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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund


Francophone Edukit

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The voyageur Joseph Desjarlais seems to be the founder of the family which bears the same name here in Alberta. Originally from Verchères, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, northeast of Montreal, Desjarlais came west with the North West Company (NWC).1

In 1803, he was in charge of a post on Lake Manitoba for the NWC, but following the union of the NWC and the XY Company, he chose not to renew his contract. He later established himself at Lac La Biche and in 1814, on his trip from the Pacific to Eastern Canada, Gabriel Franchère comes across two of Desjarlais’ daughters gathering eggs on an island.2 Taken to meet their father, Desjarlais asks Franchère to read some letters to him which he had received from his family over two years before. In 1821, "Old Desjarlais" is noted as returning to Lac La Biche from a long canoe trip to Montreal to visit his family.3 A son, Antoine, worked for the NWC and for the Hudson’s Bay Company; two others are named in Alexander Henry’s journal: Tullibee and L’Hire don daine (which was probably L’Hirondelle, from which are descended the L’Hirondelle clan from the Lac La Biche and St. Albert regions.


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