Késsinnimek - Roots - Racines

The Mothers
          Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

For April, both my mother’s and my birth month, I offer the first section of my exploration of my direct maternal line from my unpublished and on-going Family History©. All of this section was written before 2000. I have not yet added comments about some of the documents I mention.           

The Mothers

Genealogy usually focuses on paternal lines.  In the Western tradition most children, male and female, carry the father's name; and women, when they marry, take the family name of the husband, at least until quite recent years.  Yet maternal lines are equally important.  In fact the Jewish tradition considers the maternal link the more important, perhaps because maternity has been a far less contestable issue than paternity, especially before modern genetic testing became practical.


I traced my maternal line long before I learned of the mtDNA PROJECT.  Thomas H. Roderick, Ph.D. calls it the umbilical line, “a single, very specific, matrilineal line—that is, the mother's mother's mother's mother's, ad infinitum.  In an ancestral table, it comprises individuals numbered 1, 3, 7, 15, 31, 63, 255, 511, etc.”[1](1)


Dr. Roderick's interest is in the transmission of “mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which lies outside the nucleus [of DNA, deoxyribose nucleic acid] and is usually transmitted only through the umbilical line.  Both males and females inherit it, but only females pass it on.”[2](2)  It has thus become the subject of studies to determine ethnic origins.

Marie LeJeune


When I trace only the straight maternal line in my genealogy, I find my most-removed, known and direct great-grandmother, ten generations ago, was Marie Le Jeune (which means, ironically, the young one).  Married to Michel Grandin, she had a daughter Marie, born about 1651, who gave as her home a place in the Val de Loire, France.  Tanguay says St-Aubert, Orléans; Jetté says St-Eubert, Orléans, Orléanais (Loiret), and Yves Landry also cites St-Eubert.  The Hachette Guide to France[3](3) shows a St-Euverte church in the city of Orléans, a variant spelling for St-Eubert.  So it turns out that both my direct maternal line and, as will be seen, my direct paternal line are associated with Jeanne D'Arc, Orléans being the scene of her triumph and Rouen, the home of my Boivin ancestors, the scene of her tragic burning at the stake.


Wherever Marie Grandin and her family lived, though, I can be sure it was not in one of the many châteaux of the region, such as Chambord, Blois, Chaumont, Chenonceau, or Azey-le-Rideau.  Surely she knew of them, perhaps dreaming of the life of the noble and privileged class.  Perhaps she knew also of Ussé, built in the fifteenth century, which is said to be the inspiration for Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty castle.[4](4)  Marie Le Jeune and her daughter were, after all, contemporaries of Charles Perrault (1628-1703).  Ussé is described as a “Fairy tale castle” that “gleams too white ever to have been involved in war and overlooks an enchanting green countryside at the juncture of the Indre and the Loire.”[5](5)  Could my ancestors have known the story of “La Belle au Bois Dormant”?  (Sleeping Beauty in the Woods)  Folklorists testify to its antiquity.  It has always been one of my favorites.

Marie Grandin Fille du Roi


At any rate, Marie Grandin did not lie dormant waiting for Prince Charming to awaken her.  Probably about eighteen years old, she took to the road and the ocean to seek a husband in the New World.  There, her life would not be a fairy tale, but then whose life is?  As one of the “Filles du Roi” (Daughters of the King, King's Girls) sent in 1670, she profited from King Louis XIV's support of the plan to provide marriageable women to the colonists in New France. “Le Roi Soleil”—the Sun King—agreed to sponsor eligible women so that marriage would be more attractive to the men and his colony would grow and prosper and bring profit to France, or at least this was the belief of King Louis's minister, Colbert.  With women as a stabilizing influence, it was argued, the land would be cleared and fewer men would become the illegal “coureurs de bois” (literally, runners in the woods, trappers and traders for fur) who tended to bypass the rigid rule dictating they were to obtain beaver skins from the Natives only when they came for the annual trade fairs in the mother colony. With the Iroquois subdued by the Carignan Regiment by 1668, trade would expand to a previously unknown dimension.


Of course, women had emigrated to New France before the 1660s on a voluntary basis:  “Almost 1000 came to Canada in this way between 1636 and 1673.”[6](6)  Prior to 1662, they are called Filles à Marier (Girls to Marry). 


All through the first period young women and widows from fifteen to twenty-five years of age sailed either alone or in family groups of three or four.  Most of these came from the west of France, and accompanied relatives from their province or family friends.  Others, currently servants in the households of middle-class families, agreed to follow their employers, who in turn would be repaid either in money or by work should the girls marry or prefer to return to France.[7](7)


Then with the beginning of the Royal Régime, a formal program to provide brides was proposed by Colbert.  Perhaps 1000 Filles du Roi were recruited in the ten or so years it remained in existence.  Estimates vary depending on the criteria applied.  The most recent (and exhaustive) study done by Yves Landry sets the number at 770 between 1663 and 1673,[8](8) but acknowledges that an additional ten percent of that number may have died in crossing the Atlantic.


Ever since I first heard of the Filles du Roi, they have fascinated me.  My imagination savors the idea of young women leaving France to become brides in a distant land.  Many of the women were orphans with no prospects, but some, like Marie Grandin, had at least one surviving parent and certainly siblings or friends.  What courage it must have taken!  To leave all familiar faces behind, endure an ocean voyage weeks long, and then arrive on the shores of what must have seemed to them to be a wild and untamed land, to be observed and judged by strange men, and, if all went well, to become engaged to marry one of them, often within a month or two.[9](9) 


The basic cost to send each of these women to the New World was 100 livres, received from the King by La Compagnie des Indes:


. . . ten livres were undesignated or for their recruitment, the 'levée' as it was called, thirty livres for clothes and sixty towards the crossing.  Apart from ordinary clothing, a small money box, a hood, a taffeta kerchief, shoe ribbons, one hundred sewing needles, a comb, some white thread, a pair of stockings, a pair of gloves, a pair of scissors, two knives, a thousand pins, a bonnet, four laces [to fasten a bodice], and two livres in silver coin were all provided.  From the King's Council of New France came a few clothes suited to the climate, and certain items chosen from the King's stores.  After this the Intendant gave each emigrant fifty Canadian livres' worth of provisions suited to her household needs.[10](10)


A typical government gift for a Fille du Roi included a bull, a cow, a hog, a sow, a cock, a hen, two barrels of salted meat.[11](11)  King Louis granted many of these young women a dot or dowry. This should not be confused with the douaire (dower’s or widow’s rights) offered by her future husband.  Women destined for military officers received gifts from the king of 100 to 500 livres; those who married habitants[12](12) received 50 livres.  Marie took with her a personal dowry of 300 livres, and an additional 50 livres as the gift of the King.  (In France, 40 livres could purchase one or two good cows or twelve lambs, or a dozen hecto-littres of wheat.[13](13)


Because these Filles du Roy have sometimes been confused with the girls who ended up in the West Indies, “to which women of ill fame were sometimes sent,”[14](14) historians have been careful to point out:


The authorities in Québec were even more exacting  in their choice of girls destined for marriage with the bachelors of the colony.  Some of the girls came from religious orphanages; these were chosen with the help of parish priests in Normandy, or of the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris.  Elsewhere candidates had to present a certificate of good conduct before they embarked.  The Intendant insisted that the girls must not be too delicate; Canada needed strong, healthy young women “at the child-bearing age.”  Talon even added the recommendation that there should not be “anything unattractive in their appearance.”  During the crossing the prospective brides were under the supervision of nuns or of Marguerite Bourgeoys. [Named a Saint in the twentieth century]  These “King's daughters,” as they were called, were very carefully chosen for their moral and physical qualities.  They were very superior immigrants, the best of that period.  It is not surprising that the young men of the colony found these fresh, healthy girls very attractive, and they were married, thirty at a time, almost as soon as they landed.  Authors of fictitious travel tales, such as La Hontan and Beauchesne, have scattered their books with slanderous stories about the “King's daughters,” but there is not one single authoritative document which might lead one to suppose that any prostitutes were sent to Canada. . . . Female immigrants to Canada were above reproach.[15](15)


More recent studies have shown a few of the women were not necessarily paragons of virtue, but, as a group, they were definitely not trollops.[16] (16)


About sixty of my first generation female ancestors arrived in New France as Filles du Roi, a not surprising figure when, according to Yves Landry, in the eleven years of the program the Filles du Roi account for 50% of all women who crossed the Atlantic in 150 years and represent 8% of all immigrants during the French Régime (1663 to 1760).[17](17)  And their fecundity was such in the New World that by 1678 the native born population surpassed those of European origin.  The 3,380 pioneers who had been established by 1680 account for two-thirds of the genetic source for modern day Québecois francophones.[18] (18)

The Atlantic Crossing


Ships bearing the young women usually arrived from France no earlier than June.  To cross the Atlantic took two and a half to three months or longer traveling from France.  The return trip could be accomplished in about four weeks because of the prevailing westerly winds.  The ships measured 80 to 110 feet long and 25 to 30 feet wide.  As many as 150 persons, passengers and crew, lived side-by-side in this space.  Claude Faribault researched conditions aboard ship in the seventeenth century:


Daily life [aboard ship] seems very strange to us of the twentieth century.  The day was divided into six “quarts” [units] of four hours each.  For the crew this meant that no one slept more than three and a half hours at a time.  For passengers who had no assigned tasks it meant they were continually disturbed by the changes of “quarts”.  It was forbidden to undress and everyone slept in their clothes in a “branle” or hammock.  After the sun went down, it was absolute silence for everyone, except those giving commands.  It was also forbidden for anyone to move around.  In the morning, around four o'clock, it was wake-up time, and then washing time, that is to say washing the ship with sea water.  No one felt like washing personally with icy sea water.  And non-saline water, a rare commodity, was never used for personal hygiene.  Clothes were washed in sea water or not at all.  Everyone allowed hair and beards to grow for the same reason.[19](19)


Next came prayers, a sermon, and the cry “Vive Le Roi!”  (Let the King live! Or Long Live the King)  Food was served at six, consisting of a biscuit, part of the one pound ration for the day, soaked in fresh water that was rationed even more carefully than food.  Lunch, the principal meal, arrived at ten:  boiled meat—lard or salted beef—and a potage or gruel made from oats or corn, beans, peas, and grease or olive oil.  It was called “mortier” and had the same consistency as unset mortar.  Everyone carried a personal wooden spoon and guarded it carefully.  A lost spoon meant eating with one's fingers.  On Fridays or fast days, cheese or eel replaced the meat.  Each person had a ration of wine or cider of about three-quarters of a liter.  After supper, a light meal at four or five o'clock, everyone fasted until morning.


Mr. Faribault comments that the odors must have been remarkable.  Latrines were rudimentary; chamber pots were the rule, but those who were agile enough used the ocean.  Many people were sea-sick.  In addition, animals—cows, pigs, chicken, sheep, not to mention vermin of all kinds, rats, mice, lice—traveled along with the humans.


Without knowledge of the need for Vitamin C, everyone sailed in danger of developing scurvy, especially if the traverse lasted more than two and a half months.  Another unavoidable danger was infections of all kinds.  Fire was a constant threat.  No one but the cook lit a fire, except for the one lantern that remained on deck overnight.  No one smoked but some did chew tobacco.


Ships carried heavy merchandise on the western voyage and replaced it with rocks for the return.  That is why in La Rochelle “certain streets are made of rock from Canada” to this day.[20](20)


Only the captain and important persons stayed in a cabin.  Others traveled in steerage, not even going on deck at all during rough weather.  Time was passed in prayer and singing and telling stories. 


Mr. Faribault concludes his description with this comment:


It is nevertheless pleasant to think of the joy of those who, at Québec, saw a ship arriving from France, and of the happiness of the mariners and passengers who had just completed a successful voyage, while during the return trip, those leaving Canada had many things to tell about their families, their friends left behind, the Saint-Laurent, the Indians, Québec, and the animals and fur skins.  And often they were eager to begin again the adventure[21](21)


The First Generation

Marie Grandin and Jean Beaudet



Marie was among a contingent of 120 girls who arrived in 1670.[22](22)  She must have had very good success in the voyage and in being selected and agreeing to the prospective husband because her marriage contract was drawn up by the notary Becquet on 7 September 1670 at Québec City and twenty-one days later, 28 September, Marie Grandin exchanged religious vows with Jean Beaudet.  Witnesses were Jacques Gaudry, Nicolas Valin, Michel Maillou, and Jean Beriau.  Henri De Bernières performed the ceremony.[23]  The marriage record indicates that Marie's father was deceased. 


Jean, son of Sebastien Beaudet and Marie Baudonier of Blanzay near Poitiers,[24] had arrived in Québec on 25 May 1664.  In the census of 1666, he gave his age as 18 and his occupation as domestic servant for Nicolas Gaudry (possibly the brother of the Jacques who attended the wedding) at Côte St-François-et-Jean at Québec.  In 1681, established at Lotbinière, he claimed to be 31, so he may have been born 1648-1650, making him a year or so older than Marie.  This  census records that he has one cow and three arpents next to the land of Michel Lemay and Jean Harel.  (Two of the Beaudet children would marry into the Lemay family.)  He also engaged in the commercial sale of eels, “anguilles,” with the merchants Jean Millot and Charles de Couagne in Montréal.[25](25)


Nevertheless, her prince charming chosen, Marie did not live a fairy tale life, although I have seen no evidence it was an unhappy one.  From 1671 to about 1700, she gave birth to nine children, three of whose birth dates or baptisms were not recorded or are missing.  The five girls and four boys would all survive to marry, and, by 1730 (the last date for which data is given by René Jetté's Dictionnaire Généalogique des familles du Québec, 48 grandchildren were born.  Neither Marie nor Jean would see all of them, Jean dying sometime before an inventory of his belongings taken on 13 July 1714, and Marie on 14 July 1715, at about age 64, at Hôtel-Dieu, the hospital at Québec City.  Prior to her death, Marie Grandin, in return for his caring for her, ceded property to her son Charles (Notary Laneuville) on 25 February 1715.[26]  The Beaudets' married life was spent in or near Sillery, L'Ancienne-Lorette, Lotbinière, Neuville, and Lauzon, according the birth and marriage dates of their children.  All of these places are generally on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River below Québec City.

The Children of Marie Grandin and Jean Beaudet

The Baudets                 Date of Marriage            Spouses


Marie-Louise                            1692                             Jacques Houde

                                                Nine children




*Simonne-Anne             1689                             Michel Pinaut

                                                Ten children, all born

                                                at La Pérade.

                        (Simonne is my direct ancestor.)


Jean-Charles                             1726                             Madeleine Lemay

            dit DuCap              Three children


Louise                                      1697                             Jacques Marcot

                                                Eight children            


Jeanne-Françoise                      1699                             Jean-Baptiste Bisson dit  Marie                    

                                                Six children


Jean-Baptiste                            1717                             Françoise Chatel

                                                Four children


Marie                                       1704                               Jacques-Alexandre DeNevers

                                                Two children                        

                                                (both died in their 20s)


Michel                                      1719                             Marie-Thérèse Perusse           

                                                Three children


Jacques                                    1720                             Marie-Angélique Lemay

                                                Three children


To be continued.


Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

16 March 2004


[1](1) Thomas H. Roderick, Ph.D., "Umbilical Lines and the mtDNA PROJECT," adapted from presentations by Dr. Roderick at the 1992 NGS Conference in the States at Jacksonville, Florida, and the 1993 convocation of the American Society of Genealogists at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and reprinted in Michigan's Habitant Heritage magazine, January 1995, pp. 11-12.

[2](2) Roderick, p. 11.

[3](3) The Hachette Guide to France, New York, Pantheon Books, 1985.

[4](4) Ibid.

[5](5) Ibid., p. 1029.

[6](6) Raymond Douville and Jacques-Donat Casanova, Daily Life in Early Canada from Champlain to Montcalm, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1967, p. 25.  Translated from La Vie Quotidienne en Nouvelle France, Paris: Hachette,       1964.

[7](7) Douville, p. 27.

[8](8) Yves Landry, Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle, Orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada, Montreal:  Leméac, 1992. All quotations from works originally written in French are mine. [Author’s note: In 2001, King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663 -1673, in two volumes, by Peter J. Gagné, was published by Quinton Publications.]

[9](9) Yves Landry calculated the average length of time as five months in Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle, Orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada, Montreal: Leméac, 1992.

[10](10) Raymond Douville and Jacques-Donat Casanova,Daily Life in Early Canada from Champlain to Montcalm, New York:  The MacMillan Company, 1967, p. 32.  Translated from La Vie Quotidienne en Nouvelle France, Paris: Hachette, 1964.

[11](11) Charles W. Colby, Canadian Types of the Old Regime 1608-1698, New York:  Henry Holt and Co., 1908, p. 335.

[12](12) Marcel Trudel, perhaps the foremost authority on the early history of Canada, says in La Population du Canada en 1666 (1995) that in presenting his reconstitution of the census of 1666 he reproduced the terms used to describe the profession ("fonction" or "état") of a colonist as it was actually written on the document.  Then he explains the term <habitant>:

c'est la qualité, sans connotation agricole, de celui qui s'est établi a son compte (il jouit, à l'exclusion de l'engagé et du volontaire, du privilège de la traite)

It is the characteristic / status, without agricultural connotations, of one who has established himself as capable of being or becoming self-employed (who enjoys the privilege of engaging in trade, which is not allowed the person under contract or the immigrant); <engagé>: “immigrant venu sous contrat et qui n'est pas encore établi à son compte." An engagé is an immigrant who arrived under a contract and who is not yet established as capable of being or becoming self-employed; <volontaire>: "immigrant qui n'est pas venu sous contrat, mais qui n'est pas encore établi à son compte": a volontaire an immigrant who, although he did not arrive under a contract, is not yet capable of being or becoming self-employed.

It is true that over the years the term became synonymous with farmer (that's what I used to understand as its meaning), but this may have more to do with the later agricultural development of the Saint Lawrence Valley and the need for French Canadians to turn to farming as one of the only possible livelihoods.

After the British conquest in 1760, the French language, French law, and the Roman Catholic Church were all in jeopardy.  The Québec Act of 1774 established legal toleration for language and religion, and preserved some aspects of law, but the British expressed the hope that the French would be assimilated into the British Empire.  Some (really very few) of the French government leaders and merchant class left for France, and their positions were quickly filled by British, particularly at Montréal.  After the American Revolution, Loyalists from the British colony of the future United States moved north and were granted lands, many in the Eastern Townships.  French were not allowed to claim land there (unless they were like my Bibeau & Dupuis ancestors, squatters who were eventually granted the right to the land they had already developed).

It is interesting to note that language change over those two hundred years points out that the "habitant" of the 17th century, who was free to take any job available, became transformed into the farmer of the 19th and 20th centuries. [Author’s note: Leslie Choquette considers this transformation in her Frenchmen into Peasants, Modernity and Tradition in the Peopling of French Canada, Harvard University Press: 1997. It has been translated into French.]

For the 17th and 18th centuries, though, habitant or habitante (female) meant a person who had established him / herself in the country, no longer bound by a contract nor a recent immigrant, but someone who could pursue any kind of employment, not just agriculture, although he / she might  well  have been a farmer even then.

[13](13) Christiane Perron, La vie d'un pionnier de l'Ile d'Orléans, Longueuil: Christiane Perron, 1989.

[14](14) Gustave Lanctot, A History of Canada, Volume II:  From the Royal Régime to the Treaty of Utrecht, 1663-1713, Translated by Margaret M. Cameron, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964. p. 37.

[15](15) Ibid.

[16](16) See Yves Landry, Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle, Orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada, Montreal: Leméac, 1992.

[17](17) Yves Landry, p. 13.

[18](18) Yves Landry, p. 14, quoting Hubert Charbonneau et. al. in Naissance d'une population, Les Français établis au Canada au XVIIe siècle, 1987.

[19](19) Claude Faribault, "La traversée de nos ancêtres vers 1660--Voyage à travers l'Atlantique-Nord, Mémoires de la Société Généalogique Canadienne-Français, #193, Automne, 1992, p. 202 (pp. 198-208).

[20](20) Faribault, p. 201.

[21](21) Faribault, p. 208.

[22](22) Landry, p. 49.

[23](23) PRDH. I now have photocopies of the church record and the contract.

[24](24) Rene Jetté, Dictionaire généalogique des Familles du Québec, Montréal, Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1983.  Factual information (births, deaths, marriages) for the period to 1730 is taken from this source.  Later dates cited in subsequent sections may come from the seven volume Cyprien Tanguay, Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Canadiennes, Éditions Élysée, 1975 re-edition, and from PRDH.

[25](25) Archange Godbout, "Nos Ancêtres . . ." RAPQ. I now have copies of several of Jean Beaudet’s contracts. He appears to have been a hard-working and enterprising individual. See Michel Langlois, Dictionnaire Biographique des Ancêtres Québécois (1608-1700), Tome 1, Lettres A à C (Sillery 1998, pp. 129-130)for his citations concerning Jean Beaudet and Tome 2, Lettres D à I (Sillery 1999, p. 384) for Marie Grandin. There was another Marie Grandin from Rouen who married Michel Morel about 1670.

[26](26) I now have a copy. She gave her son Charles land of 10 arpents in front by 30 arpents in depth at Lotbinière. In return, as well as being cared for until her death, she requested Charles to have ten Masses said for the repose of her soul when she died. On the register of Hôtel-Dieu at her burial, she is called “la bonne famme baudet”, good woman / wife baudet. Photocopy.

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Késsinnimek - Roots - Racines
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Copyright © January 2003 & 2004 Suzanne Boivin Sommerville