|A FEW PAGES FROM OUR TRAVEL LOG|
On the occasion of our 30th wedding anniversary, Rosemary and I went on a three-week tour of France from 27 April to 14 May 1993. Our itinerary was a large circle which started in Paris, then went on to Avignon for Provence and the Mediterranean area, then to La Rochelle and the west coast; afterward, it was the fishing village of Pont Aven to see Quimper and Brittany, then Fontevraud for the Middle Loire and the Theriault ancestral homeland and then back to Paris for a four day wrap-up. We call it our 'grande tour de France'.
Here are some notes from our log for our few days of scouting the Theriault ancestral homeland...
We unpacked, freshened up and headed south to Loudun and Martaizé to familiarize ourselves with the area. The terrain is flat with rich farmlands as far as the eye can see. Typical of the French countryside, the landscape is well manicured. Rows of tall trees off in the distance mark the boundaries between the cultivated fields. Driving south from Frontevraud through Loudun and towards Martaizé, I felt a strange sensation of coming home... the surroundings seemed so familiar. We could see Martaizé in the distance and the steeple of its small church.
Coming into the village, the narrow streets were quiet and the homes and small shops were well kept with their tan stucco and limestone exteriors. The church was prominent and easy to find. As we approached the church, we saw two ladies in the sacristy arranging the altar flowers. They greeted us and directed us to Monsieur Le Curé's house closeby.
Monsieur Le Curé was in his gardening clothes working in his courtyard garden. He invited us into the rectory... a very spacious, well appointed home. He told us that the Theriault's were prominent in the area around the 17th and 18th centuries. He recommended that we contact Monsieur Roland Therriot from Loudun who has specialized on Theriault genealogy. He also recommended that we visit Monsieur Gigon in La Chaussee, a small town close-by who directs an Acadian museum in that village. Monsieur Le Curé took us on a tour of his church. There we noted a large, handsome brass plague that was prominently displayed in the foyer of the church honoring Antoine Bourg, progenitor of the Bourg family .Father noted that the Bourg family had visited as part of a family reunion a few years earlier and presented the parish with the plague. And no, the church is not the original church. It replaced the original church when it burned down nearly 200 years ago...
Friday, 7 May 1993: ... Afterwards, we headed for La Chaussee for a visit with Monsieur Gigon and the Centre de l'Acadie. La Chaussee is even smaller than Martaize also with tan homes and dusty roads. The church dates back to the 11th century. We took photos and eventually found someone who directed us to the Monsieur Le Maire, our Monsieur Gigon. As we came up to his house, Mrs Gigon was buying meat and fish from the travelling butcher. She invited us into her kitchen which had a delightful smell of food cooking.
Monsieur Gigon came out to greet us and we sat in their kitchen for coffee and spoke of the Theriault's and Acadians. He explained that the Theriault's came from Martaize and Aulnay, another small village closeby. The spelling of the name varied during the 1600-1700's, he said, because the recordkeepers went largely by the sound of names. So there is Terriot, Terriau and so on... all the same family.
Many Acadian descendants have come to visit with him in Martaize over the years, he assured as that we were not the first from North America to visit. He also said that while he had a little information on Jehan Terriau, Monsieur Therriot of Loudun would have much more information on the Theriault family.
He took us through the Acadian museum which was well-kept and well organized. There we saw that Jehan Terriau is related to other Acadian families such as Breaux's, Daigles and a few others. We purchased a small book of Acadian Songs for 30 francs and followed him to his house where he gave us his card so that we could correspond. He excused himself to take Mrs Gigon to the dentist...
After lunch, we stopped at the Therriot's in Loudun. Monsieur Roland Therriot is retired from the French Air Force. He spent 32 years in the Air Force including World War II. We exchanged cards so that we might correspond. He explained that no records exist in France prior to Jehan Terriau because of fire and war damage. His research shows that Jehan was born in 1601 (based on the 1671 census of Acadia) in Martaize. He married Perrine in 1635 and emigrated to Acadia with his wife in 1637. Roland encountered some evidence though inconclusive that Jehan's father was named Charles whose widow later owed alot of money. They lived in Aulnay... Roland also gave me a photocopy of a document that tells the story of the first Acadian settlers and identifies the key politicians involved. But most interesting was his answer to my question as to whether we know anything about why our ancestral grandfather took his new bride and left his native land.
It was well established that France was making an effort to colonize New France and Acadia. To do this, they recruited young families who had the skills for establishing farms and populating Acadia. Jehan was one of the few from the Martaize, La Chaussee, Aunlay area who had worked with the local monasteries in Poitou and around La Rochelle to reclaim the marsh lands. These were skills that the monks passed on to them apparently from their experience in the Netherlands. They built dikes with one-way trap doors that allowed marsh water to run out at low tide but would not allow sea water in at high tides. Those skills were needed in Acadia which had the same problem and therefore, Jehan Terriau was recruited and transported to Acadia with his wife at the cost of the Seigneurie to settle Acadia.
One point that Roland established very clearly: the only records that are available today are those provuded by the Acadian Catholic Church. There are no records in France for any activity preceding the mid-1800's.
We had a delightful visit that lasted most of the afternoon with coffee and biscuits brought out by Mrs Therriot...