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 Lalonde Family History: Filles du Roi

by Eric Lalonde (ericllnd@sympatico.ca)

How Our Ancestors Found Wives

Wives and mothers were needed in New France. The king offered a dowry for any woman who would sign a marriage agreement.

The women (who became known as "Filles du Roi") were an excellent cross section of the women of France with one major thing in common, they were extremely poor. Only a few dozen of the women could be considered propertied and would have been considered good marriageable prospects in France. Even these women probably would have had to marry below their station in life in France and thought their prospects far brighter in New France. The women married quickly.

Bachelors in New France wanted wives and the women arriving had agreed to marry. Love in that day and age was always something our ancestors expected would come after marriage, if it was to be at all.

Many sought and obtained wedding partners from their own native sections of France. Large numbers of formal agreements to marry made before a notary were annulled. Many civil marriages were contracted, annulled, new partners obtained, another annulment, and the earlier partner back again for a church ceremony. Civil agreements on the terms of the marriage annulment had to be studied and couldn't have been made quickly. Annulments were always possible because the church marriage made the marriage official. Rarely was the civil agreement drawn up following the church ceremony.

Jean De Lalonde had three annulments before his marriage to Marie Barban. Jean, like many of his compatriots married a girl from his province of Normandie and she was from the neighbouring parish of St. Rémi de Dieppe. Jean was from Notre Dame du Havre.

The project of sending women overseas, paying their way, and providing cash dowries didn't reach full fruit with the first group of ladies leaving for Canada. The news that the king was paying for this immigration was spread throughout the businessmen of France and they saw the opportunity to make money out of it. They came up with kits, tour plans, package deals, etc. in an effort to keep some of the money in France.

The original costs were divided into 10 livres to recruit and get the woman to the port of departure, 60 livres for her ocean transportation and 30 livres for a set of articles for a dowry. This was later changed to 50 and/or 100 livres of "money of Canada' given her on her marriage in New France.

Merchandise to be used in the material dowry consisted of: a cassette, the small chest to hold the dowry; 1 head dress; 1 taffeta handkerchief; 1 pair shoe ribbons; 100 sewing needles; 1 comb; 1 spool white thread; 1 pair stockings; 1 pair of gloves; 1 pair of scissors; 2 knives; 1000 pins; 1 bonnet; 4 lace braids and 2 livres in silver money.

They must have been frantic just before arrival to appear their very best, but the size of the ship, the lack of water and the knowledge of their humble dowries must have made their efforts desperate.

From the program of "Rendez-Vous de Famille Lalonde" October 21-22 1989. The official program of the trip taken by the Lalonde Association to visit our cousins in Louisiana.

© 2002 Chris Lalonde & Eric Lalonde                                        Updated: June 22, 2003