Most of our ancestors led quite ordinary lives, but sometimes an ancestor appears whose life was not quite as ordinary as others. Marie Brazeau (one of Jim’s 6X great-grandmothers) had a very interesting and eventful life, and provides an insight into what life was like for some in the late 17th century. She had four husbands as well as two other relationships, and twelve children—nine from her marriages, and three illegitimate.
Marie was born in Amboise, France about 1663 and was seventeen-years-old when she married her first husband Sylvain Guerin. Their first child was born about 1681 in France. Later that year, Marie’s parents and two brothers immigrated to New France; Marie and the baby accompanied them although her husband did not. They settled in Montreal. About 1685, Sylvain also immigrated and the couple had two more children in 1686 and 1688. The couple apparently operated an illegal "cabaret" in their home. Sources differ as to what happened after that. Some say that Sylvain returned to France in 1688, whereas other sources say he died in hospital about 1696 in Montreal. (Neither version has been confirmed.)
In any case, Marie began a relationship with Antoine Beaujean with whom she had two sons (in 1691 and 1693); their baptisms record their illegitimacy but name Antoine as the father. Tragically in 1693 at the age of 25, Antoine was killed by the Iroquois at Montreal.
In March 1695, 22-year-old Marie gave birth to her sixth child—a daughter Angelique whose baptism record states “father unknown”. When 20-year-old Angelique married, she is described as the daughter of deceased Sylvain Guerin and Marie Brazeau although this appears to be unlikely. (If Sylvain had been her father, the priest who baptized her would in all certainty have named him in the record.)
In any case Sylvain must have been deceased by 1698 when Marie (described as the 35-year-old widow of Sylvain Guerin) married a 24-year-old soldier, Guillaume Tougas dit Laviolette (one of Jim's 6X great-grandfathers) in1698. This couple had six children; their youngest daughter Pelagie (one of Jim’s 5X great-grandmothers) was born in January 1708. Sadly, in September of that year, Guillaume died. The cause of death was not recorded at his burial, but being a soldier, he may have been killed in the line of duty. Marie now had ten living children still at home (aged 22, 20, 15, 14, 9, 7, 5, 4, 2, 7 months). One child had died in infancy, and her eldest living child, aged 27, had married eleven years earlier and had five young children.
Four years later at the age of 49, on October 29, 1912, Marie married (for the third time) another soldier, 42-year-old Didier Bourgouin dit Saint-Paul. Although Didier’s death is not recorded, it must have occurred shortly after their marriage because eight months later, on June 18,1713, the widowed Marie married yet another soldier—Pierre Tastet dit Francoeur. This marriage was also very short-lived, as Pierre died in April 1716. Marie became a widow—for the fourth time.
Marie was often in court, often for debts. It is said one of these court cases involved her pursuing an ex-lover in which she “described in small detail everything that happened between them”. (I’ve not located that case yet.) In 1978 a descendant published an article which describes a lawsuit between Marie and two widowed sisters who were apparently spreading rumours that her first husband Sylvain Guerin has been hanged in France. Marie denied this and many witnesses testified for both sides. It is interesting that although Marie had had 3 husbands and at least 2 lovers in the intervening years, the fate of her first husband was an issue so many years later.
At least one book and several articles have been written about Marie. She died in Montreal in 1735, aged 72, and is buried there.