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Renée Gagnon's Family,

our Maternal Ancestor


by Pierre Ouimet (207)

Translated by Marc Ouimet (155)




    Renée Gagnon marries Jean Houymet in Château-Richer in the Fall of 1660. When Jean leaves the Champagne province (France), his parents have already passed away, and as far as we know he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters. If he has any, they never came to New France to settle down. It is therefore easy to imagine that the Gagnon family will play an important role in his life and the lives of his children. Family relations will develop with our ancestor’s in-laws. We will follow the history of this pioneer family from its departure in the Perche (France), right up to 1660, when our maternal ancestor, Renée Gagnon, gets married.


The Gagnons leave the Perche


    At the time that Renée is born, her parents are already established on the Côte of Beaupré and have been for a number of years. Her father, Jean Gagnon, is originally from Tourouvre, in the Perche province, and her mother, Marguerite Cauchon (Cochon), is from Dieppe in Normandy. We don’t know when Jean Gagnon arrived in New France. His marriage on the Côte of Beaupré, on July 29th, 1640, is the first indication of his presence in Canada. No other document of the time mentions the date of his arrival. It doesn’t mean that Jean arrived during that year, but we have no other means of finding a more probable date. (1) When Jean Gagnon leaves France, he is living in La Ventrouze, a few kilometres from Tourouvre, in the Perche province, with his mother Renée Roger, three brothers, Mathurin, Pierre and Noël, along with his sister Mathurine. His older sister Marguerite, married to Éloi Tavernier for the past 12 years, lives in Randonnay, a nearby hamlet. As for his brother Louis, married in 1633, he’s just moved into his new house, also in La Ventrouze.


    Their deceased father was a plow-man by trade, which forced him to travel frequently, in order to serve his customers. When Jean was born in 1610, the Gagnon family was living in La Gagnonnière, a small hamlet about two kilometres from Tourouvre. Like all his brothers and sisters, Jean was baptized in the Saint-Aubin church in Tourouvre. Two years later, we find the Gagnons in La Ventrouze. Who convinced Jean Gagnon and his two brothers, Mathurin and Pierre, to come and settle down on the Côte of Beaupré? Many signs indicate that it could have been Noël Juchereau, a neighbour and most probably a friend of the family. The birth, marriage and death certificates of the Gagnons constantly show his presence at important events in their lives. Thus, on February 18th, 1633, he attends Louis Gagnon’s marriage. On the following  November 10th, when Louis buys a house in La Ventrouze, Noël Juchereau is a witness to this transaction, signed in the house of the widow, Renée Roger. He was also a witness to the marriage of Jean Gagnon, Renée’s father, and his brother Pierre’s marriage, in 1642, on the Côte of Beaupré.


    Noël Juchereau was born in Tourouvre and like the Gagnons, was baptized in Saint-Aubin church. He has a bachelor of law degree, is 40 years old and still single. His father is a clerk of the court, a wine dealer, but mostly a lumber dealer where forests prevail. Noël Juchereau and his brother Jean have inherited their father’s business savvy. When Robert Giffard, (from Mortagne) leader of immigration from the Perche to New France, requests their help as recruiting officers, Noël and Jean Juchereau will work and collaborate closely with him.


Settlement on the Côte of Beaupré


    Following a three year occupation of Québec City, Britain signs a peace treaty with France at Saint-Germain-en-Laye on March 29th, 1632. Champlain will be back in Québec City in May 1632. Robert Giffard who has already spent six years in Canada, is granted a seigniory at Beauport by the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of the Hundred Associates). The new lord immediately starts campaigning for new recruits. The Juchereau brothers are appreciated as collaborators and accompany him when he arrives in Québec City with a first group of settlers in June 1634.


    Is Jean Gagnon on board the ship with his brothers when it arrives in 1634? Mrs. Pierre Montagne has found no engagement contract, notarized in Tourouvre, for that year, nor for the following years, up until 1640. The Gagnon brothers’ engagement would have been a simple contract signed in private. According to Mrs. Montagne (2), the Gagnons were probably led to leave, in 1634, by Noël Juchereau and his brother Jean. Personally, I think Jean Gagnon and his brothers travelled with the 1636 fleet.


    Indeed, on January 15th, 1636, the Compagnie de Beaupré is granted the Seigniory of Beaupré and the Isle of Orleans. It stretched from Saint-Paul’s bay to the Montmorency River and comprised the Isle of Orléans. Noël Juchereau is one of the eight associates, and starts recruiting settlers for the seigniory. We can imagine that he invites the Gagnons to settle here, at that time, rather than in 1634.


    Raymond Gariepy, the specialist of the Côte of Beaupré, writes : « In 1640 at the latest, no doubt through the intervention of Derré de Grand or Noël Juchereau des Châtelets, the Compagnie de Beaupré had granted  the brothers Mathurin, Pierre and Jean Gagnon, the Saint-Charles estate, where they remained until the end of 1646. » Champlain had already exploited those vast natural and most fertile meadows, and built permanent settlements. Nicolas Pivert had lived there with his family. The lords of Beaupré did not want to sell this vast estate, and decided instead, to rebuild the farm named Saint-Charles, which had been destroyed by the Kirke brothers. The Gagnon brothers were probably hired to do the work, and then worked it under lease until 1646, when it was entrusted to Louis Gagné.


    Through Noël Juchereau’s intervention, the Gagnon brothers are granted tracts of land in commonalty, on the Côte of Beaupré, in the future parish of Château-Richer. Those grants were done verbally, in all likelihood, in 1640. The titles to those properties were not obtained until 1650 and even later in some cases. According to Lucien Campeau, the « censitaires » had to cooperate and live in groups, during the first few years :« Some of them had common housing like the Boissel, Drouin, Estienne, or the Macé-Gravel, Bélanger and Zacharie Cloutier families. Having no common housing, the Gagnons probably stayed at the Saint-Charles farm.» (3)


Jean Gagnon’s wedding


    Renée Gagnon’s parents were married at the farm in Cap Tourmente. Weddings are seldom held in private homes, and are imposed by necessity. Indeed, there is no chapel on the Côte of Beaupré, where you can find only about fifteen « censitaires » and their families. Since Québec City is close to 50 kilometres from Cap Tourmente, missionaries dispense religious services in that region. Furthermore, about a month earlier, the Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance church, built by Champlain near the fort in 1633, had burned down along with the presbytery and the registers.


    The marriage certificate will nevertheless be registered with the Notre-Dame parish in Québec City. It is stated that the missionary Nicolas Adam travelled to Beaupré and married them in the presence of Pierre Gardeur, Sieur de Repentigny, Noël Juchereau, Mr. Des Chastelets and Mr. Jean Bourdon. (4) Who are those individuals? Let us start with Father Nicolas Adam. He is one of numerous Jesuits who carry on their ministries on the Côte of Beaupré. Fathers Dequen, Lejeune and Charles Lalement are also part of the team covering this vast territory. Nicolas Adam arrived in 1636 on the same fleet as two of the witnesses: Noël Juchereau and Pierre Le Gardeur de Repentigny. But two months after his arrival, a malignant fever caused paralysis in his hands and feet. (5) In spite of being crippled and 52 years old, Father Adam seems to be the one travelling the most often to Beaupré. We are not surprised to find Noël Juchereau amongst the witnesses. Noël is there as a friend of the family and an employer. Don’t forget that he is a member of the Compagnie de Beaupré who owns the Saint-Charles farm. This gives him authority over the Gagnons for as long as the farm lease is in effect. Since Jean’s marriage can influence working conditions, Noël could have opposed it as per his contract. He did not. Could that be an indication that the lords of Beaupré are satisfied with their farmers?


    As for Jean Bourdon, originally from the city of Rouen, he has been here for the past six years. He marries Jacqueline Potel, one year after his arrival. In 1640, the couple already has two children, both baptized by Father Nicolas Adam. Bourdon is the land surveyor and engineer of this young developing colony. He is presently preparing a geographical map of the Côte of Beaupré which he hopes to finish within the next few months. It is the first time, since his arrival in the country, that Jean Bourdon is a witness to a marriage.


    Pierre Gardeur, Sieur de Repentigny is also, like Jean Bourdon, originally from northern Normandy. His whole family accompanied him on the 1636 fleet: his wife Marie Favery, his children, his mother, his brother Charles de Tilly, along with his sister and her husband, Jacques Le Neuf de la Potherie. It is the second time that Pierre Gardeur acts as a witness. Who are the other guests? Most certainly the groom’s two brothers: Pierre and Mathurin Gagnon and their mother, Renée Roger. Is she dead, like it says in the marriage certificate? It is certainly a mistake. She is in France, The proof: seven years later, her son Mathurin’s marriage contract states that she is present. Of course, the Cauchon family is at the wedding. The bride, Marguerite Cauchon, is originally from Saint-Jacques de Dieppe, in Normandy. Her mother died in childbirth: a son who also died three days later. In April 1633, barely two months later, her father marries Jeanne Abraham. In 1636, Jean Cauchon and Jeanne Abraham leave their native Normandy to sail off to New-France with their children: Marguerite (16 years old), Jean (14), Guillaume (12), Pierre (5) and Jacques (1). The four vessel fleet arrives in Québec City on June 11th, feast of Saint-Barnabé. Marguerite remembers that one of the ships had on board, the new governor, Charles Huault de Montmagny, successor to Champlain who died six months earlier. The fleet also has on board, six Jesuits, including Father Nicolas Adam. Noël Juchereau is also on board, returning to his country of adoption. If the boarding date of the Gagnon brothers is 1636, Jean has certainly met the Cauchon family. It may have been love at first sight when he saw pretty Marguerite.


Jeanne’s birth and uncle Pierre’s marriage


    In the summer of 1641, Marguerite Cauchon gives birth to a daughter, the first Gagnon to be born in New-France. Following custom, she will be named Jeanne, like her godmother Jeanne Abraham. Uncle Mathurin gladly accepts to be the godfather. On Thursday August 15th, the whole family is at Jean and Marguerite’s house. According to the register, it is in her father’s house that little Jeanne is baptized by Father Ambroise Davost, Jesuit missionary with the Hurons.


    The following year, it is Pierre Gagnon’s turn to get married. He is 30 years old and his spouse, Vincente Desvarieux, 22 years old, is the daughter of Jean and Marie Chevalier de Saint-Vincent d’Aubermail, Caux country in Normandy, where she was born. Her parents did not come to Canada. We do not know when and how she arrived in New-France. Amongst the witnesses, we again find Noël Juchereau, along with Jacques Boissel, a compatriot originally from the Perche. He owns land near the «Rivière aux Chiens», close to the Gagnon brothers. As for the third witness, Antoine Tabouret, it is impossible to identify him. He could be a servant.


    The marriage is blessed by Father François Bressani, an Italian Jesuit who arrived in Québec City barely two months earlier. He travelled with Father Paul Le Jeune who was returning from an important mission in Paris. Father Bressani, 30 years old, is the parish priest in Québec City while studying the Huron language with Father Jean de Brébeuf, and hopes to leave soon for Huron country.


    Less than a month later, the ships leave Québec City on October 7th and Mathurin Gagnon is on board for a visit to France to settle some business. He will take advantage of this trip to bring back his mother, Renée Roger and Marthe, his illegitimate daughter, born from his union with Vincente Gaulthier. He is travelling with Jean Juchereau and Olivier Letardif who also have some business to attend to in France. Father Le Jeune writes in the Jesuit Relations «the ships’ departure causes here a marvelous silence and turns everyone towards his family in a profound stillness. (7)


Birth and Baptism of Renée Gagnon


    Where do the Gagnon brothers spend the winter of 1642-1643? Mathurin is in France and Pierre and Jean both have a family. They might have had time to build a house on their grant of land near the «Rivière aux Chiens» and pass their first winter there. The next Spring and Summer, they certainly fulfill their farming obligations on the land in Cap Tourmente, besides cultivating their own land. The other assumption is that Jean and Marguerite left the house on the Saint-Charles farm (the Big Farm) to Pierre and Vincente.


    In this second assumption, our maternal ancestor would have been brought to the world on the land in Château-Richer in the early Spring of 1643. We don’t know her precise date of birth, but we know that Renée was baptized on Wednesday April 8th, 1643 by Jean Le Sueur de Saint-Sauveur in her parents’ house.


    Missionary Jean Le Sueur travels regularly on the Côte of Beaupré for religious services. This first secular priest of the colony arrived from Normandy at the age of 36 years old, in 1634, and is a close friend of Jean Bourdon, the engineer of the colony, who was present at Jean Gagnon’s wedding to Marguerite Cauchon. Jean Le Sueur receives a salary of 75 pounds per annum from the Compagnie de Beaupré, for his ministry in that region. He becomes chaplain of the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in 1639, and will remain in office until 1649. The revenues from his ministry seem to be insufficient. He also earns extra money weaving fishing nets.


    The Godfather, Nicolas Juchereau, is only 18 years old. He is the eldest son of Jean Juchereau, Sieur de Maure, and Marie Langlois, and is the nephew of Noël Juchereau. He is still single, and without a doubt, represents the Juchereau family at the christening, since his father is in France. In 1649, he will marry Robert Giffard’s youngest daughter, Marie-Thérèse. The godmother, Marguerite Aubert, is originally from the La Ventrouse and knows the Gagnon family. She arrives in the summer of 1635, and weds Martin Grouvel in November of the same year. She is only 16 years old. Martin is a carpenter and master shipbuilder. After 8 years of marriage, the couple has no children.


Family life at the Gagnons up until Renée’s wedding in 1660


    Renée’s parents will bear five more children: Marguerite (1645), Jean (1648), Étienne (1650), Germain (1653), Raphaël (1656) and Marie (1659). Jeanne, our maternal ancestor’s oldest sister, will marry Jean Chapleau in 1654, at Château-Richer. For a period of six years, Renée will remain, in practice, the oldest sister in the paternal household. She spends her childhood and her adolescence on the Côte of Beaupré. Up until 1646, she possibly accompanied her parents and her uncles Pierre and Mathurin at the Saint-Charles farm (the big Farm) during the period of agricultural labour.


    Renée’s uncles, Pierre and Mathurin Gagnon, are neighbours on the Côte of Beapré. Cousins of both sexes will certainly have the opportunity to visit each other. Three months after Renée’s christening, aunt Vincente, uncle Pierre’s wife, gives birth to a little cousin, Anne. Between 1643 and 1660, Pierre and Vincente will have 10 children, of which eight are still alive in 1660. As for uncle Mathurin, he will marry Françoise Godeau on September 30th, 1647, at the ripe age of 41. They’ll have 14 children and the first six will be born by 1660. Mathurin is a past member of the «Communauté des Habitants». Marguerite, the Gagnon brothers’ oldest sister, lives also on the Côte of Beaupré. Aunt Marguerite and her husband, Éloi Tavernier, already had two children upon their arrival in New France: Marguerite born in 1627 and Marie born in 1631. The first cousin, Marguerite, will marry Joseph-Massé Gravel in 1644, one year after Renée’s birth. Joseph-Massé Gravel will work in close association with his wife’s uncles Jean, Pierre and Mathurin. As for the second girl, Marie, she’ll marry Gilles Bacon in 1647. Gilles had spent two or three years working for the Jesuits in Huron country, with Pierre Cauchon. In 1658, Renée, and her sister Marguerite, will study with the Ursulines in Quebec City. (8) Renée enters the nuns’ Boarding-school on July 7th, 1658, for six months, sponsored by the Jesuit superior. Marguerite joins her six weeks later, her pension being paid for by her father. The two sisters leave the convent on March 22nd, 1659.


    Lord Bishop of Laval, first bishop of New France, arrives in 1659 and undertakes to confirm everyone who isn’t. On February 2nd, 1660, he’s in Château-Richer where he confirms 175 persons from the Côte of Beaupré. Renée Gagnon and her future husband, Jean Houymet are amongst the confirmed. Was it their first encounter? It is doubtful, because Guillaume Thibault for whom Jean Houymet was working, was a friend of Jean Cauchon, Renée’s maternal grandfather. Anyhow, Renée and Jean sign their marriage contract in front of Notary Claude Aubert on October 3rd, 1660. We have no indication of the date of their church wedding. Jean Houymet had just joined the large Gagnon family, which counted at that time some thirty members.


Bibliographical sources :

1. TRUDEL, Marcel (1979). Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, tome 1, Les Événements, Éd. Fidès, pp. 133-134.

2. MONTAGNE, Madame Pierre (1965). Tourouvre et les Juchereau, Société Canadienne de généalogie, p. 15.

3. CAMPEAU, Lucien (1974). Les Cent-Associés et le peuplement de la Nouvelle-France (1633- 1663), Éd. Bellarmin, p. 28.

4. GARIEPY, Raymond (1974). Les Seigneurs de Beaupré et de l’Ile d’Orléans, Éd. Société Historique de Québec, p. 24.

5. MARIE DE L’INCARNATION (1974). Correspondance, édité par Dom Guy Oury, Solesme, p. 68.

6. TRUDEL, Marcel, op. cit., p. 135

7. RELATIONS DES JÉSUITES (1972). 1643 Éd. Du Jour, p. 9.

8. TRUDEL, Marcel (1999). Les écolières des Ursulines de Québec (1669- 1686), Cahiers de Québec, HMH, p. 158.

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