Have you ever come across genealogy information which was surprising, puzzling, and explanatory all at the same time? I had an ah-hah moment the evening I was prowling around French websites looking for the origins of the family Baudouin. Jacques Baudouin, my 7th great-grandfather, was listed as being baptized at the “Temple Calviniste” in La Rochelle, in the former Province of Aunis, France, 4 August 1645. Did this really mean a Protestant church? I dug a little deeper and saw that his father, Solon Baudouin, was married at the same place and he was called the Sieur des Marattes. Solon’s father, the patriarch of the family, another Jacques, was titled “Seneschal”. What was this? Was my mother right about us being descended from French Aristocracy as she always claimed? Could this be the explanation of the “Heretics” she and her sister talked about. So I started to research all of these things.
Seneschal, I learned, was a title given to administrators of districts in southern France who worked for the King and supervised seigneuries. I’d heard of seigneuries – they were similar to feudal land holding systems from the Middle Ages. Very close to La Rochelle, one of the allowed protestant enclaves after the Edict of Nantes, was a large island, the Île de Ré which had been inhabited for a very long time. The Romans had their salt works on the island and salt is still produced there. The elder Jacques was apparently the Seneschal of the Seigneurie of the Île de Ré. I started thinking of him as the supervisor of the salt works, a necessary and valuable commodity before the invention of refrigeration. He was also the landlord to the tenants who lived on the island.
The Sieur des Marattes, his son Solon, was the seigneur over an area of former swampland in the environs of La Rochelle but this land had been improved over the ages and was a productive farm and vineyard area. I’m not sure but I think the family estate and home was also called Marattes.
My Jacques Baudouin arrived in New France 25 May 1664 as an indentured servant. He was 19 years old and undoubtedly no longer eligible to inherit his family’s money or rank. The political climate had been deteriorating in France since Louis XIV ascended the throne in 1643 – his mother was regent then-- but when Cardinal Richelieu died Louis took charge in 1661. The privileges for Protestants had been reduced and the King actually sent Catholic missionaries to the enclaves to proselytize. Schools were closed. Penalties applied. Ultimately Louis forced the remaining Protestant families out of La Rochelle in 1661. I knew that no Protestants were allowed to live in New France (but a lot of Protestant merchants did business there), and I also knew that if dissenters wanted to emigrate they had to abjure their faith to embrace Catholicism. He evidentially did this since he was confirmed in the Church two months after he arrived. He married Françoise Durand, a Fille du Roi (Daughter of the King) but the actual marriage date is unknown. The Notary, Paul Vachon, drew up a contract for the couple 24 March 1671. Peter J. Gagné reports (King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers see note) that neither of them could sign their name. So he had no inheritance, started his life in New France as a servant, and couldn’t write his name. Sounds like very reduced circumstances, indeed.
So the revelations about the Baudouins were initially surprising because I didn’t expect to see former Huguenots relocating to Quebec. I had learned along the way that the Bowdoin family of Boston had been Baudouin by way of France, Ireland and Maine but I haven’t yet discovered if they are related to Jacques and family. I also came to the realization that the elder Jacques Baudouin was without a doubt a commoner, successful but not an aristocrat, so I’m not a long-lost claimant to the ancient French throne. The family was Huguenot, there’s no doubt of that, and were considered heretics to the state religious leaders but these folks weren’t in the immediate memory of my mom or her sister. Like most people who don’t really know their family history they could only relate knowledge of 2 or 3 generations. They certainly didn’t know about Jacques Baudouin. When my Aunt Mary insisted we came directly from France I responded, “yes, with a 200 year layover in Quebec”. The most exciting part of revealing the Huguenot history of this family is that there must still be other “Heretics” out there for me to find.
Jacques Baudouin, son of Solon Baudouin and Anne Gautereau was born in the village of Saint Martin on the Île de Ré, Aunis region, 29 July 1645. He was baptized at the Protestant church in La Rochelle. He married Françoise Durand, a Fille du Roi, in Île d’Orléans (Contrat Notaire Vachon). She had been born in 1648 in Braquemont, near Dieppe, Normandy, daughter of Pierre Durand and Noelle Asselin. He died 6 Feb 1708, Françoise died 15 Sep 1718. They are both buried at St François, Île d’Orléans, Quebec.
1. Jacques Baudouin, b. 25 July 1672; d. 9 Dec 1758
2. Joseph Baudouin, b. 4 Apr 1674 d. 8 Apr 1699
3. Françoise Baudouin, b. 2 Jun 1676; d. 22 Jul 1746
4. Louis Baudouin, b. 27 Dec 1678; d. 1 Jan 1723
5. Marc (?Pierre-Marie) Baudouin, abt 1682
6. Pierre Baudouin, 29 Feb 1684; d. 1685
7. Pierre Baudouin, 31 March 1686
8. Antoine Baudouin, 12 May 1688; d. 29 Jun 1714
9. Marie Baudouin, 29 Oct 1690
Note: Peter J Gagné King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers, The Filles du Roi, 1663 – 1673. In two volumes. Quintin Publications. 2001. This is a fabulous reference work for the Filles and for glimpses of life at the time in New France.