Thursday, November 01, 2012

Family History Through the Alphabet – Z is for ...

Z is for Zacharie Cloutier.

Last week, I wrote about Xainte Dupont in X is for ... For the last letter of the alphabet, I'm turning my attention to Xainte's husband Zacharie Cloutier, my maternal ancestor (ahnentfal no. 3374). To see how other bloggers have responded throughout this fantastic challenge, take a look at Family History Through the Alphabet.

Early Years

In about 1590, Zacharie was born in Mortagne, Perche, France. The date is approximate, based on his reported ages of 76 and 77 on the 1666 and 1667 censuses of New France. The eldest of nine children, Zacharie was the son of Denis Cloutier and his first wife Renée Brière. According to Behind the Name: the etymology and history of first names, Zacharie is the French form of the Biblical name Zechariah, meaning "Yahweh remembers". As for his family name, often spelled Cloustier in those days, it is an occupational name describing a nail maker. (Clou = nail; cloutier = nail maker.)

When he was about 18 years old, Zacharie's mother died a few months after giving birth to a child that did not survive. Renée was buried on 1 May 1608 in Mortagne. Denis remarried later that year with Jeanne Rahir (Gaultier), the banns being read in early November at St-Jean parish church in Mortagne. This union produced four children, providing Zacharie with three half-brothers and a half-sister.


On 18 July 1616, Zacharie married a widow, Xainte Dupont, at St-Jean church. The couple welcomed its first child, a son named like his father, who was baptised there in August 1617. In time, young Zacharie was joined by two brothers and three sisters. All, except for Xainte who died young in September 1632, survived childhood and immigrated to Canada.


In the early 1630s, entrepreneur Robert Giffard recruited skilled workers in his native Perche to help build and populate the fledgling colony of New France. Men like Zacharie, a master carpenter who specialized in large-scale construction work, were in high demand. Accordingly, Zacharie became an engagé when he entered into a notarized contractual agreement with Giffard in March 1634 in which he promised his skills in New France for five years. For his part, Giffard conceded a generous portion of land from his own seigneurie to Zacharie on which to settle. Zacharie named his new property La Cloutièrerie; it consisted of 1000 arpents (about 400 hectares) in Beauport near Quebec.


After he settled his affairs in Mortagne, Zacharie made his way to the port city of Dieppe in May 1634. At about 44 years old, he left his homeland forever and sailed towards a new life on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Other Perche recruits, including my ancestor Jean Guion (Guyon), travelled with Zacharie that spring.

New France

After a voyage of six weeks, the immigrant ship arrived in Quebec on 4 June 1634. Soon, Zacharie set to work. He must have been a strong, robust and courageous individual. He laboured not only as a carpenter to fulfill the terms of his contract, but also toiled as a colonist to clear the land on his property and build a home and a life for his family. Although Zacharie could not write, he signed documents by making his mark in the shape of an axe.


In 1670, Zacharie sold his property. He and his wife spent their remaining years with one of their sons at Château-Richer. After a long and productive life (he was about 87 years old), Zacharie died on 17 September 1677. He was buried the next day at Château-Richer. Xainte survived him until 1680.

Zacharie, the founder of the Cloutier family in Canada, is sometimes known as the ancêtre de tous les canadiens français (the ancestor of all the French Canadians). Are you perhaps one of his descendants?

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. I love this story, firstly because of the spelling of Zacharie. The ie spelling is much better than the y spelling. Also because he was obviously skilled, and hardworking. But I really love that although illiterate, he signed his name with an axe. That's awesome. And obviously he is very well known in Canada for being not only beinf the founder of the Cloutier family in Canada, but also the 'ancestor of all the French Canadians'.

    Thank you for participating, and sharing your family stories throughout the Alphabet Challenge. It has been a pleasure to have you join in. Next week we will be putting up some images for those who participated to use if you wish.

    1. I've really enjoyed participating in your FHTTA challenge, Alona. Thanks for taking time to comment!

  2. Well done Yvonne. It is fantastic that you have been able to obtain so much information from the past.

    I also think that it is wonderful that he made his mark in the shape of an axe.

    1. It was cool to find out that Zacharie's mark was shaped like an axe! Thanks for commenting, Sharon.

  3. Wow, I am really impressed that you were able to find out so much about him considering that he's so far back in your line. Great work! And I agree it's a great name!

  4. Thanks, Donna! That's one of the great things about French-Canadian genealogy: it's sometimes easy to research distant ancestors, because there's a fair amount written about them.