I am related to Peter Joseph Voisin (1807-1892), the patriarch of the Voisin families of Waterloo County, Ontario, near Kitchener. This was proven by a Y-chromosome DNA match between me and a known descendant of the Kitchener Voisins, Clifton Voisin. I also determined Peter Joseph’s sister Maria Anne Voisin (1798-1879) immigrated to Waterloo county. The next piece of the puzzle was a family connection to Buffalo, New York. That’s where I found a third sibling, Henry Joseph Voisin (1801-?) and his family, in Welland County, Ontario, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo.
A Canadian naturalization record indicates Peter Joseph Voisin had been in the country since September 1832.1 Interestingly, land records show his brother Henry Joseph Voisin purchased his farm in Welland County also in September 1832.2 This implies both brothers immigrated together at the same time.
A tattered ship’s manifest shows an unknown Voisin family.3 The ship Groton arrived at the port of New York on August 20, 1832 from Le Havre, France. The ship’s captain was Richard Baker. The portion of the manifest that would show the first names of the Voisin family members is missing. It appears as a large dark area, possibly an ink stain. However enough remains to match segments of their given names, and their ages.
If the brothers traveled together, Henry Joseph Voisin and his wife Anne Marie would have had two of their four surviving children with them, Joseph, Jr., and Marie Anne. Peter Joseph Voisin was still unmarried. So there would have been five members in their party. The manifest indeed shows five people and their ages agree with their known birth records.
“_____ Voisin, 30” is likely Henry Joseph Voisin, actual age 30.4
“_____ Maria Voisin, 26” is likely Anne Marie (Ditner) Voisin, actual age 28.5
“_____enri? Voisin, 4” is likely Joseph Voisin, Jr., actual age 5.6
“_____ra Voisin, 3” is likely Marie Anne Voisin, actual age 3.7
“_____ Joseph Voisin, 25” is likely Peter Joseph Voisin, actual age 25.8
Joseph, Jr.’s name could have been Joseph Henry Voisin. Perhaps they named him by reversing his father’s name, Henry Joseph, like they did their daughter Marie Anne, named after her mother Anne Marie.
The manifest indicates they intended to reside in the United States, but that was perhaps a standard response for all passengers. Actually they probably already decided on their destination based on letters from their former neighbors in France who had already immigrated. Or, perhaps after they arrived, they saw newspaper advertisements for cheap land in Canada.
The Voisin family likely made their way to Buffalo, New York via the Erie Canal, which many immigrants did. They continued into Canada, just across the Niagara River. That is where Henry Joseph Voisin purchased 55 acres of land on September 22, 1832, just one month after the Groton arrived at New York.
Peter Joseph Voisin may have stayed there a short time, but he eventually made his way 90 miles northwest to Waterloo County, Ontario. He settled there and in 1837 he married Catherine Meyer. Coincidentally, the Grasser family listed just below the Voisin family on the ship manifest also settled in Waterloo county. Families typically migrated together for mutual support and protection.
Maria Anne Voisin, the sister of Peter Joseph and Henry Joseph, did not immigrate until 16 years later, about 1848.9 Her passport indicated her intended destination was “Waterlo,” probably meaning her brother Peter Joseph Voisin in Waterloo County, Ontario.
Although I am related to this Voisin family, I’m not sure yet precisely how. My great-grandfather Joseph Voisin (1858-1916) could be a son, a nephew, or a cousin of Henry Joseph Voisin. There were perhaps other Voisin family members who immigrated, but Henry Joseph and Peter Joseph seem to be the first to step foot on American soil. Although they settled in Canada, many of their descendants found their way to Michigan.
The Ship Groton
The Groton was probably built about 1830 at Medford, Massachusetts by Sprague and James, and registered in Boston. She could carry 348 tons. For comparison, the above painting10 depicts a similar ship of the same class built in the mid to late 1820s.11 The Groton made at least four voyages to transport immigrants to New York. It carried about 130 passengers each time. She arrived on October 31, 1831, on August 20, 1832, on November 5, 1833, and on June 4, 1834. She also carried cargo from New Orleans and the Caribbean on other voyages.
It was common in those days before radio and radar, for ships to signal as they passed one another on the open sea. These messages were relayed when one ship made port, and often published in the newspaper. Reports usually mentioned the ship seen, the date and its coordinates. In one published in the New York Evening Post of April 4, 1832, the Schooner Star “spoke” with ship Groton of Boston from New Orleans on March 16 at latitude 25° 4’N and longitude 85° 30’W. She was therefore in the Gulf of Mexico approaching the Florida Keys.
Ships also carried foreign newspapers that they delivered upon their arrival. It was a way for people to learn about news events in Europe. A voyage between Le Havre and New York at that time would have taken three to six weeks.
The Groton met an inglorious end. After a voyage in 1839 from New Orleans carrying cotton, tobacco and molasses, she caught fire while docked at Brooklyn. Much of her cargo was lost, which being from New Orleans in 1839 likely meant it was the product of slave labor. The ship itself was a total loss. First her fittings and then the remains of her hull were later sold at auction.Footnotes
- “Naturalization Records, 1828-1850 – Upper Canada and Canada West,” database, Government of Canada, Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx: Downloaded 13 November 2017), Joseph Voisin, July 15, 1842, Woolwich, Wellington, Ontario.
- Illustrated historical atlas of the counties of Lincoln and Welland, Ont. (Toronto: H.R. Page & Co., 1876); digital image, In Search of Your Canadian Past: The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project (http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/CountyAtlas/ : Viewed 19 December 2017), Willoughby Township Abstracts, Joseph Wasain, et. al., https://sites.google.com/site/niagarasettlers2/willoughby-township-abstracts.
- Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, microfilm publication Series M237 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1962), Roll 017 – 13 Jun 1832-29 Sep 1832 > image 515 of 852; Groton, 20 August 1832, Voisin, image 515 of 852.
- “Etat Civil and Registres Paroissiaux,” database, Departmental Archives of Belfort, France, Archives départementales du Territoire de Belfort (http://www.archives.cg90.fr/: downloaded 10 October 2017), Etat Civil, Reppe, “Naissances” (Births) 1793-1803, image 73 of 80.
- “Etat Civil and Registres Paroissiaux,” database, Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin (http://www.archives.haut-rhin.fr/: Downloaded 28 December 2017), Guewenheim, Naissances 1793-1812, Anna Maria Dittner, No. 23, image 147 of 215.
- “Etat Civil and Registres Paroissiaux,” database, Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin (http://www.archives.haut-rhin.fr/: Downloaded 10 December 2017), Guewenheim, Joseph Voisin, No. 16, 5 May 1827, image 117 of 382.
- “Etat Civil and Registres Paroissiaux,” database, Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin (http://www.archives.haut-rhin.fr/: Downloaded 10 December 2017), Guewenheim, Marie Anne Voisin, No. 28, 16 July 1829, image 134 of 382.
- “Etat Civil and Registres Paroissiaux,” database, Departmental Archives of Belfort, France, Archives départementales du Territoire de Belfort (http://www.archives.cg90.fr/: downloaded 10 October 2017), Etat Civil, Reppe, “Naissances, Deces, Mariages” (Births, Deaths, Marriages) 1803-1981, 1803-1869, image 23 of 774.
- Dominique Dreyer, Liste des Haut-Rhinois ayant émigré vers l’ Amérique entre 1800 et 1870 (Colmar: Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin, 1987), Page 245, Voisin, Marie Anne; digital images, Doczz (http://doczz.fr/doc/216177/les-%C3%A9migrants-haut-rhinois-en-am%C3%A9rique-1800-%C3%A0-1870 : downloaded 25 October 2017.
- Wikipedia contributors, “Robert Salmon,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Robert_Salmon&oldid=814775892 (accessed December 26, 2017).
- Proceedings of the Bostonian Society, Annual Meeting, (Boston: Bostonian Society, 1903), (https://books.google.com/books?id=KvM1AQAAMAAJ : viewed 26 December 2017), pages 32-37, discussion on the name of the ship painted by Robert Salmon.