Nearly all Franco-American families can find at least one female ancestor from among the 17th century Les Filles du Roi. They were Daughters of the King or Marriageable Daughters, says Franco-American writer Denis Ledoux. Two women in his family were among them.

They made the journey to New France to meet soldiers or trappers eager to marry.

Ledoux is a writer and a director of the Soliel Life Story Network, working with people who want to write family histories. He grew up speaking French in a three-generation home in Lisbon Falls.

“My family told lots of stories. Stories are part of my life,” he says.

Our conversation on Les Filles du Roi began following an article about Franco-American Marilyn Lacombe Snipe of Waterville. Snipe says her family’s ancestry is connected to one of these 17th century ladies.

Estimates about the number of women who came to New France vary between 800 and 1,100. Before 1663, they were known as Filles a Marier, or “girls to be married.” After 1663, they became known as Les Filles du Roi, because the king treated them as his daughters. They were awarded passage and dowries prior to leaving France for Quebec. Their dowries included a wedding dress and essentials for a young bride to start a new life. Wealthy women received more substantial dowries than poorer women, says Ledoux.

Jean Talon (1626-1694), Intendant in Quebec, (a managerial government official) recommended the government support Les Filles du Roi. Talon’s mission was to boost the growth of the Quebec colony. “Talon realized there was no future for New France without families,” says Ledoux.

There are inaccurate accounts about Les Filles du Roi having questionable backgrounds, but this was not the case, says Ledoux. “Each woman was recommended by a parish priest. They were strong, able to bear children and reputable,” says Ledoux. They did not consider their marriages as love contracts but were hoping for husbands to protect and provide for them.

Sometimes, the men turned out to be marriage disappointments, says Ledoux. There are accounts of communications from the Ursuline Convent in Quebec urging Les Filles to be certain their prospective husbands had a house for the women to live in before signing a marriage contract.

Two of Les Filles in the Ledoux genealogy are Renee Lappe, who was one of Les Filles a Marier, and Marte Auitel, who arrived with Les Filles du Roi when she was 28 years old. Contact [email protected] for information from Ledoux about writing family stories.

 

Juliana L’Heureux can be contacted at: [email protected]