Filles du Roi Part 2 Monday, Oct 14 2013 

When serendipity answers questions, magic seems to happen. Or, as Louis Pasteur once said: Chance favors the prepared mind. In my case, I think it’s the ladies talking again.

The Filles du Roi are still on my mind. These are the hundreds of young women (and a few matrons) recruited by agents of Louis XIV between 1663 and 1673 to populate New France. In Quebec, festivities and remembrances were in abundance over the summer as this is the 350th year after the first of these women and girls arrived.

Though 2.4 million people (Wikipedia) claim French-Canadian ancestry in the U.S., few of us, I’m guessing, are (were) aware of this anniversary. In Canada, Wiki puts the number at 7 million. Even without knowing the connections, and accounting for other women in the gene pool, that’s a lot of descendants for under 1000 women in the late 17th century. That’s a lot of cousins running around in this century.

Thank goodness for Jan Burkhart of the American-French Genealogical Society in Rhode Island and her project to document descendants. Early last week, she sent my certificate to confirm that I am a descendant of Marie-Reine Charpentier, daughter of Isabelle de Sens and Bonaventure Charpentier – the Queen’s master tailor. I’d picked her from among the many filles du roi in my lines because she is the progenitor of the mother-daughter line to me.

When I opened the folder, my reaction surprised me: I became teary-eyed. What the hey? Then I opened the folder holding the certificate for my sister’s (Sue) grand-daughter (Vivian), and the tears flowed. There was something overwhelming about seeing in print that Vivian Aurore Ober (now two) through her mom Melissa Paradis is a descendant of Marie-Reine, who came to Quebec City in 1671 when she was 13.

I guess that means that Marie-Reine has stepped forward to join Parmelie L., Marie V., and Anne P. at the country table in my mind. And that the conversation is becoming more and more lively.

Then comes a serendipitous moment. I am reading DNA Double Take by Carl Zimmer in the Science Times section of Sept. 17’s The New York Times. Apparently, what scientists think they know about the human genome is changing like a runway model during fashion week. “…it’s quite common for an individual to have multiple genomes…Some have genomes that came from other people.”

My first reaction was, well, duh, yeah, from our parents. But that wasn’t what he meant. Y chromosomes in breast tissue, a chimeraic woman whose genome seemed to indicate she wasn’t the mother of two of her three biological children, women who gain genomes from their children – DNA that is a whole lot less individual than what was biology dogma just a few years ago.

So, I got to thinking, well, if other people’s DNA is mixed in with our own, how crazy is it really to imagine that the ancestral ladies are talking in my head? How much of our ancestors’ “stuff” is mixed in with our biological “stuff” as well as our psychosocial “stuff”? Maybe we’re not only what we eat or known by the company we keep. Maybe we’re a lot more who they were than we realize.

Maybe not. But the possibility is certainly fodder for a writer’s imagination. Especially if she really, really listens.

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King’s daughters: Les Filles de Roi Sunday, Sep 29 2013 

Filles de Roi

 

This year of 2013 marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Filles de Roi in New France. These women – some number between 700 and 1,000 – came to New France between 1663 and 1673 at the behest of Louis the Sun King. The mission – if they decided to accept it – was to marry a French or, by then, Canadian man and populate New France.

 

Why would you do that?

 

Really? You’re going to get on a wooden ship, most likely out of Dieppe in Normandy or LaRochelle in Aunis, sail three months across the Atlantic ocean during all sorts of weather, and eat crappy food and drink questionable water. So you can marry a stranger in a strange land and make babies? What made you think this was a good idea?

 

I suppose I’m asking these questions of at least one of the “ladies in my head,” one who hasn’t quite yet made her presence known the way Parmelie Ledoux, Anne Pastourel, and Marie Vigneault have. I’m asking this as I make my way through the King’s Daughters list sent by Jan Burkhart at the American-French Geneaological Society http://www.afgs.org/Kings_Daughters_Anniversary.html in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

 

Jan heads up the Society’s project that invites descendants of these women to make a straight line chart back to a Fille de Roi (King’s Daughter). For a small fee, you can get a certificate and pin to commemorate this ancestor. And, on October 27, the Society is hosting an afternoon celebration for 150 people where Daughters’ descendants can meet and greet each other. By yesterday, I’d made it through “N” and linked to 15 women:

 

Catherine Baillon, left France in 1669 at age 24 after dad died (maternal)

 

Marie Brouart, left France in 1668 at age 27, after dad died (Parmelie’s ancestor, maternal)

 

Francoise Bourgeois, left Paris in 1669, age 23, after dad died (! looks like she’s Marie Vigenau’s great-grandmother, paternal)

 

Marie-Reine Charpentier, left Paris in 1671, age 13 (!), after dad (a master Queen’s tailor) died (maternal, and the direct female line ancestor)

 

Catherine Clerice, left France in 1671, age 18 (Parmelie’s ancestor, maternal)

 

Marguerite Colet, left Paris in 1670, age 17, after dad died (paternal)

 

Francoise Durand, left France in 1670, age 19, after both parents died (maternal)

 

Louise Fro or Frost, left Paris, 1670, age 16 (maternal)

 

Marguerite Girard, left France in 1673, age 24 (paternal, she married Pierre Forcier, my male namesake)

 

Marie-Anne Guedon, left France in 1665, age 24 (paternal)

 

Marguerite Itasse, left France in 1667, age 20 (paternal)

 

Marie Lamy, left France in 1671, age 18 (paternal)

 

Elisabeth-Ann Lefebvre, left France in1670, age 15, after father died (maternal)

 

Jacquette Michel (Michaud), left France in 1668, age 31, after father and husband died (maternal)

 

Marie-Madeleine Normand left France in 1669, age 18, after father died, sister Catherine ar. 1665 (maternal)

 

Which is all pretty cool, but still begs the question of what were they thinking?

 

Thankfully, Bill Pommenville, the Society’s webguy, links to King’s Daughters information, such as Michael LeClerc’s Genealogy News http://blog.mocavo.com/?s=filles+de+roi&search-go= and YouTube videos that will lead to other YouTube videos that will keep your mind in New France and Quebec for hours, maybe even days if you understand Quebecois.

 

There in Michael’s blog is a tantalizing tidbit about why these ladies may have come: their fathers died. Daddy was no longer around to find them a husband, and, so, if they wanted one, the King’s offer to pay their way and give them a small dowry in the process probably sounded like a good deal. In New France, it may have even seemed a better deal. One of those YouTube videos said New France had six French men for every French woman who arrived. (Which leads to another question for a future blog, which is Really? They were waiting around for French girls while they were living cheek by jowl with First Nations women? Anyway…)

 

Someone in here wants to be part of the ladies’ stories. Maybe it’s one of the ones on that partial list, maybe it’s someone who will come forward. My ears are open.

 

Resources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnWGcdqYk7g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-F-FiiMlu4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31IfrPt4Lhk

 

Listening to Parmelie Sunday, Sep 15 2013 

Uncovering The Ladies’ Stories is a lot like taking an early morning beach walk after a high tide. You know lots of other people stepped here before, maybe even hours before, but the seawash of highwater scoured the shore leaving all as discovery. That’s the magic of sleuthing this intertidal zone of personal history off that great ocean of human engagement.

I am reading an old (Spring, 2009) Je Me Souviens (published by the AFGS in Woonsocket RI) as part of this ghost year, this year of listening to the ladies and what stories they want to tell, when I come across Louis Poulin alias Spooner by Al Spooner. I’m in a mode now where I want to read everyone’s stories because something in all of them will connect me to them. It’s like a gluttony for tales that is unsatisfiable. Then, I need to write about this experience, or I’m like a cranky addict in need of a fix.

Spooner is a name that captures my attention because it’s a name associated with Gate 40 of the Quabbin Reservoir in Petersham MA. They are part of the story I tell in Rock & Write workshops. At the ghost of the hillside homesite of “my” Spooners (Ed and Lulu) spreads a rectangular patch beneath slim tree trunks. In late spring, the patch is a bed of abundant blue periwinkle flowers. This spot always draws me to reflect on what it meant to the people of the Swift River Valley to lose their homes to make way for Boston’s water, and what it meant to be on the receiving end of a grand-scale upheaval in the service of the more politically powerful.

I want to see whether Al Spooner’s Louis is connected to the Petersham Spooners. Instead, I find that he is tangentially connected to me.

There in the 4th paragraph Al tells us that he’s looking in the parish registers of St. Simon in St. Hyacinthe county in Quebec. Hmm, that’s interesting. After years of searching for my mother’s paternal grandmother Parmelie Ledoux, I found her family in St. Liboire and St. Simon. Parmelie is, I suspect, one of the ladies yammering in my head.

A few pages later, Al lists the parents and siblings of Louis. Another hmm. Louis’s mother is Seraphine/Agathe Gauthier, which is a name also in my mother’s line, also in St. Hyacinthe, and not so far removed in time. Genevieve Gauthier is Parmelie Ledoux’s great-grandmother.

Louis’s eldest sister is named Marie Delina/Adeline, which is the name of my mother’s mother (who came from Fall River)– with that same quirky equation of Delina with Adeline. Louis’s youngest sister is named Marie Parmelie: Parmelie Poulin, born Jan. 29, 1859 in St. Simon.

My Parmelie was born circa June 30, 1864 and christened at St. Simon. What’s up with the name Parmelie? What was happening in the culture or the families there that this name is selected at this time period? I know it’s only two, but after years of searching for Parmelie’s lines, and a lifetime of being fascinated with that name, the lens of my attention focuses here.

Then comes a kicker: Marie Parmelie Poulin married Magloire Morel, widower of Arzelie or Aurelie Ledoux, on Nov. 25, 1895 in St. Hyacinthe. My Parmelie Ledoux had an aunt named Arzelie Ledoux, (b. 1853) who married Louis Plante Feb. 5, 1877 in St. Simon (St. Hyacinthe). Did Parmelie’s aunt marry a second time to Magloire Morel?

My Parmelie also had an aunt Phelanise Benoit who married Jean-Baptitste Poulin on June 30, 1863 at St. Simon, and an aunt Mary Benoit who married Leon Poulin on Feb. 2, 1864 at St. Simon. And further down the line, my mother’s Uncle Teddy (her father’s only living sibling and Parmelie’s son) married Mary Ann Poulin sometime in the early 20th century. So…the Poulin, Benoit, and Ledoux families are co-mingled in St. Hyacinthe. Where’s Parmelie going with this?

A quick check to Wikipedia for Louis Poulin turns up a…holy cow…Louis Poulin (b. 1785, d. 1849) who represented Saint-Hyacinthe in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada from 1832 to 1834.

He married Marie-Angelique Benoit dit Livernois. If I go up a few generations on the genealogy chart, there’s the dit Livernois/Nivernois in Parmelie’s Benoit line.

Looks like the legislative assembly was dissolved on March 27, 1838 after a rebellion in Canada. Holy cow, part 2…this looks an awful lot like Massachusetts rebellion that led to to formation of the U.S., except that the British overlords won in Canada. Parmelie’s paternal grandparents would have been making babies during this rebellion. Her maternal grandparents were getting married during it. Guess life goes on no matter what else is happening.

Holy cow, part 3…that means that Parmelie’s parents (Ursule Benoit and Levi Ledoux) were children when Surratt was hiding out in their farming community to escape from his part in Lincoln’s assassination.

Parmelie seems to want to say something about war and religion and politics. Maybe, it’s that while destructive events happen all around you, life still asserts itself. Maybe it’s something else, maybe something more.

As with Marie Vigneau and an Acadian story, I am listening.

Resources:

http://www.afgs.org/

American French Geneaological Society

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-central/quabbin-reservoir.html

Quabin Reservoir

http://www.amazon.com/Historic-Quabbin-Hikes-J-Greene/dp/1884132014)

J. R. Greene’s Historic Quabbin Hikes

http://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/

Canadian genealogy

Patates Saturday, Aug 31 2013 

For today’s potato blog, we can thank [or curse (: ] the inspiration from my writer pal Aine Greaney. Apparently, not all the ladies are in my head.

Aine wrote a thoughtful post on her blog (http://writerwithadayjob.com/) about the hard-working people we should remember on Labor Day, including her da, who dug a lot of potatoes, and Seamus Heaney, a Noble Laureate poet who wrote about pens and potatoes. (Just look at her blog.)

Which got me thinking about Acadians and potatoes.

In 2010, brother Glenn and I visited Le Pays de la Sagouine (http://www.sagouine.com/) in Bouctouche, New Brunswick. I’d been looking online for something ancestral when up popped Viola Leger’s name and an advert that “for the first time” she would perform La Sagouine by Antonine Maillet in English. Whatever that force is that compels us to do things without our conscious awareness, it took over and I said “I’m going.”

Ms. Leger (http://www.nfb.ca/film/viola_leger_together) was born in Fitchburg MA, about 25 miles from where I live. Perhaps that had something to do with the front and center dinner-theatre table seating we had. Perhaps that was just Acadian hospitality. We were grateful and enthralled. So…

We spent the following day on the Isle of Fleas (where Le Pays is housed), and, though not fluent enough in French to understand all that was said, we had enough language memory to follow the antics of the musicians and actors.

Which brings me back to potatoes. Glenn and I talked about this, so we both think it’s true. There’s a Cajun/Acadian song called “Lâche pas la patate,” which translate literally as “don’t drop the potato.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg61Z4XHrwk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HhOOuYJpu8

One of the performers at Le Pays sang a slant version. We’re fairly sure he said “lâche ma patate” and that the verses were colorful. From what I remember, the song took him around the world dropping potatoes, or whatever they were a stand in for.  Maybe someday we’ll go back and find out.

In the meantime, Lâche pas la patate – don’t give up — seems a pretty good maxim as many of us face the vagaries of the changing workplace.

Aine’s da didn’t, and neither did our Acadian forebears.

Vive la patate! Ne la lache pas.

Diaspora and Coming Home Monday, Aug 26 2013 

I’ve just finished Christopher Hodson’s (https://history.byu.edu/Pages/Faculty/Hodson.aspx) inspiring new and first book The Acadian Diaspora. Wow. It is, for me, the beginning of understanding the deeper story of the consequences of being uprooted from your people and of being scattered hither and yon. And how I came to find it seems a bit like the wandering route of the ancestors to get back to their roots.

There I was in late July, looking in my family history files for the Comeau line so that I could keep a year-old promise to Cousin George to send him what I had about the link to our patriarch Pierre (married to Rose Bayols in 1649 in Port Royal, Acadie). I was still trying to find my way back to listening to “the ladies” when Marie Vigneau stepped forward demanding attention. There she sat on a branch of the genogram, a grand-daughter of Marguerite Comeau, who was herself a grand-daughter of Pierre and Rose. What did it mean that Marie married in 1764 on the still-owned-by-France islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon?

So, I “googled” her and her parents (Jean-Baptiste Vigneau and Agnes-Anne Poirier) and came upon Jacques Maurice Vigneau who was something of a Moses to a group of Acadians who were first deported to Georgia. Lo and behold, up pops Marguerite Comeau, his mother, and her husband Maurice Vigneault, grandparents of Marie. That made Jacques, known to the British colonists in Boston as Jocky Morris according to Hodson (p. 59), her uncle. Jacques’ story, told through Hodson, became my story.

What an eerie feeling to be reading a history of a people only to discover that you are reading a history of your people.

The kicker was that I was reading this part of Hodson’s book as I sat on the Lower Marshview deck at Craigville on Cape Cod. Note that this is in Barnstable County. So, when I read that Vigneau and his extended family (100 Acadians) in the spring of 1756 headed up the Georgia coast in old canoes (p. 59) past “both Carolinas and New York before the alert residents of Barnstable, Massachusetts, had the group arrested” (p. 60), I felt stunned. Seriously? The ancestors of the people in this place that I love arrested my ancestors?

What do you do with something like that? I’m still sorting it out, but I suspect that Marie would like to state her opinion about what it was like to wander hither and yon.

I’m listening.

Paddling My Own Canoe Monday, Aug 19 2013 

At this summer’s writer’s retreat at Craigville (Cape Cod), my distant cousin George Comeaux wanted to know why the blog went dormant. (He’s such a Southern Gentleman. My Northern friends would have just asked “why aren’t you writing?”)

Was I not following ancestor Anne Pastourel as she climbed into a canoe with her infant daughter and headed west from Montreal to the newly built Fort de Troit? What about our Comeau(x)s in Acadie — do we know how the Grand Derangement separated our branches?  And what about Anne’s mysterious mother Marie Leclerc from France, the one I thought to write a novel about, the one I imagined had a crazy mother who made her run through a 17th century forest outside of Paris proper to practice her escape and hide skills? Were are these people?

Still in my head.

During the year I wrote “dailies” (thoughts about where the stories might take me), took research notes, and read histories of French, Acadian, and French Canadian 17th and 18th century people and places. I abandoned the idea of a John Jakes-like set of novels in favor of a Stones and Stories series. “The ladies” as I call the seven women who are emerging as the kernels of these tales stopped “talking” to me last November. I, apparently, had stopped listening to the way they want these stories told. It took this writer’s week for the chatter to resume.

One night, in our own version of the “swig and gab” that a Cape Cod Times reporter claimed was a highlight of the Obamas vacation on Martha’s Vineyard that same week, our pal Judy Mac identified books more akin to what “the ladies” seem to want: Roots (Alex Haley) and Black Beauty (Anna Sewall). Both stories immerse the reader in the lives of the characters and have elite-recorded historical events happening around them. Characters are minimally influencing, but maybe majorly influenced by, world events. Their lives, lives that were silenced but for the spotlights these authors shone, mattered most.

That seems to be what “the ladies” want. As soon as I “got it,” the struggle ended. With that little nudge from Cousin George, the dormancy of this blog ended.

Welcome to my “little canoe.” Join me if you like on this journey to discover the lives and stories of some people who no longer wish to remain silent. Some of that they reveal may even be true.