Antoine Pépin dit Lachance - Our (New France) Ancestor
From The Chinese Recorder, Volumes 13-14  (American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1882)

"In Chinese religion, men have ancestors just as streams have sources and trees have roots. The welfare and prosperity of a family altogether depends on the spiritual energy and protection of ancestors. Ancestors are the root; descendants are the branches, flowers and fruit.  Of all men ancestors are those whom we are supremely obliged to venerate.  And, though ancestors may have long ago left the earth, descendants must never forget their root and stock… "

Simply put, this means without knowledge of our ancestors we aren't capable of understanding all of the history our family endured, all of the obstacles that had to be overcome, and all the accomplishments and struggles that happened thus allowing US to be alive.  Fortunately for us, the Lachance Family,  two people married at Notre-Dame-de-Québec (known then as Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix) on 24 November 1659. 
This then, is a bit of their story.
Exploring the Unknown, 1920, J.D. Kelly
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Collection, 1993.15371
Les Lachance  «Un Petite Histoire»
ANTOINE PÉPIN dit LACHANCE - Pionnier de l'Île d'Orléans
Quand le surnom de l'ancêtre devient le nom de tous les descendants
Lachance  "A Little History"
ANTOINE PÉPIN dit LACHANCE - Pioneer of  l'Île d'Orléans
When the surname of our ancestor becomes the name of his descendants
The vast majority of Lachance’s alive in North America today owe their name to a nickname. The descendants of our “grand” ancestor, Antoine Pépin dit Lachance, will choose, beginning with the second generation, the LACHANCE name.

Antoine and his wife, Marie Teste, will live in Sainte-Famille, on l'île d'Orléans,  a small fertile island in the middle of the St. Lawrence river just down from Québec city, for more than 40 years. They will work and raise there the majority of their 12 children.  A good number of children of the first eight or nine generations of Lachance will have colonized and populated the island, particularly the parishes of Sainte-Famille and St-Jean.

As historian André Lachance who wrote the history of his ancestor said, without doubt, Antoine Pépin dit Lachance was a pioneer of l'île d'Orléans. He also has an interesting biography.
"l'île d'Orléans - The cradle of French civilization in America
Sainte-Famille - The cradle of the Lachance family"
This is important because l'île d'Orléans is one of the strategic places of colonization in New-France.  The words, "the Island, it is a cradle...",  can even be heard in the song "Le tour de l’Île" sung by Félix Leclerc (1914-1988).

Antoine and Marie must have known the word "cradle" and obviously they experienced more than just the word, first hand! With their nine boys and three girls raised there, they will have set a course for the future of which WE are the result. (so far!)
The Prosper-Laurent House, in Saint-François, is a perfect example of a first generation home on Île d'Orléans. Our ancestor Antoine Pépin dit Lachance would build a home much like this one.

Photo from book, "l'île d'Orléans" Michel Lessard
André Lachance writes to summarize their life (paraphrased): "Thus in the uncertain pioneer environment of l'île d'Orléans in the eighteenth century, Antoine Pépin dit Lachance and his wife, Marie Teste, succeeded in establishing themselves  while living in conditions which appeared to be above the average.  This meaning they lived in relative comfort and, more than  likely,  in conditions significantly above those of French peasants living in France around the same time ."
"Begin at the beginning", the King said gravely, "and go on until you come to the end: then stop."
Lewis Carrol - Alice in Wonderland 
Let us begin at the beginning...

According to Father Archange Godbout, our ancestor Antoine Pépin dit Lachance was "baptized" at Notre-Dame Le Havre in Normandy, Seine-Maritime, France, on 10 April 1636. The registry tells us that he was the son of André Pépin and Jeanne Chevalier. As far as I know, a record of the actual "date" he was born, has not been found. He was the first of five children of merchant André Pépin and Jeanne Chevalier.  His godparents were Antoine Dubois and Jeanne Gringoire [sic], daughter of Nicolas.
During this time in history, the seventeenth-century, French kings and their minions did not impose an accelerating burden of absolutism without provoking grave, deep, and continuing opposition.

When Antoine was just a toddler, in 1639, an armed rebellion broke out in Normandy, resting on two demands: an opposition to oppressive taxation, and a call for Norman autonomy as against the centralized Parisian regime. One might assume André  Pépin was somehow involved in such turmoil.
Le Havre in Quebec
Le Havre is a city in the region of northwestern France
See map .
Indeed, there were repeated rebellions by groups of peasants and nobles in France from the 1630s to the 1670s. Generally, the focus of discontent and uprising was rising taxes, as well as the losses of rights and privileges. There were also similar rebellions in Spain in mid-century, and in autocratic Russia throughout the seventeenth century.

At some point between 1645-1655, the merchants of La Rochelle and those of Rouen had joined forces with a group in Québec called the "Communauté des habitants" or "Compagnie des habitants".  This group was comprised of mostly colonial merchants who held the fur trade monopoly.  But, during this time in New France, the price of wheat was high, incoming ships needed repairs,  first colonists needed workers and they had to be fed.  This group made it profitable to import labor from France.

With all of these things going on early in Antoine's young life and given that Le Havre is a port city with ships back and forth to New France, maybe this is a reason he decides to look for, or maybe is offered,  a journey to Québec where he believes a better life awaits.  What we know for certain, is that before leaving Le Havre, Antoine had signed a contract committing to going to New France and to remain there for three years as an (indentured) servant of Louis d'Ailleboust de Coulonge who was the French governor of New France from 1648 to 1651 and a leader of the company of the merchants (Compagnie des habitants).  Antoine will scrupulously stand by the terms of his contract.
Arrival in New France:  Genealogists Michel Langlois and Jacques Saintonge agree on his age making Antoine, easily, 15 years old at the time of his leaving France.  The exact date of the year our ancestor crossed the Atlantic has not been determined with certainty. One thing is certain, however;  if he was 16 years old upon his arrival, it is that he arrived in Québec in 1652.
If he arrived in 1652 as Antoine "Pépin" - when did the Lachance nickname first appear?

It might be reasonably assumed that this change occurred at the time of his crossing the Atlantic.  After all, a good majority of our Québécois ancestors had inherited a nickname at the time of passage, perhaps while in the army?  At a time of seemingly endless crossings of the Atlantic this would certainly be a possibility.  In the case of Antoine Pépin, the nickname of Lachance will fit him like a glove. The continuation of his life pretty much confirms his luck and today's research seems to imply he earned the nickname AFTER he arrived in New France.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Le Havre, or Notre-Dame-de-Grâce cathedral, is the main church of the diocese of Le Havre. It is the oldest building in downtown Le Havre and one of the only survivors of the destruction of the Second World War.
Louis d'Ailleboust of Coulonge and Argentenay. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography
On his arrival in Québec, the young colony is anything but a city! If one believes the description that the Jesuit Paul Ragueneau made two years earlier: "Quebec is called a city; but it would be truer to say that, apart from the fort, our house and the two convents of nuns, there is almost nothing that has the appearance of a city, but of rather it is just a humble village. We can see some thirty French houses scattered here and there and without any order. "
In the early days, the young Antoine spent most of his time in company of another servant, François Gaulin, who arrived with him. Around this same time, Dailleboust and his family lived in the area of Coulonge, most likely located on the site of Bois-de-Coulonge today.
Master of His Own Place
After three years, as envisioned, Antoine has a choice to make; return to France or to remain here and become established on his own concession.  Like the majority of the volunteers, he decides to remain in his new country.
On January 5, 1655, Antoine gets what can only be described as his just reward.  He will become the master of his own domain. The Dailleboust lord concedes not one, but two parcels to him that he will exploit with his companion and associate François Gaulin.  One of the 15 arpents or land is near Coulonge.  It edges on the "Main road" (today the Saint-Louis road) which goes from Québec to the Cap-Rouge.  The other property is another 200 arpents and it is located in the seigniory of Lauzon, facing the river. Antoine will devote the next three years to clearing his two properties and to fish eel with his partner.
Then, in 1658, Antoine was elated to see his younger brother François arrive in Québec City. François quickly himself in business. When he arrived, Denys Guyon, a master gunsmith of Québec, leased a parcel of land consisting of eight arpents all deserted (cleared) for a period of two years. François also has an associate named Jacques LeRoy. The land is located in Sainte-Famille, Île d'Orléans.

Maybe Antoine was seduced by the beauty of Île d'Orléans while visiting his brother because he leaves Sillery and Lauzon and buys most of the property that his brother François had received in lease the previous year. In order to do this, he joins forces with Jacques Asselin.  Together they clear the land elevating him above the rest in the eyes of the settlers at the time.

Antoine soon has a barn and a small house. This property, now five arpents (roughly the equivalent of 5-acres) in size faces the river and it is a beautiful piece of ground. (as it remains to this day.)
Saint-François-de-l'Île-d'Orléans - Maison Ginchereau, 1925, Edgar Gariépy, Collection initiale, P600,S6,D5,P750, (Tiré de www.banq.qc.ca)
Five months later, François Gaulin, his former partner and still a friend, buys the ground adjacent to Antoine’s. The two new neighbors will help each other all  for the rest of their lives.  As for François, the brother, he quickly disappears from genealogies.  He, most likely,  returned to France.  Apparently, not everyone was made for life in the New World.  (Larry's Note: What happened to François? To date, I have no knowledge of anybody ever determining the fate of François.  All the is known is that he did not return to Québec.
For a well written explanation of "Les Filles à Marier" visit the Perrault and Mosier website...
CLICK HERE TO VISIT
Une femme dans la maison
A Lady In The House
Antoine Pépin dit Lachance has now established himself a farmer.  He has managed to build a small nest egg for himself.  All he needs now are the essentials; and a wife to make his house a home as well as establish a family like any good settler.
André Lachance quotes the historian Yves Landry and his enlightening work, "Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle".  (The King's Daughters in 17th Century).  Landry's research revealed that Canada lacked "marriageable girls", that is, nubile girls or girls suitable for marriage, especially in regard to age or physical development.  

In 1659, there were nine men available for every woman. That's why, in the fall of 1658, Jeanne Mance and Marguerite Bourgeois went to France to recruit women for their Montréal colony.  When they returned the following year, nearly 20 of the 60 women they brought back from France chose to remain in Québec City.  These women were known as "Les Filles à Marier"  or  “Marriageable Girls
It is among them that our Antoine finds the one he seeks.  Her name is Marie Teste.

She is a native of La Rochelle, born about 1640 in Salles-de-Villefagnan, (arrondissement and diocese of Angoulême), Angoumois, the first of three children of Jean Teste and Louise Talonneau.  At 21 years old she is two years younger than her husband.

The marriage takes place at Notre-Dame de Québec, (known then as Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix) in Québec City on November 24, 1659.  Neither spouse could sign the marriage contract which was drawn up on 11 November by the notary Audouart. [
Contrat de mariage: Notaire Guillaume Audouart, District de Québec, November 11, 1659.] 

Notary Guillaume Audouart de Saint-Germain stipulated that the groom would endow the bride with a dowry of 300 livres.
Basilique-cathédrale de Notre-Dame-de-Québec.  Vue de la cathédrale et place du marché, 1841, Millicent Mary Chaplin. Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, Source: No d'acc 1956-62-25
Among the relatives and friends gathered for the reading of the marriage contract were François Pépin, brother of the groom; Jacques Sevestre, Sieur des Roches;  Pierre Duqet, Sieur de la Chesnaye;  the merchant Antoine Grignon and his son Jean; Jean Guyon, father and son; Elisabeth Couillard; Bertrand Chesnay, Sieur de la Garenne; master gunsmith Denis Guyon and his wife Isabelle Boucher; Michel and François Guyon; Charles Belanger, Louis Coste,  and Jacques Mainville.

André Lachance notes that this is not a marriage of love, as was the case for many from that era in this country.  In spite of this, Antoine and Marie will find their future together at Ste-Famille. The rest of their lives prove that they both made the right choice.
Ste-Famille - Photo 2001 by Larry Lachance
1920 photo found at google/images
Founded in 1661, Sainte-Famille is the oldest municipality on Île d'Orléans.
Ste-Famille is considered the "cradle" of the Lachance family .
After just eight years of marriage, Antoine had developed 14 acres of land and he has 5 animals. These will, according to historian Louise Dechêne, allow him to meet his basic needs as well as those of his family, including food, clothing, housing and heating.

His legacy will develop remarkably. At the time of Marie's death, in 1701, the couple's property inventory tells us that Antoine has 70 acres of cleared land, a horse, a mare, a filly, and two large oxen from France. To this we must add six cows, two calves, two pigs, two sows and four geese.  According to living standards at this point in history, our ancestor Antoine Lachance is a farmer at ease.

It should be noted that among the 12 children of our pioneer ancestor, only three will die before the age of 25. This simply means that the conditions in which children were raised, in the Pépin dit Lachance household, must have been exceptionally good.  Infant mortality was very high in New France especially during these early years. While the numbers were less than in France, there were 246 deaths for every 1000 births in the eighteenth century, at least according to official figures.  This equates to roughly 1 of every 4 children born during this time would die as an infant! Compare that to .59 percent mortality rate today (2016) - we've come a long way from the heartache and hard lives of our ancestors!
“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on."
Robert Frost - Sept 1954
After his marriage in 1659 and now well established on their property in Ste-Famille, Antoine and Marie raise 12 children; three girls and nine boys, who will assure numerous descent bearing the names Pépin dit Lachance, Pépin and Lachance among others. This family is rightfully considered a pioneer family of Ste-Famille and one of "Les grandes familles" .

Antoine dies at the age of 67 on January 23, 1703 at Ste-Famille, two years after the death of his wife, Marie Teste. She died and was buried September 11, 1701 at Ste-Famille, Île d'Orléans.  Both of them rest in peace in the Ste-Famille cemetery in graves that are unmarked and their exact locations unknown.

As an aside, while our ancestor Antoine and his wife raised a dozen children, this pales by comparison with their son Jean, who was the father of no less than twenty-two offspring from his two successive marriages, Renee Guyon and Madeleine Fontaine.  As for me, Larry Lachance, my family line descends from this son, Jean and his second wife  Madeleine Fontaine.
I wonder if I've been changed in the night?
"Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"
Much like the dream journey of Alice in Wonderland… in the history of our family from its beginnings with Antoine and Marie...we have all undergone emotional upheaval and transformations, had encounters with various creatures of both the human and non-human kind and experienced loss and subsequent quests for identity. 

Antoine gained his self-confidence and in reality, gave us our chance. The journey of our ancestors before us may be said to be a quest for knowledge and identity although they didn't even know they were taking this journey.  Do we? 

This just begs the question so
"who in the world am I?"  And, while I may never be sure who I am or why I'm here, I do know which of those forks in the road to take because now I know...from whence I came
Sources: Information on this page comes from a variety of sources including, but not limited to:  My own (Larry Lachance) personal research and files; "Grandes Familles du Québec" by Louis Lemieux;  "Before the King's Daughters: The Filles à Marier, 1634-1662" by Peter J. Gagné; and "Our French-Canadian Ancestors", by Gerard Lebel/Thomas J. Laforest
Back To Previous PageBack To Previous Page
Any Commercial, religious, or other use, without the consent of the compiler (Larry Lachance) is prohibited!
If you use information or data from this site, you must give proper acknowledgement and credit. 
Contact me with your comments and corrections.
Copying expressly forbidden except for your PERSONAL (not-for-profit/non-commercial) Family History/Genealogy.