20 January 2010

Looking For Adventure

Many years ago, when I was young and out of my mind, I loaded my stuff in the back of my truck and moved from Portland, Oregon to Michigan to begin a two-year fellowship in a place I'd never been with a boss I'd never met. By the time I got there I didn't have enough money to turn around and go back, so if the Michigan winters got the better of me or one of my coworkers turned out to be a sociopath, I was stuck.

It felt like quite the daring adventure. True, I had my truck, and roads, and maps to get me there. Lansing was hardly uncharted wilderness. There was housing, central heat, grocery stores. Life there would not be all that different from what I left behind.

I can't help but compare that to the story of Adrienne Duvivier.

The daughter of Antoine Duvivier and Catherine Journe, Adrienne was born in Corbeny, in the Picardie region of France, in 1626. When she was 20, she married Augustin Hebert dit Jolicoeur, a young man recently returned to France from Canada. After the birth of their first child, a daughter, in Paris the following year, the family sailed from La Rochelle to New France and settled in the colony that would one day become Montréal.

In 1647, aside from a group of nuns working to establish a hospital, Adrienne was one of the few white women in the colony. Augustin worked as a fur-trader, merchant, farmer and master-mason. He died in 1653, leaving Adrienne, with three small children, one of the village's largest landowners.

In 1654 Adrienne married Robert Lecavelier, a gunsmith from Normandie, with whom she had four more children. The family was among the 627 residents of the colony in the census of 1666. Adrienne died on 20 October 1706 at the age of eighty.

Is that a life, or what?

One of Adrienne's sons, Leger Hébert, married Marguerite Gamelin. They had 13 children, at least seven of whom survived childhood. Leger's direct line continues to this day. To this person, in fact. To my daughter.

I am not under the impression that this puts as in a particularly exclusive company or makes us special in any way. What with the prevalence of early marriages and large families, most of French Canada and much of the rest of the world can trace their ancestry back to one of the prolific early residents of Québec. I'm just fascinated by people who would leave everything they knew for an unsettled place with brutal winters and an indigenous population that had, at best, mixed feelings about their coming. Most of the people who came couldn't afford to turn around and go back home if things didn't work out. Some had to work just to pay off their passage.

Now that's a daring adventure.

I'm not a serious genealogist. I'm not even a not-serious genealogist. I started out tracing my family because, well, I can. I can't play music or dance or quilt anymore, or do many of the other things I used to do, so I was looking around for something new. When we get bored, bad things happen. This one branch of my mother's family is easy to follow, because the Catholic church in Québec kept voluminous records, many of which are available online. That's how it started. When I got back to the people who came to Québec when there wasn't anything there, I got sucked into the lives these people must have led. 

My daughter says I'm obsessed. If I start to tell her about any of this stuff, she rolls her eyes and asks if this is going to be another history lesson. Scarecrow listens, I think, because it keeps me busy and out of his hair. If either of them catches me not paying attention when they're talking to me, they accuse me of being off in the 17th century. Which is probably where I was. I've been spending a lot of time there lately.

It must've been an amazing adventure.


  1. Well, I just TRIED ro say "sh**" and a bunch of other words came out, then, but never sh** or "shut" which I was trying to say yesterday and then it took me to another place that said you would not accept my looking at your bloG! WELL! (I'm off VRT right now) ANYHOOO, *I* think what you are doing is fabulous! I LOVE old family stories. I love finding a birth date that is same as mine or a death that happened exact way of someone in my lifetime---all the juicy, spooky, fabulous stuff; the heroes and villians, the black sheep, or WERE they? Such fun! Your kid is too young to "get it" (though my brother is 60 and he doesn't get it...) and yep, Scarecrow is happy you have a hobby. LOL What if you find out you and he are brother and sister!!?? hahahahah Never know what you find once you open doors. (Now I hear your kid go, "Ewwwww."

  2. I had to smile about trying to get a child to care about family history. I have learned a simple hook, "it is in YOUR genes, you cannot escape"

    Caregivingly Yours, Patrick