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Marie-Madelaine Ouimet (1672-1702), second of our Ancestors daughter, servant in Quebec City in 1695

By Pierre Ouimet

Translated by Marc Ouimet (155)





    Jean Houymet and Renée Gagnon begot nine children: six boys and three girls. Marie Ouimet is their second daughter. The life of her three brothers, Jean, Louis and Pierre, as well as her sister Marguerite, who all had offsprings, is quite well documented. On the other hand, we hardly know anything about Marie, except for the date of her birth, her christening and her death.


    Marie was born on the 20th April 1672 on the Isle of Orléans and was baptized on the 24th of the same month in the parish of Sainte-Famille, and was named Marie-Madeleine. When she died on the 4th December 1702 in Québec City, Marie was only 30 years old. Many questions haunt our thoughts. What was the cause of her death? Where did she live during her short 30 year life? Why did she remain single? Similar questions are in order in the case of her younger sister Jeanne, born on the 14th June 1679 and dead at 36 years old. The celibacy of her brother Jacques is equally enigmatic.


    While we were recently perusing the inventory of the Québec City Provostship (1), we learned that in the Spring of 1695, Marie was working as a servant for Pierre Duroy, a Québec City merchant. Indeed, on the 27th and 28th May, she was summoned to court in an investigation concerning a certain LaSalle. The previous day, Pierre Duroy and his wife Marguerite Levasseur had appeared in court as witnesses in an inquiry. Following are copies of the summons concerning Marie:


«27th May 1695. Upon request of the King’s prosecutor, Marie Ouimet, servant of Pierre Duroy and his wife, is summoned to tell the truth in an inquiry. Signed Prieur».

«28th May 1695. Upon request of the King’s prosecutor, Pierre Duroy and his wife Marguerite Levasseur, along with their servant Marie Ouimet, are summoned to verify their previous testimony against a certain LaSalle, prisoner in Québec City. Signed Prieur» (2).


    It can only be the daughter of Jean Houymet and Renée Gagnon. Louis, Marie’s older brother married Marie-Anne Genest in 1693. In 1695, they have only one sixteen month old son. Marie-Anne is pregnant with a girl who will be named Marie when she is born in September. Therefore, it cannot be her. Marguerite, Marie’s older sister, is married to François Turcot since 1688, but the children bear evidently the Turcot name. In 1695, all of Marie’s other brothers and sisters are single. Consequently, Marie Ouimet whose name appears in those two writ of summons, can only be Jean and Renée’s daughter.


    Who are Pierre Duroy and Marguerite Levasseur for whom Marie works? We know that Pierre and Marguerite were married in Québec City on the 21st February 1689. Pierre is a middle-class merchant and butcher, originally from the Lisieux region in Normandy, where he was born. When Marguerite was born in 1667, her parents were residing in Château-Richer. They moved to Québec City around 1675, after spending three years in L’Ange-Gardien. In May 1695, Pierre and Marguerite already have five children and are expecting the stork in July. With her family and responsibilities, it is without a doubt that Marguerite is very much counting on Marie Ouimet to help her in her daily tasks.


    At the time of the trial, Marie is 23 years old. Since when is she working for Duroy and how many years will she stay there? We do not know. It seems nevertheless plausible that she stayed there until her death, since she is the only member of the family to have been buried in Québec City, on the 4th December 1702. The burial certificate does not show the date of her death, and does not give any indication which could lead us to believe that she was still working as a servant for the Duroy family. According to the register, the only three persons present at the funeral were the priest François Dupré, along with the sacristans Jean Dubreuil and Jacques Michelon.


    As for the cause of death, it is most probable that she was a victim of the epidemic of smallpox raging in Québec City since the end of November. The records of the Québec Hôtel-Dieu hospital (3) impute that epidemic to an indian chief who came to die in Québec City and was given a solemn funeral. Furthermore, the records of the Ursulines sisters specify that the disease was accompanied by severe complications. The ravages caused by the epidemic even compelled intendant Beauharnois to order the closing of the Provostship for a period of six months.


Footnotes :

1. The Provostship of Québec City was at the time, a royal court for civil and criminal trials. It also served as an appeals court for seigniorial justice in the Government of Québec.


2. Inventory of the Provostship of Québec City (1688-1759), Tome 49, RANQ, 1971.


3. Dom Janet edition, p. 308.

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