Children of Jean Ouimet disinherited by Renée Gagnon
By Denis Ouimet (3)
Translated by Marc Ouimet (155)
To disinherit one’s children! Which ones? And why ? An eye-catching title for sure but also a family drama whatever the epoch. Here’s why we’re interested in those two questions. A passage in a recently published article in the «Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française (MSGCF) (1) » or [Memoirs of the French-Canadian Genealogical Society] by Mr. Raymond Ouimet, roused our interest. Many years ago, Father Germain Ouimet, at the time, president of the Association, had conveyed paleographical interpretations of notarized and religious documents of which one in particular related this unfortunate situation. In fact, on the 13th April 1695, in front of Royal Notary Louis Chambalon, Renée Gagnon, widow of the late Jean Ouimet (deceased since the 18th November 1687), bestows upon the Québec General Hospital her half of the three arpents of frontage located in the parish of Sainte-Famille de l’Île d’Orléans. We’ll mention the other half further down. Renée Gagnon is now 52 years old since a few days, namely the 8th April of that same year. Following, is the passage of the notarized document that we have selected, relating the predicament of Renée Gagnon:
«well on in years, ill health; furthermore, she doesn’t get help from her children, which natural inclination and friendship should suggest on the contrary that disrespect and ungratefulness on their part have plunged her into sorrows that made her experience very little solace that parents are supposed to expect from their denatured children; which made her realize that the small estate that God has given her is insufficient to support her for the rest of her life» (sic).
Let us point out certain words, ideas and expressions: well on in years, help from children, disrespect and ungratefulness, sorrows, denatured as well as support her for the rest of her life.
Underneath, the passage from Mr. Raymond Ouimet’s article:
«What fault did Louis Bolduc commit? To this day, we have yet to find a document permitting us to confirm it positively. One thing is certain, the fault or faults had to be important, because in those days, one could not disinherit a child easily. Only a just cause could exclude a child from the inheritance of his parents. That exclusion, called «exheredation», had to be done by last will and testament or by a document signed in front of a notary, and in «clear & formal words». The law of the ancient regime then foresaw fourteen just causes:
- if the child has hit the mother and father
- if the child has tried to murder his parents
- if the child has denounced any of his parents’ crimes
- if by delation he or she causes the parents to be condemned to heavy fines
- if the child has insulted or abused his parents atrociously
- if he has had carnal relations with his mother-in-law
- if the child prevented his mother or father from making their will
- if the child has refused to bail out from prison his mother and father
- if the child, even if he has the means, refuses to pay the ransom for his mother or father prisoners of the Algerians
- if a child neglects to take care of his mother or father while they are suffering from dementia
- if a child is associated to a wrong-doer
- if a child is a gladiator or a juggler, unless the father has the same profession
- if a daughter whose parents wanted to marry her and give her a dowry has preferred to live a life of debauchery
- if the child of a catholic becomes heretic
A fifteenth cause had been added to those fourteen above causes: «if a girl younger than 25 years old or a boy younger than 30 years old decides to get married without the consent of the parents, or if they’re over 25 and 30 but have not done respectful summons to their parents in front of a notary.
During the French regime, the age of majority was 25 for the girls and 30 for the boys. In 1695, two of the seven children born from the union of Jean Ouimet and Renée Gagnon are married and certainly left the family home to settle down elsewhere and start a family; Marguerite, married at the age of 21 to François Turcot/Turcault since 1688 and Louis, married at the age of 29 to Marie-Anne Genest dit Labarre since 1693. These two would not be implicated. Thus, the fifteenth cause, described above, doesn’t seem to be reason for Renée Gagnon to disinherit her children. Summing up: in 1695, the five other surviving children, all single, are still living in the family nest: Jean (33), Marie-Madeleine (22), Jacques (19), Jeanne (16) and Pierre (12). Ever since their father passed away in the Fall of 1687, they all worked at maintaining the family. They are old enough to see to the numerous tasks on the family farm.
Let us go back to the other half of the land with three arpents of frontage. The document written by Notary Chambalon indicates clearly the location of the said land and he adds «the residence is to be separated between the minor children of the late Ouimet and her; half and half, and one horse and two oxen which are hers and are presently at the said residence and which she promises to bring shortly to the said General Hospital...» (sic). The rest of the document explains that Renée Gagnon gives herself and her estate to the Québec General Hospital. In return, the Québec General Hospital pledges to pay the quit-rent and rent of the said property; Renée Gagnon will receive food, lodging, laundry and be well-maintained (whether healthy or sick). Furthermore, after her death, she will be buried and prayers will be said for the salvation of her soul.
Here is what we assume. Let us go back to the third paragraph of our article and more precisely to words we have picked out: well on in years, help from her children, lack of respect and gratitude, sorrows, denatured as well as to feed and support for the rest of her life. Summing it up, it seems that all of the children, whatever their age (12 to 33 years old), haven’t treated their mother properly. If we compare Mr. Raymond Ouimet’s list to what is written in the third paragraph of our article, it seems that help from the children added to the idea of feeding and taking care of their mother was synonymous to lack of respect and gratitude and consequently to sorrows she was feeling. Besides, unfortunate events also happened to come and break the family harmony. Which ones? The expression «denatured children» could be an indication. We explain it by using the word ungratefulness, because it is a question of lack of respect and gratitude... by one or more of the children. The combination of those causes could have convinced her to see a notary to guarantee her upkeep in her olden days. It was an important preoccupation at that time just like it is today. Today, most people prepare for their retirement with pension funds and live in retirement homes (subsidized or not). In the olden days, a couple’s offsprings made sure their parents had a peaceful end of life.