Whenever we research the family history of a celebrity for Who Do You Think You Are? there is always the concern that there may not be adequate records to build a full family tree. Fortunately, when the assignment came to research Tom Bergeron, known to be of French Canadian ancestry, we were confident that we would be able to build a good tree, at least on the Bergeron line. That’s because records in France and French Canada are remarkable and have been lovingly preserved.
Progress on the Bergeron research moved quickly. The parish registers of Québec give the names of each bride and groom’s parents, so family lineages are relatively easily assembled. We quickly traced Tom’s ancestry back to his first immigrants from France, including several of Les Filles du Roi (The Daughters of the King) who were recruited in Europe and immigrated to Canada between 1663 and 1673 to satisfy the need for European women to build a sustainable colony. One woman in particular stood out: Marguerite Ardion, a widow from La Rochelle, one of the main ports of embarkation for Nouvelle France (today’s Québec), made the difficult ocean crossing in 1663, then promptly remarried and raised a family in Québec. There are many records of Marguerite and her children in Québec, but we wondered if we would be able to find much about her in France.
We were able to locate her 1636 baptismal record online. Surprisingly, she had been baptized a Protestant, but all of Les Filles du Roi had to swear that they were loyal to the Catholic Church before they could emigrate! This was a surprising turn of events.
Protestant Baptism Marguerite Ardion 1636
La Rochelle had been a bastion of Protestantism and economic independence until the government in Paris decided that La Rochelle was too independent and laid siege to the city in 1627 and 1628. The population of 20,000 starved to only 5,000 by the end of Le Siege de La Rochelle. Fortunately, an eyewitness account of the siege was preserved and published in 1648. It includes the information that not a horse, sheep, goat, dog, cat, rat, or mouse was left and that people were eating boots, doublets, and even parchment. Marguerite Ardion had been born after the siege but was still baptized Protestant!
Her parents were Pierre Ardion and Suzanne Soret, per the baptism record, and a search in La Rochelle located a copy of their 1623 marriage contract, which survived the siege! They were from prosperous Protestant homes, and the contract runs two full pages.
1623 Marriage Contract Ardion/Soret
There must have been more to Marguerite’s story, and fortunately, a record that explained what had happened was preserved. On 1 January 1659, Marguerite Ardion renounced Protestantism and swore allegiance to the Catholic Church.