François Lafay, Lafaye or Lafaille is a mystery man.
Let’s start out with what we absolutely, positively know about his history, which isn’t much.
He was the father of my ancestor, Marie Lafay or Lafaille. Marie’s mother was Acadian, but from everything we find, including records we don’t find, François was not. He nor anyone by that surname, or even a similar surname, was listed on any of the Acadian census rolls or other resources from the time the Acadians spent in either Nova Scotia (Acadia) or in exile.
He did, however, meet Marie’s mother, Marie DeForest (Foret, Forest, LaForet, LaForest), in New England, someplace in the colonies, after the Acadians were abruptly expelled in 1755 from their maritime homes in Nova Scotia.
The Acadians spent about a decade in forced exile, but some remained longer in their new homeland. Of course, the problem is that we don’t know, except in generalities, where that homeland was. Nor did they consider it a homeland. They were a displaced people, forced into poverty and sometimes servitude, deported against their will by the English who forcibly took their lands. They were French, spoke French, and were Catholic. The English who rounded them up and herded them onto ships after burning their farms often irrecoverably split families. The Acadians did not settle in a single group. Different ships carrying heartbroken refugees arrived in different locations along the eastern seaboard and elsewhere. None of those places were welcoming, although some tried their best to accommodate the now-destitute families.
If François was French, and with a name like François, he most certainly was – it would have been natural for him to be drawn to other French-speaking people.
Is there anything else we can discern from his name?
Per FamilySearch, LaFay is a French metonymic occupational name for someone who caught and sold quails, a variant of Caille with a fused feminine definite article la. So, in essence, his patronymic ancestor may have been a man involved with quails.
It can also be a topographic name for a person living on a patch of pebbly or stony soil,; or a habitational name from La Caille, the name of several places in various parts of France.
In the book, Les Canadiens-Français: origine des familles émigrées de France, d’Espagne, de Suisse, etc., pour venir se fixer au Canada, a book about the origins of French-Canadian families by specific names, La Faye is shown as a commune of Charente, arr. by Ruffec. It also states, translated, “Fay, bundled hoops or circles and faye, forest place, forest, ewe.”
Ruffec, Charente is a stopover town on the road from Paris to Spain (Route National 10) between Poitiers and Angouleme.
This was an interesting exercise but not much help.
Who He’s Not
Before going any further, I’d like to eliminate one erroneous identity.
There is one François Faille, born in November 1741, in LaPrairie, Quebec to François Faille and Marie Anne Brosseau. He married Marie Joillet in 1783, in LaPrairie, Quebec. This man and our François Lafay are two different people with similar names.
We know this because the marriage rehabilitation of our François states that he and Marie LeForest married in New England in 1767, and he had children contiguously with Marie before and after his arrival in L’Acadie, in Southern Quebec. He was married to her until her death in 1819, and we know that their children born prior to 1788 were born in the colonies. Therefore, this man born in 1741 in Quebec and who lived and married in 1783 there cannot be our François LaFay/LaFaye.
Another record sometimes confused with our François LaFay or Lafaille is this 1766 notarial record in Quebec.
This is possibly the François Faille who was married to Marie Anne Brosseau, or his son, François Faille who was born in November of 1741.
We know our François was in New England a year later, and he always signed his name LaFaye, never Lafaille, although later records in Quebec sometimes spelled it phonetically. It’s clear though, that this list was not made by the people involved, because the handwriting is all the same. So surnames could have been spelled any which way.
The Notarial Seigneur, Antoine Crispin Sr. served in Chateau-Richer, north of Quebec City.
One piece of information about our François is revealed through his daughter, Marie Lafay who, amid much conflict, converted to Protestantism late in life. Henrietta Feller was one of the missionaries who befriended Marie, also known as Mary.
In Henrietta Feller’s diary, quoted in A Lower Canada Baptist Beginning, she wrote about Marie/Mary Lafay/Lafaille Lord’s conversion to Protestantism saying that Marie’s father, François was a French sailor who settled in Boston.
Mary was reportedly born Marie Lafay to an Acadian mother and French father, although we don’t actually know if she was born in Boston or elsewhere. Her 1767 birth occurred at a time when many Massachusetts Acadians traveled to Boston to petition for transport to return to Canada.
Some Acadians, however, were considering staying in the colonies, taking into account:
…the dangers of sea travel, which included storms, sinking, contagions and even piracy, recently illustrated by the fate of 80 young Acadians taken and pressed into the service of privateers. They knew that they retained no place or residual rights in Nova Scotia. Moreover, old age, the very ache of their 50-year-old bones, reminded them how difficult it would be to scratch out a new place on leftover and, thus difficult, lands. Just perhaps, they still resisted taking an oath to the throne…Just possibly they and their children began to envision rural Massachusetts as home…children had no doubt learned English and accustomed themselves to the ways of these strangers. Time had not resulted in their isolation, and familiarity with Protestants and colonial law had not bred contempt.
Marie Lafay, according to various reports, had in fact, been exposed to Protestant teaching while in exile.
Perhaps Mary’s mother’s family had settled in and became somewhat established over the 11 years since the expulsion from Nova Scotia began. After their 1767 marriage, maybe there was no driving motivation for Mary’s parents to leave. By the time they did, nearly 20 years later, many children had been born, and others were nearly raised. Mary was educated in a Protestant school and learned to read the Bible there.
Was François Lafay Protestant, at least initially, and not Catholic?
According to what François’s daughter, Mary Lafay Lore, told the Baptist missionaries, her elderly maternal grandmother, Marie Josèphe Le Prince, became upset in 1787 that her children were losing their Catholic religion and culture and made the decision to send the family back to Canada.
Mary also revealed that she had encouraged her father, François Lafay, to make the 1788 trip to Canada after something she recalled as “a fearful disappointment.” Clearly, they were close.
I wonder if Mary’s disappointment was personal in nature, perhaps a suitor, or was it something more widespread? It is interesting to note that Pliny Moore, Mary’s close friend, was married in January of 1787 in Vermont. It may or may not be relevant, but it is a possibility.
We don’t know what Mary’s disappointment was, but according to historian Joseph Amato’s research into one Acadian family, Marie’s family’s experience may have been similar.
The Revolutionary War magnified federal and state debts, leaving the majority with useless currency and no means to repay debts, turning newly ordained national citizens into ordinary migrants and squatters. The battle raged between creditors and debtors. Between the financial and mercantile coast against the farmers of the inland countryside. Shay’s Rebellion, an intense revolt of the indebted in Massachusetts, resulted in a terrible shock to the new nation. It ended in 1787, having accomplished little. Many migrated back to the larger coastal cities where there was a chance to find work and make money or initiated the great trek inward toward the frontiers.
Regardless of what event or combination of events caused the Lafay/Lafaille family to join other Acadian families in Quebec, they made that journey by the summer of 1788.
Where Did François Come From?
What can we discover about François’s early years, if anything?
I found an undated paper written by Bernard H. Doray from Montreal, Canada, who, unfortunately, appears to be deceased. His paper titled “History of François Lafaye and Marguerite Foret” provides sourced information I have not found elsewhere, for which I’m extremely grateful.
Based on Henrietta Feller’s recollection of what Mary Lafay told her about François in Boston, Bernard questioned how a French man would be able to settle in Boston, given that England and France were at war until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ended the conflict between France and Great Britain over control of North America. I had wondered the same thing.
Bernard then states that his nephew discovered a muster roll of a warship, the Grand St-Jean-Baptiste, in the French Naval Archives.
The ship sailed on February 2, 1757, from Bordeaux with an apprentice sailor, “mousse” in French, François Lafaye, age 13, from Puy-Paulin, which is the name of both a Castle and Parish in Bordeaux, France.
François is listed at the bottom of the first column, with a reference number which is found on the following pages.
An age of 13 places this François’s birth in 1743 or 1744 which correlates with our François’s birth year based on his death entry in 1824 where he was stated to be 80 years old.
François was paid 10 somethings, probably livres – the currency of the time. He and three other apprentices were the lowest paid on the ship. There is only one younger boy, age 12. All five of the mousses, apprentice sailors, were between the ages of 12 and 15 and paid either 10 or 12 of whatever.
I can’t help but wonder if these youngest boys were orphans. Most parents would be very reluctant to allow a boy of that age to go to sea, possibly never to return.
It’s worth noting that there is another Guillaume La Faye, a 35-year-old cooper, but he is not from the same location, or even close.
Guillaume was older, from Saint-Remy, finished the campaign, and was discharged at Port-Louis on April 29, 1758.
Saint Remy to Puy-Paulin is quite distant. The commonality is that they are both located very near to major coastal cities. Many men on the ship’s roster were from Bordeaux.
Today, it’s difficult to find the Puy-Paulin castle, at least by that name.
That’s because today, the castle has been converted into the Hotel de l’Intendance.
Here’s the fortified Chateau Puy-Paulin in the city of Bordeaux in 1550.
The view across the rooftops of one of three Roman castle towers in 1638.
In 1743, the castle consisted of several buildings from different periods, joined together in 1744 by a large carriage entrance flanked by two pavilions.
This 1755 map shows the concert hall at the top, which burned, the grove, and the French garden in the center, with the inner courtyard and porte-cochere, where coaches deposited their passengers, at the bottom.
In 1755 or 1756, a fire started from the rooftops. Much was destroyed, but the castle was eventually rebuilt.
I’m unclear whether there was one fire or two, with a second following in 1756. In 1755, François would have been 11, and 12 in 1756. A devastating fire would have affected many people, and François would have been a wide-eyed, possibly terrified, witness.
This 1705 map of Bordeaux shows the plan of the castles and suburbs with surrounding areas.
Assuming that this François Lafaye on the ship’s roster is our guy, this would have been his stomping ground, and he would have witnessed that fire. He may also have been orphaned by it.
This might have been why he signed on, or was signed on, to the ship as an apprentice sailor in 1757. Bordeaux’s bustling Port of The Moon was right there, and assuredly ships were always looking for crew.
In the 1700s, Bordeaux’s Port of the Moon was France’s busiest port, importing coffee, cocoa, sugar, cotton, and indigo, and the second busiest port in the world.
The Port of the Moon on the River Garonne in 1899 shows the “Old Town,” at right, along the river.
The Port of the Moon as seen from the top of the spire of the Saint-Michel church.
But that’s not all. Back to Bernard’s article with images I’ve added.
On the same muster roll we read that François escapes from his ship on April 10, 1757, at Cap Français, St-Domingue which is now Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
Cap Francais, at that time a French trading stronghold for both agriculture and slaves, is nestled between the bay and the mountains.
Remnants of the French colonial architecture can still be seen today. Perhaps François passed by this very building.
The location in Haiti, today.
Why does François escape?
He was not alone. About a third of the crew escaped. The role of a young sailor was a dangerous one: they had to run down to the hold of the ship, carry bags of powder up to the cannons and fill them for the gunners to fire them, and to cool the cannons between the firings by the gunners. That was related by the historians at the Museum of Restigouche (a museum to show an excavated war ship sunk in 1760; officially called “Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site of Canada” at Pointe-à-la-Croix QC). So, they employed young sailors instead of gunners for that dangerous work.
Possibly they sought young sailors with no families to miss them if they didn’t return from that dangerous mission. What happened to those other four young boys on the ship?
According to the roster:
- The youngest, François Tourete, age 12, “passed on le Greenwich July 12, 1757,” which I presume means he died. He apparently chose not to escape in April. Maybe he should have. If he died on the Greenwich Meridian, it would have been on the return trip because the Greenwich Meridian is nowhere near the Caribbean or the Americas.
- Jean Paillat, age 15, finished the campaign and was released on April 27, 1758, at Port-Louis.
- Joseph Lierte, age 15, deserted on April 10, 1757, at Cap-Francais, the same day as François Lafaille and much of the rest of the crew.
- The record for Andre Micouleau, age 15, says that he embarked at Bordeaux, but then that he never embarked.
Maybe that crossing where one of their young mates died, combined with the reality of warfare, made this less of an adventure and very real. Of the five apprentices, apparently one backed out before leaving, and only one completed the voyage.
Back to Bernard:
An unsettled problem: what happened to François after April 1757? Did he stay in Haiti or did he sail to Boston? How did he live? How did he move from Haiti to Boston?
Note that some Acadians, deported in 1755 from Acadia (Nova Scotia) to the British colonies as the Carolinas, were allowed to leave in 1763 and removed to Haiti.
Those Acadians settled at Mole St-Nicolas which is about 178 km by road from Cap-Haitien, or perhaps an easier journey by boat. Did François somehow meet them? Or, did he catch a ride back on the same ship headed back north?
Unfortunately, the Acadian settlement on Mole Saint-Nicholas was highly unsuccessful, and many of those who survived left with Joseph Broussard in January of 1765 when his ship stopped by on the way to Louisiana. IF, and it’s a big IF, François Lafaye who jumped ship in 1757 managed to make his way to Mole Saint-Nicolas, this might explain his arrival in Louisiana, but that’s not where he surfaced. This does nothing to explain his arrival in Boston or any location on the eastern seaboard.
There might be another explanation, however.
In 1763, Acadians began petitioning the Massachusetts General Court for permission to leave the province with the intention of either returning to Nova Scotia, going to France, St. Domingue (now Haiti,) or Quebec, areas with people who shared their language and culture. On November 28, 1764, the governor declined their petition, but it does show us that the people in Massachusetts were keenly aware of French-speaking Haiti.
With Cap-Francais being the center of Caribbean French maritime trade, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that François signed on again as a crew member from Haiti to Boston, and remained in Boston, perhaps jumping ship again. Sailing was a dangerous profession, and every ship would have been seeking to replace crew who had died or failed to return to the ship during their most recent voyage.
In 1763, Françoise’s soon-to-be-wife’s family was in Connecticut, not Massachusetts.
Of course, just because Françoise arrived in Boston, assuming that is accurate, which it may not be, doesn’t mean he stayed in Boston. Connecticut has a long shoreline too, and by land, is only about 50 miles or so.
By 1763, François would have been 19 and clearly able to fend for himself. By this time, he had been on his own for six long years and was probably very street savvy.
Back to Bordeaux
Bernard was a persistent researcher and continued his story.
With information on the approximate year and place of birth and the wonderful help of Cercle de Genéalogie du Sud-Ouest (Bordeaux, France), I obtained François’ birth and baptism registration.
On this map, you can see the location of the castle, with the red pin, then the Sainte-Eulalie Catholic church, followed by the Pariosse Saint-Nicholas Catholic church at the bottom. Clearly all within walking distance.
François was born on January 7, 1744, and baptized the next day at St-Nicolas church in Bordeaux. It is not far from Puy-Paulin that he gives as his residence when he joined the navy in 1757. His father is Joseph Lafay, coachman .and his mother is Françoise Germon from Ste-Eulalie parish (next parish).
Sylvie Lord translates his baptism as:
On the 7th of June 1744, was born between 9 and 10 AM, a child of Joseph Lafaye, coachman and Françoise Germon, from Ste-Eulalie parish, was baptised on the 8th of the said month, given the name of François…
Note that St. Nicolas is a Catholic church, which tells us that François was indeed Catholic.
Joseph Lafay(e) and Françoise Germon were married at St. Nicolas on February 11, 1738, in Bordeaux, Gironde, France. The two churches are slightly over half a mile (900 meters) apart, but of course the families may have lived closer.
It’s difficult to get a good picture of this church today because the medieval street is quite narrow and the area densely built. This building, constructed between 1821-1823 is apparently not the original church at this location. I wonder if part of the original church remains within the current one.
The church is beautiful, although I wonder where the cemetery was located. It’s clearly gone today.
The cemetery assuredly existed adjacent to the church at some time. Perhaps beneath the school to the right, or within the walls of the Ministere des Armees to the left, above.
The lettering above the entry gate translates to ancient or old hospital of St. Nicolas which was or is a military hospital.
Is this the street where François lived? Education at that time was under the auspices of the church, so this must have been where he learned to read and write, at least well enough to sign his name, assuming he is our François.
La Rue St. Nicolas is quite narrow, testifying to its antiquity.
The François Lafaye onboard the ship was assuredly this boy who would have been baptized and worshipped in an earlier church in this location.
Did he say his last prayer here before climbing aboard the Grand St-Jean-Baptiste to sail away – a boy in a man’s war?
Was this church damaged or destroyed in the fires? Could he even have worshipped here then, if he had wanted? Or did he attend his maternal grandparent’s church, at least from time to time. Were any of his parents or grandparents still living in 1757?
Did he attend his parents’ funerals here before boarding the ship and embarking on the journey of a lifetime?
Is he “our” François Lafaye?
If so, his mother was probably baptized in the Saint-Eulalie Church just a few blocks away.
You can view several photos of St. Eulalie, one of the oldest churches in Bordeaux, both interior and exterior, here.
This church appears to have had several additions, but the original church was here when Francois’s mother lived.
Today, a tree blooms in the beautiful French springtime.
At some point, the cemetery would have been located beside or to the rear of this church, or perhaps both. Today, it’s gone, but perhaps a few graves remain, tucked into the cloistered arches visible from the side streets.
François’s mother’s ancestors are likely buried someplace here in unmarked graves.
Both churches are mapped in Bordeaux with the Puy-Paulin castle slightly to the north – all easily a 20-25 minute walk end to end. Young boys tend to run. One way or another, that young man’s childhood ended in the late winter or early spring of 1757 when he walked up the ramp to that ship with probably nothing more than a change of clothes – if that.
Today, this entire area is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Where Do We First Find Our Proven François Lafay?
François Lafay witnessed the marriage of Jean Dupuis and Marie Hébert in 1773 in New England and signed the registration, as stated in the validation of that marriage at St-Jacques – L’Achigan Quebec in 1775. This tells us that François lived in New England, probably in Connecticut, at least until 1773. I surely wish the priest had said where in New England.
Who were the parents of Jean Dupuis and Marie Hebert, and where were they living in 1773? I have been unable to find specific location information, so if anyone knows, please let me know. That would tell us where François was in 1773 too.
Jean-Marie Dupuis died on April 30, 1796, in L’Acadie and was buried at Ste-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie. His parents were Germain Dupuis and Marie Angelique Leblanc. Marie Hebert died on March 12, 1798, and was buried two days later in the same place. Her parents were Joseph Hebert and Madeleine Dupuis.
Interestingly, François Lafay must have been close to this couple because they signed in 1788 as godparents for his son Antoine Hilarie Lafay, and in 1790 as witnesses at the marriage of his daughter, Suzanne Lafay and Honore Lord (the elder) in L’Acadie.
Jean-Marie’s father was Germain Dupuis, and the family was deported to Massachusetts. His father, also Germain, was present in the 1758 census in Nantucket, an island off the shore of Massachusetts. By 1776, they were in Quebec, but François Lafay and his family wouldn’t follow for another dozen years.
Marie Hebert’s father, Joseph Hebert, was found in the Connecticut census on August 14, 1763. This family was in Laprairie, Quebec by 1780.
Somehow, the children of these two families, Jean-Marie Dupuis and Marie Hebert were in the same location in order to court and marry by 1773.
Why did the François Lafay family wait another decade or two after many of the other Acadian families returned to Quebec, beginning in 1766 or so? Why did they return when they did? Marie told the missionary, Henrietta Feller, that her grandparents were upset that they were falling away from the Catholic faith.
Clearly, based on this 1773 marriage record, there was a cluster of Acadians living in close proximity someplace in New England, and François Lafay, with his family, was among them.
If we can find one of them, we find all of them.
Arrival in Quebec
François Lafay and Marguerite Forest’s first nine children were born “in the colonies,” as stated in their baptism records when they were baptized many years later at Sainte-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie.
Françoise, the youngest, was the only child born in the Province of Québec in 1789, and she was baptized the same day. This suggests that François and Marguerite emigrated to the province of Québec between 1786, the last birth in the colonies, and July 9, 1788, the first baptism in Quebec. I’d say it was probably in early 1788, simply because another child should have been born in early 1788, and there is no record of a baptism. Sadly, this suggests the child was born and died before they arrived in Quebec, with their next child, Françoise, being born on January 11, 1789.
They settled at Sainte-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie, where many Acadians found refuge upon return from exile.
The first actual record of François LaFay in Quebec is the baptism of three of his children on the same day, July 9, 1788 at the Ste-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie church in L’Acadie.
His youngest child was Pierre Clement Lafay, age 2, so born before July 9th in 1786 or after that date in 1785.
He signed all three of his children’s baptisms as François Lafay.
Bernard reveals that the next record of François Lafay is on September 29, 1788 in the presence of Notaire Jean-Baptiste Grisé. François rented a farm in L’Acadie from James Waite and is described as a resident of L’Acadie, Quebec. Clearly they were setting up housekeeping.
I sure wish I knew where that farm was.
In 1789, three more of François’s older children were baptized. I wonder why those three weren’t baptized with the others in 1788. Was there a cost to the family or donation required for these baptisms?
On January sixth Seventeen Hundred Eighty Nine, I, priest undersigned, baptized conditionally Marie, age twenty-one, Marguerite, age nineteen, and Suzanne, age sixteen and ten months, daughters of François La Faye and of Marguerite Foret. The godfather and godmother of Marie were Laurent Roy and Isabelle Bro, his wife, undersigned. The godfather and godmother of Marguerite were Pierre Lavoie and Marie Anne Melanson, his wife. The godfather and godmother of Suzanne were Pierre Trahant and Euphrosine Leroux. [These last] godfathers and godmothers declared that they were unable to sign. The baptized girls signed with us.
/s Lamité, priest, Laurent Roy, Isabelle bro, Marie Lafay, Margit Lafay, Suzanne Lafay, Françoise Lafay.
Again, he signs as François Lafay. Based on their signatures, his daughters had been educated too.
On August 10th, 1789, Marie Lafay married Honore Lore, of the Acadian Lore/Lord family. Again, he signed as François Lafay. His son, also named Francois, then 13, signed with them and can be distinguished from his father because the F in François is fancy, and the signature is different. All of his children signed as Lafay.
The next record we have of François Lafay is his own marriage rehabilitation that occurred in Ste.-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie in Quebec in 1792. It’s like the family was catching up on all the loose ends from exile.
This record states that they were married on November 10, 1767 in New England before a justice of the peace because of the lack of availability of a priest.
We know that Marie’s parents were in Connecticut in 1763, and there’s no evidence to suggest they were elsewhere four years later. There’s very little evidence from this time period for the Acadians.
Translation from Father John:
Marriage of François Lafay and Marguerite Foret , Ste Marguerite de Blairfindie, L’Acadie, St-Jean, Quebec
On the twenty-third of June, Seventeen Hundred Ninety Two, I, undersigned, received the mutual consent of François Lafay and of Marguerite Foret, who pledged their troth (promis ensemble) before a justice of the peace in the Colonies, for lack of a priest, on the year Seventeen Hundred Sixty Seven*, this in the presence and in the form prescribed by Our Holy Mother the Church of Rome. The groom signed along with me; the bride declared that she was unable to sign. /s/ N. J. Lancto, priest /s/ François Lafay
*On the tenth of November of the said year.
We know that François was educated because he could sign his name and so could at least some of his children. They always signed Lafay. The name Lafaille appears in his 2nd marriage record in 1819, which he did not sign, and in subsequent notarial records, but not earlier records.
I take this as evidence, combined with the French records, assuming they are for him, that his surname really was Lafay, with Lafaille evolving later. I originally presumed that Lafay was anglicized, but I obviously assumed wrong.
François was a farmer, as noted in several records, and a laborer, as noted in his daughter Julie’s 1801 marriage record.
However in his daughter Marie-Anne’s 1806 marriage record he was listed as a “huissier” which Bernard, a native French speaker, translated as a Captain and wonders if he was a Captain in the militia.
We know Françoise lived in L’Acadie along the Richelieu River for three+ decades beginning in 1788, based on what happened in 1819.
But first, he would witness and possibly participate in the War of 1812, at 68 years of age. If he was a captain, the only other option would have been the Revolutionary War, but he was not living in Canada then, and I find no records of any similar name at Fold3 for either war.
War of 1812
Bernard first reported that François Lafay or Lafaille might have been a Captain in the Militia based on his daughter’s 1806 marriage record. He states that conditions were deteriorating between Canada and USA, and the war would start in 1812. At Pierre-Clément’s wedding in 1810, the same priest officiating does not give that title to François. Another translator who was not a native French-speaker questioned whether huissier was actually “bailiff.” Google translate as well as DeepL says the same thing.
I’m not quite sure what a bailiff did in Quebec at that time.
At the outset of the War of 1812, Quebec City was fortified with 2,300 regulars. Engagements occurred elsewhere, much closer to home. In 1812, the war raged along the Niagara frontier, but by 1813, 5,000 men had gathered between Lake Champlain and Montreal, right in the L’Acadie region along the Richelieu River. This would certainly give François ample reason to be concerned and potentially involved.
At this time, remember that Great Britain held Canada and the US was fighting against the British.
A letter from a US Infantry Officer dated November 16, 1813, explains their battle plans:
This is perhaps the last time you will hear from me at this place, if ever. We are preparing for a march, which will take place in a few days. It is intended to make an attack on Lower Canada [Quebec] immediately. We march without baggage or tents, and everything we carry will be on our backs, and the Heavens and a blanket our only covering, till we take winter quarters by force of arms. Our force is very respectable, say 6 or 7 thousand, and all in high spirits. The fatigues we expect to undergo will be equal to those experienced by our revolutionary heroes, till we arrive at Montreal.
Several years ago, cousin Paul posted on RootsWeb about Bernard, as follows:
I was directed by Bernard Doray to the marriage record for Marie Anne Lafay who married François Lord, June 6, 1806, St. Marguerite de Blairfindie. In this record François Lafay is listed as an officer. I then found through a google book search a book that listed François Lafay as being an officer who served in the Canadian militia (at L’Acadie) for Britain in the war of 1812 (he would have been in his early 70’s). So two differnet sources refer to him being an officer.
This likely confirmed for me what Prof. Stephen White had written to me that François Lafay was most likely educated as François signed his name “François Lafay” as someone educated in English would have signed. If François was an officer, he most likely would have then been educated.
I’m still searching for more background on François Lafay. Quebec records indicate a Boston connection (area of Boston could mean the whole of New England). Prof. White suspects a Connecticut connection, as that was the location Marguerite and her family had been exiled in the deportation. I have tried searching various records here in Massachusetts and in Connecticut but have had no success.
If I have missed anything, please let me know,
I found the book, Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812-1815 where François Lafay is in fact mentioned as a Lieutenant, not a Captain, in the L’Acadie Battalion.
While this certainly could be our François, it’s more likely to be his son, François, born in 1776. The younger man would be 36 years old, not 68, which would make much more sense, but is still inconclusive.
Whether he fought or was a militia member, that warfare near his home and potentially on his land would have clearly affected him.
The American troops marched up the Richelieu River beginning on September 19th, 1813, right through L’Acadie at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, headed for Montreal.
Soldiers marched by day and passed in boats by night, fully intending to take what they needed from any source they could find – striking terror into the hearts of the residents. François was 69 years old and had spent much of his life surrounded by one conflict or another.
We don’t know what happened to the family during this time, other than they survived. He dodged this bullet, but another one wasn’t too far in the future.
François Loses His Wife
Sadly, François’s wife, Marguerite passed away on February 16, 1819, at 71 years of age. They had been married more than 51 years and brought at least 11 and probably 13 children into the world together.
All of their children who survived to adulthood had married, except one. We don’t know what happened to Angelique who was born about 1789 after she signed as a witness to her sister Brigitte’s marriage in 1798. The other possibility is that Angelique was a middle name of a different child.
Marriage Times Two
Nine months later, on November 22nd, François married Madeleine Lépine, daughter of Adrien Legris Lépine and Marie Thibodeau and widow of Antoine Jacques Paquet. If this was like most farming communities, everyone involved had known each other “forever,” so there wasn’t much getting to know each other that needed to happen.
But this wasn’t destined to be just any plain vanilla wedding – but a very special one.
François’s granddaughter, Marie Elizabeth Lore, through daughter Marie Lafay who married Honore Lore, was married on the same day, in the same church, to Jean-Baptiste Leveque at the Ste-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie church in L’Acadie.
This just couldn’t be any sweeter.
François was 75, and his bride, Madeleine, was 30 years younger.
His granddaughter, Marie Elizabeth Lore was 26 years old – almost half a century difference, yet marrying under the adoring eye of her grandfather, perhaps at the same altar.
Did grandfather and granddaughter have one ceremony, a double wedding, together, or did they have two separate weddings, one after the other?
I can close my eyes and see François walking his beaming granddaughter down the aisle towards the front of the church where they both stood beside their betrothed who would soon become their spouses.
The priest would then begin the Celebration of Matrimony.
Just look at this beautiful church where this family baptized their children, married, worshipped and yes, buried their dearly departed.
Generations of François’s extended family would probably have filled the entire sanctuary that glorious Monday.
November 22 of 1819 was certainly a day of celebration for four generations of the Lafaille family. If everyone was in attendance, François would have had more than 118 descendants wishing him well. Many of his grandchildren would have attended with babes in arms. Just four days later, his next great-grandchild would join the flock. I haven’t been able to trace all of his descendants, especially families who moved, so there could certainly have been even more, and that number of descendants swells significantly in the years to come, and in future generations.
Not bad for a man who arrived on these shores as a functional, if not an actual, orphan sometime in the late 1750s or early 1760s.
François Passes Over
François continued farming until his death on June 16, 1824
Father John’s translation:
Burial #44 François Lafaille
On the sixteenth of June, Eighteen Hundred Twenty Four, I, priest undersigned, buried in the cemetery of this parish the body of François Lafaille, farmer, who died the day before yesterday (avant hier) having received the sacraments of the Church. He was eighty years of age, the husband of Magdeleine Lépine. Present Jean Baptiste Dubé, and three others who declared that they were unable to sign, upon inquiry.
A. Brais, priest
Was Jean-Baptiste Dube perhaps the son of Jean-Baptiste Dupuis, François’s very long-time friend from back in the colonies?
Of course, the priests didn’t give the cause of death then, although how I wish they had. However, I wonder if something was going on in the Acadian community. François’ adult daughter Marguerite had died just a month earlier, on May 10th. Maybe cholera or dysentery, both of which are more pronounced in hot weather. Or perhaps his daughter’s untimely death just pushed him over the edge.
François’s belongings were inventoried the following year, probably after the crops were in. I wonder why that process took so long – 14 months. His last crops would have been harvested in the fall of 1824.
Madeleine didn’t pass away until April 14, 1833. If she had an inventory, would it reflect his things?
This notarial record dated August 3, 1825, in Iberville, Quebec corresponds with the actual inventory, here.
I cannot translate this document, so if anyone else has a translated version, I’d be very grateful if you would post it in the comments or reach out, even if it’s in French. My issue is the script combined with a language I’m unfamiliar with. I can do a typed French to English translation.
Someone on WikiTree posted a brief summary:
On 3 August 1825, an inventory of the deceased’s property was drawn up by notary Laurent Archambault. His modest possessions included tools, books, a cow, and 28 sheep.
I can’t help but wonder which books François owned. Would I possibly be lucky to find an actual list? The fact that he owned books further confirms that he didn’t just learn to write his name, but was literate and read. What we read says so much about us.
The bottom of the third page of the inventory includes signatures.
These were difficult for me to decipher. I find it strange that all of his children and his wife signed with a mark. We know that at least some of them signed their names to earlier documents.
You can tell that the names are spelled phonetically too. Lafaille vs Lafay.
- François Lafaille
- Antoine Hilaire Lafaille
- Marie Anne Lafaille (who was married to François Lore who died on December 13, 1824)
- Dufaula who is probably Joseph Duphaut who married daughter Marguerite Lafay who died May 11, 1824.
- Magdeleine LePine – his widow
- Honore Lord – married to daughter Marie/Mary Lafay
- Marie Lafaille – who is married to Honore Lord – but why did they both sign?
This begs the question of the rest of the children.
I’m not familiar with the legal requirements in Quebec at this time, but several questions come to mind.
- Were all the heirs required to sign?
- Were only the people inheriting something required to sign?
- Why did Honore Lore/Lord and his wife, Marie Lafaille both sign when both people of other married couples didn’t sign? Does that tell us something important?
- What does it tell us about the children or their spouses that didn’t sign?
What About the Others?
Three living children are missing from this document.
- Bridget married Pierre Gamache, and by mid-1825, the family’s baptisms and marriages were being carried out at St-Cyprien-de-Lery in Napierville, Quebec. They moved sometime after 1822, but why didn’t they come back to sign this document? Is there something in this document, written in French, that addresses this question? Both Bridget and Pierre were both living in 1825.
- We only find one record of Angelique as a witness on her sister Bridget’s 1798 marriage, so it’s possible that she had passed away or Angelique was actually someone else who used a middle or other name.
- However, we know that the youngest child, Françoise Lafay married Pierre Granger and died in 1866. Both people were alive in 1825 and their children were being baptized at Ste-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie, so they were clearly still in the area. Why didn’t they sign?
Two other children were missing. One had died, but it’s unknown if the second child was living. But both had living descendants. Would their descendants be entitled to anything and therefore need to sign?
Were the signers simply attesting to the accuracy of the inventory – or are they attesting to an inherited share of those assets?
- Daughter Suzanne Lafay died in 1803, and her husband died in 1818. Were any of her five living children entitled to or received anything?
- We don’t know if daughter Julie Lafay who married Ignace Laporte Denis was living or not, nor if he was. We do know that at least two of her daughters were living in 1825, because they married later, and one son was possibly living as well. What about those children?
We do have some direct evidence of François’s life.
It appears certain, based on his own signature many times that his surname was originally Lafay or Lafaye, not Lafaille as it was later spelled in Quebec. I had assumed it was Lafaille, but I now believe it was Lafay based on François’s signatures.
He spelled his surname consistently throughout his life. It was only others, meaning various priests and the notarial record that spelled it Lafaille, although some descendants in later generations adopted that spelling.
We know that François married in the colonies in 1767, probably in Connecticut, where his wife’s family lived, and that he died in Quebec in 1824. Thanks to that record that says he was 80 years old, we know he was born in or at least about 1744. Given that he died in the middle of June, he would have been born either after June 14, 1743 or before June 14, 1744. That meshes perfectly with the January 7, 1744 birth in Bordeaux, France, of the child sailor François Lafaye.
We know that our François had arrived in Quebec by the summer of 1788, but probably not much earlier.
Most of his children were born in “New England,” and frustratingly, not one single record anyplace says WHERE in New England.
We have the information from missionary Henrietta Feller, who tells us François was a French sailor who somehow wound up in Boston. That’s a rather unusual story, so I’d tend to believe at least the sailor portion is accurate, and perhaps Boston as well. If he was a sailor, it’s likely he lived in relatively close proximity to the sea in France.
Thanks to Bernard’s work, we know there’s one François Lafay, spelled exactly the way François repeatedly signed his own name, who was born in Bordeaux on January 7, 1744. That young man’s father’s name was Joseph and his mother was Françoise. Our François did have a daughter named François, but no son named Joseph, although that would have been one of the children that died in New England.
The François in Bordeaux signed onto a French ship as a young apprentice sailor in 1757, apparently only to discover that sailing life wasn’t for him. Of course, being the youngest with the least experience, he had the worst possible job combined with the lowest pay.
He deserted, or probably more aptly, ran away, in a French port in what is now Haiti as soon as the ship reached shore, along with about one-third of the rest of the crew. He very probably saved his own life.
If that young man is our François Lafay and somehow reached Boston, or someplace else along the eastern seaboard to find kinship with the Acadians is still a matter of conjecture.
We simply don’t know.
What we do know is the few facts we have do fit the profile for the young French sailor, but don’t constitute proof. Would there be church or notarial records in France that would shine light on that François Lafay? How would we go about finding those records?
There are other Lafaille or Lafay men in France, but none born in 1743 or 1744, and none in close proximity to a port. Of course, not all records are available online, and many were destroyed due to fires or war.
Clearly, there are blanks in our François’s life begging to be filled in, but we have nothing with which to patch those holes today.
Our best bet would be to have a Y-DNA match to a Lafay man, or even a man of any surname in Bordeaux.
Need Lafay or Lafaille Man for Y-DNA Test
For that to happen, I need a Lafay or Lafaille man who descends from François to take a Y-DNA test. François had three sons, two of whom had male descendants.
If that’s you, or one of your male relatives descends from François through an unbroken line of all males, I have a fully paid Y-DNA testing scholarship for you at FamilyTreeDNA. Please reach out, and maybe we can resolve another piece of François’s ancestry.
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