MSS-057- The Life of Fille du Roi Jeanne Chevalier

057-header-imageEpisode 057-January 1, 2017

If you have French-Canadian ancestry, you’re sure to find a fille du roi or two (or likely many more) in your family tree. Today’s guest, Lynne Levesque, introduces us to her fille du roi ancestor, Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier. After Jeanne’s first husband died, she went on to marry two more times and is the ancestress to most Levesques in the US and Canada as well as people of many other surnames.

The Life of Fille du Roi Jeanne Chevalier

Lynne and I covered the following material in our discussion:

  • Lynne’s blog now appears in both English and French.
  • One of Lynne’s goals was to publish Jeanne Chevalier’s life story before the 300th anniversary of her death, which was November 24, 2016. Her next project is to write the story of her experiences as she wrote the book, Jeanne Chevalier, Fille du Roi: Her Story.
  • Lynne solved the mystery of where Jeanne was baptized, which was in Coutances, France. It is often difficult to find a baptism in France because there is no centralized database. A researcher would have to check individual provincial or municipal archives. Also, many records were destroyed during France’s many wars.
  • Lynne recommends 17th-century French history books about topics such as peasant life and social history in order to glean what life was like for the filles du roi before they came to Canada. In English, she recommends books by Pierre Goubert like The French Peasantry in the Seventeenth Century and William Beik’s A Social and Cultural History of Early Modern France.
  • For anyone with filles du roi ancestors, Peter Gagne’s King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers (2 vols.) in English and Yves Landry’s Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle: Orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada; suivi d’un répertoire biographique des Filles du roi in French are must-haves.
  • Jeanne had three husbands:
  1. Guillaume Lecanteur dit Latour- Jeanne married Guillaume as a fille du roi about two months after her arrival.
  2. Robert Lévesque- They settled in Rivière-Ouelle.
  3. Jean-Baptiste-François Deschamps, Sieur de La Bouteillerie in Rivière-Ouelle
  • Jeanne had a will drawn up before her death, a rather unusual occurrence at that time. She left a sum of money to some churches and a gift to a goddaughter who might have taken care of her at the end of her life.
  • Lynne found writing Jeanne’s story a very interesting experience. First, she got to know this ancestor very well. Second, she enjoyed all the experiences she had and all the people she met. Along the way, she has studied the French language to improve her communication with people in France and Quebec.

Author Suggestions

Lynne’s suggestions if you’re thinking about writing a book about your ancestor:

  • Be organized. Come up with a system that works for you and stick with it.
  • Keep a journal of what you find and where and when you find it.
  • Use the Société de généalogie de Québec in Quebec for transcriptions of early French documents.
  • Use local archives as well as those for larger areas. Visit the villages if you can.
  • Have patience and persevere.
  • Stay focused.
  • Blog your research.

Jeanne Chevalier, Fille du Roi: Her Story

Lynne’s book, Jeanne Chevalier, Fille du Roi: Her Story, is available at Harvard Book Store or (as a paperback or Kindle book).

More information on the book as well as Lynne’s blog is on her website at She will be in France for 2017 conducting more research, so sign up for her blog to follow her travels. You can e-mail her at Lynne [at] lynnelevesque [dot] com.

Other podcasts of interest


If you have French documents to translate, you can submit them to Dr. Blood from Salem State University for her French language translation class. Directions are in the show notes for episode #56.


We are going to extend last month’s survey for one more month. The question is: Which podcasts, other than those specifically about genealogy, do you recommend to other genealogists? Go here to tell us about your favorite podcasts.

While waiting for those results, try out the new genealogy podcast, Twice Removed, hosted by A. J. Jacobs of the Global Family Reunion. It’s billed as a genealogy show with a mysterious twist at the end.

French-Canadian News

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4 comments on “MSS-057- The Life of Fille du Roi Jeanne Chevalier

  1. Gerry

    Very nice, merci! Jeanne is my 6x gr.-grandmere.

  2. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    Thank you for sharing the story of Jeanne Chevalier. Aren’t those inventories after death fabulous sources! A question was raised about the right of a woman to renounce her deceased husband’s debts. The Coutume de Paris / Custom of Paris gave her this right, if she chose it. To read my article on the Marriage Contract under the Custom of Paris, scan down to the left side of the page at

  3. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    Lynn, I just read a few of your interesting blogs, in particular, your “Guillaume Lecanteur — A Man with Itchy Feet?”
    You write: The marriage contract with Jeanne lists Guillaume as a “habitant,” or farmer, and as being from Boyer Point, La Durantaye. There are no records that Lecanteur had land there. Given that at the time of their marriage he had actually leased land elsewhere, it is a mystery why the marriage contract contained this reference. I’ve put the exploration of possible answers on the “to be investigated” list for my next trips to France and Quebec!

    That’s because he probably wasn’t a “farmer”. The word “habitant” did not translate as farmer then, in the 17th or 18th centuries. Only in the 19th century did translators choose this definition because that is essentially what French Canadians were allowed to be by then! From one of my articles: Other words that United States historians seemed not to understand were habitant and fermier, both translated inaccurately as farmer, not only by the earlier writers but even by current writers. These errors result in more serious problems. A habitant in New France was simply an inhabitant, one who had decided to make the New World his place of residence, his home. He may have mustered out of his required term as a soldier in his majesty’s service, or he or she (habitante) was no longer bound by a contract that brought him or her to Canada. As an inhabitant, he or she could pursue any occupations open to him or her, including owning or cultivating a farm and engaging in the fur trade, but the exclusive meaning was not farmer. It is not until the nineteenth century, when many of the histories of French Canada were written in English, that the word habitant came to mean almost exclusively farmer, and that for complicated reasons I will not go into here. Read Leslie Choquette’s Frenchmen into Peasants for a description of the evolution of this word by the nineteenth century and Marcel Trudel, La Population du Canada en 1666 for its meaning within the context of New France.

    Fermier did, much of the time, have to do with the management of a farm, but it did not always have the meaning of cultivator, one responsible for the actual planting, growing, and harvesting of crops on a certain plot of land. Often, it indicated that an individual had been hired to oversee a farm under a leasing agreement; the land had been “farmed out,” so to speak, but it could also designate an individual in charge of a fur trade contract. See Dictionnaires d’autrefois, French dictionaries of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. I have found this to be truly valuable to confirm definitions that I learned from the French that descended to my French-Canadian parents. I’ve yet to be wrong in trusting the meanings preserved down through the generations but that modern French does not always reflect.
    Main page:


  4. Peter Marcaurelle

    Great podcast and story. Jeanne Chevalier was my 8G Grandmother via the Levesques line. As to Fille du Roi, as of my last count I have found 72 direct relations.

    I just added this book to my Amazon wish list to order after I get through several books that I am presently reading.

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