Wednesday, January 18, 2012


One of the confusing things you will discover in Quebec genealogy is what I call cross-marriages: situations of multiple siblings of one family marring multiple siblings of another family, so that the children of all those young couples are double first cousins to one another.

The farther back in time you go, the more frequently you will find cross-marriages, but the practice continued at least into the 20th century. Before I ever began any genealogical research, I knew that two sons (including my grandfather) of my Quebec-born great-grandfather married two women who were full sisters, while a third son married the half-sister of the other two women. My mother therefore had one set of double first cousins and a set who were first cousins on one side and half first cousins on the other. I always thought that this was highly unusual, but I eventually discovered that it was nothing of the sort.

Take, for example, Grandpa’s grandparents, Joseph (Han-dit-) Chaussé and Catherine Lavoie, who married in 1832. Catherine’s brother Jean-Baptiste Lavoie married Joseph’s sister Marie-Olive Chaussé in 1834, while her sister Nathalie Lavoie married Joseph’s brother Antoine Chaussé in 1838 and another brother, Liboire Lavoie, married Joseph’s sister Adeline Chaussé in 1849. The children of all four families were double first cousins.

Why is this situation found so often in the records of Quebec?

In the early days, Quebec had a very small population base, so that anyone’s choice of marriage partners was limited. Moreover, cross-marriages tended to keep land in the same family, an important advantage when clearing land for farming was back-breaking, arduous labor, especially if the husband had no one to assist or if the family was too poor to own or rent draft animals such as oxen or horses to help. The practice continued as the population grew, probably because the practice still kept property in the family.

The Quebec parish records are full of examples of cross-marriages. One of the most interesting is that of the offspring of André Demers-dit-Dumay, brother of my 8G Grandfather, Jean Demers-dit-Dumay. Both brothers married Filles à Marier in Montréal in 1654, but while Jean moved north a few years later, André remained in Montréal for the rest of his life. I found the account of this particular example of cross-marriages in Peter J. Gagné’s Before the King’s Daughters: The Filles à Marier (Quintin Publications: Pawtucket, RI: 2002, pp. 85-86, 89-90).

André’s wife was Marie Chefdeville, and the couple produced 12 known children. Another Fille à Marier, Catherine Charles, married Urbain Jetté at Montréal in 1659, and that couple had 13 children. André and Urbain became close friends, so it was not surprising to anyone that in 1679, André’s son Nicolas Demers married Urbain’s daughter Marie-Barbe Jetté. Five years later, in 1684, Urbain Jetté died and André Demers was named as guardian of Urbain’s minor children. André’s son Michel Demers and Urbain’s daughter Élisabeth Jetté married in 1685.

The next year, in 1686, a third cross-marriage was arranged, this time between André Demers fils and Anne Jetté—and according to Gagné, it’s clear that in this case, the marriage was the idea of the young couple and contrary to the wishes of the young man’s parents and of the bride-to-be’s widowed mother as well.

Gagné reports that André’s parents went before notary Hilaire Bourgine and filed formal opposition to the match because of Catherine Charles’ constant grumblings and slanders accusing André père and his wife of witchcraft (a very serious matter in those days), which the Demers parents said had been going on ever since the marriage of Nicolas and Marie-Barbe. André père and his wife threatened to revoke their donation to young André to start a forge if he insisted on marrying Anne Jetté. However, André fils was now 27 and didn’t need their permission to marry; he maintained that any difficulties between his intended mother-in-law and his parents were their business and not his. Gagné cites as his source Robert-Lionel Séguin’s La Sorcellerie au Québec du XVIIe aux XIXe Siècle (Ottawa: Leméac, 1971); the relevant documents are not in the files of notary Bourgine. This strongly suggests that Gagné is correct in stating that Urbain’s widow did in fact make accusations of witchcraft and that those accusations were taken seriously.

André fils and Anne did in fact marry on 2 Sep 1686—without the usual publication of the banns, on the order of the Grand Vicaire (the Bishop’s representative). This suggests that the parents involved did in fact oppose the marriage. Two of André’s brothers witnessed the marriage but none of the parents are recorded as present. I do not know whether the parental donation to André fils was revoked or not, but André père and his wife appear to have weathered the scandal.

Catherine Charles, whether delusional, genuinely convinced that André père and his wife were Satanists, or merely very angry, died in 1691. In 1694, without known opposition from anyone, Robert Demers married Madeleine Jetté, and in 1697, Paul Jetté married Martine Demers. In 1707 another Jetté daughter, Catherine, widow of Guillaume Gournay, married Charles Demers, making a total of six cross-marriages between the Demers and Jetté families.

Cross-marriages often mean that your Quebec ancestors are your ancestors in two or more lines; my grandparents had at least 3 proven sets of shared ancestors. My mother’s Chaussé grandparents had no less than 7 sets of ancestors in common through cross-marriages of two or more sets of children. This means that I can’t create one of those neat, simple, tidy family trees to hang on my wall; the lines are much too complicated.

Just to make things more interesting for the bewildered ancestor-hunter, one couple can be your ancestors through two or more of their children and can be, say, 6G Grandparents through one child, and 7G Grandparents through another child. And one person can be your ancestor through each of two (or more) spouses. Or you may find that one direct ancestor married another direct ancestor, but you are not a direct descendant of that marriage.

Here are a few of the weirder and/or more complicated examples in my own direct lines:

Three sons of Paul Hus and Jeanne Baillargeon, my 8G Grandparents, married three daughters of my 8G Grandparents Pierre-René Niquet and Françoise Lemoine. Louis Hus married Louise-Angélique Niquet in 1699; his brother Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Hus married Louise-Angélique’s sister Marie-Thérèse Niquet in 1714; and in 1725their brother Jean-Baptiste Hus married Marie-Josephte Niquet, sister of the other two Niquet women.

However, none of these cross-married couples are my direct ancestors. Instead, I am descended from other cross-marriages involving the Hus line: Marc-Antoine Hus, son of Paul and Jeanne (and brother of the other 3 Hus bridegrooms) and his wife Françoise Lavallée are my 7G Grandparents. I’m also descended from Marc-Antoine’s sister Jeanne-Catherine Hus—who married Jean Lavallée, brother of Françoise; they are also my 7G Grandparents. On the Niquet side, I am descended from a brother of the three Niquet brides, Jean Niquet, and his wife Angélique Pinard, who are also my 7G Grandparents. Their daughter Angélique Niquet married Nicolas Baillargeon fils—whose father was the brother of Jeanne Baillargeon, wife of Paul Hus; Angélique and Nicolas are my 6G Grandparents. This makes Jeanne Baillargeon my 8G Aunt through her brother Nicolas as well as my 8G Grandmother.

Confusing, isn’t it?

Well, it was confusing back then, too. A couple of generations down the line, especially when family members had moved to other parishes, people could unwittingly marry a too-close cousin without realizing the relationship. The Catholic Church naturally wanted its adherents to avoid incest and excessive inbreeding, with a resulting proliferation of genetic abnormalities. (What curé was prepared to baptize a baby with, say, six fingers on each hand, or worse, two heads?)

My 5G grandparents Michel Lavallée and Josephte Hus-Millet, who married at Sorel in 1761, had the same two sets of grandparents and were therefore second cousins on both sides, a fact which required a dispensation for the marriage to take place. They did in fact obtain that dispensation, according to the marriage record.

By the mid-1700s, I find the parish registers where my Chaussé families lived showing records of marriage rehabilitations, where it was discovered only after the marriage ceremony that the couple were third or second cousins who apparently didn’t know about the relationship, and who should not have married without a dispensation from the bishop. In such cases, an ex-post-facto dispensation was granted: in effect, they had to legalize their union so that their children would be legitimate in the eyes of the church.

My 7G Grandmother Jeanne Houde married my 7G Grandfather Pierre Demers dit Dumay in 1703 at Lotbinière; they are the parents of my 6G Grandfather Charles Demers/Dumay. After Pierre died, Jeanne married Louis Durand, son of Jean Durand and Catherine Anenantha. Louis had a daughter, Marie-Charlotte Durand, by his first wife, Élisabeth-Agnès Michel. Charles Demers/Dumay married his stepsister Marie-Charlotte Durand and they are my 6G Grandparents.

Jean Durand and Catherine Anenantha are my 8G Grandparents twice over, through their son Louis Durand and also through their daughter Marie-Catherine Durand, who married Mathurin Cadot; that couple are the founders of the mighty line of fur-trade Cadots/Cadottes. Not only that, but a daughter of Louis Durand and Jeanne Houde, Marie-Jeanne Durand, married a granddaughter of Gilles Dufaut, the immigrant ancestor of my Dufaut/Dufauld line.

My 9G Grandparents, Pierre Gagnon and Renée Roger, are also my 9G Grandparents twice over, through their son Pierre Gagnon and his wife Vincente Desvarieux, direct ancestors of my GG Grandmother Catherine Lavoie, and also through their daughter Marie Gagnon and her husband Eloi Tavernier, direct ancestors of Catherine Lavoie’s husband, GG Grandfather Joseph Han-dit-Chaussé.

Louis Guimont and his wife Jeanne Bitouset are likewise my 8G Grandparents twice over: their son Joseph Guimont and his wife Anne Paré are ancestors of my GG Grandmother Catherine Lavoie, and their daughter Louise Guimont and her husband Eustache Bacon are ancestors of Catherine’s husband, my GG Grandfather Joseph Han-dit-Chaussé. In fact, Catherine and Joseph were related to one another along 7 different lines! And my grandfather and grandmother had 3 sets of proven Quebec ancestors in common (possibly more in the Anishinaabe lines).

Then there are the progeny of my 7G Grandfather Pierre Levasseur-dit-L’Esperance. He first married Madeleine Chapeau, and their son Noël-Pierre is my 6G Grandfather by his marriage to Françoise-Marie Lajoue, daughter of François Lajoue and Marie-Anne Ménage. Now, after Madeleine Chapeau died, Pierre married again, to Anne Ménage—sister of Marie-Anne. Their son Pierre-Jacques was the grandfather of François-Séraphin Trullier-dit-Lacombe, who as I discussed in an earlier post was the father of my 3G Grandmother Elisabeth Lacombre by a woman from Rainy Lake, while his legal wife Charlotte Cadot was the daughter of my 5G Grandfather Jean-Baptiste Cadot by an “illegitimate” relationship after the death of his first wife. Pierre Levasseur-dit-L’Esperance is therefore my direct ancestor by each marriage; his second set of parents-in-law, Pierre Ménage and Anne LeBlanc, are my 8G Grandparents twice over through their two daughters, Anne and Marie-Anne.

My 9G Grandmother Barbe Émard married Gilles Michel-Taillon in France; their son Olivier and his wife Marie-Magdeleine Cochon are my 8G Grandparents. After Gilles died, Barbe married widower Olivier Le Tardif, and their daughter Barbe-Delphine married Jacques Cochon, brother of Olivier’s bride Marie-Magdeleine Cochon; Barbe-Delphine and Jacques are also my 8G Grandparents. Meanwhile, Barbe’s sister Madeleine married Pierre-Zacharie Cloutier; they are also my 8G Grandparents twice over, through their daughter Barbe-Delphine Cloutier and her husband Charles Bélanger and through their son Charles Cloutier and his wife Anne Thibaut. The parents of Barbe and Madeleine Émard, Jean Émard and Marie Bineau (who never left France) are therefore my 10G Grandparents 4 times over.

All of the above are the most egregious cases of cross-marriages in my own direct ancestry; there are others in collateral lines. By this point in my research, every time I unearth a new record, I have to double-check to see if that person is already in my database. If a large portion of your ancestry is from Quebec, you’ll find yourself doing the same thing unless you enjoy having to persuade your genealogy software to merge the duplicates.

As I said, forget about making a simple pedigree chart to show off your Quebec ancestry. There is nothing simple about a pedigree that involves cross-marriages.

But look on the bright side: there are a lot of people whose hobby is tracing the ancestry of celebrities and publishing them online. You may discover that you have a considerable number of famous people who are distant cousins of yours. Descendants of the Cloutiers alone include Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Crown Prince Charles; Madonna; Hilary Rodham Clinton; Celine Dion; the Dionne quintuplets; Robert Goulet; Angelina Jolie; Jack Kerouac; Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, Alanis Morissette, and Shania Twain, plus a number of politicians.

And, more humbly, if you have any French-Canadian Cloutier in your direct ancestry, you are also a cousin of mine.

1 comment:

  1. Can you clarify - is Andre-pere Andre Demers and his wife Marie Chefdeville?

    Thanks so much for this wonderful bit of history!

    Gagné reports that André’s parents went before notary Hilaire Bourgine and filed formal opposition to the match because of Catherine Charles’ constant grumblings and slanders accusing André père and his wife of witchcraft (a very serious matter in those days), which the Demers parents said had been going on ever since the marriage of Nicolas and Marie-Barbe. André père and his wife threatened to revoke their donation to young André to start a forge if he insisted on marrying Anne Jetté.