Canadian Besner Family of French Origins

The crossing to the new world

The ancestor of French Canadian Besner family embarked for Canada on May 17th, 1752 on the ship "La Seine". Unbelievable but true, we even possess the description and history of this ship.

It was a "three masted square sail ship" , constructed in 1719 in Toulon by Le Vasseur, carpenter, by the order of the King on September 6th 1718 to construct two "square sail ships", La Seine and La Loire. A "Square sail ship " was a freight ship, with a flat bottom, wide, big and heavy. It's characteristics were (in French measurements of the time): " 125 feet from stem to stern; 32,6 feet wide, 12,3 feet deep, 16 feet draught, gauging 650 tons, armed of 50 canons, that is to say a battery of 22-12 caliber canons, a battery of 24-8 caliber canons, a battery of 4-4 caliber canons". It's quality? " It's works well enough to be called a "square sail ship".

This English ship, constructed in 1774, is the same type of three-masted square sail ship,"La Seine", on which the ancestor of French Canadian Besner family would have embarked on.


Sketch showing the framework of an 18th century ship

A letter dated May 11th 1752, from Marly, Minister of the (Marine) Navy, gave instructions to the Esquire of Vautron, who succeeded Mr. Garnier, ship lieutenant, commander of the King's "square sail ship", La Seine, destined for Canada. The letter tells him that Mr. de la Jonquière, commander in chief in Canada, would come back to France on La Seine...Alas! He would die before.

Another letter dated October 6th 1752, on the occasion of the La Seine's return to France says that the Minister rejoices at the fact that the trip to and from Canada went as exactly as planned.

The crossing then had nothing in common with today's pleasure cruises. Old documents relating to Irish immigrants to Canada no more than sixty years later, thus, operated in similar circumstances, gives us a glimpse of the trial involved. "The trip to Québec lasted forty to fifty days, one and a half months in conditions that were both uncomfortable and even fatal. On board, space is sparse. To sleep, we have two, sometimes three rows of bunks each measuring six by six feet on which sleeps up to six people. The ceiling is maximum six feet high. The ventilation is only possible through three hatchways. During storm, they are always closed. The food reserves consists of pork, bread and oatmeal. The rations are one pound per adult, one third of a pound per child. There are also potatoes...they are the goods of the passengers. We don't forget our vinegar, it improves drinking water. Promiscuity creates tension. Boredom sets in..." taken from "La grande mouvance" page 115-143, published under the direction of Marcel Bellavance, Septentrion Publishings-Sillery (Québec), 1990.

Cutaway of an 18th century ship

Location of the canons on the main deck of an armed 18th century ship

Unfortunately, for the whole duration of the French Regime in North American, we do not possess any lists of the simple soldiers working in the troops. There is only a mention of the officers and non-commissioned officers. The soldier was considered like a removable chess piece. It is thus very difficult to retrace the ancestor of French Canadian Besner family's military itinerary. If, however, we knew with certitude under which officer(s) he served, we would come to know. What follows gives us some scraps of information.

The ancestor of French Canadian Besner family on his arrival to Québec City must have contemplated this panoramic view from the top of "Cap Diamant"


The "Vieux Québec" (Old Québec) has conserved and restored the charm of it's French past of the 17th and 18th century.

Here, we show "Le petit Champlain" an old fashioned district close to "place Royale"


For those who are interested, here are Internet links on sail ships of the 18th and 19th century

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