York Man is Descendent of Hebert

By Juliana L’Heureux

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Franco-American genealogies can trace a family to its original colonial ancestor. 

Richard Lafrance, 62, of York knows he is a 10th generation direct descendent of "the first prominent settler in Quebec", Louis Hebert (1575-1627) and his wife Marie Rolet. Lafrance traces his genealogy to Hebert's second daughter, Marie Guillaumette who married a carpenter named Guillaume Couillard in 1621. 

Most of Hebert's descendents with the Couillard name trace their family to this marriage.

Hebert arrived in Quebec in 1617. His contributions to the colonial city of Quebec were described in a recent column. Historically, French-Canadians know Hebert as a colonial era settler who arrived in Quebec with the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Professionally, Hebert was an apothecary physician from France who was hired to care for French colonists in Quebec. Although the Heberts seem to have been happy in Quebec, they generally received no pay for the care they provided to local residents. Only sixty-seven people including children lived in Quebec when Hebert arrived.

As a physician to the French colony, Hebert received his reward with gratitude until he was eventually appointed the King's notary. In 1623, Hebert was given land and his family finally became reasonable prosperous. A statue of Hebert and his wife stands in the old city of Quebec, near the historic Chateau Frontenac hotel

Lafrance learned about his family connection to Hebert while going through late his father's estate. "After my father died, I found paperwork about our family. I researched the information at Laval University in Quebec. After determining my ancestor was Louis Hebert, some people in Montreal asked me if I wanted to claim my Quebec citizenship back," says Lafrance. 

Apparently, the modern Quebec government is extending special citizenship invitations to people of distinct French-Canadian ancestry because many ancestors of the founding families are leaving Quebec to find better economic opportunities, thereby leaving behind unsettled properties, says Lafrance. 

Hebert's genealogy is well researched because original family property records in Quebec were transferred to succeeding generations of descendents. Even if property records did were incomplete, Hebert's descendents could check their authenticity through the precise birth, marriage and death records kept by the Roman Catholic Church. 

"The French keep good records," says Lafrance.

The number of different family members who researched and documented the ancestors helps tracing Hebert's genealogy. As with any notable family, much of the genealogy is already available in written and oral histories.

In his research, Lafrance discovered the French physician Philippe Pinel, known as a founder of modern psychiatry, is a grandson of Hebert and therefore a distant cousin. Pinel became well known in late 19th century France when he began to keep case histories of mentally ill patients and developed the concept of "moral treatment," which involved treating patients with kindness and sensitivity, and without cruelty or violence. Eventually, Pinel's treatment became standard care for the mentally ill.

Several unique "dit" names show up in the Hebert genealogy records. In other words, the name Pinel is listed as "Pinel dit Lafrance". Lafrance has researched the Hebert family name to the year 1553 in France. 

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Published on June 8, 2000
Copyright 1999-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine and Juliana L'Heureux