A Hudon Marriage and Baptism in old France

Fur Trade Utensils
Fur Trade Utensils and Storage displayed at HBC replica Fort Langley

I told you in a previous post that I acquired a manuscript from an archives in France, that tells us of the Hudon-dit-Beaulieu family in France and in Quebec. But the most interesting part of the manuscript might be how the author, Gisèle Piou, speaks of the habits and customs of the French people in the 1640s, when Jean Hudon and Francoise Durand were married, and when Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu was born in Anjou, France.

Pierre Hudon would be the first of the Beaulieus of Chemillé-Melay to come to Quebec, and he was here as early as 1666, when still a very young man. The manuscript is titled: Histoire et Généalogie: A la poursuite de Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu — History and Genealogy: in Pursuit of Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu, Study by Gisèle Piou. I don’t have a date for this manuscript, but according to the information it contains, the author Gisèle Piou, was born in 1942 in la Gastine de la Poiteviniere, and she is descended from Jean Hudon and Louise Girard of Hautreux, Melay.

Close to the end of the section of the manuscript, Gisèle Piou has a summary of the ancestry of the future Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu:

Jehan Hudon and Francois Durand

…Marie Hudon (about 1638 – 3 May 1678) X June 22 1669 to Pierre Jamain, and only child child: Francois Jamain (born May 13 1674)

…Jeanne Hudon (about 1642 – 14 August 1669) Celebate, no children.

…Pierre Hudon (about 1649 – April 24 1710) married July 13 1676 in Quebec, with Marie Gobeil of Quebec: 12 children.

Francois Jamain has 12 first cousins in Quebec and a string of cousins from siblings who will “spread” throughout Quebec, the United States, and elsewhere.

Yes, indeed. One of Francois Jamain’s distant “cousins” crossed the Rocky Mountains in 1807, and HIS family has spread worldwide: to England; to Australia and New Zealand, to Minnesota, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and various other American states; to British Columbia; and to Alberta. We are everywhere!

To return to the beginning again: Pierre was born in Chemillé-Melay — in Beaulieu, “the land of his ancestors, located between Chemillé and Melay. It is a territory which includes several farms a water mill, and at least one wind mill. It is at the extremity of ancient Anjou, near the limits of the county of Mauges that raises the town of Chemillé.” Gisèle Piou also writes of the Etymology of the name Hudon — which is our ancestor’s proper name.

The surname “Hudon” may be from the baptismal name “of Germanic origin,” Hildo (from hild-, combat)… This does not mean that the ancestor was Frank or Visigoth: it is simply a phenomenon of massive fashion, which had even touched regions that the Germanic tribes has not implanted.

The Germanic names have for the most a meaning evoking the glory or the fight: Arlot means “warrior that Governs,” Bernard “strong bear,” Auzard “Old and Strong,” Eymard “Strong House,”… It is very tempting to imagine that these glorious roots translate into the qualities of the family’s original ancestor. It is not so. The Frankish language was no longer spoken for centuries when the surnames were formed. The meaning of the “given names” used at that time, and the surnames that would result from it, were rarely understood: They had only become fashionable names, as incomprehensible to Phillipe-Auguste’s contemporaries as they were to us. The poorest of the peasants could thus give in his hut to his son the baptismal name of Gautier (which means etymologically “the one who commands the armies”) with the same innocence that parents take on today with their blonde Melanie (which means “the brunette.”)

Eudo, Eudon, in old Breton means eu: good + gift: talent. In Coron, in Anjou, the first name of the parish was Eudon de Curron in 1040. It is undeniable that Bretons settled in our Country, moreover we find Melay Bretonnerie… Madam Paulette Hudon, of Aberdeen, in Canada, told me that his (her) ancestors called themselves Bretons, by family tradition. [Bretons are a Celtic ethnic group native to the historical region of Brittany].

According to the calculations of Georges Beaulieu, the surname Hudon exists in the Mauges [now Mauges-sur-Loir, France] long before Protestantism, the term used for the first time in 1529. (The surnames as we know them appeared around the 11th, 12th, or 13th centuries, in the middle ages, and we can trace the name Hudon, by feudal titles, around 1411). It is therefore very long since the “Hudon” are established in the Mauges.

Moreover, it is important to know that a “foreigner” has no chance of getting married in families that have been in the district a long time, even by producing a baptismal certificate. Mistrustful of foreigners, our ancestors intend to marry only in their environment. Not only in their geographical environment (first seigneurie, then parish) but also in their social milieu (an artisan marries the daughter of a craftsman), in their professional environment (example between children of millers), the sons of fat ploughmen, who are called censiers, can only marry girls of censiers, like the plowman the daughter of another plowman.

And marriage: The most interesting aspect of this is that the old men of the village are the people who arrange the marriages! “The old men devote all their science to it, and in a wedding ceremony a rider never receives a cavalier at random. He knows that his cavalryman is married [marriage-able], that is to say, not only that it is not forbidden by the church, but that it is recommended to her by the community.” The old men…

do not hesitate to look for his wife within the family circle. A saying clearly states: “If you can, marry in your village, and if you can, in your street, and if you can, in your house.”… The only considerations which keep us on this path are, a little, the fear and taboo of incest, and even more the prospect of the exception which M. le Curé will require, and will make us pay for, after having sometimes given ourselves up to public inquiry to prove a kinship that was hoped to be able to hide from him. As a result, it will be preferable to look for marriages with already well-known and known families.

As you will see, Martin will marry Mathurine, who is the sister of the wife of his father’s sister’s son, and the godchild of his godfather’s sister’s son: multiple links but no relatives, and therefore not the dispensation! Whatever their social background, the whole strategy of our ancestors is therefore to make marriages….

But these habits also have practical reasons. In at time when families co-exist under the same roof, it is better to try to limit the number and provenance of the patches [connections]. A marriage bringing into the house the niece of the wife of the uncle with whom one lives is in principal regarded as a pledge of good agreement between the wives. Fearing above all wars between women, every effort will be made to have the second son choose the sister of the woman who married her older brother. This is why the widower, marrying his son to the daughter of a widow frequently decides to espouse on his side the said widow. The golden rule is to get married neither too close nor too far.

The document is in French, but not Canadien French — the author is a descendant of the Hudons of Beaulieu, but not of Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu himself. She lives in France, and might well still be alive. Her writing is charming, and I really enjoyed translating it even though I am not a French speaker myself. So, let’s see what she has to say of the ceremony of baptism in the 1640s, when Pierre Hudon was born:

Pierre Hudon dit Beaulieu, baptized about 1647 or 1648 or 1649 at Chemillé, is the son of Jehan [Jean] Hudon, of Beaulieu, and Francoise Durand. He had two sisters, Marie, born about 1638, and Jeanne, born about 1642….

An Often Siberian Expedition: baptism. To better understand the habits and customs in France, about baptism, here are some explanations.

The baby that has just been born has no name. Around him everyone is careful not to say the [chosen] name because it would bring him bad luck. However, he will not have to wait long to get one: the baptism approaches. It is urgent to guarantee against the limbo of external wandering of the souls of dead children without baptism, as [baptism] will purify the child. In other words, baptism cleanses the child from original sin. The church continues to struggle for centuries to oblige parents to administer Baptism within three days of birth; almost always it is the same day or the next, rarely the day after tomorrow.

The first consequence of this precipitation is that we never have to deal with a very organized ceremony. For example, it is impossible to invite geographically distant parents. The second is that very often, it exposes the new born to new dangers. It is often necessary to travel many kilometres to get to the parish church, and this trajectory takes place whatever the meteorological conditions. Rainy, wind, snow, frost: nothing stops the little family in march towards a truly Siberian church in winter, and it is ice that will be poured on the front of the infant. The situation is all the more frequent as there are seasons conducive to births. During forbidden seasons, like careme [Catholic Lent] and Advent, our ancestors do not marry and do not make love. The majority of conceptions consequently take place between April and June, from which a large majority of births and baptisms take place between December and March — in the middle of winter!

Naturally the baby is languid and already protected by talismans. No baptismal gown — on the other hand the engender [breeding father] carries a bonnet, the “crèmeau,” which one can save for the use of the children to come. In principle, all the clothes are white and sometimes adorned with a white bow for girls or pink for boys. Thus equipped, the cortège leaves for the church. At the head are the midwife or some neighbour who had helped with the release [birth], and who carries the child. Then the sponsor and the godmother who give themselves the arm [go arm in arm?], the father, and eventually some other parents, but never the mother who is not yet raised and therefore cannot enter the church. We take care to take with us a jug of water in case the child would die on the way, to undulate [wash?]. Bread and salt are sometimes taken, and the priest will bless them, and later, sugared almonds, which the godfather will distribute.

But who precisely are this godfather and godmother, sometimes taken on the journey or required at the last minute? In the Middle Ages, the custom is to give two godfathers and a godmother to a boy, and conversely to a girl. No doubt this is explained by the role that these commit to their godson, knowing that death can mow them at any time. Although the Council of Trent abolished this habit, it was perpetuated until the 17th Century, when the second godmother was often called the “bulletin board.”

The choices these people make obeys many social, family, and legal considerations. Generally the godparents of the eldest child are the grand-parents, with priority for the grandfather of the house where the young household lives, if the two generations co-exist. Then come other grand-parents, the uncles and aunts, the first cousins; then for the younger ones, the older brothers and sisters. Sometimes, too, there arises some chatelaine or notable, a priest, a steward, from whom one always hopes for protection or an education for the child if it is not [protected by its parents], as one can often relegate the children in wills.

The principal is therefore to chose elderly people (grand-parents, uncle and aunts, teacher, etc.), or when it comes to the youngest children, contemporary new-borns. [I was a little confused here and still am; I think this what it is saying]. The purpose of all this is the effect of not reducing to the baptized the future matrimonial choice, since the church the church formally forbids to godson to espouse his godmother, and the goddaughter her godfather — except to have this prohibition lifted by a dispensation of money, and specifically called “fulmination.”

In the same way, the sacrament of baptism creates a spiritual kinship and an affinity between the baptized person and his godfather and godmother, at the same time as he creates one between the godparents. It is therefore necessary to choose godparents in such a way as to avoid any risk of committing what would be a deadly sin, the incest of compaternité [co-paternity?]. Godfather and godmother…must not know each other in the least….

The rule is equally valid between the father of the new born and the godmother, as between the mother and the godfather. If they came to sleep together, the Gospels of the Cattails tell us that he [God] would not fail to “thunder and storm on land or at sea.” One will appreciate in passing the discretion of the nature which, if it wants it, will limit its discontent with the marine world, the person or persons will not be not be informed…

As I think I said, I found this charming but I did not necessarily fully understand everything she said. But this should help you, if you are struggling to understand your French genealogy and the many connections in your family’s history. All of these traditions came from France to Quebec, and I suspect, many of them crossed the Rocky Mountains with our Canadien ancestors.

In the next Hudon dit Beaulieu blogpost, I will speak of what brought Pierre to Canada, and when. It will be fun, I guarantee it! When its done, it will appear here: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/hudon-dit-beaulieu-2/

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2019. All rights reserved.