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Claude Petitpas Sr. and Catherine Bugart

(parents of Marguerite and Claude Petitpas Jr.)

Included among some of the early French settlers who contributed to the colonization of Acadia are our ancestors Claude Petitpas Sr. and his wife Catherine Bugart. The colony was established in 1604 at Ste. Croix (Holy Cross) along Baie Francois (Bay of Fundy) on the north shore of present day Nova Scotia by Sieur de Mont and Samuel de Champlain. It is considered the first continuous permanent settlement by Europeans in North America. After a harsh winter in the region, Champlain relocated the colony across the Bay in Port Royal and it became the basis for what would later be known as Acadia. The entire region eventually encompassed what today is the province of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and part of the state of Maine.

Based on information I have collected for a book I have written on this family, and primarily from the Nova Scotia Provincial Archives in Halifax and from Fr. Melanson’s research on the early French Petitpas settlers in the Chezzetcook area of Nova Scotia, our ancestor, Claude Petitpas Sr., was born in France in 1624. In 1658 he married Catherine Bugaret in Port Royal. This would have been only fifty-four years after the colony was founded so that we can consider our Petitpas ancestors among the first early European settlers in North America!

On the 1671 census of old Acadia, believed to be the earliest known record of the first families of the region, Claude Petit Pas (meaning ‘little step’) is listed at age 45 with 26 cattle and 11 sheep. In addition to his wife, Catherine Bagard, his household consists of seven children: Bernard, age 12; Claude (from whom I descend) age 8; Jean, age 7, Jacques, age 5 and 3 daughters. It is interesting to note that the names of female children were not usually recorded, but given that she was born in 1661, it is being assumed that daughter, Marguerite, is included in this list. She would later marry Claude Guédry and become the ancestor of a number of families by variations of that name in the southern regions of the Untied States.

As censuses were not always accurate, this possibly accounts for the discrepancy in Claude Petitpas Sr.’s age based on the year in which he was born. It should also be noted that many of our early ancestors were illiterate so that name spelling was generally left to the discretion of the individual recording it. This accounts for the frequent variations, especially with entries made by British officials that resulted in a more English appearance. As a rule of thumb, I vary the spelling to reflect the source from which I found it so that for example the spelling I quote from a baptismal document may not be the same as one that is quoted from a marriage certificate etc.

Given his position as clerk at Port Royal, for which he was bestowed the title Sieur de la Fleur (flower) our ancestor, Claude, was obviously an educated individual. The following entry, made and signed by him in French at Port Royal in 1684 appears to attest to this. Roughly translated it reads:

The fifteenth day of July One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty Four I, myself, Claude petit pas, undersigned, clerk in the court and the seat of Port Royal, certifies to all to whom it shall pertain, to have registered the present at the Clerk’s office so that nobody can pretend to have no knowledge of it. Made at the said Port Royal the twentieth day of July, one thousand six hundred and eighty four. Claude petit pas, clerk.

Based on my research on Claude’s wife, Catherine also appears to have been an individual of learning and even ahead of her time as far as women being involved in political affairs of the day were concerned.

Although I found no date for the year in which she was born, she is reported to have died in 1693 enroute to Boston to negotiate an exchange of prisoners.

Whether her death was of natural causes, or the result of yet another skirmish between the French Acadians and nearby New Englander settlers, is not reported.

Catherine’s father, Bernard Bugaret, a Basques carpenter, was employed at La Heve (LaHave) intermittently between 1636 - 1638 as a ship builder and an organizer of fur hunting expeditions for Nicolas Denys. Denys would later become governor of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from Canso, Nova Scotia to Gaspe, Quebec. While driving through northern New Brunswick for a visit to my home province of Nova Scotia, I discovered a plaque that has been erected and a community named in Denys’ honour in the Bathurst area. This may be of interest to anyone attending the Acadian World Congress being hosted in the region in 2009.

Based on Fr. Melanson’s research on the Pettipas of Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia, Claude and Catherine had twelve children. The two on which I was able to find the most information were Claude Jr. and his sister, Marguerite. Both appear to have spent time in the Merligueche (Lunenburg) area of Nova Scotia a short distance from where their maternal grandfather, Bernard Bugart was employed by Nicolas Denys.

Descendants of the children of Claude Jr.,his first wife, Marie-Thérèse, a Mi-kmaq and his second wife, Françoise Lavergne, had avoided the Deportation commencing in 1755 by joining other French families on Ile Royale (present day Cape Breton).

After the Fall of Louisbourg, they were granted permission by British Governor Lawrence of Halifax to settle in nearby Chezzetcook. Here they remained until uprooted by British Loyalists following the American Revolution. Today, a number of their descendants, including members of my maternal and paternal families, can be found in the Tracadie and Larry’s River areas of Nova Scotia where I was born and raised.

Many descendants of Claude Jr.s’ sister, Marguerite and her 2nd husband, Claude Guédry dit Grivois are located in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Iowa, Texas, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and other U. S. states and Canadian provinces. Other descendents of Claude Petitpas and Catherine Bugaret live throughout the United States and Canada. During the Guedry-Labine and Petitpas Reunions held in Meteghan and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in August, 2004 in conjunction with the 3rd Acadian World Congress, many of our family members were joyously reunited for the first time in 400 years!! It is hoped that old acquaintances can be renewed in New Brunswick in 2009.

by Sandra Pettipas Perro