Tag Archives: new france

Tangled Root: Louise Gareman’s Burial

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I am not sure what this says in English, French, or Latin (though I a pretty sure it is French.) If you are good at deciphering handwriting, or translating New France vital records, I could use some help. Anything that I don’t know or I am not sure of I have enclosed in brackets [].

The side notation is Burial Louise Gareman.

The text is:

The [___] of the month of September of the year 1683 Louise, daughter of Charles Garland and of Marie Gonnentenre…

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age of about six years and dead at the [Urusuline Pensioners Home] of this village [___] the body [___] was buried the [seventeenth of the previous month] in the cemetery of this parish [___] [at this burial] Alexandre Doucet and Jean Francois Buisson [who sign below].

One other question — why is that name in the upper corner. It is uncommon to have a name floating in the top corner of a page. It says [___] [Lotbiniere].

This burial seems pretty straight forward — the most interesting bit to me is that Louise Gareman is given the curtesy of a side notation, which was rarely afforded natives, but they must consider her French because of her father. I am not clear if this record indicates that Louise lived at the convent or elsewhere. And I am not sure why there were people listed as in attendance at her burial.

If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.

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Greenwood: Gannonchiase and Gonnentenre


An imagining (@1931) of the early (@1640) Ursuline nuns with their Indian students. MIKAN 2895625

I found a squaw in the family. My Nanny always said that her great uncle married one, but the one I found was in the seventeenth, not the nineteenth century.

Her name is Marie Gonnetenre and she was Oneida.

I love that I can say her name and not just refer to her anonymously as a slur.

I am aware of few documents that can tell me anything about her life. I know her husband was born French but lived Oneida. This began on 10 June 1653, when it is noted in the Jesuit Relations (volume 38) that:

The Iroquois having appeared at Cap Rouge, kill Francois Boule, having pierced him with three gunshots, — in the stomach, in the groin, and in the thigh, — and having removed half of his scalp…. Besides, the lead away alive Pierre Garman, called “Le Picard,” and his son, Charles, 8-years-old; also a young man, Hugues Le Cousturier, of 23 years. They crossed the river again in five canoes.

Charles Gareman’s baptism is recorded at Trois Rivieres on March 27, 1643. He had three older sisters . The two born in France both named a son Charles after his disappearance. Florence (Boucher) in 1658 and Nicole (Mezere) in 1672. The youngest, Marguerite (Trut), only bore girls. I assume this means he was missed and not forgotten.

But Charles didn’t come back until 1677 when he and Marie Gonnetenre baptized their daughter, Louise on June 14th. This is the record that provides so much for the imagination.

But before I get to that, there is one more record, and one last known fact: Louise was buried on September 7, 1683 as a ward of the Ursalines in Quebec.

It is this latter record that suggests that Charles and Marie and left her behind with the Ursalines for raising. But why?

All sorts of things are possible: Charles and Marie had died, Charles and Marie were about to die, or Charles and Marie went on to live long lives in Pays-d’en-haut (the upper country where the French traded but rarely lived.)

When I first saw Louise’s baptism, I thought Charles wanted a Christian upbringing for his child, that maybe he had come home for a family reunion. But now I think it is more likely that he wasn’t interested in returning as much as the French were interested in his return. After all, it took him 24 years to show up.

And I think he did show up, even though there is no wording to say that he was present at his daughter’s baptism. I believe this mostly because in the baptismal record he is recorded as Charles Gareman dit Gannonchiase. Gannonchiase, his Oneida name, is not listed on the burial record. Therefore I imagine he was present for the first event and had a chance to represent himself.

And then my heart breaks. I can’t imagine bringing a child to Quebec and leaving her behind. But I imagine the French were thrilled to have her. They were always on the lookout for conversion successes — and what better candidate than a boy who did not come back’s daughter.

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Drouin Institute records. Notre Dame de Quebec, 14 June 1677.

And then I wonder about coercion. I wonder if the donation of this child was the price Gannonchiase and Gonnetenre had to pay for his continued freedom to live in Oneida country. I am not sure that the couple valued Christianity because Marie is referred to as a sauvagesse not indienne — and this might indicate that she is not Christian like the name Marie (the most generic of all Christian women’s names, literally most women had this as a first name) suggests.


I also wonder if sacrificing their daughter was the cost of their freedom because Louise’s godfather is none other than the governor of New France (1672-1682, and again 1689-1698), Louis de Buade de Frontenac.

Now maybe my imagination has run away with me, maybe sauvagesse and indienne are synonyms, and maybe the governor was the symbolic godfather to all native daughters entering the Ursaline’s care. I haven’t seen enough  similar but unrelated documents to judge the pattern yet.

But on this Columbus Day my mind is wandering with Gannonchiase and Gonnetenre.

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Baby Naming

Barbe and Suzanne always stood apart in the Pinel family. They were children of another man, the one Anne had married before she married Gilles in 1657.

Barbe and Suzanne’s names have always been a bit of a mystery to me. From researching church records, I gained a sense that their names didn’t carry the same New France flavor as their half siblings’. And it turns out that my impression wasn’t unfounded. This site  (in French) offers a list of the most popular names in seventeenth century Canada.

Barbe and Suzanne’s names are not on the list but almost all of their Pinel siblings’ names do appear: Catherine (6th), Francoise (8th), Marie Madeleine (3rd), Francois Xavier (Francois was 4th), Anne (5th), Nicolas (9th), and Jean (2nd). Only two Pinel children, Elisabeth Ursale and Guillaume, were given names that were not among the top ten names in popularity for their time and location.

But data on name popularity doesn’t end there. The PRDH offers a page explaining naming conventions in New France. Their data covers both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and therefore is not as precise. However, in addition to providing a list of the top 25 names for both sexes, they offer a widget in the section on frequent first names that will tell you the popularity of any name in old Quebec prior to 1800. Through the PRDH we can learn the rank of the less popular names Anne Ledet gave to her children: Elisabeth (30th), Guillaume (59th), Suzanne (66th), and Barbe (136th.) The Nepveu children lose again….

So why were Barbe and Suzanne given such rare names when their half-siblings got more ordinary ones.

Were Barbe and Suzanne French names that lost favor among parents the longer they stayed in the new world — like the Jennifers and Michelles of the 1980s we rarely see in the 2010s. Were Barbe and Suzanne evidence of a divide between Anne’s dreamy and reckless youth, when a girl could pack up and move to a new country and reinvent herself, and her matron years, cowed to convention after the conviction of her first husband for bigamy. Or does the switch simply indicate different choices made by one woman in compromise with the varied taste of two different men.

Definitive answers are going to be impossible to discover.  So, to make this easier for any descendent that might come along 10 generations from now who is curious about my naming preferences, my husband and I chose names that were purposely neither among the most popular nor the most obscure, had familial meaning, and a nice ring to them.

What naming strategies did you use for your children – and are your naming strategies common in your family tree?

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Seventeenth Century Single Mom Seeks Husband

To be single and raising two young kids is considered a disadvantage in today’s dating market, but it didn’t seem to hinder Anne Leodet’s ability to remarry in seventeenth century New France.  What made her a catch?

I like to think it was her easy personality and strong work ethic (I think you would need both for the life she led) – but I have no way to prove either.

I can see other factors though…

  1. She was a woman in a community in which there were two men for every woman.
  2. She was a proven fertile and capable mother.
  3. She owned the land that had belonged to Jean Nepveu.  (lot # 14 )
Nepveu land in Sillery, 1663.  Source: excerpt from a map found in Marcel Trudel's Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.

Nepveu land in Sillery, 1663. Source: excerpt from a map found in Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.

These factors (plus my imaginings of her easy personality and strong work ethic) would have made Anne a good catch.

I like to imagine that Anne was a savvy woman too.  She remarried in 1657 but the land remained in her name in 1663 (and probably remained in her name until they sold it and left for Neuville @1680.)  Also, she married a man who had land himself.  Gilles Pinel sold his plot to Jean Routhier (lot #16) two months before their marriage, perhaps to make himself more suitable to her, perhaps to consolidate resources, perhaps to work behind the fort which was still used to protect the community from hostile Iroquois attacks.


Information on land records came from Marcel Trudel’s  Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent en 1663, Ottawa, Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa, 1973

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Primary Resource: Canada in the 1660s

In 1664, Pierre Boucher published (in French) A True and Genuine Description of New France, Commonly Called Canada, and of the Manners and Customs and Productions of that Country. Boucher’s history of Canada was translated into English and re-published by Edward Louis Montizambert in 1883 for all of us non-French speakers to read.

Pierre Boucher.  Photocredit: Wikipedia

Pierre Boucher. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Pierre Boucher emigrated to Canada with his father as a teenager in the 1630s and rose to become a prominent public figure.  His 1664 history, which he published while Governor of Trois-Rivieres, described European settlements in New France — and the land, trees, animals, birds, fish, grains, and natives — around them.  His book intended to further encourage the settlement of New France but he did admit to four inconveniences in the new world: Iroquois aggression, mosquitos, long winters, and rattlesnakes.

As you read through Boucher’s history you can pick up a lot about what life must have been like for seventeenth century habitants.  For example:

Having mentioned the winters, I shall say a few words of the seasons. Properly speaking, there are only two to be reckoned here, for we pass suddenly from great heat to great cold; therefore, we speak only of Winter and Summer.  Winter begins immediately after All Saints Day [November 1]; that is to say, frosts begin then, and some time after comes the snow, which lies on the ground until about the fifteenth of April, in ordinary years, and later than that in others; but usually it is about the sixteenth that the ground becomes free from snow, and in a state to put forth plants and to be ploughed.

While much of this information might be unsurprising to a modern Canadian, I am intrigued by how his words speak to the priorities of his world.  From the passage I quoted above, I love the way both faith and pragmatism informed Boucher’s knowledge of local farming.

For those of you who are curious to read more descriptions of early Canada, you can gain access to the translated version of Boucher’s history for free through Google books.

For those of you tracing the lives of early Canadian ancestors, it is important to note that Boucher (though well-traveled) spent most of his life about 80 miles west of Quebec.  Still, Boucher was sensitive to the variations of Canadian experience so there is much to glean in his book about what it was like to live in 1660s New France.

And for those of you who share ancestors with me, it is also curious to note that Pierre is probably a relative.  His father, Gaspard, is thought to be the brother or cousin of another famous founding settler, Marin Boucher.  And Marin Boucher was the brother of Jeanne Boucher who married Thomas Hayot, and whose daughter, Anne, married the first Canadian Boisvert, Etienne.  From my generation looking back, Pierre Boucher is reputed to be a first or second cousin 10x removed.


Greg Rogers’ academic paper, “Eden with Iroquois,” puts Boucher’s history into its context (and therefore might help you distinquish fact from seventeenth century bias when reading Boucher.) Roger’s paper can be found here.

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