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.

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