Friday, May 02, 2014

52 Ancestors: #18 Des Groseilliers and the Royal Charter

Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small has issued herself and her readers a challenge for 2014. It’s called “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”, and as Amy explains, the challenge is to “have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor”.

For the 18th week of this challenge, I chose Médard Chouart, sieur des Groseilliers (1618-1696?).

Today – 2 May 2014 – is the 344th anniversary of the Royal Charter granted to "the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England, trading into Hudson Bay" by King Charles II. [1]

The Charter is a five-page parchment document, with each page measuring 31” x 25”, according to the HBC website. Images of the original Charter, including its specially designed case, are available at Corporate Collections: Artefacts: Restoring the Royal Charter.

How does my 8x great-grandfather Médard Chouart tie in with the anniversary of this “extraordinary document”? [2]

Médard and his fellow explorer and fur trader Pierre-Esprit Radisson, those “two men [who] stood out among the rest”, were instrumental in the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which received its charter on 2 May 1670. [3]

Two years previously, Chouart and Radisson sailed from England for Hudson Bay in June 1668. Radisson, his ship the Eaglet and its crew were forced to turn back part way on their ‘exploratory journey’, but Chouart and the Nonsuch made it safely to their destination. He and his men wintered at James Bay (south of Hudson Bay), where they built themselves accommodations and other structures, and, importantly, traded for beaver pelts with “nearly three hundred James Bay Indians” the following spring. [4]

Chouart and the Nonsuch were back in England in October 1669 with a “considerable quantity of Beaver”. [5] Although the voyage did not make much money due to expenses, it proved to the financiers that Chouart and Radisson knew what they were talking about, that is, able to “sail into Hudson Bay, winter on its shores and return with a profitable cargo of fur”. [6] The private investors at the English court were satisfied they could make long-term gains, and thus, the HBC, “history’s oldest continuing capitalist company”, came into existence. [7]

Médard, from whom my mother Jacqueline Desgroseilliers descends, has already been featured in my blog; you can read about him in Médard Chouart, sieur des Groseilliers


1. Corporate Collections: Reference: The Charter, HBC ( : accessed 26 April 2014), “Text of Royal Charter”.

2. Peter C. Newman, Company of Adventurers: The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 2 vols., (Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books, 1985), I: 110.

3. Newman, Company of Adventurers, I: 82.

4. Newman, Company of Adventurers, I: 108.

5. Grace Lee Nute, Caesars of the Wilderness: Médard Chouart, Sieur Des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit Radisson, 1618-1710 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, reprint, 1978), 123. Nute quotes the London Gazette of 14 October 1669.

6. Newman, Company of Adventurers, I: 109.

7. Newman, Company of Adventurers, I: 110.

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. Simply amazing. You shared a great connection to early founding folks. And congrats on completing 18 weeks. That's wonderful. Keep it up.

    1. Thanks, Devon! After four months and 18 ancestors, it's certainly a challenge to find fresh approaches, but I'll hang it there :-)!