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Jean Besset dit Brisetout
because his daughter Marie-Marguerite married Jacques Poissant dit Lasaline, all Poissant descendants
also share this common ancestor from whom most Bessettes in North America today are descended.

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Much of this information about Jean Besset dit Brisetout is excerpted from “Our French-Canadian Ancestors” translated from the French "Nos Ancestres" by Thomas J. Laforest.

Very little is known about the French origins of Jean. From his marriage contract to Anne LeSeigneur, we learn that he was from the town of Cahors, today the head town of the arrondissement of the department Lot, in the Midi-Pyrenees, in Guyenne.

Cahors is located about 100 miles east of Bordeaux at the south end of a peninsula formed by the Lot river. The surrounding region, known as Aquataine, was colonized by the Romans during the period beginning around 40 B.C. A fortified town, Cahors quickly became the prey of invaders. Italian bankers from Lombardy established the first banks there. King Henri IV abolished the privileges of the wine warehouses, which the town enjoyed, ending the source of its prosperity.

By the time of Jean Besset's youth, Cahors was in full decline. Perhaps because of this, he decided to leave the region and join the army. His enlistment, probably in the early 1660's, placed him in the Carignan Regiment assigned to Captain de LaTour in the Loire Valley, about 100 miles north of Cahors.

Jean Besset came to New France in 1665, sent to protect the French settlers from the Iroquois Indians. Between June and September of that year, some 1,200 soldiers arrived in Quebec, under the leadership of Lt. General Alexander de Prouville. Four, fifty-man companies left the port of LaRochelle, France. After a difficult crossing lasting more than 100 days, the company headed by Captain LaTour and seven other companies spent the winter in Quebec.

The first official mention of Jean Besset in Canadian history was in the spring of 1688. On May 20, Msgr de Laval appeared at Fort Chambly to meet the soldiers. He administered the sacrament of confirmation to 66 people, all men, including Jean Besset. On July 3, 1668, Antoine Adhemar dit Saint-Martin drew up his first notarial act, a marriage contract between Jean Besset, "soldier at present living at fort St-Louis" and Anne le Signeur. The names of the groom's parents were omitted; Anne was listed as the daughter of the late Guillaume and Marguerite Serre, native of the Saint-Maclou parish in Rouen, Normandy.

Jean and Anne spent the winter of 1668/1669 at Fort Saint-Louis, which was used primarily as a warehouse for supplies and munitions. After the breakup of the Carignan Regiment, many of the ex-soldiers received land concessions to induce them to remain in the colony and take up farming. On October 14, 1673, Jean Besset received title to land in Chambly. A notarized document reveals that Monsieur de Chambly ceded him a tract with nineteen perches of frontage along the basin by forty arpents in depth on the Huron coast, today in the territory of St-Mathias de Rouville.

On July 22, 1674, Jean sold this land to Jean Brocherieux dit LaSoulaye and a week later on July 29, 1674, he bought a concession from François Prudhomme, consisting of 80 arpents of land in Sault St-Louis. This land was bordered on one side by Pierre Godin dit Chatillon, and on the other side by Jean Roy dit LaPensee, all of it in the district of the island of Montreal. He bought this at the price of 80 silver livres.

The Bessets returned to Chambly when, on July 19, 1678, a contract was executed stating Jean Besset would henceforth own half of the concession of four arpents of frontage abandoned by Arnaud Piat dit LaFleur in exchange for 70 livres, an amount he did not possess at that time. By 1681 the Besset's were living in Chambly between Étienne Raimbault and Louis Bariteau. At that time, they owned a gun, 3 head of cattle and 6 arpents of land under cultivation.

Nine children were born to Jean Besset and Anne le Signeur. Jean was buried at Chambly, in the parish of St-Joseph on January 7, 1707, in the presence of a Recollet missionary, Pierre Dublaron. Anne died 26 years later on July 4, 1733 at the age of 84 years.

"dit" names were not necessarily what a person chose for himself, but what he was called by others as a distinguishing name. "Brise-tout" is French for a rough, clumsy fellow -- literally, "break all" -- equivalent to "bull in a china shop." Perhaps that was Jean Besset's manner and the name stuck. The "dit Brisetout" name was limited to Jean and was not associated with his descendants.