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 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 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.





Death bets Saturday, Jul 14 2012 

 Back in 1700s, the English were really into betting on just about anything: ships lost at sea, election results, the loser in a duel, or the outcome of sieges. One particularly gruesome wager involved betting on how many German refugees would survive starvation and death on the streets of London.

So says Michael Sandel in his 2012 book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. This Harvard economics professor shows just how well the adage plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose applies to gambling and to its latest incarnation as insurance. Through his explanations, I think I finally understand something about the “derivatives” that went bust and launched the Great Recession.

But what has that to do with anything Acadian? Well, back in the 1700s, when the English would bet on just about anything, Louis XIV was the Sun King of France. During his reign, Acadie was the ping-pong ball in a war game between England and France.

Finally, in 1713, Louis gave up his claim to Acadie to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht. Because of various wars and high living (sound familiar?), his royal coffers were near bankrupt, and giving up Acadie seemed a good way to downsize. So what if all your former French subjects now found themselves required to take an oath of loyalty to the English king?

Then, on August 15, 1715, Louis fell ill. The English ambassador to his court made a bet that the king wouldn’t make it until fall.

Two scenes pop into mind

–                          a man in ruffles and hose, a coach rumbling over dirt then cobblestones, the sweaty flanks of dappled horses and

–                          a man in a Burberry trench coat, a limousine muscling down Fifth Avenue, the sweat and dirt of homeless men on 44th Street.

Both men are eager to reach their bookies, one working for the 18th century Lloyd’s, the other on 21st century Wall Street. One wants to bet on the death date of the enemy king, the other on that of a company’s employees.

Yes, in the 21st century U.S., companies can wager on the death dates of employees. It happens because a company can take out life insurance policies (nicknamed janitor’s insurance) – without an employee even knowing it. If the employee dies, the company collects. Some of these policies extend beyond a person’s employment with a company, so that it’s not “if” but “when” the former employee dies that determines the cash award. If I understand it right, bunches of these policies get bundled together and offered to investors.

That’s just messed up.

As messed up as it was back in 1715, when the English ambassador treated the impending death of a country’s leader as a situation no more significant than a horse race.

Louis died in September. The ambassador won. I cringe at the word “won.” Perhaps it would be better to say, the ambassador collected on his wager.

Sometimes, one wishes that the more things changed, the less they stayed the same.