The Chandonia/Chadonnet descendants may guess that they have Native American ancestry, but not know much more than that. The pension of John B. Chandonia (aka Jean Baptiste Chandronnet) lends a whole new dimension to his life and service in the War of 1812. If we compare online sources for John and his family with his War of 1812 pension, we see a completely different picture. As each source is analyzed, we can compare it with the War of 1812 pension for John for additional information in the pension that can support, change, or enhance the information gleaned about his life.
- FindaGrave: If researchers are looking for the wife and children of John, a good way to start would be by working from death to birth. FindaGrave has a listing for John B. Chadonai [sic] (1790-1837), a “Potawatomi Scout” in the War of 1812. He is buried at the City Cemetery in South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. No additional death or birth information is listed, nor are wife or children are mentioned. It does not state if John was a white man or Native American/Indian working as an interpreter. Compare with War of 1812 pension: In the pension, we find a few more pieces of information concerning John’s life and death. 1) John’s surname is consistently spelled “Chandonia,” but we also see that this is a widow’s pension and that she is illiterate, so the phonetics and not the spelling need to be the focus of future searches. 2) John is listed as a ““a half-breed Pottamatomie Indian.” 3) John died at South Bend, Indiana in May 1837.
John Chadonai headstone.
- Marriage Records: A beautiful image of John and Mary’s marriage record can be found on ancestry.com, but it is important to confirm it is the same couple. The marriage date and place found in the pension file make it a certainty (see next). Jean Baptiste Chandronnet married Marie Louise Chapolton in a French-speaking Catholic church in “Détroit, Ste-Anne, Michigan.” It gives that Jean [John] was the fils majeur [adult son] of Charles Chandronnet and Marguerite Marcot, born in St. Joseph. He married Marie Louise Chapolton, daughter of Benoit Chapolton and Therese Melche. Marie signed the record with an X. The marriage was performed 8 February 1815. Compare with War of 1812 pension: John’s wife is Mary L. Chandonia, neé Chapolon. They were said to have married 8 Aug 1811 by Rev. G. Richards in Detroit, Michigan. It appears that Mary, age 80 at the time of her deposition, understandably may have gotten the date a bit wrong. Having each record to compare with one another is important to any investigation.
- Census records and Children: Since John died before the census began enumerating full households in 1850, we can only guess that the following are the right family, especially given the difficulties in name spellings. Note that if looking for evidence of John’s Native American heritage, it is not found in these census records.
- Mary L. “Chawdanie,” age 54 in 1850, appeared to live with the widow Mary Brissette and her children in St. Joseph County, Indiana. Their race is not listed, and assumed to be white.
- Mary L. Chandonah, age 66 in 1860, now lived with the family of Charles B. Chandonah [no relationships listed], and a few Bresett children in South Bend, St. Joseph, Indiana. Their race is not listed, and assumed to be white.
- Mary “Shandonia,” age 77, lived with the Anthony and Emma Lamaram family in 1870, still in South Bend. Their races are all listed as “white.” 
- Finally, the 1880 census is the last enumeration we find for Mary. She is now listed as Mary “Chadnois,” age 95, mother-in-law of Anthony Lamaraud (husband of Emily). Their races are all listed as “white.” 
Compare with War of 1812 pension: In a deposition dated 27 Aug 1872, the children of John and Mary are listed as Charles B. Chandonia and Mary L. Breset. Perhaps Emma/Emily died by this time? Also noted in the file is the fact that John and Mary are the grandparents of Theo. Charles “Charley” Chandonia.
What you do not find in any other record online except in the War of 1812 pensions about John and Mary are:
- Mary was awarded benefits based on an Act of Congress, approved 3 March 1847, “An Act for the relief of the Widow and Heirs of John B. Chandonia.”
- Previous to the war, at the massacre of the whites by the Indians at Chicago, John saved the life of the Captain in command and his wife.
- He joined as an interpreter and was eventually captured and held in a British prison until the end of the war. During his service he was described as “young, active, enterprising, and daring,” and was said not only to have helped his commanders with intelligence but been active in interceding on behalf of the army “possessing an influence over them [the Indian tribes] that no one else, who favored the American cause, did- all these circumstances combined gave him the power of rendering to the United States greater services than any one else at that time…”
- So, what are the value of the files being digitized by FGS and the Preserve the Pensions project? Beyond measure. By searching these pensions and comparing them with other sources, we find a story rich with detail and personality. The initial petition in 1846 to hear Mary’s case before Congress may be echoed by us today…“…regretting that so just a claim should have been so long neglected, thereby permitting the widow and children of so meritorious a man to drag out a life in penury and want – hereby report a bill for their relief, and recommend its passage without delay.”Where else could we build the story of a Potawatomi born, French speaking, Native American patriot? Let us search these records without delay and work to support, donate, and preserve so meritorious a memory for our own veteran ancestors and their families.
Stories such as this one could simply not be told without access to important historical documents, like the Pension files of the War of 1812. Help us today by making a donation supporting the digital preservation of this incredible collection.
 Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 23 Jan 2016),memorial page for John B. Chadonai (1790-1837), Find A Grave Memorial no.109,706,013, citing City Cemetery, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana; photo by Diana Brown, used with permission.
 John B. Chandonia (Indian Interpreter, U.S. Army, War of 1812), WO 8492, WC 4417, widow Mary L. Chandonia, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Records of the Veteran’s Administration, RG 15; National Archives (NARA), Washington DC; digital images, fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/304392594 : accessed 23 Jan 2016).
 “U.S., French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1695-1954,” digital images,Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 23 January 2016), Détroit, Ste-Anne, Michigan, Registre de Sainte Anne Detroit 1801 á 1842, p. 1729; imaged from microfilm identified as “Gabriel Drouin, comp., Drouin Collection”, Montreal, Quebec, Canada: “Institut Généalogique Drouin.”
 John B. Chandonia (Indian Interpreter, U.S. Army, War of 1812), WO 8492, WC 4417, widow Mary L. Chandonia, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, RG 15; NARA.
 1850 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, Portage, page 21 [stamped 11], dwelling 144, family 144, Mary L. Chawdanie entry; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series M432, roll 171.
 1860 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, page 4, dwelling 22, family 22, Mary L. Chandonah entry; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series M653, roll 295.
 1870 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, Ward 4, page 4, dwelling 20, family 22, Mary Shandonia entry; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series M593, roll 360.
 1880 U.S. census, St. Joseph, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, ED 162, page 39 [stamped 395], dwelling 396, family 397, Mary Chadnois entry; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jan 2016), referencing NARA microfilm publication series T9, roll 309.