We then began our search for the villages and towns where Gail's ancestors had lived prior to their journey to Quebec and New France. She has identified over 80 of these ancestors and we had obtained their places of birth and marriage from church records of the times. The plan was to find a hotel in a larger centre and stay for 2 nights as we traveled the back roads looking for the various locations.
Rouen ( Normandy area )
We used Rouen as a base to explore for the former towns of Gail's first group of ancestors. In fact Rouen itself was the home of three families, Auvray, Lenormand and Horace. But being such a large city it would be difficult to find much that would identify them.
The first village of interest was St. Genevieve de Bray, lying between Rouen and Dieppe on the coast. We had a hard time finding this one, in fact it was probably the most difficult one to find of all of them. Find it we did, it being only a small village of a few houses and a very old church. This had been the home of Nicolas Matte who had been baptized in this church on December 4, 1636, the son of Charles Matte and Barbara Horace of Rouen.
We then travelled south past the port city of Le Havre to our next village of interest. We found the tiny community of Saint Maclou, and once again the church in which Pierre "Le Tournelle" Coquin had been baptized in 1628, the son of Rene Coquin and Alice Fayel.
The church and graveyard in St. Genevieve. Gail's ancestor Nicholas Matte was baptized in this church in 1636. One of three or four houses that form what is left of this village. This village had a road sign! The last one did not, but the triumph of finding each one was the same. The old church in Saint Maclou where Pierre "Le Tournelle" Coquin had been baptized in 1628.Much of this church had been damaged by bombing in WW2 but rehabilitated.
The Loire Valley
We left Normandy and Rouen to travel south to the Loire Valley. On route we stopped in at three important villages in what is called the Perche Region of France, and the area in which Gail's direct line family name Rochon, originated. We were to find a treasure trove of other information in this area relating to Gail's parentage.
The Perche Region of France is situated basically on the northern edge of the Loire Valley. This area was the place of origin of a very high percentage of immigrants to New France during the period 1610 to 1670. In 1650 alone 80 families from the village of Tourouvre immigrated. You can imagine the number of descendants of these families now alive in North America. Celine Dion and Madonna and Gail all have roots here.
In the village of Tourouvre, we visited a church in which several of Gail's families had originated including the Avrard, Robin and Guyon groups. There is another plaque commemorating the departure of many families from this village for Quebec and a museum containing information on these people and there lives in Quebec. Interestingly, Gail's ancestor Jean Guyon is also an ancestor of Celine Dion. Jean Chretien visited the town a few years ago and there are many pictures of him in the City Hall.
The church in Tourouvre, literally hundreds of immigrants to Quebec were baptized in this church. Note the circular belfry tower worked on by Jean Guyon in 1616. Jean Guyon had not only been baptized in this church in 1592, he had worked in an addition to it and we have a photo of Gail standing in the belfry staircase built by her ancestor in about 1616. A stained glass portrayal of the immigration of over 80 families from Tourouvre to Quebec in 1650. Plaque in church recognizing Canadiens baptized in this church in Tourouvre going back to 1580.
The next village, somewhat larger than Tourouvre was Mortagne-Au-Perche and home to Mathurin Robin, the wife of the above Jean Guyon. All of their children were born here prior to their departure for Canada.
Mortagne This church has origins going back 1,000 years and is quite different in appearance to many of the other churches we visited. The town of Mortagne is the regional centre for the Perche area and is a very busy shopping town. As always when we entered a new town or village, we looked for the church on the skyline because we knew that we would find the centre of everything that goes on in the community near to it. In this case, there were several volunteers inside the church with information on the town, the church and its history. Once again, a plaque inside the church commemorating the baptisms of people of the parish who immigrated to New France. Gail's ancestor Mathurin Robin, daughter of Eustache Robin and Madeleine Avrard, was baptized in this church in 1595. Mathurin married Jean Guyon and immigrated to New France.
And finally, the ancestral home of the Rocheron (Rochon) family in the village of Saint-Cosme-En-Varais. Gail's ancestor Gervais Rocheron, his brother Simon Rocheron and sister Marie all were born here, the children of Thomas Rocheron and Perrine Bouvier. All three children emigrated to Quebec together while in their early 20's.
The Main Street in Saint-Cosme-en-Varais with church in the background. The font used to baptize the three Rocheron children who emigrated to New France. Simon and Gervais and Marie Rocheron left together in 1656 Plaque to commemorate the departure of village citizens who left for the new world. It is said that ALL Rochon's who now live in North America descend from the two brothers Simon and Gervais. An alcove in the church at Saint-Cosme-en-Varais celebrating several saints of significance to the citizens of that village and parish.
( Gail's Odyssey continued )