15 Mar

This week’s #52ancestors prompt is large family.

This week is spring break, and my large family of seven is all under one roof again.

I made the trip to Syracuse to pick up my daughter. I never mind the drive, six hours of uninterrupted podcasts and audiobooks, what more could I ask for.

On the trip, I listen to This American Life episode 668 The Long Fuse. Part of the episode was about an eccentric lawyer named Charles Vance Miller. Mr. Miller stipulated in his will that  “At the expiration of 10 years from my death, give it and its accumulations to the mother who has, since my death, given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children, as shown by the registrations under the Vital Statistics Act,"

Basically, he set off a baby making competition in the city of Toronto, in the midst of the Great Depression. The story was fascinating. I highly recommend it. The story inspired me, for this week’s blog. 

Mr. Millers was not the first man to encourage the woman of Canada to get busy.

Almost all us who trace our linage to Canada, will find we are descended from an amazing group of women known as the fille du roi. I personally have 4 of these women in my tree…so far. I am not being dramatic when I say these women, along with their spouses of course, populated Canada.

King Louis XIV and Jean Talon established the program as a simple solution, to a vexing problem. In order to colonize...you needed colonists. Most of the French citizens in New France at the time fell into a few categories: Priests, nuns, fur traders, and soldiers. The equation did not make for any great population boost. Furthermore at this time, the Carignan-Salieres Regiment was being demobilized and Louis need a reason to keep them there. All were offered the chance to remain, if they did, they were given a grant of 50 livres and a year's worth of supplies. More than 400 of the regiment accepted the offer,  but they needed wives.

Between 1663 and 1673 over 750 women were sent to New France at the expense of the crown. They were transported to New France and given a 50 Livres dowry and a trousseau. Each received a chest with a comb, two coiffes, a belt; a pair of hose, a pair of shoes, a pair of gloves, a bonnet, shoelaces, and four sets of laces. Also inside were a sewing Kit containing 100 needles, a case and thimble, white and grey thread, scissors, pins, two knives, and cloth fine enough to make handkerchiefs, collars, wimples and pleated sleeves. For woman of that time, the filles du roi had extraordinary freedom. They had free range to be courted and picked the husband of their choice all under the watchful eyes of nuns.

Once a husband was chosen, babies followed. Besides the fact they were strict Catholics, the families of New France had multiple incentives to have large families.

"The girls sent last year are married and almost all of them are with child or have had children already, a sign of the fertility of this country, " wrote Jean Talon to the king, in 1670. Jean Talon actively encouraged their fertility, decreeing in an edict on April 5 1669 that “all inhabitants having 10 living children, born of a lawful marriage, not priests, monks, or nuns, will be paid a pension of 300 livres a year; and for those having 12 (children), 400 livres more; furthermore, all boys who marry at the age of 20 years or less and to girls of 16 years and less, will be paid 20 pounds each on their wedding day."

Four of my ancestors are among these women:

Marie Barbant

8x great grandmother


Husbands: Jean DeLalonde and Peirre Tabault 

She was born in 1648, in Sainte-Remi de Dieppe in Rouen, Normandie. She was the daughter of Alexandre Barbant and Marie LeNoble. She brought with her a dowry of 200 livres. She married Jean Delalonde, a former Carignan Solider, on Nov 14 1669. Marie was the 4th fille Jean tried to marry. The three months before, he had three marriage contracts drawn up, all with filles, and it “didn’t work out” the contracts were annulled.…as I said these ladies had their pick.

The couple had 5 children, only 2 of which were surviving, when on September 30, 1687, the family was changed forever. Jean was attacked and killed by the Indians.

Being a widow long in New France, was not done. Marie married a second time to Pierre Tabault. He was also a Carignan Solider.

Guillaume Lalonde, the son of Marie and Jean, married the Deerfield captive Sarah Allen, discussed in the blog on February 3 2019.

Marguerite Girard

8x Great Grandmother


Husbands: Pierre Forcier and Rene Abraham  

Marguerite married Pierre Forcier in 1674. The couple had 7 children when Pierre was also killed by Indians in 1690. Marguerite remarried a widower Rene Abraham. They went on two have four children. I descend through their son, Jean Baptiste Abraham dit Deamaretes. Marquerite died 7 August 1695.

Charlotte Roussel

9x Great Grandmother

1646 (sources vary)-Aug 1689 (disputed)

Husband: Pierre Francois Gauthier dit Saguingoira 

Charlotte arrived in New France and married Pierre Gauthier on 12 Nov 1668. Pierre was a Coureurs des Bois. He was a fur trader. They settled in the relatively new settlement Lachine and had 8 children. On 4 August 1689, the Iroquois launched a night time raid on the town a Lachine. 80% of the colony was burned to the ground. 24 residents were killed, over 70 were taken prisoner. Pierre and Charlotte were among them. Rene Cuillerier took guardianship of their 4 minor children. Charlotte died at some point in her captivity, it is unclear when, but we know that Pierre returned alone on 22 Jan 1698, after 8 years in captivity. He died 4 years later. I am descended directly from two of their 8 children. Joseph Gauthier who married Clemence Jarry and Marie Josephine Gauthier who married Joseph Poirier.

Marie Theresa Viel 

9x Great Grandmother

4 April 1650-28 Jul 1710

Husbands: Etienne Boyer dit LaFontine, 

Lover: Medard Chouart des Groseilleirs 

I saved Marie Theresa for last because her story is like a soap opera. She came to New France in June 1671. In October of that year she married Etienne Boyer. He was a Carignan soilder. I believe Marie was from a family of means, as she not only had her 50 livres from the king,  but also property valued at 300 livres. She and Etienne had three children by 1675. After this birth, for reasons which I do not know,  Marie travel back to France. There is some evidence that it was to claim an inheritance. When she returned to New France, in 1676 she was pregnant.

Marie must have told her husband about her pregnancy, and he was loyal, because her was at her side as she issued a complaint accusing Medard Chouart des Groseilliers, the explorer, of fathering her illegitimate child.  (see more on Medard on Wikipedia here)

The baby, Jeanne Elizabeth, was baptized 14 January 1677 in Quebec.

The case went to court on August 17, 1677.

Marie Theresa described in detail her relations with Medard in La Rochelle, France. She said they met several times, at his request, at the house of a lady Clement, where he was staying. She stated she was ready to swear an oath that Medard had fathered the child, and that she had “seen him several times. "

Medard admitted to the relationship. He stated it occurred in France in La Rochelle at the home of the gunsmith, Marie was staying with. He denied being the father of the baby though, claiming Marie had “seen many men.” The court fined him for having damaged Marie Theresa Viel’s reputation but ordered Etienne Boyer to raise the child.

 Etienne did raise Jeanne Elizabeth, and he had Marie went on to have 10 more children! If he was not a loyal husband, I may not be here. My 8x great grandfather Jean Etienne Boyer was born 3 years after the scandal.

Marie continued to be a fire cracker though. She apparently had an altercation with another fille du roi in August 1699. Marie Theresa accused Madeline Bailey, of being a flirt. Madeline  did not take it well and tore off Marie Theresa hat. They ended up in court, where Madeline was ordered to replace the hat and they were both warned not to speak ill of each other. The women were almost 50 years old at the time. 

Etienne Boyer died on 3 October 1700, that’s when my feistiest files du roi returned to France, where she remained until she died.





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