French Canadian/Acadian Genealogy Article;
The following article was written for the French Canadian/Acadian Genealogy Quarterly, Vol. 10, #4, Summer 1996.
My Journey to La Chaussée--La Chaussée, Vienne, France…
In doing research on the Dupuis family, I found the name of the village, La Chaussée in France. My immigrant ancestor, Michel Dupuis, and his wife, Marie Gotro, came from this village in 1648 to start a new life in Acadia. I immediately went to the encyclopedia to find the city. No luck. I pored over many maps, with no luck. I asked my friends who are genealogists. They directed me to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee library with its American Geographical Society collection of maps. The librarian was most helpful. Eh bien, voilá!
Chaussée is located in the southern Loire Valley about 200 miles southwest of Paris. To me, this place was a world away, as well as 350 years away in time. From the map I derived that there were about 29 buildings in the village in the 1980's. I copied the maps for future reference. Wouldn't it be wonderful to someday wander through the village where Michel and Marie trod! Wouldn't it be wonderful to see the old buildings that date back to the 1600's!
A dream was in the making.
Dreams sometimes come true with the help of many friends and relatives.
Here is the story of my dream of visiting La Chaussée, France.
In 1945 my brother, Adrian Dupuis, was a young American soldier in WWII. While billeted in Napoleon's horse barns in Auxonne, France, he made friends with many of the local people including the Robardet family. Over the years this friendship was nurtured across the ocean. In 1973 my brother and his wife visited the Robardet family as well as many other European friends. In 1988 Tristan Robardet, a member of the younger generation of Robardets and an officer in the French army, visited my brother and the Dupuis family in Milwaukee. Tristan and I became good friends over time. We exchanged many visits. During one of these early visits I asked him about La Chaussée. He had not heard of it. Later he was assigned to the French army cavalry school in Saumur on the Loire River.
Another visit and more questions about the villages from where my ancestors had come --- La Chaussée, Faye-la-Vineuse, Cholet, Poitou, La Rochelle, Dompierre-sur-Mer, etc. Eh bien!!! La Chaussées only about 40 miles from Saumur. "Someday you must visit Saumur with me. We will visit the Chateaux of the Loire," Tristan promised.
"And," I added, "could we visit La Chaussée?"
"Pourquoi pas?" he replied.
In the past twelve years I have spent a tremendous amount of time learning about computers and doing data entry in Personal Ancestral File, the genealogy program of the Mormon Church. As with many computer aficionados, computer catalogs become Bibles. While poring over one of these catalogs in April of 1995, I found an advertisement for a free trip to Paris. Upon reading the fine print, I found that if I bought one ticket to Paris, SONY would give me a free ticket for a friend. After lots of letter writing I had the voucher for the tickets. My friend Yvonne Vigue Nichols agreed to take advantage of the opportunity with me. She had been introduced to Tristan on one of his trips here in the states. Tristan said he would be happy to have us visit his friend and him in Paris for Christmas of 1995. All was set.
I did not want to be presumptuous and ask my friend to take us to La Chaussée. Yet, the dream was a possibility. Then the government workers of France went on strike in late November, and the whole trip was becoming doubtful as the strike was extended into the third week of December. But, a phone call from Tristan in Paris eight days before Christmas and our doubts were erased. The strikers would surely go back to work so the French people could celebrate their favorite holiday, Christmas. And then he asked the question, "What would you like to do when you are in France?"
With little or no hesitation I replied enthusiastically,
"I surely would love to visit La Chaussée."
"We can do that." I wondered if the weather would be a problem.
I wondered if we would have time, considering our short six day visit.
I wondered, and I dreamed.
We arrived in Paris on Christmas morning. Our luggage was dropped off at their apartment and we were off to Christmas mass at Notre Dame --- Yvonne's dream. Simply magnifique! Then back to the apartment for a wondrous reveillon (Christmas dinner). The trains of the Metro were running and we explored all of Paris for three days. That left two days to get to the Loire Valley and La Chaussée.
On 29 December we were on our way. We stopped and visited Chambord, the castle of Francois I, designed by Leonardo da Vinci. It was wonderful, but would I get to see La Chaussée? We drove on to St Martin de la Place near Saumur for dinner and a good night's rest. One more day of touring before we start back to Paris.
On 30 December 1995, we left Saumur and headed for St. Just sur Dive to visit Tristan's friends, Michel and Nicole Lasne. With typical French hospitality we were invited in for champagne. Upon finding that I was interested in locating the village of La Chaussée phone calls were made along with lunch plans. We would have Déejeuner at a restaurant that served the traditional foods of the region. As Michel said, "We want you to know that you are in the land of your ancestors. You have come home."
We drove to Montreuil Bellay and with great pleasure we dined, drank wine, and chatted with the baker, chef, waiter, and owner of the restaurant, all of whom were delighted that I was going to find my home town. The day was passing quickly, but my hopes were high.
Michel had made arrangements for us to meet the mayor of St. Clair, the nearest village to La Chaussée. We drove to visit him. He was delighted to tell me that he knew many Dupuis', Galarneaus, Pichées, Breaus, Comeaus, Thibodeaus, etc. He was 80 years old and a walking archivist of the region. He called his friend in Loudun, Madame Lucienne Recoupée, curator of the Maison de l'Acadie de la Chaussée.
With a few hours of daylight left, we drove to La Chaussée and arrived just before dark so that I could snap only a few pictures. This quaint and quiet farming village of about 30 stone buildings is in the middle of the fields of the Vendée region. Mme Recoupée arrived and gave us a guided tour of the museum, dedicated to the over 2000 people who left the area for Acadia. My dream had come true. I had come home to La Chaussée.
I am extremely grateful to my brother Adrian Dupuis and to Tristan Robardet who made this first visit possible. I plan to return and spend more time exploring the village of La Chaussée as well as the other villages of my ancestors. Much research is left to be done before this story is complete. Maybe I will have the opportunity to visit all the villages of my ancestors. There are new dreams in the making.
Since this article was published, debate on the lineage of Martin Dupuis as son or brother of Michel Dupuis has raised many questions. Stephen White, the renowned Acadian genealogist, believes that Martin was the son of Michel Dupuis and Marie Gotro. All were residents of La Chaussée, France.