A french family migrates to the US

June 17th, 1852: a family lands in New York. Coming from Grosmagny, France, they crossed the Atlantic aboard the liner ship "Prince Arthur". They're the Barberet family, and the passenger manifest below lists them.

Dave Barbret, a 5th generation descendant, and Denis Cavalotti, who's in charge of sorting and transcribing Grosmagny's oldest vital records, have taken on the project to retrace this family's origins and its course.

1 Immigrants
2 A mysterious Joseph
3 The journey
4 Settlement
5 The 2nd generation
6 Q&A with Dave
7 Jean-Baptiste's ancestors

1) Immigrants

Facsimile of an extract of the manifest n°6995, of the 6.17.1852
Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897 ; Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

  • Parents:
    - Barbarit (Barberet) Jean (-Baptiste), 45 years old in fact
    - (Lamielle) Marie, 44 years old in fact

  • They were married on August 9, 1831 in Grosmagny (marriage record)
    Their signatures at this wedding :
    signatures conjoints
  • their children :
    - Julie (Marie Ursule Julie), 19 years old
    - "Jenny" (Marie Thérèse Eugénie), then called Mary, 16 years old
    - Friedlin (Jean Baptiste Alexis Fridolin), 11 years old in fact
    - Edouard (Georges Désiré Edouard), 8 years old
    - "Jelmonin" (Anne Claude Philomène), later on called Philomena, his twin, 8 years old
    - Joseph (Pierre Joseph Isidore II), 6 years old.

  • another Barberet seems to be also present on that list:
    - Joseph, 24 years old, who's not mentioned anymore afterwards.

Before his departure, Jean-Baptiste was a farmer in Grosmagny (he married Marie Lamielle in 1831 ; they lost 2 children, the first named "Pierre Joseph Isadore", in 1846).

2) A mysterious Joseph

No Joseph Barberet was born in Grosmagny around 1824. Jean-Baptiste's passport has been delivered by the Préfecture du Haut-Rhin, on February 20, 1852, and establishes that he was "with his wife and his 6 children" (not 7).

Moreover, there's no Joseph B. in the Detroit area's census records for the second half of the 19th Century.

We first thought that this Joseph was an homonym (parent or not) coming from another town, and that he either left the family, or died early.
But another problem appeared: the nominative list (which may not be exhaustive) of immigrants coming from Haut Rhin (compiled by the Haut Rhin departmental archives and made available online by LISA) doesn't mention any Joseph B. before 1852...

Apparently, this Joseph managed to escape a lot of documents, in which his Barberet fellows all left a trace...

That's then that Denis C. noticed that just one day before JB's, a passport has been delivered in Colmar to an individual named Pierre Joseph Bringard, also from Grosmagny, and wishing to emigrate to Louisville, too. Same origin, same destination, they probably applied for their passport at the same time... this Jospeh probably traveled along with the Barberet family ; but there's no Frenchman named Bringard in the complete passenger's list aboard "Prince Arthur" ; however, thanks to Dave, we found a Joseph Bringard in the Grosse Pointe's community census (where the Barberets settled down) in 1870.

That's why we believe legitimate to think that this 2nd Joseph Barberet was in fact Pierre Joseph Bringard, shoemaker (sabotier) from Grosmagny, born (presumably) on October 26th, 1827, from Jean Pierre and Marie Rose Démeusy.

Besides, in 1853, part of his family come to meet Joseph: his parents and his brother (François-)Xavier, 3 years younger, et we find that, in 1870, their mother Rose Démeusy was living with the latter.
Joseph probably acted as a scout for the Bringard family, whose study would probably be as interesting.

3) The journey

The middle of the 18th Century is the expansion period of railway transports.
Unfortunately for our travelers, even if the Paris-Le Havre line is open, the Paris-Mulhouse line is not finished yet ; they had then to accomplish at least a part of their journey by road, up to Dijon, Troyes, or Tonnerre.

The beginnings of railroad transport (Epinal print), at a very close date from our emigrant's journey (picture from BNF/Gallica)

The train leaving the station of Belfort, engraving of the middle of the 19th century (ADTB 7 Fi 12)

This period is also transitory for naval transport. It's indeed in the middle of the 19th Century that the first paddle steamers appear. They will be ultimately replaced by propellers in 1870.

But sailboats still carry passengers until the 1870s ; amongst them, the "Prince Arthur", which the Barberets boarded in 1852 : she's a large three- or four-masted barque, built in 1850 in a shipyard in New Scotland (Canada).
She's made of wood, with metal covering plates. She will still transport immigrants to the new world for several years.

A three-masted barque from the early 20th Century: the "Bonchamp"

Boarding happened in Le Havre, probably in early May (The Compagnie Générale Transatlantique will only be created ten years later) ; Barberets' fellow travelers were almost all Germans, like their future neighbors in Grosse Pointe.

We know a little about the conditions of this journey on that ship, thanks to a passenger on the following crossing, in August 1852.
Story of a journey from Germany to Quebec

We can imagine that the Barberets' travel happened in comparable conditions. The "Prince Arthur" was carrying about 520 passengers : the manifest lists 524 of them, among them exactly 86 Frenchmen -basically Alsacian-, 398 Germans et 40 Swiss - source : Data Files Relating to the Immigration of Germans to the United States, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration -. A crossing used to take between 30 and 40 days, depending on the sea.

They arrive on June 16:

Landing takes place the day after in New York Harbor : before 1855, immigrants were not gathered at their arrival ; between 1855 and 1890, they will land at Castle Garden, from 1890 to 1892 at Old Barge Office, and from 1892 at Ellis Island.

New-York harbor, in 1848.

As we can see, the Barberet family's travel took place at the very beginning of the European immigration to the USA, and they can legitimately consider themselves as a family of pioneers.

4) Settlement

The Barberet mentioned Louisville, KY (a city whose founders and original settlers were French immigrants, mainly Alsatian protestants) as their final destination. But, maybe like other passengers from the ship, the family settles down in Leesville, township of Grosse Pointe, Wayne County, Michigan.

State of Michigan, surrounded by Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. In the south area, the very industrialized zone of Detroit; in the northern part, one can find numerous placenames reminding of the first French settlers. (Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.)

Wayne County, Michigan; in red, the Detroit community;
in blue, the Grosse Point one.

In 1865, the Detroit region is far from the industrial megalopolis it is today ; the Grosse Pointe area is only farming lands ; Jean-Baptiste buys a farm there, in Henry Hudson, in 1856.

The family is catholic ; children's marriages and burials of the dead take place at the Assumption of the Blessed Mary Virgin church, close to the Assumption Grotto Cemetery.

Jean-Baptiste dies in 1874 ; his wife on or about March 3 1890, according to a later statement.

5) The 2nd generation
(All the pictures belong to Dave's private collection ; all rights reserved)

We have information about 5 of the 6 children:
- Julie marries Frank Hartman in 1856,
- Mary (1836-1921) marries Frank Almont in 1863,
- Joseph dies in Grosse Pointe in 1873,
- Philomena (1844-ca. 1886) marries Anthony Young in 1867,
- Edouard (1844-1925), JB's twin, marries Mary Schoenherr in 1875 ; they are Dave's great-grandparents.

Fridolin is still there in 1864 (at his nephew's baptism, below) but at some point later, he goes out west, where he passes away.
Dave writes : "One brother went out west ( Fridolin ) He died someone notified the family and asked if they wanted the body brought back to Michigan for burial and the family said no".

Only two branches are known from Dave:
Mary and Frank Almont leave Michigan to go to Iowa, then South Dakota ; their first child was named Fredlin (1864-1931), like his godfather Fridolin Barberet.

Frank and Mary Almont (first rank), about 1920

Edouard (1844-1925) and Mary Schoenherr (1858-1926) won't leave Grosse Pointe (The Schoenherrs are installed there too, and a street is still named after them). In 1875, Edouard buys his parent's property back from his three sisters (Friedolin seems to be dead) for 500$ each.

Gorgeous picture of Edouard and his family in front of their farm

Edouard Barberet, a farmer his entire life

Note from Dave : "Characteristics of the Barberets: they have dark to light brown hair, light skin,tall, big noses, small chins,crooked teeth, good with hands, mechanically inclined, honest steadfast and hard workers, very outgoing, helping others,talkative, practical jokes, loved parties, playing cards and having fun. Neighbors called them "crazy Frenchmen"

Edouard and Mary have 9 children, 4 sons and 4 daughters with lineage.
The 4 sons (Joseph, Sylvester, Rudolph, Harold) give up on farming : one is an automobile worker, another is a bus driver, one works in a dairy, and a last one lives from diverse industrial or handcrafting activities.

But none will leave Michigan (Detroit, Roseville, Mt Clemens) ; it's worth noting that the last one, Harold, stayed in a street bearing his own name (Barbret st., Mt Clemens).

from left to right, 6 of the 9 children : Anne, Rudolph, Sylvester, Harold, Eleanor, Joseph around 1954

The father, Edouard, was also buried in the "Assumption Grotto Cemetery", but his grave has been later transferred to the "Mt Olivet Cemetery", still in Detroit.

6) Q&A with Dave

For the following, we let Dave answer some questions, in addition to all the information he already gave before:

LISA : Do you know why JB Barberet decided to emigrate in 1852 ?
Dave Barbret : We do not know the reason he emigrated he was fairly old. He and his wife being 46 and 47[45 and 44] with 6 kids to decide to do this. Was hoping to find out if there was some kind of trouble in Grosmagny at the time. Famine disease, political strife?
Did he have family or friends already in the USA ?
I have been searching for families they may have known. Girardy is a name that comes up in Grosmagny the Girardy family owned the farm next to JB Barberet. The big tombstone in the picture I sent is the family name Girardy.
What precisely is the name of the town/village/parish where JB Barberet first settled in ?
It was called village of Leesville in Grosse Point Township, Wayne county Michigan. After 1915 it became part of the city of Detroit in Wayne County Michigan. The parish is called the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary. Locals call it the Assumption Grotto for behind the church there is a grotto build to replicate of the one in Lourdes France. Many came from around the world to be healed there.

Do you know why he chose the Detroit area ?
I do not know why he chose Detroit his passport had him going to Louisville Kentucky. There was a large Alsatian community there. I was reading history about Louisville Kentucky and in 1852 there was political unrest along with and anti Catholic riot that year. Also issues of slavery with the Civil War not that far off in 1860 He may have thought it better to settle more in the north on the Canadian, United States Boarder but this is just a guess. I do believe that the family knew somebody in Detroit but this is just a guess also.

Was there a French community in Detroit, in 1852 ?
The French discovered Detroit and there has always been a large French community. Most of the street names are of French origin. My Grandmother Ethel Trombly ancestors came with Cadillac in 1701.

"Courtesy of the University of
Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

For how long did JB's heirs keep working in agriculture ?
Jean Baptiste daughter Marie Thérèse Eugenie (Mary) after her marriage to Frank Almont they kept moving west and there family continued with farming. I believe descendants of them still farm near Seattle Washington to this day. Georges Désiré Edouard (Edward) farming stopped with him all his children went into other occupations.

Is there still a branch of the family living in Wayne County ?
I am sure there still are family members in Wayne County but most have moved to Macomb County the next county North. The area were the church is and were they settled is not a very nice area high crime rate unemployment very high for Detroit....

Are there still a lot of families with French or Alsatian origin in the county ?
Not many of french origin in Detroit city itself but all the surrounding areas and that of Windsor Canada just across the Detroit river there are a lot of French origin still here.

Do you know how many Barberet currently living in the USA are JB's descendants ?
The family tree program I am working on lists 571 people some are deceased and some are spouses a lot are born but not listed of the younger generation so I am guessing at least 500 or more.

How many generations are there between JB and you ?
1.) JB 2.) Edward 3.) Sylvester 4.) Douglas 5.) Dave..... My Grandfather Sylvester and all his siblings started spelling it Barbret for some unknown reason but there is not a one that spells it like it should be.

What's the significance of the Assumption Grotto cemetery, for your family? Why some of the tombs have been transferred to the Mount Olivet cemetery ?
The Assumption Grotto Cemetery is where Jean Baptiste is buried. It was only Georges Désiré Edouard (Edward) that was originally buried at the Grotto with his father JB and brother Joseph. The next year his wife Mary Schoenherr Barberet died they decided to bury her in Mt Olivet Cemetery then they moved Edward there to. The city was growing by leaps and bounds and they thought the small Grotto cemetery would be destroyed so they moved them to the much larger Mt Olivet.
Generally speaking, is your current family members aware of their French origins ?
If so, are these origins important to them ? Are there some family events organized to maintain and transmit these origins ? Yes we are all very aware of our French heritage in my family and very proud of it. Knowing that we were some of the first people to settle this new land. Sadly we do not have any family events to share our family history but maybe this could be a start.

7) Jean-Baptiste's ancestors


Cet article est publié par LISA sous la seule responsabilité de son auteur.

The picture of the welcome page illustrates the european emigration to America indeed, but it is about the irish emigration ('Emigrants Leave Ireland', engraving by Henry Doyle)

Cet article est publié par LISA sous la seule responsabilité de son auteur.

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