Bigamy is always bad when found on Facebook. But what about when you discover it on Ancestry?
There are two bigamists in my family tree. The easily discovered, Pierre Pichet, and the shadowy, Jean Nepveu.
Pierre Pichet came to Canada in 1662 with the intention to settle in and send for Marie LaFebvre, the wife he left behind. All was going according to plan until his brother Louis sent him a letter and revealed that his wife had died. Thinking his first life over, Pierre moved to build a second one. He arranged a marriage with fille du roi Catherine Durand in 1665. Six years and three kids later, a newly arrived countryman insisted that Marie was not dead.
Pierre has a reputation as a “good bigamist” – and I believe that is because of what happened next. He ran off to the local bishop to ask for advice. The bishop said he was going to France soon and would check the story out for him. In time, when Pierre learned that his first wife was indeed alive, he abandoned his second family, sailed for France, and brought Lefebvre back with him.
Less is known about Jean Nepveu. The gist of his story goes like this: In 1645, Jean arranged to go to Canada. In 1653, he arranged to marry fille du marier, Anne Ledet. They had two daughters before he was returned to France in 1656 or 1657. Jean’s crime is revealed by the fact that Anne was allowed to remarry after he left. In a seventeenth century Catholic country, “until death do we part” was taken seriously. There was no other way out of a legitimate marriage contract. Jean was not dead, so the marriage contract must have been invalidated.
When I think of bigamy, I think of tv dramas and the betrayal of someone living multiple lives – perhaps a traveling salesman with families in two or three of the cities he frequents. But in looking for bigamy on Facebook and Ancestry, the crime appears much more mundane. In fact, bigamy seems like an act of hope for a better future committed by people who don’t end their previous relationships officially because they are either too broke or lazy (Facebook) or have no legitimate path to take (Ancestry.)
Except in the case of Pierre Pichet where misinformation set him up for a major oopsie-daisie.
- Rene Jette, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec, des origines à 1730. Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1983.
- Peter J. Gagne, King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: the Filles du Roi, 1663-1673, Quinton Publications, 2001.
- Peter J. Gagne, Before the King’s Daughters: The Filles a Marrier, 1634-1662, Quinton Publications, 2002.
- Time spent on Ancestry looking at other people’s family trees.