The Kings’ Daughters: They came to populate New France

As she boarded the great ship Phoénix de Flessingue in May 1663, she knew she would never return to her hometown of La Rochelle, France.

Did she worry about the ship sinking or being attacked on the six-week journey overseas? What kind of life did she imagine might be waiting for her in New France? How could she agree to marry a man, Maurice Rivet, sight unseen? Did she wonder what their life raising a family together might be like?

Whatever unanswered questions she may have had, my ancestor Catherine Barre chose to be a pawn in King Louis X1V’s scheme to populate New France. In exchange for her agreement to marry and raise a family, she received 10 pounds for her own use, 30 pounds for clothing and grooming paraphernalia and free passage overseas at a cost of 60 pounds.[1]

Today, we refer to these women as King’s Daughters.

I am among Catherine’s 12th generation descendants from my father’s side. Thinking about her courage and resiliency gives me strength, even as I notice myself sharing her impulsive faith-led need to act, sometimes with less information than is desirable. Despite that flaw, Catherine’s life seems to have worked out, with a few major hiccups.

The first hiccup was her husband.

Shortly after the Phoénix arrived in Quebec City on June 30, 1663, she married Rivet as planned. That decision saved her a bizarre-sounding 15th century version of speed-dating. Many Kings Daughters took a boat ride down the St. Lawrence, stopping from town to town to meet eligible bachelors.[2]

Something went horribly wrong with her marriage and the church annulled it on November 17, 1664[3].

She celebrated Christmas that year alone, but married Mathurin Chaille on January 11, 1665 and their first child, a son was born nine months later.

My direct relative was their fourth child, Jean Barre Chaille, who came along in 1674, when they had moved to Sillery, seemingly after being evicted from their farm on the seigneurie of Beauport.[4]

The couple had six children in total. One son died at 10 years old, but the rest married and had families of their own. Three of the families lived in Portneuf near their parents, but my ancestor Jean and his brother Henri moved to Montreal. I like to imagine Catherine and her husband Mathurin visiting them on occasion, but haven’t yet found evidence of that.

Both Catherine and her husband Mathurin died within a week of each other in the summer of 1707. She was 63 years old.

(Note: There were record-breaking heatwaves in England and France in July[5], when the couple died, so I wonder if something similar happened in Quebec. That’s a question to be confirmed in future.)

[1] Gousse, S., & Wien, T. (n.d.). Filles du Roi. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/filles-du-roi/ on July 18, 2018.

[2] Most French Canadians are descended from these 800 women | CBC Canada 2017. (2017, March 30). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/2017/canadathestoryofus/most-french-canadians-are-descended-from-these-800-women-1.4029699 on July 18, 2018.

[3] Dee, E. (n.d.). The Families of Beauport – The Chailles. Retrieved from http://www.oocities.org/weallcamefromsomewhere/Beauport/chaille_family.html on July 18, 2018.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Maruske, James. A
Chronological
Listing
of
Early
 Weather
Events retrieved from https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/weather1.pdf, on 2018.

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