Tangled Root: Anne Leodet

"Veuve" or widow of Jean Nepveu, Anne Leodet's land in Sillery, 1663.  Source: excerpt from a map found in Marcel Trudel's Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.

“Veuve” or widow of Jean Nepveu, Anne Leodet’s land in Sillery, 1663. Source: excerpt from a map found in Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.

You might have noticed in the last post that Anne Leodet was listed as widow of Jean Nepveu in the 1666 census.  She was also listed as the widow of Jean Nepveu on the Sillery map of 1663 in Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.   But Peter Gagne’s The Filles a Marier and the PRDH both note that Anne Leodet’s marriage to Jean Nepveu was annulled due to a bigamy conviction.  So was she part of a bigamist relationship or not?

My confusion rests on the use of the word “widow.”  Today, the word is reserved for women whose spouses have died.  Was the word “widow” used more broadly in the seventeenth century?  Or was it that they, like us, have no alternative that could be used to label a betrayed woman.  Maybe “widow” was all they had to explain Leodet’s situation (woman given title to her former husband’s land.)

Curiously, Anne Leodet was not the only one in her community to have marriage troubles.  The lord of the manor, Denis-Joseph Ruette D’Auteuil, also had a complicated married life.  He married Claire-Françoise Clément Du Vuault who ran off with Charles Cadieu while he was away in France in 1650.  Some say that she eloped with Cadieu, elsewhere it is suggested that Cadieu kidnapped her.  Either way, in 1657, Du Vuault managed to obtain a separation of property, left for France, and never returned.  The 1666 census is silent on the matter.  D’Auteuil is listed as head of household with his son and six servants, but not a peep is made about his wife or what her absence meant for his social identity.

This second situation confirms the existence of language issues in formal documents for me (what label do you use for an abandoned husband?)  And it also makes me think that the historical record is difficult to decipher for other reasons too.  There was probably some level of damage control going on.  People had reputations and livelihoods at stake.  Those that persisted (or maybe their descendants) might have worked hard to spin the story into a more favorable light.

Does anybody have any idea of how to figure out if the bigamy incident is real or not?


For more on D’Auteuil and Du Vuault, look here for the elopement story, and here for the kidnapping story (the dates are off by a decade here but I think that is a typo.)  Neither story provides much detail but together they go to show that multiple interpretations exist for the same bits of fact.

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4 thoughts on “Tangled Root: Anne Leodet

  1. Sue Goodman says:

    I’m sure you have found this out by now, but Anne Ledet was innocently caught in a bigamous marriage. Jean had apparently been told his wife in France was dead, or so he said. He was convicted and expelled for good from Quebec, so I guess his story wasn’t believable; the marriage was annulled by the Church. Since she was the innocent party and they had children, perhaps calling her a widow was a kindness, a way to protect her reputation and that of their children. I am directly descended from both Jean the toad through their daughter Barbe Neveu and Gilles Pinel through their daughter Marie Catherine Pinel

    • I have heard about the bigamist Jean Neveu, his wife Anne Ledet, and daughter Barbe. I wrote about them here and here. I descend from Barbe Neveu. She was the maternal great grandmother of Louis Boisvert, born 1732 in Ste. Croix. Cool that you are related to the half-sisters!

  2. Christina says:

    Denis’s wife did commit bigamy No she was NOT kidnapped as i am a decedent of Claire and Denis and have a book written after MUCH research about our family and we are unable as well to find anything on Claire after she went back to France i am so disappointed if anyone has any info on her and what she did after we would be VERY appreciative

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