1- Marie Campion: An Orphan with Uncertain Roots
Marie Campion, our female ancestor, remains an enigma for genealogists. As many other authors, genealogist Michel Langlois stated that she originated from “the parish of Saint-Nicaise, in the city of Rouen, in Normandy.” (1) But her origins are not quite clear because her marriage documents somewhat differed, indicating in one case Saint-Malo and in the other Rouen. Indeed, Notary Becquet identified Marie as the “daughter of Pierre Campion and the deceased Margueritte Esnau, her father and mother originating from the City of St. Mallo.”(2) However, the parish priest in Sainte-Famille, on the Orléans Island (close to Quebec City), stated that she originated from “St-Nicaise, in the city and archdiocese of Rouen».” (3) In spite of numerous attempts by many genealogists, one of them being the American Jesuit Father Joseph Anthony Dubé, this enigma still remains unsolved. Recently, Charles-Henri Dubé proposed a remarkable hypothesis after consulting a Web site dedicated to the churches of Rouen. On this site, the church of Saint Maclou is described as follows: “The church of St-Maclou is dedicated to a Breton saint also known as Malo.” (4) Could Notary Becquet have mistakenly situated the church in Brittany instead of Normandy? It seems to us, as it does to Charles-Henri, that Marie probably lived in the parishes of Saint-Maclou (Malo) and Saint-Nicaise, both situated in Rouen.
In the same article, Charles-Henri Dubé also questioned the “noble origin” of Marie Campion alleged by genealogist Raymond Dubé in a letter to one of his correspondents: “The Campion family originated from the parish of St-Nicaise, City of Rouen, in Normandy. This branch of the Campion is known as de Campion de Montpoignant et d’Aubigny, whose nobility was maintained in 1688.” (5) We do not know on which source Raymond based this information. In any case, Charles-Henri reviewed the matter with correspondents who were members of the Amicale des Campion and with the French genealogist Damien Rauline. None of these discussions brought conclusive proof, and Damien Rauline added: “All I can say, concerning the hypothesis of the Campion de Montpoignant, is that Campion is a widespread name in Normandy and that it does not necessarily imply a relationship with this noble family. In the absence of more conclusive elements, I would say that Marie Campion is not likely a descendant of this noble family.” (6) Thus, considering what is currently known, we find no solid basis to link Marie Campion to the French nobility.
2- Marie Campion: A “King’s Daughter”
During his genealogical research, Joseph Anthony Dubé found in a register kept in Saint-Nicaise an act that seemed to record the death of a woman called Marguerite Esnault in May 1664. If this woman was the mother of our Marie, the child would then have been an orphan at 10 years of age. As was the case of many orphan girls between 1663 to 1673, she had the opportunity to take part in the plan developed by King Louis XIV, his minister Colbert and intendant Jean Talon (the general manager of the colony) to increase the population of New France, declared a royal colony in 1663. To increase the population, it was necessary to attract a larger number of “girls willing to marry.” Recruited in Paris or in other regions by merchants or ship owners, these King’s Daughters – some 770 girls according to historian Yves Landry – were brought to Dieppe or to La Rochelle, where a long crossing to Canada awaited them. Each contingent was escorted by a lady chosen in France or in the colony, this lady being “highly recommended and able to maintain a rigid discipline over her protected girls during the two-month ocean crossing.” (7) The best known of these escorts was probably Anne Gasnier, a middle class woman from Paris who became a widow after a first marriage in France and who emigrated to Canada where she was granted the seigniory of Jacques-Cartier plus the rear fee of Monceaux in Sillery (now part of Quebec City). Acclaimed by Marie de l’Incarnation as being “the mother of the destitutes and an example of all sorts of good virtues,” (8) Anne Gasnier agreed to marry Jean Bourdon, a widow with seven dependent children, provided that they live as brother and sister. Jean Bourdon was a widely respected man who made his mark as a seignior, land surveyor, cartographer, merchant and attorney general (procureur général) in the Sovereign Council of New France. Widowed once again, Mrs. Gasnier-Bourdon escorted some of these contingents, notably the contingent of 1669. She accommodated many “wards of the King” in her own Quebec City home and signed over 300 marriage contracts for their benefit. Her diligent work was continued by Élisabeth Estienne. This Parisian woman likely sojourned in Quebec City; she escorted the contingents of 1670 and 1671 and signed for her protégées on some fifty marriage contracts. According to historian Sylvio Dumas, “Over 90 per cent of these immigrant girls married farmers recently settled on wooded lands.” (9)
Original French quotations
(1) « de la paroisse Saint-Nicaise, de la ville de Rouen en Normandie. »
(2) « fille de Pierre Campion et de deffuncte Margueritte Esnau ses père et mère de la ville de St. Mallo ».
3) « de St-Nicaise de la ville et archevêché de Rouen ».
4) « L'église St-Maclou est dédiée à un Saint breton appelé aussi Malo ».
(5) « La famille des Campion était de la paroisse St-Nicaise, Ville de Rouen, en Normandie. Cette branche des Campion est de la maison des de Campion de Montpoignant et d’Aubigny, maintenue noble en 1688.»
(6) « Ce que je peux juste dire à propos de l’hypothèse Campion de Montpoignant, c’est que Campion est un nom que l’on rencontre en Normandie sans qu’il s’agisse de membres de cette famille noble. Sans autre élément, j’aurais donc tendance à dire qu’il y a toutes les chances pour que Marie Campion ne descende pas de cette famille noble. »
(7) « bien recommandée et capable de maintenir ses protégées sous une discipline rigoureuse, pendant une traversée de deux mois… »
(8) « la mère des misérables et l’exemple de toutes sortes de bonnes vertus »
(9) « Plus de 90 pour cent de ces immigrantes épousèrent des habitants nouvellement établis sur des terres boisées ».