Saturday, January 25, 2014

Awesome find! A map of Château-Richer land ownership from 1680

Château-Richer  was the second place inhabited by French settlers in the Côté-de-Beaupré by the French colonists as an agricultural community to provide crops for the Ville de Québec.   (The first was Saint-Joachim.)   Colony-related farming was started there by Champlain as early 1626, but habitation really began in the 1640's under Olivier Letardif (1601-1665).  

Nowadays it's situated between L'Ange-Gardien, and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré along the St. Lawrence River (2011 population: 3,834). 

I found this map on while filling out the family tree within the founding Canadian families, dating from 1680.   From top to bottom it shows land grants heading down-river.   The land was partitioned in long strips with the narrow side along the river and extending 1.5 leagues (4.5 miles) inland.   The riverside size of each plot is listed on the map measured in arpents (one arpent is approximately 192 feet), ranging from 1.5 for the smallest (about 288 feet or 0.054 miles) to 8.8 for the largest (about 0.32 miles).   In terms of acreage, that would be about 150 to 900 acres.

This section of map has 44 plots of land and their owners.   In it you can see many of the familiar French colonist family names.

When I looked these names up in the family tree, I found that most of them are distant in-law relations (e.g., "Father-in-law to a 1st cousin 9x removed").   That puzzled me for a bit, but I realized that many of them are the actual immigrants: the direct connections to the family tree come from the marriages of their children and grandchildren to other colonists.

Nonetheless, one comes across several names that are direct relations:
  • Fils de Zacharie Cloutier — Zacharie (1590-1677) is a 10th great-grandparent; his three sons are whom I assume to be the inheritors: Zacharie II (1617-1708, 9th great-grand uncle), Jean (1620-1690, a 9th great-grandfather), and Charles (1629-1709, 9th great-grand uncle);
  • Simon Guyon (1612-1682) is the husband of Louise Racine, a 1st cousin 10x removed;
  • Guillaume Boucher (1647-1729) is a 9th great-grand uncle;
  • "Veuve Toussaine Toupin de Sault" — here's an example of how complicated the relationships can get:  Toussaine Toupin (1616-1678)'s widow is his second wife Marie Bourdon, but the connection to the family tree is through his first wife (Marguerite Boucher) and their child Antoine (1655-1711) whose wife is 8th great-grand aunt Louise Cloutier (1658-1733);
  • Antoine is also the owner of another plot of land, seven plots down-river from his step-mother;
  • Jean Cloutier (Antoine's neighbor) is a 9th great-grandfather;
  • Two plots further down-river (with Guillaume Thibault, another distant in-law relative) is Jean's brother Charles, a 9th great-grand uncle;
  • Further down there's a plot marked "Hériters de Jean Doyon."  Assuming that his sons are among them, that would include at least one husband of a 8th great-grand aunt (Antoine Doyon, 1662-1706, marries to Françoise Cloutier);
  • Finally at the bottom there's Robert Drouin (1606-1685), husband of 9th great-grand aunt Anne Cloutier (1626-1648), and mention of Etienne Racine (1607-1689) who is the husband of Marguerite Martin (1624-1679).
Actually, the owner of almost every plot can be reached through the family tree even if you have to cross over into in-laws.   In fact, only 11 of the 44 names above are (as yet) unaccounted for.

The map itself though is extremely enlightening in terms of resetting one's mental image of these early communities.   When I think of a 17th century "town" or habitation, I imagine something like a small central nexus of houses and shops with additional houses and farms out on the periphery: you're typical New England town.    The map shows that this was absolutely not the case for Château-Richer (nor for other establishments along the St. Lawrence River)!   Instead each landowner has a small riverfront with a very long tract of land extending back into the forest.   All of the plots run parallel to each other.

This makes sense for the simple reason that the only mode of transportation at the time was by boat.   The land would be cleared little by little for farmland, sometimes taking years.

So, instead of the small "town" one would see a series of habitations built near to the shore of the river, one after another after another.   There's no civic center per se:  the church for Château-Richer is there in one of the central plots owned by the Church, and would have been the social center for the community.

The other thing to realize is that each of these plots of land were mini-colonies themselves.   Each owner would have his entire extended family there.   Based on the birth and death records for the families involved there were dozens of births, deaths, and marriages in Château-Richer in the late 1600's.   Speaking of marriage, it's interesting to see how the families interacted (clearly the Cloutier girls "got around" socially).   At some point it would be interesting to see what the internal migration happened though marriage.

What's also interesting is how the modern Château-Richer still reflects the original design.   Although there are roads there now, and a real "town", from overhead one can still unmistakably identify the boundaries from the original tracts of land!


The satellite image of the same shows the long strips of land first parceled out
in the mid-1600s.

A close-up showing more detail.  At upper-right, the twisty road goes along the small river
marked "Sault à la Puce" on the 1680 map.

The First Immigrants to New France - Introduction

For the past several weeks, I've been delving into the topic of relationships to the first French settlers.   This is especially FUN because SO much emphasis is placed in America on who can trace their ancestors back to voyagers on the Mayflower.   As it turns out, while the Pilgrims might make an interesting TV Movie, their French cousins (who had already been in the New World for 15 years before the Pilgrims arrived) I think would make for an entire Dramatic Series!   (Anyone know anyone at HBO or Showtime?  Now's your chance!)

While the first excursions to Canada by the French go all the way back to John Cabot, who like Columbus was trying to find passage to the exotic Asian lands in order to set up trade routes that were (hopefully) faster than the ones established (and largely controlled by others: Spain, Venice, etc.).   His initial expedition in 1497 brought him to (probably) Cape Breton in Nova Scotia; from there he sailed down the coast all the way to Chesapeake Bay by 1498.   To this end it's Cabot who REALLY discovered America since Columbus' journeys took him into the Caribbean and not to the North American mainland!

The discovery of vast tracts of land and resources sparked widespread reconnaissance, not for colonization but for fishing.   It wasn't until the Jacques Cartier, who in 1534 on an official expedition sponsored by the French government, made the initial mapping of Newfoundland, with the subsequent discovery of the St. Lawrence River in 1535.   On that latter voyage, he traveled upriver as far as the location of modern Montréal.  

While there's lots of intervening history of additional discoveries in northern Canada, we can skip to the beginning of the 17th century and Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635) "The Father of New France".   While he's not on the family tree (as least not yet) he is absolutely integral to the lives of several people who are.  It was his settlement established in 1608 where the founding families of Québec lived for several years. 

The Quebec Settlement : A.—The Warehouse. B.—Pigeon-loft. C.—Detached Buildings where we keep our arms and for Lodging our Workmen. D.—Another Detached Building for the Workmen. E.—Sun-dial. F.—Another Detached Building where is the Smithy and where the Workmen are Lodged. G.—Galleries all around the Lodgings. H.—The Sieur de Champlain's Lodgings. I.—The door of the Settlement with a Draw-bridge. L. — Promenade around the Settlement ten feet in width to the edge of the Moat. M.—Moat the whole way around the Settlement. O.—The Sieur de Champlain's Garden. P.—The Kitchen. Q.—Space in front of the Settlement on the Shore of the River. R.—The great River St. Lawrence.

A model of the (second?) Champlain habitation.   The first building was
constructed in1608 and was replaced with a stone building in 1627.

Champlain set up the first habitation for 28 people staying through the winter, but in that first winter 20 of them died.   Actual colonization happened slowly;  most of the people coming to New France were in the fur trapping or cod fishing industries and weren't interested in putting down roots although a few primitive outposts (e.g., Tadoussac) had been established.   Four Recollect missionaries arrived in 1615 with the intent of converting the ingeneous population.   The first woman to come to New France from Europe, Marguerite Vienne, arrived with her husband, Michel Colin in 1616, but they both died within a year.

So, when the apocathery Louis Hébert[1], his wife, and their three children came to live in Québec in 1617 they were something of a novelty.   Unlike everyone else, Louis established a farm and built the first home in Québec outside the settlement.

A few other families soon followed:  Pierre Desportes[2] arrived with his wife in 1619, and Abraham Martin dit L'Ecossais[3] settled with his wife in 1620.   Both Martin and Hébert had been to New France on earlier voyages as a river pilot and apocathery, respectively.  At this time 60 people were living at the colony, but only six women.

The population reached 100 people in 1627 — almost 20 years later — forty-five of which were colonists (including four Jesuits) — including four families (Hébert, Martin, Desportes, and Couillard[4]).

Meager beginnings...

I'll go into detail about each of these people (and their families) in later posts.

  1. 11th great-grandfather and father-in-law of 10th great-grandmother Hélène Desportes - said to be the first child born of French settlers in Québec;
  2. 11th great-grandfather;
  3. 10th great-grandfather;
  4. As near as I can tell, these would be the four families mentioned in the records.  Guillaume Couillard is a husband to my 10th great-grand aunt (Marie-Guillemette Hébert, 1606–1684).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My favorite Christmas Present in 2013: A Book on Hélène Desportes!

My #1 item on my Christmas Wish List this year was a book on Hélène Desportes, by Susan McNelley:  Hélène's World.

The book doesn't chronicle Hélène's life (since there are very few source of stories about her life), but basically tells the story of the founding of Québec and the overall lives of the original settlers using Hélène as a point of reference wherever possible.   In doing so, one gets an incredibly detailed picture of both life in the early 17th century, and life in a remote frontier land far from home.

Reading this book completely changed my mental image of early Québec.   I knew that the colony was very slow to grow at first, but I now better understand why this was the case; the political and economic influences from Europe, the complete remoteness of the colony and the difficulty of getting supplies from France, piracy, troubles with England, and so on.

One particular aspect of the colony that had a great impact on Hélène and the other families in Québec was its smallness - roughly sixty people lived within the one compound for several years before there was any expansion.   This contrasts greatly with the New England colonies, which spread all over eastern Massachusetts (and beyond) over the same period of time (albeit starting over ten years later).   Ms. McNelley's book does a remarkable job of accomplishing so much.

The book is also heavily sourced and footnoted.   For anyone with an interest in Québec history, or who wants to get a clear perspective of that time period outside of the Pilgrims, etc., this is definitely a resource worth having!

Update: New Filles à Marier and Filles du Roi discoveries

I've been researching the original immigrant families to New Canada (which is why there haven't been any new posts - it's a lot of material to organize!), and discovered another Fille à Marier and a Fille du Roi in the process:

Catherine de Belleau (1639-1706) - arrived in 1667 (age: 28) and married Jean-Baptiste Morin dit Rochebelle (brother of the husband to Marie-Madeleine Normand listed above).     The circumstances were fortunate - for Catherine.   Jean-Baptiste had been under a marriage contract with another Fille du Roi - Marie-Anne Fermin - but she backed out.  It's unlikely that she didn't think that Jean-Baptiste was a good match; he was - after all - one of the premier families in New France at the time.   More likely, she just didn't like Canada - according to a footnote on the contract dated 17 Nov 1667, she's listed as a passenger on the ship Le Prophète Hosée returning to France. 

Catherine's cousin, Marie-Charlotte de Poitiers (1640-1718, wife of 10th great-grand uncle) had arrived in Québec earlier (1659) as a "Fille à Marier".   She married Joseph Hébert in 1660 after arriving in 1659 (age 19).   Her marriage wasn't a happy one;  after giving birth to a son Joseph in 1661, her husband was killed in an Iroquois attack.