MSS-034-Hearth and Home: the Rouillard-Guillet Story

Episode 034-June 23, 2015

In episode #34, we delve into the problem that non-French readers have trying to navigate French-language websites and discuss possible solutions to that problem.

Then author Marcel Pronovost entertains us with the story of his voyageur ancestor and his courageous wife. If there is a voyageur or two in your ancestry, you won’t want to miss this episode!

Picture: Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall (Ontario) Date: 1869 Creator: Frances Anne Hopkins (1838 – 1919) Source / File No.: Hopkins Collection / National Archives of Canada / C-002771 Copyright Expired.

French-Canadian News

The Franco-American Centre in Manchester, New Hampshire

June 26th: St. Jean Baptiste Day celebration-begins with a mass at 6:00 PM at St. Anthony Church, located at 72 Belmont St. in Manchester, followed by a banquet held in the St. Anthony Community Center. Tickets are $35.00 per person. Are there any St. Jean Baptiste festivities taking place in your area this weekend?

Language Tip #34-Navigating French Language Websites

For those who don’t read French, navigating around French-language websites is an absolute chore. Most people give up after a few minutes. Hopefully, Language Tip #34 will result in your staying a bit longer on each site and hopefully finding what you were looking for.

Common Website Navigation Terms

Common Website Navigation Terms

Genealogy or Family Society Website Terms

Genealogy or Family Society Website Terms

Repository Website Terms

Repository Website Terms Consider printing these lists to keep beside your computer.

Another method of understanding these sites is to use translation tools. Keep in mind that no mechanical translator is perfect. However, in most cases the narrative is good enough for you to figure out the general idea. I’ve created a short video that suggests three different methods for navigating French language websites. If you like the video, consider sharing it and subscribe to the Maple Stars and Stripes Video Channel.

Hearth and Home: the Rouillard-Guillet Story

Author Marcel Pronovost set out to write a short history about his family to share with relatives. Twenty years and three books later, he is today sharing his story with us. Marcel Pronovost's Three Books He first wrote Feu et Lieu, the story of his ancestors, voyageur Mathieu Rouillard and Jeanne Guillet. Then came the translation for English readers, Hearth and Home: The tumultuous life of Mathieu Rouillard and Jeanne Guillet. Marcel also wrote a separate French version of Jeanne’s story called Jeanne Guillet: La veuve Rouillard.

In our interview we discussed the following:

1- Marcel discovered that his ancestor Mathieu Rouillard was a fur trader traveling throughout the Great Lakes region trading with the Indians. But there was never enough money from the fur trade business, and debts piled up.

2- Young men arriving in New France were not so much interested in farming as they were in becoming fur traders. Around 1680, there were about 500 young men trading furs in the Great Lakes area, and the colony was not prospering. The governor passed a law decreeing that within three years of the end of their contract with whoever paid to bring them to New France, they had to settle on a piece of land and get married. Mathieu Rouillard had to abide by that law or return to France.

3. The Jesuits granted Mathieu a piece of land in Batiscan. He then set his sights on the daughter of a prosperous man from Trois-Rivière, Pierre Guillet, but Mathieu got off to a less than ideal start by ‘fibbing’ to his future father-in-law.

4. There was a huge difference between the original purpose of the French sending people to New France and the English sending them to New England, resulting in the British colony having ten times more inhabitants than the French. This lead the French king to speed up the colonization of New France.

5. There is a difference between a coureur de bois, who works independently, and a voyageur, who works under contract. Mathieu Rouillard was both at different times in his life. In 1689, the governor forbade anyone from independently trading with the Indians.

Coureur de Bois

Coureur de Bois in typical dress. These Frenchmen became involved in the 1650s in the fur trade. Woodcut by Arthur Heming (1870 – 1940), National Archives of Canada, C5746

6. We discussed the route the fur traders had to take to avoid Iroquois territory. The life of a voyageur was very difficult, as was the life of the family he left behind.

7. When Jeanne Guillet was a girl, she witnessed her own uncle massacred by the Iroquois. In spite of the Iroquois threat, she thrived, raised her family, and arranged advantageous marriages for several of her children. She was involved in several court cases, which aided Marcel in the writing of a separate book about Jeanne.

8. The church played a significant role in the lives of the colonists. If a Protestant arrived in New France, he had to convert or be sent back to France. The religious ran the hospitals and the schools and provided for the poor.

9. Mathieu died in 1702, and he is the first known European to be buried in what is today the state of Louisiana. He disappeared from the records in Québec in 1689 and didn’t reappear until a list of his possessions showed up after his death in 1702 in French Louisiane. A book by Jay Higginbotham, Old Mobile: Fort Louis de la Louisiane (1702-1711), was very helpful in researching this period of Mathieu’s life. This book also includes land grants from that region.

Fort Louis de la Mobile

Fort Louis de la Mobile, by Harfang, CC BY-SA 3.0

10. Records from Mobile and all of French Louisiana are located now in New Orleans. The records are difficult to read because they are written in 17th-century French. Help is available at the Société généalogique canadienne française in Montreal. They conduct paleography classes that will teach you how to read these documents.

11. The notaries of Québec have a central registry where they have recopied and typed many of these early notarial documents. Check with the National Archives in Québec City.

12. Feu et Lieu was Marcel’s first book, written in French, so titled because in order to keep the piece of land they were granted, the colonists needed to maintain ‘feu et lieu,’ a home with a fire. The English translation by Eileen Reardon is called Hearth and Home: The tumultuous life of Mathieu Rouillard and Jeanne Guillet. A third book, Jeanne Guillet, La veuve Rouillard, is in French only and continues with Jeanne’s life after Mathieu’s death. These books are self-published, and you can purchase a copy or contact him through his website at Marcel is also available for speaking engagements.



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One comment on “MSS-034-Hearth and Home: the Rouillard-Guillet Story

  1. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    I am sure Marcel (and you, Gail, as well as visitors to this podcast) would enjoy this article, if he has not yet seen it. See LE COSTUME DES COUREURS DES BOIS : LE MYTHE ET LA RÉALITÉ, by Francis Back, with his drawings of summer and winter clothing of voyageurs. He mentions “une chemise de toile” a shirt of toile, covering “brayets, legs wearing “mitasses,” etc. The article was originally published in CAP-AUX-DIAMANTS, N° 76, HIVER 2004.

    Mitasses and brayets are leggings and breechcloths (defined as diapers for a baby in the old French dictionaries). Francis Back’s article questions the myth and assumption that the French voyageurs wore leather pants, as has been depicted by modern-day artists imagining the clothing they wore. Some modern artists, knowing no better, have assumed the French voyageurs must have had a costume similar to what frontiersmen in the United States wore in the nineteenth century, but this is far from the truth.

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