Recently, some people asked what was the origin of the Bellemare family name; They were referred to my original text which was in french only.
I have now done the english translation which follows, which will make it available to a lot more people.
The sons of Jean Gélinas
Yamachiche, Qc. Ca.
Adapted and translated from "Les ancêtres Gélinas"
by Jacques Bellemare.
Originally published in "Au Pays des Chûtes";
Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire de Shawinigan-Sud;
Vol. 3, no 2, Automne 1994
The Gelinas brothers, sons of Jean and Françoise, who had without doubt obtained occupation agreement from lord Lambert Boucher in 1699 or thereabout, go to establish themselves at the Petite Rivière Yamachiche, west of Three-Rivers, Quebec, near the river shore, in the Grosbois seigniory. (3-6)
Until that time, nobody had settled in that seigniory - which had been in existence since 1656 - because of the ongoing war that raged between the french and the Iroquois nations; the main reason of that war being the differing interests of both sides in the fur trade. So, we can say that the Gélinas brothers were daring and not the shy types of persons, by settling far away from any protection that could be had in Three-Rivers or Cap-de-la-Madeleine where their father and grandfather had settled on arrival in New-France. It is only in 1701, when the "Great Peace Treaty" was signed with more than 30 indigenous nations, that the country was finally at peace, after almost 100 years. (2-3-6)
They probably arrived at the Petite Rivière Yamachiche (litt. Small Yamachiche River) during spring, soon enough to clear up sufficient space to hastily build a shack for next winter, and sow some cereals or grains between the tree stumps to help them survive until harvest time at next year's autumn. When the basic necessities had been cared for, the time had now come for them to look up for spouses in order to found new families.
Jean-Baptiste, of whom I will tell more later, married on November 18, 1700 with Jeanne Boissonneau. His brother Étienne marries Marguerite Benoit on November 8, 1701. As for Pierre, he married later, on June 2, 1704, with Madeleine Bourbeau; a few years earlier, in 1693 and 1695, he had "gone west" (1), which means he had been hired as a coureur de bois, a "wood runner", a very lucrative occupation, but extremely hard physically. Now, at the onset of the 18th. century, those things were finished for him. But to clear a new concession, make it productive and found a new family would require of him and his wife a lifetime of relentless labor. Finally, in May 1706, at the request of the seigneuress widow Boucher, before notary Étienne Veron, the three Gélinas brothers acquired official papers for their concessions. (4)
In the meantime, Étienne Gélinas and his wife Marguerite Benoit had the first child born in Yamachiche: Étienne, on October 8, 1704. This first child was ondoyé, "baptised", by his own father, as the nearest priest was at Three-Rivers. The second child born at Yamachiche, on March 3, 1705, is Jean-Baptiste Gélinas-Bellemare, son of Jean-Baptiste Gélinas dit Bellemare et Jeanne Boissonneau. He was also "baptised" by his father. (3-6)
Note: it was the catholic custom that parents go through the motions of "baptising" a newborn whenever there was no priest around, this to ensure that his soul would be saved and go to heaven in case he died. But only priests performing this duty could register newborns in the civil registry.
The first chapel in Yamachiche was built in 1711, and it is to be noted that, in 1709, there were only 6 families, with a total of 16 inhabitants, in the whole parish. These families have the names of Bourgainville (Héroux), Gélinas, Blais, Lacerte, and Pinot dit Laperle. (3-6)
It is a certainty that the Gelinas children had often heard about the old country (France) from their father and their grandfather, and also from their mother, who had lived there 34, 12 and 16 years respectively. So, these stories must have made them curious about a country so mysterious and so different from theirs.
This may be the reason that one of Jean's sons, Jean-Baptiste, made a long trip in 1700 to Île d'Orléans, Isle of Orléans, to marry Jeanne Boissonneau dit Saintonge. Her father, Vincent Boissonneau dit Saintonge had been a soldier in the Carignan-Salières regiment that arrived in New-France in September 1665. He was from the region of Saintes, France, the same region as the Gelinas father and grandfather. After leaving the army, he had settled in Ste-Famille, Isle of Orléans, had married Anne Colin in 1669, and had begotten 12 children. Jean-Baptiste married Jeanne-Marie, their second child (born on January 23 and baptised February 1, 1672, in St-Jean, Isle of Orléans) on November 18, 1700. By this marriage, he recreated for himself symbolic ties with his ancestors' country. He went to live in Yamachiche with his wife, and from this union were born 10 children. (1-7-8)
But that's not all!
On November 16, 1707, Jeanne-Marie's younger brother, Jean boissonneau (born on the 21st and baptised on June 24, 1679) married with Marguerite Choret and they went to Yamachiche to Jeanne-Marie who had been living there with her husband Jean-Baptiste for seven years. A few days earlier, on November 6, 1707, the newlyweds had obtained a concession in this seigniory in view of establishing themselves there. (1-3-4-6-7)
Even at that time the world was small! But in the 1709 land registry and in the 1723 census, Jean Boissonneau and his wife cannot be seen anywhere in the Grosbois seigniory, which means that the family had moved somewhere else; but for what reason?
What we do know is that on August 1, 1707, Vincent Boissonneau had given his son Jean, before notary Louis Chamballon, 2 out of 3 arpents of the land that he had acquired from Guy Boidin dit Saint-Martin 33 years earlier. The father now being about 72 years old, his intention was clearly, by giving two thirds of his land, with house and cattle, that his son took care of him in his old age (No old age benefits at the time!). This donation had been done before his son's marriage with Marguerite Choret but, no matter, the newlyweds went to Yamachiche to settle there and found a family. (7-8-4)
Now, I'll be making assumptions, for lack of documentation, but let's see what the reasons may be why things went the way they did.
It may be that the newlyweds arrived too late in the season in Yamachiche to start clearing the land and build a shack for the winter. We know that at the time people generally got married during autumn or winter because there was too much work to be done (5) during the other seasons; On virgin land, everything had to be done before winter came. However, because of the fact that they had married in Isle of Orléans in November and that their concession dates from the same month, makes us almost certain that they arrived in Yamachiche soon after, before winter set in. It is logical then to believe that they had come to Yamachiche at the invitation of Jean-Baptiste Gelinas-Bellemare and his wife Jeanne Boissonneau, to spend the winter with them, and so be able to start clearing the land as soon as next spring had arrived.
During winter, when all activities take place in the house, the two couples, while working, get to know each other better, and eventually a solid friendship develops between them. More so as Jean Boissonneau's wife is pregnant.
Virtually prisoners in the house for the duration of winter, the young couple has time to think about the future. A choice is offered to them: when spring comes, they can go nearby to their new concession and, by force of sweat and work, clear some land, uproot stumps, plow, sow and build everything from scratch, or: return to the land that the father had just given them, a beautifull and fat land that already produced well, and, at the same time, ensure the wellbeing and peace of their parents.
We do not know where the child was born, but it is probably during the time they lived at the Gélinas-Boissonneau's, and here is why: the time of birth approaching, they make the decision to go back to the Isle of Orléans to settle on the land that their father had given them and to reunite together, by this fact, child, parents and grandparents.There is no priest in Yamachiche and they have to baptise the child as soon as possible. The parents think that they might never see their hosts again, and in recognition for their hospitality, the solid friendship and the family ties which link them, they name their son in honor and recognition of these facts and give to the child the name of Jean-Baptiste. The baptismal certificate of this child not having ever been found, one can suppose that the parents set out of Yamachiche before the priest missionary could go there, and that, once arrived at the Isle of Orléans, they quite simply forgot to go to the church to have him baptized officially. We do not have any idea of the date at which the new grooms and their child did go back to the Isle of Orléans, but we are certain that they definitively established themselves there, as the register of baptisms for the 11 other children whom they had shows, from 1712 to 1730. (1)
On June 26, 1902, at the time of the bicentenary of the foundation of the parish of Yamachiche, a memorial was set up on the ancestral ground of the Bellemare family, whose official possession of the land has been continuous, from father to son, since 1703 until today. The first owner was Jean-Baptiste Gélinas dit Bellemare (son of Jean Gélinas-Gellineau and Françoise Charlemesnil) and Jeanne Boissonneau. It should be remembered however that semi-officially the three Gélinas brothers had started to clear the land and build houses in 1699 or a little before, but the evidence of this fact is only circumstantial, because once they had their official concession papers, there was no reason for them to keep their temporary papers of occupation.
A few years ago I talked on the telephone with the current owner of this piece of land that had always belonged to a descendant of Jean-Baptiste and Jeanne, and he told me this about the origin of the Bellemare patronym: Jean-Baptist Gélinas had an ox. The southern side of his land extended down to the shore of Lake St-Pierre and thus, a good part of the ground was marshy and it was an ideal place for the reproduction of mosquitos. Come summer, these biting insects constantly badgered the animal and it had adopted the practice to go and take refuge in a pond of water (or mud) to reduce its sufferings. Thus it was often necessary that Jean-Baptiste seek his ox at this pond, and his neighbors, after a while, seeing him making the trip so often, started to tease him by saying to him: "belle mare!" "beautiful pond!". Soon, everybody called him "Bellemare", and this surname became his son's official patronym.
1: Dictionnaire généalogique Jetté
2: F.L. Désaulniers: Les vieilles familles d'Yamachiche
3: Raphael Bellemare: Les bases de l'histoire d'Yamachiche
4: Notarial documents: Louis chamballon, E. Veron, Étienne Jacob
5: Yves Landry: Les filles du Roy au XVII siècle; p. 133
6: J.A. Pellerin: Yamachiche et son histoire
7: Periodical publication: Nos Ancêtres
8: Archange Godbout: Nos ancêtres au XVII siècle.
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