So how are we related, anyways?

Vésina descendents

Vésina descendents

Curious as to how we might be related to Jacques Vésina? From the descendant tree on the right, you can see that we are related through Emilda Nault.

So, Jacques, Marie and family have arrived in Nouvelle France and purchased some land around Chutes Montmorency in 1659.

According to documents, Louise was entered into a marriage contract with Charles Garnier on December 21, 1664, when she was 12 years old. The dowry was 200 livres, dishes and cutlery. The actual marriage was delayed because of her young age, but it not known exactly when it took place.  Charles was from Tournebu in Normandy and was 28 years old.

We know Charles was in Nouvelle France because he witnessed a land deal on December 5, 1661. He was a farmer, and on January 1, 1664, he bought 2 arpents of land not far from Jacques’ property.

Louise went on to have 11 children. Five died before reaching the age of 21. Her 16-year-old son François died three weeks after her son Pierre, who was 20, both probably by drowning, possibly while fishing, in June 1700. Four daughters, including our ancestor Marie-Charlotte, and two sons survived to adulthood.

Louise died on December 1, 1714 around the age of 62. Charles was buried at Beauport on February 6, 1717 at the age of 81.

Jacques Vésina, the early years

(The following details of Jacques Vésinat’s life are from the biographical essay written by Gérard Vézina, and I’m immensely grateful to GHS for spending a weekend reading and translating from the original French.)

According to Abbot J. B. Antoine Ferland, Jacques Vésina was a native of Puyravault, in the old French province of Aunis, now known as Charente-Maritime, near Rochefort, in the canton of Surgères, not far from the well-known city of La Rochelle. Although Aunis was the smallest province in France, it provided the largest number of colonists to Nouvelle-France (Québec).

The origin of the Vésina name is uncertain. It is thought by some to derive from “vésine,” which is a southwest wind referred to in certain regions in the Rhône. This wind was possibly followed by a downpour that’s called a “vézinée.” The family name Vézinat or Vésinat was common in Aunis in the 17th century.

Jacques was born around 1610 and although he was born in Puyravault, he spent many years in La Rochelle. His wife Marie Boisdon was born around 1617 and they were married June 10, 1640 in Puyravault. They initially lived in Saint-Rogatien, Marie’s birthplace. Their first child, François, was born in 1642, followed by Marie in 1649. It’s possible there were other children born during those seven years for which records do not exist.

During one census, Jacques listed his occupation as a cooper (barrelmaker). He later claimed to be a merchant, of what variety is unknown, but most likely related to his previous work as a cooper.

By 1659 when Jacques and his family left for Nouvelle-France, they had six children, including a second son also called François. Records of the time show that it was common for the godfather to ask that the godson be named after him, especially if he was important in society. The second François’ godfather was François Clément of the 100 Swiss guards to King Louis XIV.

Their reason for emigrating is not recorded but some educated guesses can be made. In the seventeenth century, France was involved in numerous wars with England, Spain, the Netherlands and others, as well as experiencing violence between Catholics and Protestants. In 1627, Richelieu besieged La Rochelle, which was considered a Protestant bastion. The town resisted for more than a year before surrendering, after 15,000 of its 20,000 residents were killed. Jacques was 17 years old when this happened.

In 1648, people were starving and unable to pay the royal taxes and soldiers pillaged towns that didn’t contribute their share. And it’s likely that there was a heavy propaganda campaign to bolster the population of Nouvelle-France.

Of the six children, the records indicate that only five children arrived with their parents in North America. The youngest, Jeanne, was only a few months old when they departed. Did she die during the trip? There are no passenger records to confirm this. Based on various other records, it can be deduced that the Vésina family was on the ship called Saint-André, and that Jacques was a “free passenger”, meaning that he was not indebted in servitude to another.

It is presumed that the family arrived in the city of Québec on September 7, 1659, and Jacques bought land on January 11, 1660. It was two kilometres from the Chute Montmorency area on the Beaupré coast at Longue Point and he paid 120 livres.

More about their life in Canada to come!

A famous hockey player in our family tree?

Well, only very distantly.

My mom (Marthe) and I (Lee Anne) were recently in Québec City on vacation along with Marie and Derwyn Wilson. While visiting Montmorency Falls just outside the city, Marie wanted to stop at ‘Maison Vézina’ to see if it was anything to do with the hockey player after which the Vezina Trophy is named. And yes, it does form part of the history of the family from which Georges Vézina is descended.

This property and the existing house were purchased in 1666 by François the Elder (there were two sons named François), oldest son of Jacques Vésina, and remained in the Vézina family for over 300 years. In the 70s it was sold to a real estate developer who let it deteriorate. A few years ago, it was purchased by a historical society who restored it back to the near-original state.

In the house, you can view various archeological items that were found around the house during the restoration, as well as descriptions of the Vézina family life.

Fortunately I had brought with me my family tree as researched by La Société Historique de Saint-Boniface of Winnipeg in 2006, and discovered that we are also descended from Jacques Vésina, by way of his third daughter Louise.

I had the opportunity to purchase a “biography” of Jacques Vésinat (you’ll note the various name spellings) while visiting the house, and once translated, I will share interesting bits about how he and his family came to emigrate to Canada in the 1600s.