Her name was Marie Madeleine Després. Records show she was probably born about 1653-1656 in St. Sulpice, Paris, France, but that puts her almost three hundred years ahead of me and that means she is my grandmother, times a lot. Why is she so special? I have so many ancestors on both my mother's and father's branches of the family. Irish. Scottish. German. Those people and their stories, like all of yours, tell the tale of immigration and sacrifice, creativity and tragedy. For me, Marie represents the matriarchal core of what is now an enormous legacy of humanity that call themselves either Audet or LaPointe today. Her existence is unquestionable. Her heart rings true and through all of us who call her "mother."
Probably orphaned but educated (since she could read and write), at age 17, she joined other young women of France willing to become a Fille du Roi, or a daughter of the king. It was a program begun in 1663 that ended ten years later with a purpose of bringing the flowers of France to marry and settle the wild expanses of a waiting continent. She had a dowry of approximately 200 livres and a gift of 50 livres from the King of France, "given her by his Majesty in consideration of her marriage." These young women were part of an adventurous and courageous group, who would marry and raise the families and population of the French lands across the Atlantic. Willing to leave all behind, Marie climbed on board a ship -- gutsy in and of itself, for the very thought of this voyage carried the threat of disease and death on the high seas -- and opened her eyes to the world ahead.
Her new husband was Nicolas Audet dit LaPointe, born and baptized on July 12, 1637 in St. Pierre de Maulais, Poitiers, Poitou, France. His name, Audet translates from the Latin word, audeo, and it means "he dares." Dit LaPointe is just as it sounds and various theories abound as to how his family acquired the additional directional part of its name. Poitou is a place where the Romans sprouted Aquitania, the Saracins were sent flying by Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers, and those Visigoths ran into Clovis, King of the Franks. Cognac and rare donkeys. Sadly, it also the location of one of the examinations of Joan of Arc, in March 1429, the record of which is lost. It is a province in west Central France, from which many of the Acadians traveled to Nova Scotia and where many later sought refuge in Quebec when the British forced them out.
Marie and Nicolas were married by Father Thomas Morel on Sept. 15, 1670, in Ste-Famille, Île d'Orléans, Québec, Canada. Nicolas worked as a porter for Bishop Laval and then was granted land for a farm.
By December 1729, it is estimated that the couple had 122 direct descendants. Of their 12 children, nine boys and three girls, two of the older children died young. But the surviving ten married and prospered. My line is supposedly all based on a son and the son's sons named Jean. My father was Jean Paul. His father was Jean Hector. His father was Jean Justine. And so on.
Nicolas became ill in 1689 and was treated by the nuns at the Hotel-Dieu in Quebec. He died at age 59 on Dec. 10, 1700. He had watched three of his children marry and leave the home but seven remained to be cared for by Marie. She would not remarry but instead managed the family farm with the assistance of her children.
It is this part of the story I find most compelling. There can be few places harsher in the winter but so beautiful as Quebec. Today as I write this in upstate New York, the winter storm is finally stopping and the backdoor may finally give way to my pushing it open past the barricade of snow. Go back those three centuries and imagine what it was like. My old stove is propane, cantankerous, and the kerosene heater fights to keep back the cold. This house is old -- 1895. I am no wimp and still, in late February, with all that I have to keep me going, the winter has gone on too long. How did she do it? How did she find the inner strength, the outer physical endurance. How I would like to go back in time and bring her a cup of chocolate and sit with her and hear her wisdom. There must have been wisdom. Her progeny are witnesses to her insight.
Details vary but she likely died on Dec. 9, 1700 and was buried sometime between the 12th and the 19th of December. Hers and her husband's burial site is in the cemetery at St. Jean, Quebec.
Some time, when the spring bloom comes to Canada once more, I would like to walk in her footsteps and imagine how she felt when the sun brought a glow to her new North American home, my daughter of the king.