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Episode 10: Hello Sailor!

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

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France used women’s poverty and fertility to expand the empire, and that is how Anne Roy. my 7-greats grandmother came to New France – Welcome to the Maple Family Treehouse, Episode 10: Hello Sailor! I am Kael Sharman, the host writer and producer of this show. I want to thank you for taking the time to be here today. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Haudenosaunee and Attiwonderonk peoples whose traditional lands my ancestors have occupied over the last 300 hundred years as they slowly made their ways from the land surrounding the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes Region. It is my hope that this podcast contributes to peace, caring, and sharing on and for this land. Intro segments…beep Mom, me, Tessa & Theo My objective in this podcast has always been to learn about how and why my ancestors came to Canada. I have been focusing on the migration stories of my ancestors to answer the question, how did I get here. As a white person born in Canada this question is important because I am obliged to uphold the treaties that made space for me and my ancestors to live. In the process of putting together the last several episodes, race, class, gender, and age, have all been factors that played a part in the decision to migrate. It is in telling these stories that I understand the context, or WHAT colonialism offered to my ancestors. And what it still offers me. A retrospective look back at the patterns of participation in colonialism reveals how colonial structures function. Colonialism either had a hand in creating the push and pull factors that directly influenced decision to migrate, or exploited vulnerabilities when it could serve to create a more powerful empire. The family story I am going to tell you today is a rather unusual example of how colonial power works. In this episode I explore the maternal side of my family tree, specifically my mother’s paternal line – The Rodrigues in New France. The immigration point for the Rodrigues occurs around 1668. A Portuguese sailor by the name of Joao <joh aw> Rodrigues arrived in New France, purchased land in Rivieres-aux-Roche in Cap-Rouge just west of Quebec City. Traditional Territory of the Huron-Wendot Nation, land that is now protected by the Huron-British Treaty of 1760. Before 1760 France assigned 1, 200 soldiers to protect the Habitants on unceded land between 1665-1668. And this is the context in which my ancestors who lived in Quebec, got their start. I am excited to tell you this story today because it is certainly not the average story you read about in history books. You might know the traditional story of New France and how it was settled in the early 1600s by efforts from people like Samuel de Champlain and his first recruit for settlement, Louis Hebert. Not all settlers who settled in New France came from France. During the French Regime more than 900 immigrants arrived from Ireland, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Portugal, where my own, 7 greats grandfather was from – Joao <Joh ow> Rodriguez. João Rodrigues was born in Lisbon, Portugal, around 1641; his parents were Francisque Rodrigues and Susana da Cruz. Conflicting documents indicate that part of the immigration process for Joao involved the francization of his name; to Jean Rodrigue, he also Francized his parents' names on documents as well. In respect for Joao’s wishes I will from here on out in the story refer to him as Jean Rodrigue. Jean was a sailor. He probably settled to New France shortly after 1665. Towards 1670, he was in Cap-Rouge, just west of Quebec City. In July of that year, he sold the property that he owned. He bought and resold four others before his marriage in 1671. Now I have to pause here, because, I have noticed a similar pattern in another family story I am working on. A pattern of staying on a property for a year or so, selling and buying another, only to sell again a year or so later. And I do not know if it is a coincidence, but it is around the same time and it is also by a man who has not married yet. I have been trying to make sense of it. If anyone has any insight let me know. I THINK, it is one of two things either these men move to a new place and purchase what is available at first, and as they get to know the land, they make a more informed purchase later, or they make money by clearing and prepping the land for building, kind of like property flipping. And as they go, they also profit, from selling wood to nearby towns for building, or for fuel. I also image that as these men flip tracts of land that they make better and better purchases with the accumulation of profits. This kind of side hustle certainly would fit in well with Jean Rodrigues seasonal work as a sailor. He could clear land in the off seasons. Although records indicate that he occasionally did go on voyages in the winter. So anyway, that is my little aside. Sorry about the detour, but these are sometimes the things that take you down rabbit holes and reveal unexpected gems for family stories. Perhaps thereis more to this story we will have to wait and see. Back to our story. When Jean finally, settles on a good piece of land. He settles down marrying Anne Roy on October 28, 1671. It is from this point on that Jean Rodrigue begins to put down roots. The story of Jean is interesting because it suggests a hidden diversity. Many immigration stories traditionally involve people coming over in a family group or within a community group, often keeping connections with their loved ones in Europe, which in turn influences further immigration and builds communities here that mirror home. In this case though it is completely different. Jean is out of his cultural element. He francizes his name, the name of his parents, and marries a woman from Paris, France. While Jean and the rest of these 900 non-French immigrants added some cultural diversity, early settlers were predominantly men. There were informal attempts to shift the gender imbalance - in the early 1600s merchants, seigneurial landowners and religious groups tried to recruit women but were unsuccessful. The first organized attempt to settle women from France in New France was between 1634-1662. This group of women were called the Filles de Merrier, or marriageable women in English. By the way, I am related to at least one Filles de Merrier, but that will have to wait for another episode. Anyway, this early effort resulted in a total of 262 women settling in New France. With a successful pilot project in the books, France made a bold commitment to settle women in the fledgling colony over a ten-year period. Between 1663 to 1673 close to 800 women came to New France. These women are known as the Filles du Roi, or Daughters the King. Of course they weren’t actual daughters of the king. Many of these women were poor and orphaned. In fact, one of the reasons, I like discussing the filles du Roi on this show is because it is not a story many people are familiar with from their high school history classes. In fact, without any context, people often get the impression that Filles du Roi were glorified sex workers. It is much more complicated than that. Consider the following description on the website, The French-Canadian Genealogist: Approximately, 250 filles du roi came from the Salpêtrière. The Salpêtrière, was established in Paris, in 1656 as a hospice for destitute women. It was not a pleasant place, it was dirty, cold and overcrowded. Women might have ended up at Salpetriere for many reasons, physical, psychological, homelessness, or orphaned as children. We do know that more than half the Filles du Roi were paternal orphans and about 20% were maternal orphans. So, sex work aside, there were various reasons why women might find themselves at Salpetriere. But when King Louis XIV directed his advisor Jean-Baptiste Colbert to recruit women for the passage to Canada, the Salpêtrière in Paris was the go-to source. Anne Roy, my 7 greats grandmother, however, does not seem to fit this mold completely- Anne Roy, has known parents who have an address and documents of their identity and relationship. Her parents are François Le Roy and Anne Bourdais, they were from the parish of St-Germain-l'Auxerrois <oser wa> in Paris. I hope I pronounced that right. The one way in which Anne Roy does fit the mold is that she came from a city. Men who immigrated to New France were mostly from rural settings, the Fille du Rois however were mostly from urban settings. Anne Roy was no exception. Her, hometown of St-Germaine-l’Auxerrois <oser wa> is smack dab in the middle of Paris, a neighbourhood surrounded by gothic churches. Situated right on the canal. She might not have been the stereotypical Fille du Roi, but she apparently did meet the long list of criteria that we know had been set for choosing an appropriate fille du roi. To be a daughter of the king – women had to be young, usually around 23 years old give or take a few years, average- or good-looking, single, smart, strong, in good health, with certified good morals – yes, I said certified good morals, a prospective fille du roi had to produce a “certificate of good conduct” that would have been signed by either their priest or a judge from their hometown. So we know that Anne Roy fit the established criteria. Once chosen, the women were also provided a dowry of sorts… Before leaving France, each fille du roi received a “trousseau” which roughly translates to a “hope chest” or in simpler terms, a home start-up kit if you will. This kit contained a comb, a belt, a pair of shoes and shoelaces, a pair of pantyhose, a pair of gloves, a bonnet, two coiffes - a kind of hood, and sewing supplies, including, 100 needles, a thimble, thread, scissors, pins, in a sewing case, along with some cloth. Oh, and two knives. Once on the ship, the women could expect a rough voyage of at least 6 weeks with other passengers, crew, animals, water reserves, cannons and hordes of various merchandise. Passengers slept in extremely cramped quarters in the ship’s hold and conditions were far from hygienic, especially when people were overcome with sea sickness. Almost 10% of passengers died on their way to North America. If they were lucky enough to survive the passage to Québec city, the welcome that awaited the women was raucous and festive. I imagine at this point this is why the Filles du Roi were provided 2 knives, I guess the 2 knives would also be handy in a kitchen, but you never know. On the other hand, just in case the festivities went really well, there were Civil and religious authorities were on hand, along with the hopeful young bachelors. I have to admit, at this point in the story, I am wondering what state people were even in after 6 weeks on this ship! I hope at least the women were able to get settled and rest, before the festivities. And I do not want to leave you with the impression that this was a free for all. It was NOT. Each filles du roi, were then sent to live with respectable families, I hope they had to be certified too – it would only be fair! If they were not placed with a family, they stayed in a convent. Regardless of where they stayed. They were all taught how to cook, clean, and sew – essentially, how to be a good wife and mother. And I am sure once they arrived in the matrimonial home, remember this was a frontier homestead that has been kept up by a young single man…well, lets just say I am sure there was plenty of room, and leniency to work on honing their houskeeping, and homesteading skills. All joking aside, I am sure this description leaves you with a sense that the first settlers of New France were a hardy group who endured incredible hardship, not only did they have to deal with harsh Canadian winters, but they needed to be self sufficient. After all, French officials were more concerned with trade. Some sources suggest that neglect of the needs of settlers is one reason for the colony’s eventual fall to the British in 1765 ending 2 centuries of strategic settlement in New France. Politically though – we know how this story ends. That part is obvious. Did the plan to influence population work though? According to J. Gagné, author of the book, the King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663-1673, the Filles du Roi represent only 8% of the total immigrants to Canada under the French régime, yet they account for nearly half of the women who immigrated to Canada in the colony’s 150-year history and the population of New France rose to 6,700 people, an increase of 168% during the 10-year initiative. There is so much more to this story than just the obvious population statistics. To really understand the influence that this group of several hundred women had on Canada, and arguably North America, you have to realize that population growth was just the tip of the iceberg. Daughters of the king were expected to also standardize the French spoken in Quebec. Remember when I told you that most of the men who settled in New France were from rural areas, well they also brought with them a mish mash of French patois. Filles du Roi were chosen from Paris, in particular, to bring with them, Parisian French. This would have been particularly handy for Jean Rodrigue whose first language was Portuguese. And if you want to know just how influential the linguistic and cultural presence of the Kings daughters are – know this. Most people today who recognize themselves as French-Canadian have several Files du Roi in their families. If you want a visual example, consider looking at photographs of a monument called “the Filles du Roi family tree”, at the Canadian Museum of History. There, a physical family tree has been built based on the legacy of Catherine Moité, one of the first filles du roi to arrive in Canada. She had 11 children, 65 grandchildren, and 344 great-grandchildren, all represented on the tree as either trunk, branches or leaves. It is a brilliant exhibit because when you see it, you get a physical experience of the impact these women have, on not only our country, but North America. Please realize that the descendants of the Kings daughters here in Canada migrated too. Here I sit in Ontario making this episode. But there are even famous examples. And I do not have to go far to look either, I can provide an example of the wider cultural influence of the Kings daughter from the Rodrigue branch of my family tree. Here it is - I had always heard stories of Rodrigue connections in Louisiana. My Grandfather claimed he was related to the famous artist of the Blue Dog Paintings, George Rodrigue. He never elaborated on the connection though, so I took it with a grain of salt. But in doing the research to put this episode together, I found the exact connection. And indeed, the Rodrigues’ in my family are related to George Rodrigue. The closest common ancestor we have is Rene Rodrigue, who is the son of…you guessed it – Jean Rodrigue and Anne Roy. In the Rodrigue branch alone there is four Filles du Roi. And there, at least that many, in my other maternal branches. Suffice it to say that this will not be the last time you hear about the Kings Daughters. They deserve so much more attention than what they get. So, to put out a little teaser for a future episode, while putting the finishing touches on this episode, I found two research articles on Anne Roy. Unfortunately, they proved to be a challenge to access to use for this episode, but I am working on it. Actually, on second thought, I need to moan and groan for a minute here. I was so excited to find these journal articles on Anne Roy. They are held by a genealogical society that is solely focused on the Filles du Roi, but you have to be a member to access their research articles. I thought to my self, sure why not. I will become a member. I click on the “join” button only to get a link to a printable PDF with instructions to fill-out the application, attached verifiable, cited documentation of my connection to one of the listed Filles du Roi. I then put my application package in this thing called an envelope, with something called a 35-dollar cheque. And when all of these things are sealed in an envelope, I put enough postage on the envelope to support 11 generations of printed documentation. I am then supposed to put the completed application package in something called a mailbox. Several weeks later I can expect a reply in the mail. This reply will tell me if I am approved. And if I AM approved, I will get a certificate of authenticity and a passcode to their journal archive. Now, at this point, you might be thinking, do not be so cynical. And you might be right, perhaps the access I will get to the research archive will be worth all the old-school bureaucracy I will have to wade through. If the archives are anything like their membership process though….ugh…I feel like I am taking a gamble. It feels a bit like a romantic genealogical version of snake oil. For 35 dollars, maybe I will try it. I have to be honest though, my heart is not into these kinds of group memberships. And I REALLY feel torn about that. Let me explain. The humanist in me wants to support people who do research that I am benefiting from. But the bureaucracy and certification process ruins it for me. When I reflect on stories, like the one I told to you today, The use of poor women to support and uphold Imperial expansion is obvious. But what I think is less obvious is how those continued powers are being supported to today. It may seem like a harmless and romantic token to apply for my certified recognition as a descendent of a Fille du Roi, but I do not feel the slightest need to get my lineage to a Kings daughter approved. Nor, do I want to further validate and romanticize a system of power that used the poverty and fertility of young, beautiful women in Paris for colonial expansion. At the beginning of this podcast, I mention that themes were beginning to emerge in my family to support not only the obvious racial inequities in colonialism, but also, the intersections of class, gender, and even age. This story brings all these elements together. The documentation on the criteria for recruiting Filles du Roi illustrates my point clearly. This is not a story of romantic match making. This is a story of a struggling empirial power becoming politically landlocked in North America, whose best shot at survival was a population boom. They needed young, fertile, strong, French women form Paris to make that happen, but make no mistake, their unfortunate economic circumstances were the largest slice of the criteria pie. Which is why I made the conscious decision to mention of the Sulpetriere. The Sulpetriere is also clear evidence with more that ¼ of all several hundred Filles du Roi coming from this single institution for destitute women, the point is illustrated. And listen I do not want to pick on this organization, they are not the only organization doing this sort of thing, and there is obviously a demand from the public. For instance, when talking to a relative about the Lymburner Loyalists in my family, my relative pointed out, that through this research, I had everything I needed to join the United Empire Loyalists society. It is essentially the same kind of group offering similar membership and certification. My response was the same. Listen, I do not want to appear as if I am getting on some high horse here, I realize that the genealogical work I am doing, and reasons I give for doing it, serve THE VERY SAME NEEDS within me, that mostly likely exist for people creating and attending these cultural organizations. I just want to be part of a conversation, that is framing these same family stories, to make the wisdom they offer, relevant and accessible to thinking about current power systems today. Jean and Anne’s story contribute to that, and I will not romanticize it. As a sailor who worked seasonally, Jean might be away for stretches of time, leaving Anne alone with a brood of children on a frontier homestead, and this is most certainly NOT something I should be glossing over in a line or two at the end of this episode. But maybe this why I am so enticed by those 2 research articles on Anne Roy. That is the antidote to the snake oil. I will get a hold of those articles – and I will be back with the details of this story soon. For today though, the information so far, paints an interesting picture. One of New France’s early settlers includes a sailor from Portugal, and a so-called King’s daughter from Paris. Who, together, built not only a family, but influenced the culture of Quebec and even North America. And every ounce of the credit goes to the people whose very identities at the intersections of race, class, gender, and age were used as resources for power, not the formal efforts of the system. And it is for that reason alone I will access the articles of Anne Roy, and refuse a certificate of recognition. hey, before you go, I want to introduce you to my mom – Marie. It is her paternal line that you heard about in Episode 10: Hello Sailor. Marie was born in Montreal Quebec. She came to Ontario as a child when my grandfather was looking for work. My parents are some of the hardest working people I know. Growing up my mother often worked 2 or 3 jobs. These jobs were usually in factories or in the service industry. I worked in the service industry too for a while, as a hairdresser. I found customer relations simple you held I held a pair of scissors in my hand. My mother though was a server in the food industry for decades. And that deserves praise and recognition. I tried food service out once, and after about a week I was ready to give up on humanity, so I quit. I couldn’t even imagine doing it for decades. I think that accomplishment is an indicator of her personality – she is great with people, kind, caring, funny, with a flare for the dramatic. The most amazing thing about my mom though is that she makes even the hardest work look easy. After putting together this story about her ancestors, it is plain as day why. She comes from people that can build a life from scratch with a combination of hard work, the right tools and the wisdom and knowledge of how to put the two together. Thank you, Mom. I can say without a shred of doubt that Anne Roy would see her legacy in the life you have led. Thank you for listening to the Maple Family Treehouse. I want to invite listeners to my website to look at the notes and sources I used for this episode. It is a bit different from other episodes I have done in the past in that I rely heavily on the genealogical work of other people who have not only done the research before me but have translated information from French documents into English. My website is If you would like bonus material and some behind the scenes discussion about episodes, consider becoming a Patreon subscriber. Supporting the show either through Patreon or will ensure commercial free, original content. It also provides access to things like journal articles, databases etc. Honestly though, I am just glad you are here. But Iwant this to be a two way conversation, give me feedback at, or via my website:, or by email at See you in 2 weeks – Cheers mes ami! Sources Leclerc, Michael J. The First Settlers of Quebec, American Ancestors, Winter 2010, p 30-31. Real Rodrigue & Association des Famille Rodrigue, Aug. 6, 2009 - A compilation and translation of 3 sources: 1) Clark, Sandra (ed.) Descendents of Jean Rodrigue and Anne Le Roy of Portugal-Canada-USA (Louisiana), Huoma, Louisiana, 1990. 2) Langlois, Michel. Les ancetres beauportois (1634-1760) 1984, p 263-267. 3) Rodrigue, Constance -Johnson. “Non quelques rare ancetres portugais” in Memoires de la Societe genealogique canadienne-francais, volume 40, no. 3, automme 1989, p 216-222. PODCAST: Maple Stars & Stripes, Episodes 7 & 44, S1 Episode 10: Hello Sailor Kael Sharman

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