Before 1640

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The Perche gave no less than 230 emigrants to New France. Today, there are about two million descendants of Percheron origin in North America.

On the French political scene, the small province of Le Perche has not been very important compared to its powerful neighbours: Normandy, Ile-de-France or Maine. The age-old presence of the forest has often transformed it into a decisive territorial issue during the struggles between the great vassals of the King of France or the King of England in the Middle Ages. The creation of the county of Le Perche, however, defined an original territory with a strong identity. The inhabitants of the region, who were solid pioneers during the demographic expansion of the 12th and 13th centuries, are known to be both ardent at work but also quite distant from the systems. As such, there is a Percheron identity, a "soul" that can explain why some of them, aspiring to a better life, were seduced, in the 17th century, by the adventure in the Nouvelle-France.

If the contribution of Perche to Canada's population -- about 5% of French migrants -- may seem modest, it should be noted that Perche emigration, the oldest, is characterized by remarkable prolificity," writes Françoise Montagne. The movement, launched in 1634 thanks to Robert Giffard's power of conviction, does indeed represent a certain originality in the general trend of French emigration to Nouvelle-France. It should not be attributed to poverty, but rather to a spirit of adventure and enterprise. 321 emigrants will thus undertake the great journey. A few of them will return home. But the vast majority, despite the Iroquois threat, chose to settle on the shores of the St. Lawrence to clear the land and make new lands prosper. 193 of them were raised by descendants, or played a decisive role in the country's history, or lost their lives in the wars of the 17th century. Their patronymic descent is now estimated at several million people in Canada and includes a large swarm throughout North America. The Gagnon, like the Tremblays, come from this region of the western Paris Basin. Both families have in common that they have been remarkably prolific.

The Tremblay family tree has a unique trunk: Pierre Tremblay. The Gagnon didn't take a chance. They put themselves together with four, three brothers and a cousin, to ensure their descendants in the New World. Mathurin, Jean and Pierre Gagnon were among the main pioneers of Château-Richer on the Côte de Beaupre. Their cousin Robert, who arrived a few years later, did his large part for the settlement of Île d'Orléans, from the parish of Sainte-Famille.
 
The three Gagnon brothers were born on a farm in a small village called La Gagnonniere, in the Perche forest, between Tourouvre and Ventrouze. Their father, Pierre Gagnon, owned his land. With his wife, Renee Roger, they also owned an inn in the same place, according to genealogist Gérard Lebel. The couple had married in 1597. They had seven children.

Six Gagnon migrated from Perche to New France in the 17th century. Marguerite, Mathurin, Jean and Pierre, all four children of Pierre Gagnon and Renée Roger, will join Quebec around 1640 with their mother. Pierre Gagnon father, a ploughman, will not go to Quebec. With the exception of Pierre who was baptized in La Ventrouze, the other Gagnon emigrant children are baptized in the Saint-Aubin de Tourouvre church.

Marthe Gagnon, the natural daughter of Mathurin Gagnon and Vincente Gaulthier, left the Ventrouze around 1643 for New France, with her father who came to pick her up.
Robert Gagnon, originally from La Ventrouze and son of Jean Gagnon and Marie Geffroy, probably a cousin of the first four, would later leave around 1655 to found the second branch of the Gagnon family in Quebec.

(Source: Texts and images from "La Gagnonnière" magazine)

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