A Canadian Family

Natives, French Canadians & Acadians

1. Jean Baptiste Raientonni Canadien (Big John) & Malvina McComber of Kahnawake | Series: Families of Caughnawaga

Big John of Kahnawake (Caughnawaga) A Canadian Family Vintage Postcard CollectionA few weeks ago reader Shawlee Canadien came across my vintage postcard of Big John of Kahnawake negotiating the Lachine Rapids and left the following comment:  I just stumbled across your site. Big John is my great, great, great…. grandfather. My name is Shawlee Canadien. I was hoping you might know about my family, and could tell us more. It was such an honour to hear from a descendant of  one of Caughnawaga’s most historically prominent peopleand since I noticed that you can read alot online about Big John’s achievements but there’s no extended discussion of his family’s genealogical roots, I’ve prepared a series of posts exploring some pre-1920 genealogical information about –

The Canadiens – a Mohawk Family of Caughnawaga/Kahnawake

The First Generation

1.According to his marriage certificateJean Baptiste Raientonni (aka Big John) was the son of Ignace churchkahnawakeBriwakennhen Canadien and Louise Konwanonwehon. Jean Baptiste was born in 1843 in Quebec and died on February 16th, 1919.  He married Malvina McComber on 16 Feb 1863 in St-Francois-Xavier Church in Caughnawaga (Laprairie Quebec, Canada).  Malvina was a member of another well-known Kahnawake family – the McCombers. Her parents were  Gervais McComber and Agathe Pauline/Hyppoline Vincent DeJean. Malvina was born in 1845 in Kahnawake  and died after 1911.


*   *  *   *   *

Children from this marriage included:

+ 2 M i. John Ariwakenha Canadien – born 1866, Quebec(m. Marie Karakwiio French)  + 3 M ii. Joseph Atihentonko Canadien – born 1869 Kahnawake (m. Anne Katsitsioronkas Diaume) + 4 M iii. Alexandre – Louis Tonaokate/Tanahokathe Canadien – born 1871, Kahnawake (m. Celine Guerin) + 5 M iv. George Kasennakeron Canadien, born 1875 , Kahnawake (m.Marie Karonhienhawe Laforce)  6 M v. Thomas Anenharison Canadien born 1880 Kahnawake + 7 F vi. Cecilia/Cecile Tierente Canadien – born 1874, Kahnawake (m. Ignace Skahetatii Jacobs)  + 8 M vii. Jean Baptiste Lindo Tiohatekwen Canadien – born 1884, Kahnawake (Anne Tekonwakennion McComber)  9 M viii. Frank/Francois/Xavier Canadien –  born 1887 Kahnawake. (Note: Birth dates extracted from various census documents are notoriously unreliable, but good indictors of birth order)


Jean Canadien and Malvina Mcomber’s Family  in Quebec Census Records

At the time of the 1871 census, the oldest I’ve examined for far for this couple, the family consisted of Baptiste Ariston-ne (30 yrs.old) and Malvina Maccomber (25yrs. Old) and two girls; 17 year old Marie and 11 year old Amanda. Malvina was listed as Scottish while her husband and children were identified as Native American (Sauvage). Others in the household included 41 yr old Pauline Vincent (of French origin) and two little boys – 6 yr. Old Johnny and 2 yr. Old Joseph Maccomber. I presume that this Pauline Vincent is Malvina’s mother Agathe Pauline/Hyppoline Vincent de Jean. They were all living in the Mohawk (Iroquois) community of Caughnawaga – now known as Kahnawake. this is the most exciting census documents I examined because in these, Jean Baptiste’s  occupation is “voyageur”. What a great peek back into Native and Canadian history!

At the time of the 1881 census Jean Bte and Malvina Canadien were still living in  Caughnawaga but now had six children. Their eldest son (15 year old John A.) was working as a clerk while their younger children 12 yr old Joseph, 10 yr old Alex, 8 yr old Celere and 6 yr old George) were still in school. There was also had a little baby in the home – Thomas Canadien.  The last person in the household was Malvina’s 54 yr. old widowed mother Agathe McComber (born 1827). Jean Baptiste, his children and Agathe McComber are described as Indigenous while Malvina is listed as of Scottish origin. Jean Baptiste is now described as a “navigateur” – which translates as navigator or pilot.

By the time of the 1901 census Baptiste and Malvina Canadien’s household had shrunk. They were living with three children: Cecilia, Baptiste and Frank. Malvina  was still  listed as being of Scottish origin (Ecossaise) while the rest of the family was described as Indian (Indienne). Jean Baptiste’s occupation was “labourer”

By  1911 John and Malvina Canadien had only one of their children living with them – their  son Francois (known in the previous census as Frank). Their other offspring were living in separate households and will be discussed in the next post in this series.

Source Citations

Canada Census 1871

Canada Census 1881.

Canada Census 1901.

Canada Census 1911.

Canadien, Shawnee ( confirmation of Native Surnames)

Le Centre de généalogie francophone d’Amérique. Groupe BMS2000

Registres: Paroisse St-Francoix-Xavier, Co. Laprairie, P.Q.


Comment from descendant John Borrello

My Great Grand Father was Anton Canadien/ grand father Jean Canadien Aka Canadian …. My Grand farther Jean Canadian married His wife My grand mother Rose Cross …. I Know she was First Cousin to chief Poking Fire From Kahnawake ( George Mccomber…was his given name at birth).


Related Posts

2. Jean Baptiste Raientonni CANADIEN (Big John) & Malvina MCCOMBER of Kahnawake (Series: Families of Caughnawaga

Index: First Peoples Genealogy and History



August 23, 2009 - Posted by | . | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I have been researching the relationship between the McOmber (mine) family and the Caughnawagas Idiams. I found reference to George McOmber had a brother who moved to Canada and married a daughter of a cheif and he also becoming a Caughnawagas chief. Can you validate this story?
    My Grandfatther Owen McOmber and father, Owen McOmber are from Canada.

    Owen McOmber

    Note from Evelyn: Will reply by email


    Comment by Owen McOmber | January 25, 2010 | Reply

  2. By 1911 John and Malvina Canadien had only one of their children living with them – their son Francois (known in the previous census as Frank). Their other offspring were living in separate households and will be discussed in the next post in this series.

    Was Frank’s full name Francis Xavier Canadien and he in turn had a child… Charles Fredrick Canadien?
    Thank you in advance, Evelyn.


    Comment by Jennifer White | August 25, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hi there, my name is Anthony Canadien, Big John would happen to be my great great grandfather, I’m 21 years old born (last decade 20th cenury) between Jennifer Canadien and Carlos Defelice,
    Jennifer my mother was born from Ruth Villineuve and Charles Canadien who’s father would be John Canadien, please contact me as I’m interested in finding out more about my great great grandfather (email removed to protect privacy).


    Comment by Anthony Canadien | October 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Note from Evelyn: Anyone wishing to correspond with Anthony Canadien can leave a note here and I will help you contact him.


      Comment by Evelyn Yvonne Theriault | October 16, 2011 | Reply

  4. I am agreat-great granddaughter of Big John Canadian. I my great grandmother was Cecilia Tierente Canadian, She was big Johns only daughter. She was born on June 11th, 1873. She had three children, my grandmohter Annie, my uncle John Baptiste and my aunt Josephine. I am the granddaughter of Annie. I am in possession of some family portraits of our faimly. I can share any information I have with other members of our great great grandfather.

    I live in Kahnawake, born and raised here, I know all my living relatives on the Canadian side of my family. If you need more information I may be able to help others locate living family members.

    anyone in the Cancadian family can email me if they would like my assistance.

    Lisa Skye


    Comment by Lisa Skye | July 4, 2012 | Reply

  5. This is Anthony canadien once more. I have learned my mom has a photo from 1891 with Big John with his lacrosse team with his signature I don’t believe it’s an original but it’s old as hell


    Comment by Anthony (Tony) Canadien | July 24, 2012 | Reply

    • Hello: I have a CDV photo card of Big John Canadien taken in full aboriginal regalia with head dress taken around 1880 at a photo studio on Bleury street in Montreal when he was employed as a river pilot for the American Company out of Montreal.There can’t be very many that survived as there does not seem to be any real photo’s of Big John anywhere online.


      Comment by Tim gadbois | October 11, 2013 | Reply

      • My Great Grand Father was Anton Canadien/ grand father Jean Canadien Aka Canadian …. My Grand farther Jean Canadian married His wife My grand mother Rose Cross …. I Know she was First Cousin to chief Poking Fire From Kahnawake ( George Mccomber…was his given name at birth


        Comment by John Borrello | October 23, 2013 | Reply

  6. Hello ~ my side of the Brault family has been Metis since the 1600s and I recently found out my Auntie Agnes Brault married into the Giasson family on Kahnawake. Here is one source: “Charles-Gédéon Giasson et Agathe McComber, de Kahnawake. Charles-Giasson and Agathe McComber married in 1832. They lived in Kahnawake and had many children including Léon-Trefflé Akiohanes Giasson and Napoléon-Antoine Giasson. The first married Agnès Brault in 1886 and the second married Marguerite Meunier dite Lafleur in 1875. ” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Charles-G%C3%A9d%C3%A9on_Giasson_%26_Agathe_Macomber,_full_picture.gif

    Actually Marguerite Meunier dit Lafleur is also an Auntie… Anyways, does anyone have a tree on the Giasson family from this area? I’ve been able to find nothing else on them.


    Comment by Patricia | January 28, 2014 | Reply

  7. My great grandmother, Amanda Canadian who I stayed with with from time to time on the reserve in Caughnawaga, was grand daughter to Big John Canadian, she married Cyprian Filiatreault and were parents to Jean Paul Filiatreault. Paul Filiatreault married Patricia Eastwood and had three children, (the first died as a baby) then My mother Amilia ( Millie) Amanda Filiatreault, her Brother Robert (Bob).
    There is a book written by Johnny Beauvais about the Canadian Family. My Great Grandmother lived through 5 generations and held my son. She told me many stories about my heritage including how Big John portaged with Wilfred Laurier, and how he shot the Lachine Rapids playing his fiddle. My mother still has this fiddle in her possession engraved with John Canadians name. I love my heritage.

    Contacted via email – more information to follow!


    Comment by Michael O'Brien | March 23, 2014 | Reply

  8. I am the daughter of Charlotte Canadien her father is Charles Canadien this is so interesting!


    Comment by Sarah Canadien | June 12, 2014 | Reply

  9. My name is Shirley Canadian and my fathers Name was Charles Frederick Canadian & I vivedly remember him telling us about “Big John Canadian”. Could someone tell me more about my dad & my heritage?


    Comment by shi rley canadien | May 18, 2016 | Reply

  10. Kwe Kwe my name is Kahsennenhawe Pauline McComber Loft age 60 yrs old Mohawk I’m great niece of Chief Poking Fire. My mother was Pauline Kahawenehtha McComber. I would love to find my relatives of Gervis Maccomber from Mass. I know the family immigrated to Canada from England early 1800’s. I would like to find my living decedents.
    Nia:wen Thank you

    pauline.loft@ yahoo.com
    if you have any information


    Comment by Pauline Loft | December 8, 2016 | Reply

  11. My grand mother amanda canadian had a brother named frisco louise eva celina
    Were her three sisters


    Comment by Brian Delisle | December 27, 2016 | Reply

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