Hillary Clinton's Quebec ancestry dates back to New France
Like Madonna, Angelina Jolie, presidential candidate has connections to 17th-century Filles du Roi
If Hillary Clinton wins Tuesday's election, Canada's relationship with the White House could soon be cast as a family affair, thanks to the presidential candidate's well-documented French-Canadian ancestry.
Clinton's family ties to Canada stretch back to the days of New France, making her a distant relative of many prominent Quebecers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Celine Dion, genealogists have noted.
Gail Moreau-Desharnais of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan has traced a branch of Clinton's family tree all the way back to the Filles du Roi or "King's Daughters,'' a group of young women who were sent from France in the 17th century to help populate the colony.
Clinton briefly mentioned her maternal grandmother's French-Canadian roots in her 2003 memoir, "Living History.'' But as she researched the connection, Moreau-Desharnais says she was surprised by how deep those roots went.
"She really has a good French-Canadian line,'' she said in an interview. "And when you trace her matrilineal line, or female to female to female, her ultimate female ancestor is Jeanne Ducorps, one of the Filles du Roi.''
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Ducorps was one of more than 700 women sent to New France — often against their will — by King Louis XIV between 1663 and 1673 to serve as brides for the men in the colony.
'Mothers of the nation'
Many were orphans or had been abandoned in refuge houses, and were sometimes unfairly labelled "women of ill repute,'' according to the president of a historical society dedicated to studying them.
"For the most part (the King's Daughters) were girls who didn't have a lot of future in France,'' Irene Belleau said in a telephone interview.
But while a small percentage had worked as prostitutes and many were poor, she said others arrived in New France with possessions or furniture, implying a slightly higher status.
What they had in common was a mission: all were given a sum of money and chosen or obligated to come to New France with a "royal mandate'' to marry and help populate the colony, which was overwhelmingly male.
And populate they did: Belleau says most of the women found husbands quickly and had a total of 4,459 children, earning them the nickname "mothers of the nation.''
Ducorps is not the only King's Daughter found in Clinton's family tree. She also traces her ancestry back to Madeleine Niel, Madeleine Plouard and Catherine Paulo, who were also part of the group.
The tentative biographies compiled by Belleau provide a glimpse into their lives.
Ducorps, who arrived in 1667, married a blacksmith named Martin Masse and had eight children, including at least three who died before reaching adulthood.
Niel, a 16-year-old orphan when she arrived in 1667, married a soldier less than a month later. She and Etienne Charles went on to have 12 children. All but one survived and married.
Paulo, who was an illiterate 18-year old when she married Étienne Campeau, went on to have 15 children, one of whom is considered one of the founders of Fort Detroit.
Trudeau, Kerouac, Madonna also have ties
Although Clinton's Quebecois ancestry may be interesting, it's not unique.
Belleau, herself a proud descendant of a King's Daughter, says some 95 per cent of so-called "old stock'' Quebecers can find at least one of the women in her family tree, as can a significant percentage of Canadians and Americans.
An article published in 2008 by the New England Historic Genealogical Society noted that most French-Canadians are distantly related thanks to a small group of 17th century French immigrants.
Author Gary Boyd Roberts pointed out that Clinton is a distant cousin of not only Pierre Elliott Trudeau (and by extension, Justin) but also Dion, writer Jack Kerouac, singer Madonna and actress Angelina Jolie.
Moreau-Desharnais says most of Clinton's Quebec ancestors migrated to the United States through what is now Windsor, Ont., where many became "the stalwarts who were so prominent in Detroit and helped to make it what it is.''
In that way, she said, the legacy of the King's Daughters stretches to both sides of the border, all the way down to a U.S. presidential candidate.
"It's remarkable that based on all the others lines that feed in to her, (Clinton) can go back to four (King's Daughters),'' she said.