soldiers in the War of 1812, published by the Louis Riel Institute, Barkwell notes Margeurite Johnston as the sibling of Jane Johnston and the wife of William Solomon.

Bonnie posted on our Ancestry.ca tree that Agibicocona died in 1800. Our research suggests that Margeurite Solomon was born in 1802.  I found this PDF online from the Wisconsin Historical Society that details the Solomon family history and denies the Solomon/Johnston connection. Yet other researchers list clear connections between the Johnston and Solomon families. A number of researchers note that Margeurite Solomon’s mother is difficult to identify.

Louie Solomon, my great(x4)-uncle refers to his mother as Miss Johnston in his account of the Drummond Island relocation to Penetanguishene in 1828. (Interesting side note: Louie Solomon states that his mother received a military funeral.)  A.C. Osborne adds to the editor’s notes of The Migration of Voyageurs to Penetanguishene in 1828, published by the Ontario Historical Society, a note in Louie’s interview to clarify that Miss Marguerite Johnston-Solomon is related to Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. Did Louie Solomon tell Osborne this during the interview? Why would Osborne add this in 1901 if it were not true?

The Simcoe County Pioneer and Historical Papers, in A.C. Osborne’s notes (48), suggest that Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and Margeurite Johnston Solomon were sisters again. I choose to side with Osborne. The anecdotal evidence is too convincing to ignore.

In Barkwell’s document The People of the Metis Nation: H-L Metis History through Biography, Barkwell lists Margeurite as George Johnston’s sister, John Johnston’s daughter. Barkwell’s research again supports the claim that John and Susan (Ozhaguscodaywayquay) Johnston are my great(x5)-grandparents.

Somehow other geneaologists are making the connection between the famous Johnstons and the famous Solomons. I want to know how. But for now I am putting my trust in the anecdotal evidence and the Louis Riel Institute. I am making the claim that there is a connection between the Solomons and Johnstons, and that Jane Johnston Schoolcraft is indeed my great(x5)-aunt.


FYI: Margeurite Johnston and William Solomon had a daughter named Margeurite Solomon. She married Joseph Normandin, which is my mother’s maiden name. Joseph and Marguerite had a son named Joseph Normandin Jr. who married Scholastique Berger. Joseph Jr. and Scholastique had a son named Louis, who is my great-grandfather.

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14 Comments

  • Bert LeClair

    Hi Jessica. In researching my Solomon/Johnston family history I came across your blog.
    I was born in Sault SteMarie & my mothers mother was Agnes Solomon. Daughter of William Solomon. He is the son of James Solomon, son of William Solomon & Marguerite. I believe she is Janes sister.
    I plan on more research on a 24Aug trip to Penatanguishene.
    I live in Minden now.
    Also noticed the ENSS logo on your site. My daughter attended when we lived in Colborne…
    Small world!
    Regards Bert LeClair

    • Jessica Outram

      Hi Bert,
      Great to meet you. Small world, indeed! I still need to make the pilgrimage to Penatanguishene. I hope you find some interesting things! Good luck with your search.
      Cheers,
      Jessica

  • Dianne Moore

    I too am a descendant of this family. Marie Helen Normandin (born 1825 died 1889) was the daughter of Margaret Solomon and Joseph Normandin. Could she have been the sister of your relative? Marie Helen would later marry Jean Baptist Frechette/Desrochers. I have just begun this research and have also just come across Agibicocona and have wondered the same thing. We have also found some of the same sources. Have you noticed that your family name, Normandin, is also sometimes spelled Normandaine and also, more strangely. Leramonda or Leramondo? Please email me and we can further share our resources and research as we trace our lineage.

    Thank you!

    Cheers,
    Dianne

    • Jessica Outram

      Nice to meet you Dianne. Yes, I have seen this before. Somewhere in my notes I have a printed copy with a few more details. I have a bunch of information that I haven’t had a chance to post. I’m hoping to make some time for it this fall. I’d love to stay in touch! Cheers, Jessica

  • Wendy Smith

    Hello Jessica, I enjoyed reading your posting and I hope you are still monitoring replies. I, too, am descended through William Solomon and Marguerite “Johnston” – they are my 3rd great grandparents, and I am descended through their daughter Angelique, and her daughter … continuing thru daughters of daughters to me. I’ve looked through the baptism records from St. Anne’s Church (on Mackinac Island) — the entry believed to be Marguerite (which is a “sous condition” baptism in 1804, signifying that Marguerite had a lay person baptism prior to the St. Anne’s recorded event) does not list the parents, but Ezekiel Solomon and Marie Louise Dubois are the godparents. In one of the Ancestry.com contribution’s, I notice that Marguerite is not listed in the Johnston’ bible — which leads me to wonder why Marguerite would be omitted, (?) unless her mother is a different Sauteux N. American. May I ask, have you considered having your DNA tested, and if so, by which service ? Again, thank you for your informative article.

  • Wendy Smith

    Thanks, Jessica, for that quick reply. On this particular lineage, I only learned of my connection back in late May of this year. I became quite curious and went ahead and did the DNA test through Ancestry.com. If, in the future, you do the testing, please let me know, as I think it will be interesting to see to what degree the DNA may match. Several of the descendants through Ezekiel and Louise cross-match between DNA strands and mine, but they are all through siblings of William; so far, I do not know anyone else at the William/Marguerite level. Thanks, again.

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