Family Genealogies
LaFontaine & Belyea

"Tracing our ancestors through the labirinth of time."


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Finding Our Roots

Genealogies are boring things. They are not usually very interesting, are they? I am by nature a researcher, historian, and a amateur genealogist. My interest in genealogy began some years ago when we left Brazil and a small, insignificant grave of our daughter which denoted that she had been the daughter of American missionaries. My mind imagined what researchers would think 100 or 200 years from now at encountering that tombstone.

I began my quest of ancestral significance by interviewing my parents and elderly relatives to see what they remembered of our roots. I can hardly forget my dadís embarrassed expression, "Youíre going to find we are nothing but poor, insignificant, pig farmers." Little did he imagine what we would find, that on both sides of my family, my mothers side "Belyea", and my fatherís side "LaFontaine" had significant impact on the settling of America. They were not insignificant "extras" in the drama of history but primary characters in shaping of a new nation.

On my fatherís side we found that the name was not originally LaFontaine, but was Bernard in France. Our patriarch was Pierre Bernard dit LaFontaine. Antoine LaFontaine, was one of the early settlers of Detroit and among the founding fathers of Monroe, Michigan, then known as Frenchtown. Antoine's obituary appeared in the Monroe paper after his death at 97 years of age reporting that he had been one of the few survivors and eyewitnesses of the River Raisin Massacre of 1812.

On my motherís side the name "Belyea" was often an embarrassing one lending itself to playground ridicule as my mother reported. They were called "Phyllis and Fred Belly-ache." Our research went beyond the obvious that they originated in Canada and discovered that they arrived on this continent in the late 1600ís as French Huguenots who fled the terror of the revocation of the Edict of Nants and the Protestant massacres and intense persecution. They arrived around 1690 with the Dutch that settled in New Amsterdam. A few years later they became the original Dutch tenant farmers along the Hudson River on the Philipsburgh Manor. There they are among the first 75 settlers registered in the membership of the Old Dutch Reformed Church of Sleepy Hollow. Ė The very same church and cemetery that Washington Irving immortalized in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and the ride of the Headless Horseman. They lived through the crucible of conflict in the American Revolution, and were eyewitnesses to the hanging of Colonel Andre, courier of the treasonous note of the infamous Benedict Arnold.

Time will not allow us to review the heroics and historical significance of each ancestor but sufficient to know, they were not mere "nameless forgotten pig farmers."

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