Sunday, September 14, 2014

Church Record Sunday: Jeanne Massé’s Unexpected Death

Burial record of Jeanne Massé in 1764 in Detroit
Burial record of Jeanne Massé (1764)

It’s not very often that I find causes of death stated in my ancestors’ burial records, but I recently came across a noteworthy example.

Jeanne Massé and her husband Michel Campeau are my maternal ancestors. Both were baptized in Montreal in 1677 and 1667, respectively. They married there on 7 January 1696 and raised a family of eleven children. Michel died in 1737, while Jeanne survived him by twenty-seven years, dying on 4 September 1764 in Detroit. She was buried there the next day in the parish of Ste-Anne. [1]

Jeanne’s burial record is most interesting, thanks to the officiating priest Bocquet, who provided more than the required amount of details for such a sacramental record. A copy of that record is seen above, while below is my translation:

“The year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred sixty four, the fifth of September was buried in the cemetery of this church, the body of Jeanne Massé, widow of the late [sieur] Michel Campeau, during his lifetime [bourgeois] of this town, residing [in] Saint Jacques road, died yesterday suddenly; [in a] state of infancy, in which she had fallen for more than three years and her age of approximately ninety years, having hide from all the symptoms which would have caused suspicion the approach of her death. The said burial in presence of the [sieurs] Saint Bernard, [son-in-law] of the deceased, Chapoton, Rocour and many other relatives and friends which the principals have signed with us.”

Jeanne, who was 87 years old and not 90, had been afflicted with dementia for more than three years. Despite her condition, or perhaps because of it, she managed to conceal ill health to the point that her death was unexpected to those who knew her.


1. Ste-Anne (Detroit, Michigan), parish register, 1760-1781, p. 606, no entry no. (1764), Jeanne Massé burial, 5 September 1764; Ste-Anne parish; digital image, “Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1695-1954”, ( : accessed 26 August 2014).

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.


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