Prying into Antoine Boisvert’s Life

Excerpt of an inventory of Antoine Boisvert's estate, February 26, 1835.  Housed at the National Library and Archives of Quebec.

Excerpt of an inventory of Antoine Boisvert’s estate, February 26, 1835. Housed at the National Library and Archives of Quebec.

Time for research and writing has been in short supply this summer but I did start to look into the estate inventory completed after my GGgreat grandfather, Antoine Boisvert, died of cholera in 1834.  As I scan through the document, it appears to go through everything in his home (kitchen, bedroom, attic), his closets (linen, clothing), yard (outbuildings, animals, farm goods), and finances (cash, debts, loans, community property rights, and titles.)  I find myself wondering if he would have wanted me to know such detail about his worldly goods.  Is what he had private?  Could a dead man care?

As a living person, I hate to think of what would be discovered if I was suddenly cut off from life.  All the things that I have held on to because I might get to them sometime (art supplies, cross country skies.)  All the things I have repeatedly purchased because I have failed to keep the clutter at bay (I recently found 4 sets of freezer pop molds in a cabinet clear-out.)   All the unfinished projects (my poor kids’ scrapbooks.)

But as a historian, I love what the details reveal to me about Antoine’s life and times.  In my brief time with this document I have discovered that he owned a wooden clock, many chests and axes, and dishes made of iron and tin.  In my mind, these items indicate that Antoine was a pragmatic farmer with dreams of becoming more than he was.  I imagine this because the clock he owned was valued more than anything else in his inventory besides livestock.  And what use did a farmer have for a clock in the 1830s – to account for time in a factory, to get to the train on time.  Neither is likely that early in the century.

I wish I could know more about Antoine’s life but it is a struggle to read the inventory.  It is hand-written in French.  “F” before “s” was still used to indicate “ss.”  Some of the words are either advanced vocabulary or specific to the era – and I can’t find any meaning for them.  I wish reading wasn’t such a chore.

If Antoine did care about his privacy, his details seem pretty safe from me.


This is a complete version of the inventory: 1835 Boisvert Antoine inventory  If you have any luck translating this document, I would love to hear about it!

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