In the early 17th century, the Perche (France) was the point of departure for many French emigrants, and a number of major families in Quebec - such as the Pelletiers, Gagnons, Tremblays, Rivards, Fortins, Bouchards and Drouins - can trace their roots back to this particular region.
The Perche is located 100 miles West of Paris. Today, it is not an official administrative subdivision of France, but a beautiful region with a rich history.
The County of Perche was created in 1115 when the County of Mortagne was combined with the seigneuries of Nogent-le-Rotrou and Belleme.
Before the French Revolution, it was part of the Province of Normandy. In 1792, when the 34 provinces of France were changed to 96 departements,
the Perche was included mostly within the Departments of Orne and Eure-et-Loir but small parts of the Perche lie within the current departements of
Sarthe, Eure and Loir-et-Cher. In 1998, the Parc Naturel Régional du Perche (Natural Park of Perche) was created.
The Perche is a pastoral area consisting mainly of gently rolling farmland but, unlike much of France, it is blessed with some beautiful forests. It also benefits from a number of rivers and streams. The main cities are Nogent-le-Rotrou, Mortagne-au-Perche and Bellême.
Chronology of the Percheron emigration in New-France
Emigration to Quebec
"If the contribution of the Perche to the settlement of Canada --
approximately 5% of the French emigrants -- can appear modest, it should be stressed
that the Percheron emigration, the oldest one, is characterized by a remarkable prolificity..."
wrote Francoise Montagne.
The movement, launched in 1634 thanks to the capacity of conviction of Robert Giffard,
represents a certain originality in the French emigration to New-France. It should not be due to misery,
but rather to the spirit of adventure. In about thirty years, 146 adults who had various jobs, often related
to construction (mason, carpenter, brick-maker, etc), and who represented 80 families,
undertook the great voyage. Some returned to live and work in their native country but the great majority,
despite the Iroquois threat, chose to settle on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River in order to clear and thrive
the new territories. Their descendants are estimated today at 1.500.000 people in Canada and much more if
we include the USA.
1608 : Samuel de Champlain founds Quebec.
1617 : The apothecary Hébert and his family settle in Quebec.
1621 : Robert Giffard, an apothecary in Tourouvre,
native of Autheuil, perhaps a friend and classmate of Hébert , leaves for Canada and settles around Quebec.
1625 : First Jesuit missionaries arrive in Canada.
1627 : Robert Giffard returns to France, convinced that the new colonists must settle on the banks
of the Saint Lawrence River. The Company of the One Hundred-Associates is founded this same year.
Noël Juchereau, a native of Tourouvre and a friend of Robert Giffard is one of the members of this company.
1628 : In February, Robert Giffard marries Marie Renouard in Mortagne. As of spring, he goes again
to New-France in order to prepare future establishments. The ship on which he boards is intercepted by
pirates who are in the English's pay. Robert Giffard must return to France. In Tourouvre
and Mortagne, he makes profitable this period to evoke the immense country which extends beyond the Atlantic.
1629-1631 : Kirke brothers occupy Quebec for England.
March 20th 1632 : France recovers Canada with the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Robert Giffard can
finally carry out his dream.
1633 : Robert Giffard, with the help of the brothers Jean and Noël Juchereau, prepares his expedition.
1634 : In January, Robert Giffard gets the concession of the Seigneurie of Beauport by the Company of
the One Hundred-Associates. He recruits his first colonists, receives the support of Pierre Le Bouyer de
Saint-Gervais, civil general lieutenant and criminal of the Perche. During March: departure of Robert Giffard,
his wife, his children and about thirty colonists for New-France. Among them
Jean Guyon, master-mason, Zacharie Cloutier,
master-carpenter and Robert Drouin, tile maker
(native of Le Pin-la-Garenne). At the beginning of June, the ship reaches Quebec.
1635 : Samuel de Champlain dies in Quebec; the colony counts 132 colonists of which 35 come from the Perche.
In Mortagne, departure of new colonists of which Gaspard Boucher, his wife and his children.
Among them Pierre, born in Mortagne in 1622, 13 years old. The first organized colonization of New-France
is started. With regard to the Perche, the main departures happen between 1634 and 1662. Some emigrants are
mentioned at the end of the 17th century and in the 18th century.
1641 : Arrival in Quebec of Guillaume Pelletier
(from Bresolettes). The population of the colony is 300.
1647 : Arrival in Quebec of 17 young people coming from Tourouvre and the surroundings.
1650-1653: Franco-Iroquois war
1653: Pierre Boucher defends Trois-Rivières against the Iroquois. Peace between the French and the Iroquois.
1662: Pierre Boucher returns to France and, in order to save the colony threatened by the Iroquois,
requests the support of Louis XIV and Colbert. He returns to New-France bringing back many colonists.
1665 : Arrival in Quebec of the Regiment of Carignan-Salière.
1668 : Robert Giffard dies in Beauport. The colony has 3000 inhabitants.
source: Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce international du Canada
La Maison de l'Emigration française au Canada is designed to be an interpretation centre, an exhibition area and a centre providing researchers and members of the public with access to digitized genealogical data.
It aims to be the latest in scientific expertise on the phenomenon of French emigration prior to 1760, a meeting place, and a gateway to the future and the forging of new relationships.
It will, therefore, be a site of memories, but also an important genealogical research centre. Demographic and genetic data available at the Maison will enable anyone to piece together history and better understand the social and individual context of the French emigrants who left their country to build a new one.
It will benefit from strong ties to French and Canadian universities, since it is based on an important scientific research program (PREFEN) aimed at piecing together the circumstances surrounding French emigration in the 17th and 18th centuries. The data gathered through this program will enrich the content provided to the public and ensure that the information presented is scientifically valid.
Research Program on French Emigration to Nouvelle-France (PREFEN)
In cooperation with the Maison de l'émigration française au Canada, a major genealogical research project has been developed: the Programme de recherche sur l'émigration des Français en Nouvelle-France (PREFEN).
This five-year (2002-2006) research program is funded by the Canadian Government, in partnership with the CNRS, the Université de Caen and the Conseil Général de l'Orne. A number of French and Canadian universities are working together on the project, which is being overseen by a high-level scientific board.
The mission of PREFEN is to create a computerized database that will enable users to learn more about French emigration in the 17th and 18th centuries, a multi-disciplinary subject that brings history, demographics, anthropology and genetics into play.
Two tools have been developed to carry out this program:
- a database establishing the identity of the 14,000 French citizens who settled permanently in Canada before 1760;
- an in-depth study of the Perche region, which will involve going through the archives of the townships of Tourouvre, Mortagne-au-Perche and Bellême: 330,000 notarial acts and 200,000 baptismal, marriage and burial certificates.
This research, drawn from various official documents from that time, will make it possible to more closely reconstruct the possible social and genealogical background of the French emigrants and help shed light on their family and social history, as well as their reasons for leaving their country.
More information on this program on www.unicaen.fr
source: Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce international du Canada