Let me go out of chronological order for a moment and tell you about our day. We are currently in Lower Normandy near the town of Tourouvre. This is the place where my Gagnon ancestors left to go to New France in 1640.
We managed to find the signs for the homestead but we aren’t sure the houses I took pictures of are the right ones. No one was home when we knocked on the door, so it’s hard to tell from what I remember of a photo my parents took 40 yrs ago.
This area is charming. It’s apple country, very agricultural. It has rolling hills with lovely vistas. The houses are often from the 17th century. Yes, that’s right! The B & B we are in right now was built in 1602.
Leon and I took a drive to some neighbouring towns. We stopped in Loisail at a very old church. It was open to visit as was the graveyard. As we looked around, we met a nice man who answered many of our questions. It turns out he was the mayor of the town.
We then drove to Mortagne sur Perche to see about dinner. Around 6pm, you are never sure if restaurant are closed for the day or not open yet for dinner. We didn’t find a place to eat but enjoyed the walk in the downtown area.
We then went to Lachapelle-Montligeon. I knew there was a good restaurant open there. But first we drove into the Basilica grounds. Holy wow! You gotta read the background in this place. It’s a center for prayers for the dead.
Anyway, we found our restaurant, the local inn, and what a find that was! Dinner was amazing! My dinner was a filet of Bar, sort of like a cod fish. The best part was asking a single older gentleman to join us. He turned out to be Australian. He’d just arrived the day before.
Dinner was great, conversation was entertaining and now we are cosy in our 1602 suite all ready for a good sleep.
Day 2 of this ancestral adventure featured a delicious leisurely breakfast (our first in France) at our B & B. Eggs, cheese, bread, homemade jams from the house’s trees and bushes, very good coffee and great green tea for me. And some apple juice made from the neighbour’s organic apples.
We chatted with one of the owners and a lovely English neighbour who told us all about how he bought that run down French country house 25 yrs ago and turned it into his summer home. Just like in the movies!
After we checked out, we went back to Tourouvre to visit La Maison de l’immigration and find out all about my ancestors. It turned out the houses we saw the day before were the correct ones. The museum was very interesting and had very accurate information on the descendants of the French immigrants to Nouvelle France. The Gagnons came from this area, as did 80 others, mostly families, in about 10 yr period in mid-1600s. They would have been lured by the promise of owning their own land and having more control over their lives and economic future.
I asked at the museum whether they kept track of the names of the visitors. I was told no, but there are probably more Gagnons that come than any other families.
We took a walk around the town and visited the local cemetery. We didn’t find one Gagnon on the gravestones. I did notice that there were a great number of tombs that have white tags on them. These are the ones that have been abandoned and the lease is no longer being paid for. The city will soon remove the content and make the space available for new graves. It is sad to see how many of these graves were just forgotten and unattended.
We also noticed a great number of graves dated August 13, 1944. It seems a terrible execution happened that day when the Nazis discovered one of their own, dead in the town square. They executed several locals, held many others hostage during that night and burned down a great number of homes. Of course, the locals had been very active in the resistance. Interesting but little known stories.