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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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