by Trishann Couvillion
4 December 2015
France is pretty spectacular. In ways that are lovely, amazing, frustrating and awe-inspiring. The pristine monuments and coastal lines, the mesmerizing food and beautiful broad streets to walk upon as well as the areas of the cities that are decrepit and full of neglect and debris. The French people who are kind and helpful and the ones that are callous and curt. The country if made up of what you may have heard and many things that you may never know of unless you experience it for yourself.
My current travels bring me to Europe for six months. Though because I was unwilling to go through the hassle of securing a travel visa before I left the states, I can only travel within the Schengen Zone for 90 days of the 180 days or so that I’ll be in Europe. So sadly, I will have to leave France and Italy in another month. And though my plan was to spend time in Croatia, Prague and the Czech Republic as well, the current migration and border issues as well as my lack of travel visa have made me change course. This is alright, mostly because I am an avid planner and I was hoping to loosen up a bit during my travels and become open to the unexpected. In that way, I have been blessed. France, Italy, England and now Scotland and Ireland are on the itinerary. Definitely excited about what is on my horizon.
As a documentary photographer it has been my dream for a number of years to head to Europe to not only explore and photograph but to find out more about my ancestry. I am half Native American and half French, though due to my parents not knowing much about our ancestors I never had much to go on. Well, thanks to what is now available in the way of online research I have been able to trace back my paternal ancestry almost 500 years to the Normandy Coast in the upper most northern part of France. The town of Rouen (where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431) and the small fishing village of Dieppe is where my ancestors hail since at least the mid 1500’s. As the first major port and what became the most important one in Europe at the time, my ancestors most likely built there lives around this industry.
A few weeks after arriving in Paris in October 2015, I took a trip by train to Dieppe to continue my research and walk the earth my ancestors roamed. Having been lucky enough to have met and spoke with a few local Dieppe historians who pointed me to a special area of their library for research on ancient family history. An older French gentleman who did not speak English and yet when he was able, after my basic French and well developed hand gestures, to deduce the reason why I was there, produced for me two original written registers from the two Catholic churches in Dieppe, St. Remy and St. Jacques cathedrals and I found that a number of my ancestors were married in them. To see their personal handwritten names as well as small paragraphs about themselves and their marriages was awesome. Between the 1500’s and the 1600’s my family grew in the area.
Jean Ango was also a well known Dieppe native and ship owner who is worth noting as he provided ships for King Francis I as well as for exploration around the globe. France colonized new territories around the globe because of his ships and the men who manned them. My 7x great grandfather Adrien Quevillon was born in 1641 in nearby Rouen, (where Joan of Arch was burned at the stake in 1431) and he was the first one to leave France in 1672 with the opportunity to leave aboard a ship to Montréal to work and help continue colonizing this area for France. After starting a business and then marrying a woman who was also originally from France, Jeanne Hunault, they started a family. Sadly the Iroquois took the family siege and scalped and killed Adrian and the following day one of his daughters, 12 year old François Angélique, was then burned alive while her mother and sister were forced to watch. His wife was then forced to accept the advances of one of the chiefs by whom she had a child, a son, who was born in 1698 and named Louis Augustin (Courval). After a time her other daughter, Catherine, was able to return to their people and then sent for her mother and her little brother. They lived the rest of their days amongst their family in Pointe-aux-Trembles Canada, working as ‘Cordiers’, rope makers.
Many other of my Quévillon ancestors lived their lives between the cities and in tiny country areas of Rouen and Dieppe, most likely working in the fishing industry. In the 16th and 17th centuries Dieppe had a population of at least 20,000 and today there is approximately 30,000 inhabitants so the city is still similar today as it has been for many years.
In the later part of the 18th century my 5x great grandfather Adrien Amable Couvillon (Quevillon), great grandson of Adrien Quévillon, migrated from Canada and down into New Orleans. And this is when our family name morphed from Quévillon to Couvillon and then later to Couvillion. There is still research to do to find the exact reason why our last name changed, though I assume it either had to do with the migration from Canada into the United States or the creole and cajun French surroundings of Louisiana.
As I continue to explore my family history it makes me even more curious about not only my paternal side but also my maternal ancestry and I look forward to the forensic challenge of finding all I can, including a trip to Salt Lake City and the Family Library which houses the most comprehensive collection of millions of worldwide records, in various forms, that relate to individuals and families.
Understanding the bigger picture of where my family comes from, where I come from and how we got to where we are today has broadened my reality. To realize you are a part of something greater, something living and breathing and continuing, is a strange and wonderful thing. The sobering affect it has had on my attitude and grasp of my life and how special and at the same time completely ordinary living is has been thought provoking. It has also helped me understand parts of myself that are deeply imbedded within my DNA. Finding that what makes me tick has some reason and rhythm behind it now. That sense of place has been life affirming for me and my curiosity drives me forward to discover all I can.
Sidenote for Couvillion family members: Here is a list of our ancestors so you can understand who are grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents were as well as our ancestors going back to the mid 1500’s in France:
(Something is amiss with Bertha’s death date and Heman Joseph’s birthdate…will update when I find out correct information)
(Additional wives names unknown to me-Joey, please send me info!)
If you are my relative, send me a Facebook message with your email address and I can add you to the Geni.com online account of our family tree, this way you can access more information and help me fill in missing details on some profiles, like photographs and correct birth, death and location information!
There are still aspects of information that are unclear so I will continue to refine this list and update their profiles online. Check back every few months on these links if you like!
Any mistakes are my own.
© Trishann Couvillion 2015 | No images to be used without written permission