The Legè's Odyssey
John and I have been interested in the genealogy of his family, the Legè/Leger/Legere's, for many years, having traveled to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec, as well as returning to John’s birthplace in Abbeville, Louisiana, many, many times, adding to our treasure of information. Evidence was uncovered in the past few years, that the Leger’s of Southwest Louisiana were not part of the La Rosette line, but of Jean Leger dit Richelieu ancestry.
In March of this
year, my husband, John, and I helped form the Richelieu Leger Family
Association in Lafayette, Louisiana, and embarked on a quest for more
information on Jean Leger dit Richelieu, by planning a trip to France for
We went on to explore areas of the Loire Valley for the next five days, our destination being Fontevraud L’Abbaye, where previous research indicated that Francois Leger and his wife, Anne Guigande had been married.
arrived at Fontevraud on a beautiful day and inquired of a “storekeeper”
where we might go on our genealogy quest. (We found out later that this
“storekeeper” was Yves Barte, an architect/artist who does very
beautiful work.) He explained to us later that he had been in Quebec and
was so impressed with a mural he saw there of the city of Quebec, that he
returned home to have a similar drawing done of Fontevraud L’Abbaye as
it was in 1699, which is now used in paintings, postcards, and brochures
We were enthusiastically received and promptly went to work, going through the Church records of St. Michel’s church, which is located next to the Abbaye. These are the original church records from the 1600’s . What a sensation it was to go over such old books. The old European-style handwriting of these documents made them difficult to decipher, and it was hard to stifle an outburst, each time we found a document on the Leger’s. I, myself, a non-Cajun, unable to read French, was thrilled beyond words each time I found an entry for the Francois Leger family.
We were able to make copies of the following birth, marriage
and death records of the “early” Richelieu Leger’s. Our Historian,
Ranson Leger, has now translated them in its entirety. In the Book “1579
- 1833: List of Families of Fontevraud”; we found 39 Leger’s listed.
However, we were informed that there are no Leger’s living in Fontevraud
itself today, although they know of two women who were Leger’s, now
married, who live nearby.
1697-Marie, died February 11, 1697, Fontevraud.
1698-Marie, baptized in St. Michel’s Church, Fontevraud, October 1698.
1698-Francois died April 14, 1698, Fontevraud.
afternoon, we visited the Church of St. Michel itself. The cornerstone of
this church was laid in 1669. We took many snapshots of the inside of the
church. It is very beautiful and has many relics. We photographed the
baptismal font where Michel and his siblings were baptized. Another
photograph we have is of a plaque on one wall of the church, listing
parishioners who died in the Resistance or in World War I (1914 - 1917).
(All churches in the Loire Valley have a plaque, commemorating their dead
veterans.) The plaque in St. Michel’s lists two Leger’s who died
between 1914 - 1918.
On our way to La Rochelle, we stopped in the little village of Lege and
had a delightful visit in the Office of Tourism. They told us that we were
the first Americans to visit their office. We had taken along copies of
information about the town of Lege that Ranson had sent us. It included a
picture of the mayor taken a few years ago. When we met the Mayor, and
showed him his picture and the newspaper article, he was amazed, to say
the least. We had quite a chat there, and they promised to send us the
background on the crest that the Lege village uses, as they didn’t know
what it stood for, even though they used it everywhere. We were told there
were no Lege’s living in that village either!
La Rochelle is a beautiful, old, seaport city, and we walked the streets, wondering if Michel dit Richelieu had walked there as well, hundreds of years ago. We visited the Museum featuring France and the New World, but there was nothing at all there referring to the Grand Derangement at all. There were three floors of artifacts from French conquests in the New World. The only reference to the Acadians was a picture of L’Amittie” on one wall and a mention of the seven ships going to New Orleans. New Orleans itself was featured in one section, however.
We spent a good part
of a day at the Archives in La Rochelle, going through death records on
microfilm for La Rochelle, as well as Isle De Re, but found nothing on the
Leger’s. Perhaps research in Nantes or Poitier might reveal something.
Our trip home was a long one: 29 hours, Nice to Paris, Paris to New York, New York to San Francisco, San Francisco to Napa, but it was a trip of a lifetime!
Unknown to us when we went to France, another cousin, Jude Lege of Laguna Beach, California, left for France about a week after we did, for the same purpose. He has since generously shared his additional findings with us as well as with Ranson Lege.
All of these documents brought back by Jude and ourselves, were written by hand in the old European style of the 1600’s; very difficult to decipher, but when translated pain-stakingly by Ranson Lege, our Historian, revealed many new details of these ancestors. Ranson has been collecting Richelieu Leger history for some years now. He is preparing an addendum to what he had already written, to include this new information on the earliest known Leger’s. This treasure will be available to those attending the Richelieu Leger Family Association Reunion on February 17, 2001. Chapters will also be printed in each Association Bulletin printed from time to time, as a continuing series.
We are delighted to pass this information to
all of you, in the hopes all Lege/Leger’s can benefit from this