Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, May 23, 1989.
His name was André Lasnier, born around 1620, at Port LaTour, Shelburne County. I say “outside Newfoundland”, because this youngest of the Canadian provinces has beaten us by seven years, even by over 600 years! It is an established fact that, at the time of the Vikings, was born around 1007, at L’Anse aux Meadows, that place I told you about in my previous sketch, a child to whom was given the name of Snorri Thorfinnsson, son of Thorfinn Karlesefni and of Gudrid, for those who are interested in names and genealogy. This happened during the fourth and last expedition of the Vikings in the New World, at the head of which was Thorfinn Karlesefni himself. Believe it or not, in 1833, an Icelander by the name of Magnus Stephensen was boasting of being the last descendant of this first White Canadian born, or rather of this first White North American born.
Again in Newfoundland, March 27, 1613, at Cuper’s Cove, now Cupids, deep within Conception Bay, in the colony that the explorer John Guy established in 1610, was born “a lusty boy”. With regard to his parents, the document that we have just says that his mother was “the wife of Nicolas Gure”.
I may mention here two early European births south of the border. In Virginia was born in 1587 a child to whom was given the name of Virginia Dare, a name that an American chocolate company thought to be most appropriate to give to one of its brands. Another very appropriate name is that of Peregrine White, which was given to a baby girl born to a couple who were with the Pilgrims, “peregrinating” towards Plymouth, Massachusetts. I am not able to say if Peregrine White was born before or after André Lasnier, as both births seem to have taken place in 1620; that of Peregrine White took place at sea, before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth.
With regard to André Lasnier, let me say, first, that Charles de Biencourt, who, from Port Royal (Annapolis), came to Chebogue in 1618, as I said in sketch No. 4, was trading at the same time in Port LaTour, where some of his men were stationed. We know that two of these men fathered children whose mothers were Indian women. One of them was Louis Lasnier. He was from Dieppe, France, a name that echoed in Canada for a number of years after the Second World War, as the place was delivered from the hands of the Germans in 1944 by the First Canadian Army. With regard to his birth, we have the registration of its baptism, which took place in Libourne, close to that important port of La Rochelle; note that presumable the child had already been baptized, when it was born, by a layman, although it was not sure; in Libourne it was baptized by a priest, in case that the first baptism was not valid. It took place in 1632, the year that the child was taken to France by his father.
The document reads thus: “December 27, 1632, was baptized André Lasnier, born in Canada, on the Acadian coast, at Port LaTour, son of Louis Lasnier, native of Dieppe and of a Canadian woman. He was baptized under condition, in case he had not been baptized before. He was estimated to be 12 years old or about. His godfather was Arnaud Dumas… and his godmother was Jeanne Ferrand.
The godparents signed the document. They are not unknown in the history of Acadia, especially in relation with Charles de LaTour. Arnaud Dumas was a prominent merchant in Libourne and one of the members of the Company of New France, which had been founded in 1627 for the development of Canada by Cardinal Richelieu, First Minister of France. It seems that Charles de LaTour, who had taken that trip to France, went directly to him when he arrived, seeking succour for Acadia, of which he was Governor.
With regard to the Ferrand family, Charles de LaTour has had much to do with its members. You may recall that I said, in my first sketch, that Charles de LaTour had granted the Barony of Pobomcoup (Pubnico) not only to Philippe Mius d’Entremont and his wife, but also to Pierre Ferrand and his wife. Then there was Catherine Ferrand, who was a witness at La Tour’s second wedding; she was the wife of Guillaume Desjardins, “intendant”, man of confidence and best friend of LaTour. She was probably the sister of Jeanne Ferrand, the godmother, who was the wife of Etienne de Mourron, La Tour’s secretary. I may note also that the Major of Libourne, where the baptism took place, was a Ferrand.
Some learned scholars may objects that André Lasnier was not necessarily the first child with European blood born in Canada, outside Newfoundland. It has been written that Louis Hebert, an apothecary, who was in Acadia, off and on, from 1606 to 1613, had had a child in Port Royal (Annapolis) in 1606; or that his wife came over in 1610. The fact is that his wife came to Canada for the first time in 1617 with the only three children that Louis Hebert ever gave her.
In a collection of published manuscripts, someone put as title to one of the documents: “The First French Child born in America”, relying on the date of his baptism, Oct. 27, 1621.
In Québec, in its historical realm, it has been said that one of its earliest daughters, Helene Desportes, was born between 1619 and 1621; the fact is that it is less than probable that her parents had yet arrived in Quebec in 1619.
So Port LaTour still holds the title of having witnessed the birth of the first child ever born in Canada with European blood outside Newfoundland.
Next week I will let you know that Port LaTour witnessed also the birth of the first Nun ever born in Canada, maybe even in North America.