December 30, 2020

profile your ancestor
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In the winter of 1749-1750, Jesuit Father Claude-Godefroi Coquart travelled through the Malbaie area of New France (now the province of Quebec) inspecting lands the King of France claimed.

While there, he visited a farm called “la Malbaie,” which was run by my ancestor Joseph Dufour. Dufour appears in my family trees 6 generations back on my father’s side.

Coquart’s written report to France describes the farm run by Dufour and his neighbours’ operation in great detail.

Author George McKinnon Wrong describes Coquart’s report on pages 17 and 18 of his 2005 book entitled “A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs The Story of a Hundred Years, 1761-1861”:

For a link to George McKinnon Wrong’s book, which includes some wonderful poetic descriptions of Quebec, visit its page on the Internet Archive.

Father Coquart’s census is as rigorous and unsparing of detail as the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror. He tells exactly what the Malbaie farm can produce in a year; the record for the year of grace 1750 is “4 or 6 oxen; 25 sheep, 2 or 3 cows, 1200 pounds of pork, 1400 to 1500 pounds of butter, one barrel of lard,”—certainly not much to help a paternal government. The salmon fishery should be developed, says Coquart. Now the farmers get their own supply and nothing more. Nets should be used and great quantities of salmon might be salted down in good seasons. Happily, conditions are mending. The previous farmer had let things go to rack and ruin but now one sees neither thistles nor black wheat; all the fences are in place.

My ancestor gets high praise in Coquart’s report.

Joseph Dufour has a special talent for making things profitable. If he can be induced to continue his services, it will be a benefit to his employer. But he is not contented. Last year he could not make it pay and wished to leave. Nearly all his wages are used in the support of his family. He has three grown-up daughters who help in carrying on the establishment, and a boy for the stables. The best paid of these gets only 50 livres (about $10) a year; she should get at least 80 livres, M. Coquart thinks. Dufour has on the farm eight sheep of his own but even of these the King takes the wool, and actually the farmer has had to pay for what wool his family used. Surely he should be allowed to keep at least half the wool of his own sheep! If it was the policy of the Crown to grant lands along the river of Malbaie there are many people who would like those fertile areas, but there is danger that they would trade with the Indians which should be strictly forbidden.”

It makes me happy to see that my ancestor had ideas for changing his circumstances too. Strange when a system encourages people to lie to survive.

About the author 

Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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