S6E6 America Ferrera
"Growing up, Tom Bergeron’s parents only gave him vague answers about their family background. Most of the information Tom does have is from his father, but all he knows is that they migrated from France to Canada to America. To learn why and how the first Bergerons left France for the New World, he enlists the help of a French Canadian genealogist.
The family tree the genealogist has prepared takes Tom all the way back to his 9x great-grandparents Marguerite Ardion and Jean Rabouin, who were married as Catholics in Quebecin 1663; yet oddly, they are both listed as from La Rochelle, France. Tom heads to France to investigate his ancestors’ lives there, and why they would’ve left France for Canada.
In La Rochelle, Tom finds a 1623 marriage record for Pierre Ardion and Suzanne Soret - Marguerite’s parents, and Tom’s 10x great-grandparents! Curiously, this is a Protestant wedding, unlike the union of the Ardion’s daughter Marguerite, who married Catholic. The expert explains that at the time of Pierre and Suzanne’s wedding, Catholics and Protestants in France were embroiled in a nearly century-long political and religious conflict, and La Rochelle, nearly 80% Protestant, was considered the center of Protestant influence in the 1620s. Tom discovers that the following years were a major turning point for Protestants in La Rochelle as tensions came to a head between them and the Catholics. In 1627, King Louis XIII targeted La Rochelle and laid siege on the city.
Curious about his 10x great-grandparents’ experience of the attack on La Rochelle, Tom meets with a historian on a historic tower with a sweeping view of the surrounding city and harbor where his ancestors lived. Tom is horrified to discover the relentless, appalling warfare tactics that his relatives endured, which resulted in the population declining from 22,000 to 5,000 people until they surrendered.
After learning the tragic events of the siege in La Rochelle, Tom wants to learn what became of Pierre and Suzanne and their daughter Marguerite. The first record found in a Protestant registry is Marguerite Ardion’s 1636 baptism record. TB may still wonder why he later finds Marguerite in Catholic records in Quebec? Then Tom discovers that by the time Marguerite was 14, both of her parents had died, leaving her an orphan. Next, Tom sees that Marguerite converted to Catholicism in order to marry a man - who was not Tom’s 9x great-grandfather Jean - and had a son with him. Wanting to know what events occurred that led her to ultimately marry Jean Rabouin in Canada, Tom follows his ancestor’s trail to Quebec City.
In Quebec, Tom discovers that Marguerite’s first husband died, and learns that Jean Ardion, Tom’s 9x great-grandfather, agreed to care for their son. However, Tom is still curious: why would Marguerite leave La Rochelle for Quebec? The expert explains that Marguerite was a Filles du Rois, “Daughter of the King,” one of the first female immigrants from France to Canada who were sent to bolster the population and establish the New World. Having a Filles du Rois in your family is a great source of pride in Canada, much in the same way Americans discover a relative came over on the Mayflower. Further records reveal that Marguerite died in her early 40’s after giving birth to a total of eight children with Jean, fulfilling her duty as a Fille du Rois.
The end of his journey takes Tom to a statue that honors his ancestors for their role in founding the New World as a Fille du Rois family, and concludes on the same land they once owned and lived. He reflects on the remarkable lives of his relatives and is overcome by the lessons he has learned from them."
First Air Date: 04/12/2015