Canadian Besner Family of French Origins

The big decision to come to New France

1752. That's the year in which we see the first Besner, Jean Bézanaire, of Savères, Haute Garonne, France, came to "Nouvelle-France", before it became Canada, as a soldier of His Majesty Louis XV, king of France.

According to the boarding list taken from The National Archives in Paris, France, Jean Bezanère, Montauban recruit, where he practiced the trade of "wool comber", embarked on the ship "La Seine" for Québec on May 17, 1752.

Montauban was situated 80 km from Savères, in the current department of Tarn-et-Garonne. It was a wool-producing center in the XVIII century. The peasants would shear their sheep there and would work the wool during the winter. Until 1760, Montauban had supplied very warm wool fabrics, undoubtedly appreciated, to the inhabitants of Canada.

This information does not, however, correspond to certain points, (Montauban recruit, where he practice the trade of wool-comber), from what we know on the family thanks to precise documents. We can answer to the objection in three ways:

a) It would appear that the name on the boarding list was another with the same name. But this hypotheses is rejected because this name is unknown to the Montauban archives.

b) The compiler of the list would have completed the information that was missing by inventing it. This is a phenomenon that was not unheard of at the time.

c) It would seem to be the ancestor of French Canadian Besner family, but he would have falsified his information to leave without his parents knowledge. This seems to be the most likely scenario. Another clue to support this theory: all new recruits had to make their will and submit it to a lawyer or priest. But, contrary to most of his colleagues, we find no trace of his of his will in his name in any of the solicitors in the region of Rieumes regrouping the archives of Rieumes, Toulouse, Auch, LaRochelle, nor in the region of Montauban.

In default of an act of birth, Jean Bézanère has scarcely left official traces of his existence in France but for the few documents which make reference to him: his brother Jean Bézanère's,"second in name",marriage settlement in 1767 (Notary Bouzin) and that of his sister Bertrande Bézanère's second marriage in 1769 (Notary Campardon).

At the time of the marriage settlement of "Jean Bézanère, son, second in name, on December 15th 1767 before noon in the jurisdiction of Goux, small farm of Vergé in Cominge, diocese of Lombez, seneschal of Toulouse" before the Royal Notary of Montpezat, it is noted that the bridegroom is a journeyman just like his father. The latter, undoubtedly already ill, took advantage of the situation to bequeath his belongings and settle his will. Thus, he establishes that his "universal and general heir", this son who is getting married and vows "to leave him half of all his personal belongings and property, present and forthcoming, for the duration of his life". He was the only son living with him in Savères, since it was written in the act (in which the deciphering was arduous and frankly illegible) that "his two other sons Jean and Maurin , have been away for many a year". However, he foresees leaving them "their fair share" and "in case they are alive and return", they remain "his rightful heirs", on the same basis as their sister Bertrande.

It must be specified that the designated heir has the duty to allot the shares to the rightful heirs.

Bertrande Bézanère, Michel Bérilin's widow, remarries in January of 1769 with Pierre Trilhe. In this act it is written that: "the said Bézanère has constituted and constitutes a dowry and subsequently to the said Trilhe, her fiancé the sum of 300 pounds, which sum will be paid to Trilhe, that is 250 pounds by Maurin Bézanère, her brotherÉ and the remaining sum of 50 pounds to make up the 300 pounds, authorizing thus her fiancé to obtain that amount from Jean Bézanère also, her eldest brother , and provided by his legitimate rights.

From this time on, Maurin's absence is no longer mentioned. It is indicated in his own marriage settlement, which occurred in January 1769, that he had been living in Rieumes for the last eight months. He has therefore reappeared shortly after his father's death on the 17th of February 1768 in Savères and was consequently not too far away. If reference is made to "legitimate rights" unclaimed by Jean, the eldest brother and the Besner ancestor, that is the right to his share of the inheritance like his duty to honor his obligations or his late father's debts, it is most certainly because he was absent, but also because he could probably always claim his father's succession, provided he did it in person.

Judging by these skimpy references, it is difficult to explain why the American Besners' ancestor left home for good in 1752. Why did he indulge in such an adventure at the age of 21?

Several reasons can be invoked: a certain poverty and by enlisting in the colonial military forces he might have had notions of setting aside his earnings before returning to his village, a much more efficient way than combing wool during the cold season in Montauban; a certain call of the wild and adventure coupled with good health and the ripe age; finally a n unbearable family atmosphere, probably dominated by a harsh and authoritative father, could not but incite him to settle somewhere else, this last aspect strengthened by the fact that his brother Maurin (the name of a venerated saint in Occitanie) was absent just like himself in 1767, but returned nevertheless after the father's death.

Moreover, this paternal distraint on his family, appears in Jean's, second in name son, aforementioned marriage contract, where it is written "the said Bézanère father will shelter the spouses in his own house, etc and they will be expected to work under the orders of and (illegible word) the said Bézanère father".

St-Martin de Ré and the Citadel

The Citadel in modern times

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