Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bonne fete de la Bastille a mes lecteurs Francais

July 14th is known as La journee de la Bastille  en France, celebrated since July 14th 1790.
As you can see, July is a popular month for many countries around the world to celebrate, Canada on the 1st, USA on the 4th and France on the 14th.
There are probably more that I'm not aware of, so happy days to all.

Any reasons to celebrate, eat good food and drink wine is a good thing in my book :-)

Although my family came from France in 1643 to Canada, we have long lost our ties to the motherland and are resolutely Canadiens.

Along with their father Jean, there was 3 brothers who came here, called Jean (Jehan), Andre and Etienne Dumais (Dumoy, Dumets) (some sources claim that Etienne was a cousin and not a brother, but more correctly, he was a half-brother) who changed their last name to Demers shortly after their arrival here.
Today's vast majority of Demers in North America can traces their origins to these three brothers. I am from the Jean's (Jr) branch of the family.

Jean Demers was born in 1630 (1633) at St-Jacques, Dieppe, Seine-Maritimes in France. He was the son of Jean Dumais and Barbe Mauger.
He married Jeanne Vidie (Voidie, Vedie) daughter of Michel and Catherine Borbelle in Montreal (Qc Canada) on the 9th November of 1654.
He was first established in Montreal (Ville-Marie) then moved to the Seigneurie de Lauzon in 1662 (across Quebec city on the Levis shore) He was established in St-Romuald d'Etchemin what is now Comte d'Etchemin, region Chaudiere-Appalaches.  My ancestor's Jean Demers history in Etchemin is related in a book written by l'Abbe Benjamin Demers in 1906, it start at page 34. Then finally he build a stone house in lower Quebec city in 1689, which still exist to this day, having survived the English bombardments of 1759, which lasted 3 months. The cannonade started in earnest in July, by September more than 530 houses were ravaged or burned. More than 13,000 cannon balls were reportedly used.

My ancestor Jean Demers house in Quebec city.
Recognize the famous Chateau Frontenac hotel in the background?
See it now...?
There is a plaque on the back of the house recording its history

The plaque read: (my translation)
Jean Demers or Dumets, from Dieppe started the construction of this house in 1689. The stone builders (Masons) Le Rouge, Regnault et Charpentier worked on it. This house was occupied by the Demers family until 1764. The house structure resisted the English bombardments of 1759 (during the siege of Quebec city) The roof structure dated from 1764, the house still contains 4 original fireplaces and ceiling structures.
From Jean Demers and his spouse Jeanne Vedie are born numerous Demers from the Quebec city region.

The house (last on left) as it would have looked back in the days, circa 1700s.
The one in the fore front with the red shutters is called the Chevalier's house.

Entrance to the Chevalier house is on the bottom RHS of this pic
Today the shore line is further out and it is where the Levis-Quebec ferry land.

That's at least 3 generations of repairs??
Some of the beams inside have obviously been replaced, but if you look deep enough (unchecked :-) you will find some pretty old timbers

The secret to these houses surviving the English bombardments 
is revealed inside the Chevalier's house cellars.

The "voutes" construction makes them very sturdy and bomb proof.
Of course the house's roof structures being of wood were destroyed.

Details on some of the furniture inside the Chevalier house.
Yes, I can never resist opening drawers and look at their construction :-)

The aftermath of the English bombardments of 1759.
Place royal, a mere distance from my ancestor house.
I would imagined, his house looked like these after it was over...

He also lived in Saint-Nicholas for a while with his children, where many Demers established themselves. There is a public park by the St-Lawrence river that bear his name, with the Dumets spelling. Further west there is l'Anse a Demers.

The two other brothers also left their marks on this land.
Andre was established in Montreal, and on the land he once occupied, today still stand the Delvechio house in old Montreal.

Again my translation: On this site was part of a vast land bequested to Andre Demers dit Chedeville by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve in 1655, 13 years after the foundation of Ville Marie (today Montreal)

Etienne has a marker overlooking his land, in Plage Jacques Cartier, Cap Rouge, near Quebec city.

Etienne Demers, Terre a Dumay

When you start plotting my early ancestor's moves on the map, it is obvious that they were always established near water, either the St-Lawrence, the Etchemin, or the Chaudiere rivers, etc. Water lines of communications and transport were very important in these days. As they start pushing further inland, they became involved for many generations (until my granddad) into saw mills.
One of them still exist in the Saguenay region.

Le moulin a Telesphore Demers, is today a tourist attraction and... 
a working saw mill.

Telesphore being my great-grandfather's brother.
Roughly at this juncture in history, technology split our branches:
- My 2 times granddad branch decided to go with the newest steam saw mills technology. Great, you could set up a mill anywhere in the Beauce Sugar maple's forest. My dad grew up on one of these last saw mill, before it burned down one last time...

- My great great uncle Telesphore branch of the family went with the safer water saw mills in the Saguenay region.

Funny enough, my branch's steam saw mills keep burning themselves out every so often and we never made it big, while Telesphore branch made good money, there's never burned out...Still operate today! :-)

Steeped in history, today old Quebec city, is the closest to the old world one can come across in North America. If you are ever on this side of "the pond" (Atlantic ocean :-) is is very much worth a visit.

Me and Heather at the Commandant's ball 
celebrating Quebec city 400 years.

Bob, the family historian.
Visit the Demers family association website 


  1. Names get changed over the pond :) I hear the French say 'fête nationale' or 14-juillet. But it is unlikely that they would celebrate the Bastille 'fête de la Bastille' at best its destruction - unless in favor of absolute monarchy and maybe they are that too. Tomorrow 15th July 200 years ago Napoleon escapes from France, surrenders to the British and saves his head, Ney 'the brave' didn't.

    It is impressive to be able to go so far back in family history.

  2. Thanks Damien.
    I heard it called fete Nationale too,but that's what it is called in Wikipedia,
    I suppose that was the original name in 1769 and thru the years it changed (?)

    Genealogy can be fun, and today, thanks to the internet, it is amazing all the resources one can find. The furthest I can go back is roughly mid 1500s, pass that there has been too many wars and lots of records destructions.
    Here in since the early days of Nouvelle France (Lower or French Canada) the state was "run" by the Catholic church all the way until my youth and they kept good records...For among reasons to ensure everyone was baptized and pay their dues and build "proper'' churches :-)
    My young country never really suffered the ravages of war like overseas, so we have pretty well complete records


  3. Interesting post Bob. I like history and I don't think I have ever seen a family association website like the link you gave.

  4. Here in Quebec there is a large numbers of family associations, probably one for every initial family which came to established themselves here. Having a richness of official church records helps a lot.
    On a WW related tidit of info, my ancestor's father was a master shipwright to the Company de la Nouvelle France (the organization set up to ''Populate'' la Nouvelle-France, and all three Demers brothers were listed as carpenter/farmer at one point.

    I would love to come across tools of the era


  5. My husband is also a direct descendent of Jean and Jeanne. His family came to England in the 1850s.

  6. Hi Bob,

    Wonderful information you have here. I am a decedent of Andre Demers. It is great to be able to follow our heritage and figure out where we came from.

    Thank you for all your hard work.

    Gina DeMars

  7. Bonjour cousins! Hi cousins, my Gramma Jolin was born, Aurea Demers, and Jean Dumetz <Original spelling (because the family came from the Metz region of France) is my 8th Gr Grampa; I have visited his home... there is no feeling like walking in the footsteps of a man who's blood you share, more than 300 years later! Michel Jolin, Welland ont, Canada

  8. Hi Gina and Michel.
    Yes, it is a small world after all. All the Demers in North America came primarely from these three brothers, Andre, Jean and Etienne. Throughout the years, our last name took many variations, Dumais, Dumetz, Demers, Demars, Demerse and etc,
    After being here since the 17th century, you can imagined just how big our family tree has becomes. Each generations for years had upward of 10 kids each, so it is quite a tree :-). Salutation cousins

    Bob Demers