Chapter 1

Chapter 1: New France

1609 map of New FranceFew, if any European family names have remained unspoiled over the centuries.

War, isolation, illiteracy, religion, displacement, illegitimacy and lack of aristocratic roots disfavoured the survival of the original or intended spelling of the family of Duheme.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, in North America alone, there were already many variations including Duhaime, Duhem, Duhemme and Duhame.

The ancestry of a single musket-wielding French soldier, forms a solid ancestry, rich and omnipresent in recent North-American history. From François Lemaistre have spawned Duhaimes in Boston, Texas, Ottawa and Edmonton; Duhemes in Huntington and Trout River, Duhames in Arizona, Lemaître-Duhaimes in Laval.

Our story begins a long time ago, back, far in the past, beyond the great world wars, beyond the 1867 Confederation of Canada or even the conquest of Quebec by the English; back further still to the year 1600, over the Atlantic Ocean to the small town of Saint-Pierre, near the city of Amiens, in the northern Picardy region of France.

Europe was then the apex of the known world, with its nations of England, France, Portugal and Spain commissioning fleets to conquer and settle the land beyond their western horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.

Although these forays, such as Christopher Columbus' history voyage in 1492, are to the credit of the European civilizations, other events showed just how primitive the world yet was.

Plagues ravaged cities, massacres were the expected consequence of war, kings and queens were regularly assassinated, religious inquisitions or treason convictions resulted in horrendous torture. The punishment for petty crime was the scaffold.

Motivated by hopes for quick and easy wealth, European countries began to develop better shipping techniques and pushed beyond their shoreline, over the oceans, to explore and take residence in the new worlds.

By 1631, French troops, settlers and priests were exploring the shores of a land called Kebec, in North America. Spaniards occupied South America and the current city of Boston was settled by English Puritans.Lemaistre coat of arms #2

But Acadia and, later, what is now Québec, was France's, as shown in the above map by French lawyer and explorer, Marc Lescarbot, drawn in about 1607.

It was in 1631 that François le Maistre dit le Picard was born in Saint-Pierre, France to Fiacre le Maistre (also Denis Lemaistre or Denis Lemaistre dit Le Picard) and Anne Loyer although some geneologists suggest that Francois' mother was Catherine Deharme or Ducharme.6

Gary Brooks writes:

"The name Le Maistre or La Maistre is French and means "The Master". Le is masculine and La is feminine. De La Maistre descended from the ancient house of Brittainy, Sieurs de la Garlaye, in the parish of Derval, in the Diocese of Nantes, in France. The first records are of Arthur Le Maistre, Sieur of Bois-Vert, who was Chamberlain to John II, Duke of Brittainy 1286-1312. John Le Maistre was President of the Parliament of Paris under Henry IV. Henry IV ruled from 1589-1610. "

Dit le Picard was a nickname (sobriquet) and not a formal surname, that François took from his father.

The French were in the habit of adopting nicknames which were attached to their formal surname and, in many cases, supplanted, over time, the formal surname.

Samuel de ChamplainOf François' parents or childhood in France, little is known.

We know only that four years after his birth, an aging French explorer, Samuel de Champlain (pictured, right) was sailing again to le Nouveau France (New France, now Québec), which he had founded 33 years earlier.7

Kebec had recently been returned to France after a three year occupation by English troops. De Champlain's insisted upon the French' Royal family to encourage French citizens to emigrate to New France. He was convinced that if the colony could be populated, it would be safeguarded from English attack, and it could be then safely be wrenched from the native Indians, at gun-point if necessary.

But the French interest in the New World waned. For example, in 1627, there were but 100 French inhabitants in New France. By 1641, Nouvelle France had 240 inhabitants (including François Lemaistre) while over 50,000 English immigrants already populated New England to the South.

When the Thirty Years War came to an end in 1648, the European nations were left to focus their attentions to their North American colonies in earnest and the standing of New France grew in the French royal court.

Lemaistre coat of armsIt was in this swell of enthusiasm and activity that 20-year old François le Maistre, by contract signed at La Rochelle, France in 1651, accepted a five-year work engagement with the French contractor Charente-Maritime.8

Records show that François had settled in the small Saint Lawrence River port town of Trois-Rivières, within a year after arriving in New France.

North America was sparsely populated. France, England, Holland and Spain all had toe-holds but few had penetrated inland to any great length.

England had explored and settled much of the east coast from Prince Edward Island to Virginia.

In the deep south of North American continent, Spain had risen its flag over the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

For her part, France lay claim to both shores of the Saint-Lawrence River, from present day Québec City to Hochelaga (Montreal).

This would change rapidly as each nation sent contingents of intrepid explorers who constantly pushed the boundary of European exploration and conquest inland.

The French settlement along the St. Lawrence was the heartland of the Iroquois, the most ferocious of the North American natives.

The first hundred years of co-habitation between the French newcomers and the Indians would be ones of almost constant war, of reprisals and of bloodshed.


  • Brooks, Gary (Youngstown, Ohio), Abraham Lemaster (retrieved on March 6, 2010 from He suggests that the Lemaistre coat of arms is the red and blue sample shown above. An alternate, in black and white is shown below.
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, The Musket & The Cane: References
  • The Thirty Years War
  • Trudel, M., Samuel de Champlain, Canadian Encyclopedia