Origins of Jean Dumontet dit Lagrandeur, Husband of the Captive Elizabeth Corse
John P. DuLong
First Draft, 9 September 2001
The husband of the New England captive Elizabeth Corse, Jean (or Jean-Baptiste) Dumontet dit Lagrandeur, has been identified as being English (Jetté 1983, 384). However, the evidence to support this claim of English origins is very weak.
Jean's origins are not recorded on their marriage record, 6 November 1712, Laprairie, Laprairie County, Québec (PRDH no. 18927). It only identified him as the son of Jean Dumontet and Georgette Forand. This is indeed unfortunate as most Québec marriage records from this period include the exact place of origin for immigrants. To compound the failure of the religious marriage record to document his place of origins, it appears that the couple did not have a marriage contract. Most couples, even of modest means, had a notary prepare a marriage contract for them and this document often records the place of origin for immigrants.
Using the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) database, the only record I can find that identifies Jean as being English is the baptism of his daughter Marie Elisabeth Dumantet [sic] on 14 November 1717 at Laprairie (PRDH no. 18391) On this record he is said to be Anglais and his wife, Marie Elisabeth Casse is Anglaise. I would suggest that the priest made a simple mistake and identified both husband and wife as English, when he should only have labeled Elizabeth this way.
It has also been suggested that Jean was a Huguenot who fled France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 (Fournier 1992, 124-125). However, the PRDH database reveals no record of his abjuration or any other record that would suggest he was anything other than Catholic
If we abandon the idea that Jean was English and search through the PRDH database for other clues, then we find that a Jean Demonte dit Lagrandeur was hospitalized at the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec on 10 October 1690 for twelve days (PRDH no. 413012). Many people would become ill on the Atlantic crossing and would have to spend time recuperating in the hospital. So it is likely that this person came to New France just before his hospitalization. He was 23 years old and from the parish of Blon in Limoges, Limousin province, Haute-Vienne Department, France (this might be Blond, northwest of Limoges, Michelin 1987, map 164 section C2 and map 148 section C4). I believe that this person might be the same as our Jean.
According to Jean's death record he would have been born around 1659 as he was 70 years old at his death on 20 May 1729 at Laprairie (PRDH no. 19404). Our hospital patient would have been born around 1667. This is a difference of eight years, but people were notorious during this period for incorrectly recording their ages and the age at death was often rounded up or down to the nearest round number. Demographers call this phenomena "age heaping" (Demos 1986, 159-160, 179). In New France, according to the PRDH demographers (Charbonneau and others 1993, 53): "In the seventeenth century young people tended to make themselves younger whereas their elders would age themselves; moreover, the ages extracted from burial records exaggerate the age of the deceased seven out of ten times." It is conceivable that Jean was really closer to 60 than 70 at his death. His age might have been exaggerated at the time of his death by a third party who supplied an estimation of his age. He would still have been considerably older than Elizabeth who was only 16 when they wed on 6 November 1712 at Laprairie (PRDH no. 18927). Jean would have been between 45 and 53.
The PRDH database contains no other mention of a Jean Demonte dit Lagrandeur. In fact, the PRDH demographers assume the surname is really Montay dit Lagrandeur, but even under this surname there is no other men mentioned that would fit the facts (PRDH online index of hits for a search on Jean Demonte). There is a Jean Monte, with no alias, who was a sailor on the ship Bizarre from Marmande who died at the Hôpital général de Québec on 22 September 1757 (PRDH no. 25587). However, given the chronology, this is unlikely to be the Jean Demonte dit Lagrandeur identified as being 23 in 1690. He would be a very ancient mariner indeed at age 90 or 98! Therefore, it seems that Jean Demonte dit Lagrandeur, if he did not die prematurely and unrecorded after 1690 or return to France, must have settled in the colony and most likely can be identified with our Jean.
As for the surname Dumontet with the alias Lagrandeur, the PRDH records shows it spelled several ways for Jean and his children including: Dumontet dit Lagrandeur, Dumantet dit Lagrandeur, Dumontest, Dumontet, Delagranduer and Lagrandeur. The surname Demonte appearing alone would make me very suspicious of any identity with a Dumontet, but given that it is associated with the Lagrandeur aliases, I feel more confident that it is perhaps the same person. Remember that spelling was not an exact science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The mystery here is why was he single from 1690 to 1712. Was he a soldier? Was he without sufficient means? Was he trading furs in the West? Was it just difficult to find an available woman or girl to marry?
Obviously the identity of Jean Dumontet dit Legrandeur is not yet resolved. More evidence must be found. The original documents found in the PRDH must be reviewed for accuracy. Other documents in Québec that might help solve the problem must be located. And perhaps the notarial records or the parish register of Blon will either confirm or deny the hypothesis that he is not English and that he was the same person who was hospitalized in 1690.
All references can be found on the References web page.
This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1999 by John P. DuLong, Berkley, MI. Created 1 July 1999. Last modified 30 September 2001. This web site is best viewed with your display set to 800 by 600 pixels, at least 256 colors, and using Netscape 4.x or better. The coordinated graphics for this site come courtesy of Jelane Johnson.