Families of the Pricateersmen

The absence of a husband or father can sometimes create significant problems. If the absence is brief, there might be sufficient provisions to feed the family. However, certain measures had to be taken in the event of a prolonged absence or when a sailor died during the voyage.

The contracts signed between various parties before privateering expeditions thus included certain compensation clauses. For example, the "Agreement Between the Owners of the Brigantine Joybert", signed in Quebec in 1704, included the following clause:

The wages of those who succumb to illness or are killed in combat or in an accident of whatever nature at any time during the voyage of this ship, from beginning to end, shall be kept and delivered to their heirs, as though they had lived to the end of the said voyage.

Pierre-Georges Roy, Un corsaire canadien, Jean Léger de la Grange, Lévis, 1918, pages 15 and 16.

Madame de la Durantaye

Alone and pregnant with her sixth child in 1707, Madame de la Durantaye petitioned the colony's intendant for compensation for her husband's death, which occurred while he was a freebooter.

The Intendant, Jacques Raudot, therefore issued an order that the seigniorial mill deliver three wheat bushels to the lady each month. Although this amounted to little compensation for a woman without income, it nevertheless indicates that a type of social safety net had been set up for privateer families.

An Abandoned Family

Jean La Fosse was a person of little moral fibre. He was a fisherman, privateer, even a pirate and guardian of a small armed fort near Plaisance on the Island of Newfoundland. He often incurred the wrath of the governor of the area by setting off on voyages without permission. Then at some point, he left without being commissioned and abandoned his fort... and his family!

In a letter to Minister Maurepas in 1711, the Governor of Plaisance, appointed himself as the La Fosse family's advocate and worried how it would fare in the privateersman's absence.

His wife has remained in his home with his family; as guilty as he will be if he returns home, I will punish him on site, following the example (...). His wife and children must also take responsibility for indulging such behaviour (...).

LAC, MG1, Series C11C, 24/10/1711.

Children of a Privateersman

In 1703, while privateer captain Jean Léger de la Grange was on an expedition, his wife, Louise Fauvel died and the merchant Guillame Gaillard became the guardian of their children. Gaillard found himself increasingly obliged to look after Mr. De la Grange's property, because his children were young and could not manage their father's estate.

From then on, the daughter of Jean Léger de la Grange, Geneviève de la Grange de Saint-Louis, aged 10 years old, very likely lived at the Gaillard home along the Côte de la Montagne. She later became the Mother Superior of the Ursulines of Québec.
Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

© 2006, Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans