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Who is François Bellenger ?
General presentation
Wording by Raymond Bélanger 
Translation to English by Jim Bélanger

Before a detailed analysis of our ancestor can be done, it seems important to speak of the times and customs in which our pioneer ancestor lived. Instead of giving a chronological account of events, it seems more appropriate to relate information relative to significant events in the life of François. This information is derived from several sources, including notarial acts, written documents and notes from historians. At the end of much research, the questions remaining are the following. Who is our ancestor? What picture can we paint of his life?

At the outset of any presentation of the abundant information, let it be sufficient to say that our ancestor is the progenitor of more than 65,000 descendants (as of year 2000), in Canada as well as in the United States that carry this family name. The original spelling of the name Bellenger as outlined in "descendants de l'ours" (ber-ingen in normand), was eventually modified to the most accepted spelling of today, Bélanger. François, for the most part, signed all official documents using a double "L" and one "E"; i.e. Bellenger.

Enough on the name, who is the person ? One of the first questions regards his origins. Does François Bellenger originate from Normandy or Perche? It is almost impossible to be definite between these two provinces of France. We have the same problem determining the location of his birth. Was he born in Touques, Saint-Pierre de Sées or Lisieux? In the act of Confirmation in 1662, preserved in the archives of the Québec Seminary, it is indicated he was from the archdiocese of Lisieux, Normandy. But elsewhere, an extract of his baptism found in the archives of the parish of Saint-Pierre de Sées, Orne, 12 October 1612 is mentioned as his date of birth. In that era, Perche was an integral part of Orne and, today, it is part of Normandy and Perche no longer exists.

In 1634 recruiters were promising large farms to all who immigrated to New France. François probably signed a three year contract with Robert Giffard, Lord of the Beauport Seigneurie, in Mortagne. On 27 June 1636 François signs his marriage contract with Marie Guion, daughter of Jean Guyon and Mathurine Robin, who was 12 years of age at the time. Born in the parish of Saint-Jean of Mortagne, and the fourth child of ten, she made the crossing in 1634 or 1636. They married the shortly thereafter on 12 July 1637 in the church of Our Lady of Recouvrance. François and Marie had twelve children and all except those born after 1658, the year a new church was built, were baptized at Québec.

In addition to being a mason by trade, François also cleared land and was a courageous colonist who, to assure the well being of himself and his family, transformed his land in Château-Richer and the one at Bonsecours into farm land. He cut, stumped and cleared land using the instruments available at the time which made every step gained a difficult task. All the time he was clearing land he had to be diligent of Iroquois and Agniers who came as foxes, attacked like lions and fled like birds. A firearm always at the ready, this chore of land clearing took our ancestor many years. This occupied his time at the Beauport Seigneurie from 1634 to 1637 for his farm, lot 58, and Château-Richer from 1640 during three years in association with his neighbor Masse Gravel.

This clearer of land also gave birth to institutions. Who was François as a public official? He quickly gained the confidence of his fellow citizens who named him, because of his administrative and management talents, agent (1653), merchant (1658-1662), executor for the goods of Oliver Le Tardif (1662), captain of the militia (1666), and even a land surveying consultant. From 1653, François Bellenger is more visible in public life. By his participation in these institutions and in the community, he helped the development of the country, Many generations imitated him in social as well as political arenas.

Our ancestor was equally suited to present his ideas and defend them, to the notaries of the day, and before the Sovereign Council, the supreme court of law in matters of justice. As a matter of fact, his numerous encounters with his neighbors and many encounters with other aspects of law resulted in his being a legendary character: François Bellenger was rarely without a good argument or reply. The years 1670 and 1674 are full of many such occurrences. In 1670, he reconciled accounts with his associate and brother in law, Simon Guyon, before the Sovereign Council who ordered him to pay his brother in law.

His dealings with Masse Gravel on the subject of his land boundaries (1674) shows him as a staunch defender of his rights but respectful of authority. He was a determined man who followed his convictions to the end, no matter the results. As a punishment for his audacity, the Sovereign Council, in 1670, ordered him to apologize to Masse Gravel in another dispute which was settled by litigation. In addition, the high court ordered him to pay court costs and pay three livres (money of the day) to the hospital.

This picture of our ancestor would be incomplete unless we mentioned his social demeanor which is revealed by the godparents at baptisms and witnesses at weddings. This trait of his social being crosses all sectors of society including political, economic, religious, business and even includes Amerindian culture. On 18 September 1674, it is Sir Louis de Buade of Frontenac, Governor, who signs as witness on the marriage contract for his daughter Mathurine with Jean Maheu. Numerous others signed; Jacques de Chambly, notary and scribe Paul Vachon. The most affluential merchant of the period, Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye, shows confidence in him and lends him monetary advances to embellish his home. His credit, as we would say today, was excellent.

We can't know our ancestor without questioning his fortune and his way of life. The census of 1666, 1667 and 1681 record his goods and show him as a very financially secure person, given the criteria of the day. In 1666 he pays his daughter Mathurine's tuition at the Ursulines of Québec, and he hires two domestic servants. In 1667, he owns 13 bovines and land equal in value to 50 acres. In 1681, at the establishment of his Seigneurie at Bonsecours given to him in 1667, the census lists three servants, five guns, three cows, and four acres of land value. To evaluate his fortune, we must also consider his accounts payable and receivable in money or goods. Such an accounting must also consider the dowries of his six girls. This accounting would require a more detailed report. Would we say that, after 53 years of hard labor on North American soil, he had attained his dream of being rich in 1634? Was it worth the pain of immigration? We must say, Yes.

In the end, the answer to the question asked at the start about who is François Bellenger, is answered by Frontenac and Duchesneau, Governor and Overseer of the Colony respectively, who, to repay him at the age of 64, convey to François the Seigneurie of Bonsecours. A simple mason at his arrival in 1634, he becomes a successful Seigneur in July 1677. So, the dream of 1660 where he signed, "Lord in part of the coast of Beaupré was realized. The gesture and confidence of the King of France, through his intermediaries and representatives, was eloquent. All could see, by these gifts and confidences, that his value in money and possessions for him and his descendants was a confirmation of his worth as a result of his social and political qualities.

While others obtained land grants by buying them, François got his by merit. His title is not one which is unique but represents an accomplishment much greater than could have been imagined at the start. The honor was better realized by his son Louis and spouse Catherine Le François. François and Marie Guion retire with their son Jacques in 1685. François died between this date of retirement and the winter of 1687, the year when Marie Guion ratified again their will. She was buried the first of September 1696 at Cap St-Ignace at the age of 78, as recorded by her burial record.

In conclusion, a last question: What is the heritage of François and Marie Guion? What picture do the children and grandchildren portray? 314 years after his death (1687-2001), what picture do we paint of this pioneer? François left behind a respectful heritage and family name. Knowing this man allows us to envision his life, toil and accomplishments during his lifetime. It behooves us, now, to look into more details of these qualities.
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