The  Association  of  Cliche  Families


It is above all a matter of pride!

The Association of Cliche Families was established in  1987.

The Cliche family is one of the  first families of Quebec.  Our ancestor Nicolas Cliche arrived in 1671, and four years later, he married Marie-Madeleine Pelletier.  This was the beginning of the great adventure of the Cliche family in America.

Today, thousands of descendants of Nicolas have settled in every part of the North American continent.  They are allied by marriage to most of the first families of Quebec.   Although the greatest number of Cliche family members are concentrated in Beauce and the Eastern Townships, there is a need to establish communication with families in other parts of the continent and of the world, and the Association's goal is to establish such a link.  Since the Association was founded, the results of our efforts have been remarkable.  The best way to find that out is to join us at one of our annual gatherings.

And so we invite you to enjoy the warmth of this family by becoming a member of the Association of Cliche Families. 

This monument was unveiled during the grand reunion of Cliche families in July 1987 
on the ancestral lands at Saint-Joseph de Beauce (Saint-Joseph of the Maples).







 The Association of Cliche Families

Several members of the Cliche  family had been thinking about forming  a family association for a number of years.  A few weeks before his death on September 15, 1978, the Honorable Judge Robert Cliche discussed the matter with Colomb Cliche.  Yet the project would not become a reality until July 11, 1987, the year of the 250th anniversary of the opening of Beauce to colonization.
It was most appropriate that the celebration of two and one half centuries of settlement in Beauce was marked by the foundation of a Cliche family association, since we were among the first to settle in the region. In the fall of 1986, Colomb Cliche, of Quebec, together with Anise, Michel, Marcel-A. and Paul-Emile of St-Joseph, Eugene, of Ste-Marie, Line, of Thetford Mines and France, of Bernieres, formed the provisional Administrative Council for a non-profit corporation to be named "L'Association des familles Cliche, Inc."  The Association was legally incorporated on December 4, 1986. Soon, eight other family members would join the ranks:  Yvan, of Quebec, Vincent, of Ste-Foy, Henri-Laval, Claude, and a second Marcel, of St-Joseph. Louis-Denis, of St-Georges, Jacqueline, of Vallee-Jonction, and Daniel, of Beauceville.
The first goal of the new association was to organize a grand reunion of all of the descendants of our ancestor, Nicolas Cliche, at Saint-Joseph de Beauce on July 10, 11 and 12, 1987, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary.
In becoming a permanent corporation during the assembly held on July 11, 1987, the Cliche Family Association had the task of setting long term goals.  These objectives are the following:
•To  unite and form a permanent association of the members of the Cliche family, affiliated families, and those who are interested in this family, by means of:
a)  Conferences, reunions, meetings, gatherings and other means of strengthening the bonds between the members and attracting new members;
b)  Publications (bulletins, booklets, books, etc.) to inform the membership of the activities of the association:
•To encourage members, associates, and friends of the Cliche family to transmit to the Association all documents, photos, newspaper clippings that might add to the history of the family.
• To establish a library of publications relating to the history of the Cliche family, and to collect all documents that contribute to the patrimony of the Association, and to make these available to historians and genealogists.
•To acquire by purchase, rental or otherwise, the real estate and furnishings necessary to meet the stated objectives, and to furnish to the membership services related to the goals of the corporation.
•To solicit from government, institutional,  corporate or personal sources, whether public or private, the funds necessary to achieve these objectives
The decisions taken by the provisional administrators of the corporation were approved on July 11, 1987 at the General Assembly of the active members of the Cliche Family Association.
The Association of Cliche Families, Inc. is a member-organization of the "Fédération des familles-souches québécoises" (the Federation of First Families of Quebec).  Its offices are located at Saint-Joseph de Beauce, Quebec, Canada.
You are most cordially invited to join in the activities, and to enjoy the fellowship of our family by becoming a member  of the Association of Cliche Families.
Click here to become a member

 The Association of Cliche Families



At its general assembly in 1987, the Association of Cliche Families, Inc. adopted a coat of arms to represent the qualities and dominant traits that characterize the members of our families.

The explanation of the symbols, colors, and motto found on our coat of arms is explained here below:

The Symbols

The figure at the upper left represents a Rose of Picardy, the flower that symbolizes the French province which was the homeland of Nicolas Cliche, ancestor of all the Cliche in America.  The figure at the upper right, the Fleur de Lys, recalls the roots of the family in France.

In the middle section, the mallet, on the left, represents the tradition of craftsmanship which has been so often the occupational choice of the Cliche.  The parchment, at the center, emphasizes the importance of communications and of writing among the more recent generations of the family.  The figure at the right is a double symbol: first, a key that represents the trade of our ancestor, master locksmith Nicolas Cliche, and, at the same time, a lectern which reminds us that the Cliche know how to make their voices heard.  They also do not hesitate to take up either the arms or the pen which, according to the proverb, is “mightier than the sword” in the defense of a noble cause, whence the goose quill and the flintlock musket.  This last figure also recalls that our ancestor was a master gunsmith.  The scales witness to the sense of equity and justice of the Cliche in general, and, in particular, the numerous lawyers and judges among the family members.  Finally, the wheel segment indicates the significant but not dominant contribution of our ancestors and contemporaries who work the land.

The colors

Blue represents France and the sea which brought Nicolas from his native land to the New World.  Gold represents the nobility of both agriculture and the law.  White represents the peaceable spirit of our people, and Red represents the involvement of the Cliche family in social and political endeavors, and most especially our tendency to question established order with the purpose of improving the quality of life of the citizens.

The motto

The qualities of Cliche family members of yesterday and of today are recognized in the motto: Courage, Justice, Progress:

Courage for our ancestors to leave a well-organized nation, to confront the perils of a sea voyage, to build a future for themselves despite difficulties of time and space;

Justice, in the formation of a community marked by social equity and professional conscience, expressed in work, in speech, and in writing;

Progress, since innovation, creativity and challenge characterize the Cliche family members in every generation.


 The Association of Cliche Families

Becoming a Member

In becoming a member of the Association, you will:

•Receive the Association magazine “Les Cliche” three times a year
•Receive a register of members of the Association
•Take advantage of a genealogy research service to help trace your ancestors
•Become acquainted with other members of the Cliche family
•Obtain publications issued by the Association and other articles

Membership Categories and Fee:  


20  $ CAD  for one year  
30 $ CAD   for two years 

40$  CAD for one year  
60$ CAD for two years


A contribution of 250$  CAD
 1   payment of   250$  CAD 
2  payments of  125$ CAD

A contribution of 500$  CAD
1  payment of 500$  CAD
2 payments of 250$ CAD

To become a member, complete the Registration Form printed below.
Send it, together with a check, to the Association at its mailing address.
Membership renewal occurs on or before March 31 every year
for the annual dues, and every second year for the two year renewal.


Given name and family [maiden] name ______________________________________

Address      ______________________________________________

City       _____________________         Postal Code ________________

Province or State _________________________________________

Telephone       _____________________    eMail ______________________________

Checks are payable to :   Association des Familles Cliche, Inc.
                                       C. P. 5013,  St-Joseph de Beauce, Qc, Canada    G0S 2V0


 The Association of Cliche Families

Our ancestor, Nicholas Cliche

This biography of our ancestor Nicolas Cliche and his wife, Marie-Madeleine Pelletier is abridged from chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Volume 1 of the History and Genealogy of the Cliche Families, by Marcel Cliche, published in the fall of 2006.  

Nicolas Cliche, ancestor of all members of the Cliche Families of North America, was born on July 8, 1645, in the parish of Saint-Jean in Saint-Quentin, diocese of Noyon, in the French province of Picardy.  He was the only child of the first marriage of Nicolas Cliche to Catherine Poette.   With his second wife, Marguerite Bauny, Nicolas fathered three other children: Paul, born in April 1652; André, born about 1662; and Jeanne, who married Pierre Lobert at the parish church of Saint-Jean on February 7, 1684. Earlier, we find Cliche families settled on the land between Vervins to the east and Saint-Quentin to the west; in the first half of the 17th century, they can be found in the townships of the Thierache, a region which encompasses parts of Picardy and Flanders in France, Hainault and Namur in Belgium.

The mother of Nicolas Cliche, Catherine Poette, stems from roots quite similar to those of his paternal ancestors.  During the 17th century, the family is found almost exclusively in Picardy, and certainly were influential in the life of the city of Saint-Quentin, where there is a street bearing their name.   Between 1620 and 1904, there are 72 references to the Poette name in public records, all in communes within 10 kilometers of Saint-Quentin.

Baptismal Certificate of Nicolas Cliche

  On the eighth day of July one thousand six hundred forty five was
  baptised Nicolas, son of Nicolas Cliche and of Catherine Poette
  his wife.  His godfather and godmother were Pierre Cliche and
  Antoinette Lalouette wife of Jean Leroy

Childhood and Youth

There is no record of the first twenty-six years of the life of Nicolas Cliche, but the history of his native town, Saint-Quentin, gives us insight into his past.

A unique document, a  city plan of Saint-Quentin, a lithography produced during the 19th century by Edouard Cliche, show us the city as it was during that era.  There had been little change in the city between the 13th century and the end of the French Revolution.  Since the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the city numbered between seven and eight thousand.  

The Cliche family lived in the parish of Saint-Jean, near the northeast ramparts.  The borough named for the parish was mostly outside the walls, and traffic in and out of the city passed through the Beautiful Gate (la Belle-Porte), which led to a dungeon mounted with four turrets.  The gate eventually became known as Porte Saint-Jean because it was near the church where Nicolas was baptized, on the street that once bore the saint’s name, now rue Raspail.  From there, the road outside the city leads to Cambrai, and by a slip road on the right, to Cateau-Cambresis, both cities where Cliche family members have lived since the 18th and 19th centuries.

In July 1645, the month of Nicolas’ birth, three hundred men of Saint-Quentin under the command of their governor repelled the Spanish troops that had been ravaging the countryside.  The following year, there were bloody riots, as the city’s residents opposed  “la taxe des aisés” (the rich folks’ tax).  

During his childhood and teen years, Nicolas was witness to four visits of the Sun King, Louis XIV, between 1654 and 1671.  He experienced the “dreadful” misery between 1650 and 1656, as the armies came and went, wreaking devastation from the countryside to the moats at the city’s edge.  He joined in the joyful celebration in 1659, at the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended the war with Spain, and ushered in a lasting peace and the onset of a period of rapid development that brought the economy of the town to the same level as before the siege of 1557.  

Nicolas also observed the rebuilding of the town according to the plan devised by the great military architect Vauban.  In his youth, he may have taken part in the annual Mardi Gras race held in les Coutures, the farmlands beyond the Saint-Jean gate, nearby his parents’ home.  He probably witnessed the conflagration of October 14, 1669, that destroyed the two towers, the organ, and the roof of the nave of the collegial church.

If Nicolas were to return to his home town today, he would be right at home, since neither the geography nor the topography has changed, nor have the disposition of streets, crossroads, and monuments.  Although the ramparts were razed in 1801, and the city was nearly leveled during the Great War (1914-1918), the layout of Old Saint-Quentin is virtually the same now as it was then.

Departure to the New World

It was not long after his 25th birthday that Nicolas decided to leave for the New World.  During the winter of 1671, he began to prepare for the departure.  He had to plan for unexpected delays on the way to the place of embarkation, probably Dieppe, not only the closest port to Saint-Quentin, but , at that time in history, the main point of departure of vessels headed for New France.

The website of L’Association des familles Bérubé identifies the ship as the “Saint-Jean-Baptiste”, which, according to the Dieppe archives, carried four crew members, about one hundred men, and twenty-six “Filles du Roi”.  It weighed anchor at the end of June, and the ancestor of the Cliche family was almost certainly on board.  This was not the first transatlantic crossing for this sailing vessel, captained by Pierre Lemoyne; it was recorded as berthed at the port of Quebec in 1664.

During the 17th century, an Atlantic crossing presented many dangers and few pleasures.  It could take anywhere between 20 and 100 days.  Storms, shipwrecks, disease and death were a constant threat to these snuffboxes tossed about by shifting winds and waves.  It was mid-August 1671 when the Saint-Jean-Baptiste laid anchor in the port known as Cul-de-Sac, opposite the city of Quebec at some distance from the shore.

Quebec 1671-1675

In 1671, when Nicolas landed in Quebec, it has only been 37 years since the settlement of Canada had begun in earnest.  Even though the colony had been founded by Champlain in 1608, the capture of Quebec by the British in 1629 brought everything to a halt until the occupation ended on July 13, 1632. It is the arrival in May 1634 of Robert Giffard, who brought with him a number of settlers recruited in the region of La Perche:  Cloutier, Guyon (Dion), Langlois, Boucher, Giroux, etc., which marks the real starting point for the peopling of Quebec.

Upon his arrival, Nicolas had to adapt himself to the city and the country.  No document records whether he had left France with a contract for hire in his pocket, or was taken on after he arrived. In any event, he was employed as a domestic servant by Nicolas Gauvreau, master gunsmith and locksmith.

The conditions of his employment must have been similar to those of the previous domestic, Henri Piot, namely: food, lodging and 45 pounds in wages.  He was to serve his employer “to do everything that needs to be done, be a good and faithful servant according to his abilities, and not absent himself during the entire term of his contract.”  It appears that the term of employment was more flexible than was usually the case for apprentices and craftsmen, who were hired by contract  for a term of 36 months.

In spite of an incident early on (described at greater length in the French version of this site) Nicolas Cliche gained the confidence of his employer, learned the trade, and earned his license as a master locksmith.  In the French system of training, the rank of master tradesman is earned by producing a master work after completing an apprenticeship and serving as a journeyman in a master’s employ.  In New France, Intendant Jean Talon suppressed these stages.  He granted the rank of master to “anyone who has practiced a trade for six uninterrupted years” or for at least three years of service with a master craftsman.  

Nicolas is married

Nicolas was French, but four years breathing the air of the New World had changed him.  He was soaked in the milieu, and adapted himself to the country and the city.  He earned his master’s certificate in a noble trade, and gained the friendship and confidence of many people.  Among them, Jean Amiot and Marguerite Poulin his wife, who introduced him to Marie-Madeleine Pelletier, and who would witness for him before her parents, Georges Pelletier and Catherine Vannier, who lived at Sainte-Anne-du-Petit-Cap.  

Whether or not he was Nicolas’ master during his apprenticeship, locksmith Jean Amiot, with the help of his wife Marguerite Poulin, played a significant role in the romance of Nicolas and Marie-Madeleine.  Their signatures as witnesses to Nicolas’ indicate their bonds of friendship.  Moreover, Georges Pelletier and his wife were friends of Claude Poulin, and attended the marriage of his daughter to Jean Amiot in August 1673. Further, Marie-Madeleine Pelletier and Marguerite Poulin were about the same age; they had both spent some time at the Ursuline boarding school in Quebec; Madeleine was there for three months, between the end of May and the end of October 1669, and Marguerite between June 1669 and February 1670.  

Georges Pelletier and Catherine Vannier gave their consent and, on September 2, 1675 at the home of Jean Amiot in Quebec, the parents, friends and witnesses assembled in the presence of notary Pierre Duquet for the redaction of the marriage contract.  Madeleine, born August 6, 1658, was 17 years old; Nicolas, born July 8, 1645, was 30.

Vows were exchanged  on October 13, 1675 at the church of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.  The marriage was blessed by missionary priest François Fillon.  Besides the spouses and their parents, five other persons are mentioned on the marriage record: Guillaume Morel, newly arrived in country, and future brother-in-law of the couple; Robert Foubert, whose property adjoined the Pelletier land on the east; and François Ringault, a mystery witness who is unknown except for his signature on this document, and the priest, F.  Fillion.


In the year of Our Lord, one thousand six hundred seventy five [1675],
 the  thirteenth of October, after the three publications of banns

of marriage, having found no impediment,
I, priest undersigned, fulfilling the pastoral functions
in this Church, received the mutual consent
of Nicolas Cliche, son of Nicolas Cliche
and of Catherine Poete, his father and mother of the parish
of St Jean, Diocese of Noyon, on the one hand, and of
M. Madelaine Pelletier, daughter of Georges Pelletier
and of Catherine Vannier, of this parish, on the other
hand, and this in the forms and ceremonies ordained
by the Holy Church, in the presence of Guillaume Morel,
Robert Foubert, and Francois Ringault,  Signed F Fillion,
Missionary Priest.     /s/ Morin, ptre

Family Life  (1675-1687)

A.  The good years (1675-1681)

Happy and hopeful as they returned by boat from Sainte-Anne to Quebec, Nicolas and Marie-Madeleine were eager to settle in their new home.  A month before the wedding, Nicolas had rented from Noel Pinguet, a resident of the Lower Town, for a term of two years, one-half of a house, “with the cellar below and the attic above, adjoining Robert Paré up to the partition which separates the said house, in its present state, from top to bottom.” 

It is here  that the Nicolas and Marie-Madeleine will spend the first five years of their married life.  On September 5, 1677, Nicolas renewed the lease for 100 pounds per year.  The house is located precisely at the spot where Quebec was born.  It adjoined the Residence of Champlain, later transformed into the royal storehouse, near the chapel and cloister of the “Recollet” Franciscan friars, the first missionaries in New France, who arrived in 1615.  Between 1675 and 1680, their house faced the market place, in the business district, not far from Saint-Pierre, Sous-le-Fort, and Cul-de-Sac, the craftsmen’s quarter.

Work and daily life

Nicolas was certainly busy at the locksmith’s trade.  All of the contracts mention his craft next to his name, but none describes the work commissioned by his employers, as the details were agreed upon in verbal contracts.  On the other hand, there is one legal document which speaks specifically of them.

Nicolas is called by the Provost’s Court of Quebec on November 13, 1676. Jean Soulard, master gunsmith, presents to the tribunal a complain alleging that Nicolas Cliche (Clisse in the record), did not properly fulfill the terms of the contract which he was given for the construction of a residents at the Cul-de-Sac, now the site of the Chevalier house.  “The parties having been heard”, the accused, Nicolas, was held to set three doors with locks, and that these are found to fit properly by experts.  Nicolas Gauvreau was appointed by the court as the official inspector.  The lawsuit is significant, as it confirms that the locksmith only made locks. Three months earlier, on July 17, 1676, before the same tribunal, Nicolas won a case involving corded wood.  Louis Lefebvre of Battenville paid him six francs for a cord of wood which he admitted owing him.

Nicolas Cliche is once again summoned before the Provost Court on June 21, 1679.  He is one of the friends of Nicole Flamant and the late Louis Leparc dit Saint-Louis.  They are called to deliberate a request by the widow, who asks the Tribunal for leave to sell their site, which consisted of one-fourth of a full house lot (habitation), with a small house, before returning to France.  She received permission for the sale, but was first obliged to pay the couple’s common debts; the remainder “would be placed in her hands at the time of her departure for France.”

Finally, Nicolas is called as a witness in a criminal case which went on for several months in 1680-1681, named that of Sebastien de Rosmadech dit Lachenaye Courtebotte, sailor, native of Vannes in Brittany, who was accused of stealing iron bars from merchant François Hazeur of the Lower Town, and offering them at suspiciously low prices to craftsmen who worked with iron.

This trial proved to be a blessing for the Cliche family, since it mentioned the birthplace of our ancestor, the town of Saint-Quentin in Picardy. The two records also prove that he used “outside sources” in the exercise of his trade.  In the summer of 1679, Jean Guiet (Guay) and Jeanne Mignon of the Seigneury of Lauzon chose Nicolas Cliche to teach the locksmith’s trade to their 14-year-old son, Jean Guiet.  The young apprentice didn’t stay long; after he was injured, his mother, supported by a surgeon’s statement, ended the contract on December 7, 1679.

Really needing help, Nicolas turned to a young master gunsmith-locksmith, Nicolas Pré, who had just completed a three year apprenticeship in Nicolas Gauvreau’s shop. On April 2, 1680, he agreed to work at his trade for a term of six months, starting on the date of the contract. In turn, Nicolas Cliche agreed to furnish him food and lodging, to treat him humanely, to furnish him tools and a salary of 40 pounds for the entire term.

There are enough documents to allow us to affirm that things went well during the first six years of the common life of Nicolas Cliche and Marie-Madeleine Pelletier, and the four children born during this period.  Nicolas was able to meet the needs of his family, and to faithfully pay his rent to Pinguet, and on September 5, 1677, rented the adjoining house of Robert Paré, where he may have built a smithy.

A Home Of Their Own

Nicolas and Marie-Madeleine had a dream of owning a home. On April 16, 1678, Nicolas purchased a lot with twenty eight feet of frontage, facing the Quebec dock.  More precisely, it was located in the passageway “leading from the cul de sac to the Champlain fountain”.  The sale is made with Philippe Gaultier, sieur de Comporté, a native of Poitou, who had come to Canada with the Carignan-Salieres regiment in 1665. He would later hold an important position in the colony.  He had acquired this lot together with a larger one from Intendant Jean Talon, on November 7, 1672.  Nicolas accepts the conditions of the sale: the sum of 200 pounds will be as an annual rental fee of 10 pounds, and he would be required to erect a dwelling within two years.

During the winter of 1679-1680, the frame of the house on the Cul de Sac was built, and, on April 4, 1680, Nicolas hires Louis and Sylvain Duplais, uncle and nephew, natives of Berry, masons well known for their competence, “for the sum of four pounds, five sols per yard” to build the walls in the said house, and only for their labor.”  They would carve the cornerstones of the house, and, if they carved the chimney stones themselves, they would receive an additional fee.  All work was to be completed by Friday, August 9, 1680.

Dramatic turn of events:  the Cliche family would never occupy the house at the Cul de Sac!  Nicolas exchanged the lot, the frame of the house, and the construction materials against a larger lot, forty feet in frontage by thirty in depth, with a house frame already in place, below the chateau Saint-Louis, on the street that runs between the lower town and the upper town, Cote de la Montagne.  The transaction was completed on May 15, 1680, with the mason André Couteron, who was very active in real estate transactions:  large plots of land, house lots, and houses.  The deal was more advantageous for Nicolas, who made a payment of 40 pounds in September 1680.

Louis and Sylvain Duplais followed their employer, and set the stones of the new residence, for which they handed him  on August 9 a bill for 34 yards of plaster, that is, 144 £ 10, at the rate previously agreed upon.  There remained the roofing and the windows, for which, on July 18, 1680, he hired Pierre Gacien dit Tourangeau, setter of slates and shingles.  Gacien contracts to do all of the work, and to furnish all the materiel: nails, cedar and spruce shingles, except for the frames of the three windows, two on the side of the Cote de La Montagne, and the other facing the fort.  The price was fixed at 5 £ 5 per yard of covering “faite et parfaite ” (completed and finished).

At the end of 1680, the Cliche family changes status, from tenants at Rue Notre Dame to proprietors on Cote de la Montagne. Where on the hillside are they located?  In 1675, construction had begun in the upper part of the road, facing what is now Montmorency Park.  But, before buildings could be erected, it was necessary to do work on the road itself:  “To prepare the site, it was necessary to dig out and to fill in, to make the rough places smooth, and the narrow places wide.  Retaining walls had to be erected, some of them quite high.”

Their neighbor, an up-and-coming bourgeois, Nicolas Rousselot dit LaPrairie, was probably the first to have a house built on the hillside, in 1676.  He observed that the Cliche house encroached about one foot into his property.  He settled the matter amicably before notary Rageot on November 4, 1680, by  swopping a bit of land.  Another neighbor was Jean Levrard,  a gunner, who, in 1682, cleared a 24x24 foot plot, and erected a stone and masonry house near the top of the hill.  This fact is significant, since it situates the home of our ancestor in the upper portion of the hillside, near to the Upper Town.

A document dated January 17, 1688 indicates that there was a shop adjoining the residence, and a concession by Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, counselor to the King, Governor and Lieutenant General of His Majesty in New France, to Nicolas Cliche, added a garden and courtyard to the domain.

The house on Rue de la Montagne stayed in Nicolas’ possession, and after his death, Marie-Madeleine kept it, although one biography of Nicolas states otherwise.  Twenty years after her death, on August 5, 1707, Jean Maillou received a receipt from M. Duplessis for the purchase, at auction, of a house on Rue de la Montagne, the property of Nicolas Cliche, debtor to the late M. de la Chesnaye.  The niece of Jean Maillou, Marie-Josephte Dubois, would marry Claude Cliche, son of Nicolas, in 1728. 

This happy episode ends with an event unrelated to real estate.  Nicolas Cliche of the diocese of Noyon,  received from the bishop of Quebec the Sacrament of Confirmation on August 26, 1681.

B. Hard Times (1682-1687)

Nicolas and his family were lodged in a fine, two-story stone house, with dormers, on Cote-de-la-Montagne.  This gave to the master of the house the status of bourgeois, but, to attain that rank, it was necessary to take a loan from a fellow Picard, Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, the most significant business man in New France during the 17th century, and, in a sense, the Caisse Populaire of his times. 

On February 7, 1682, notary Romain Becquet came to the sumptuous home of Monsieur Aubert, at the corner of Sault-au-Matelot and Cote-de-la Montagne ( a dwelling assessed at 21,000 pounds (livres tournois)  in 1665) to draw up the arrangements between Nicolas and his wife, on the one hand, and the merchant, on the other.  The couple owed 1400 pounds which they agreed to repay at the amount of 70 pounds per year.  According to a memorandum written by Guillaume Morel, brother-in-law of Nicolas and of Friar Didace, entitled “Discussion of the real property of Georges Pelletier and Catherine Vannier”, the amount owed was somewhat greater.  He sets it at 2200 pounds, a significant sum, taking into account that “the salary of the First Counselor of the Sovereign Council was 300 pounds per year.”  Compare with the wages of Nicolas Pré, 40 pounds for six months of work in 1680.

This persistent lack of funds tainted relations within the family starting on 1682.  Georges Pelletier hurriedly set aside the amount promised to his daughter at her marriage in 1675.  On September 7, 1682, Nicolas acknowledged receiving the full amount of 200 pounds.  It was not sufficient for the purpose.  All of the Pelletier family, Georges, Friar Didace, and Guillaume Morel, agreed to come up with sufficient funds, no doubt to assist Marie-Madeleine, the grandchildren, nephew and niece rather than to benefit Nicolas, whom they no doubt held responsible, at least in part, for the family’s precarious situation.

It was Didace who took charge of the financial arrangements, as he clearly held the esteem of other family members.  The Franciscan friar and Nicolas paid a visit to Georges, in an effort to persuade him to do what he could to free Nicolas from the grip of La Chesnaye, who had twice had his assets seized.  He also pleaded with his religious community.  The Recollets, who had no money, suggested an arrangement which is not recorded by the creditor.  Guillaume Morel also mentions that Georges had unsuccessfully gone looking for his son-in-law in the city, because of Cliche’s misbehavior when he was drinking.  He reproaches his father-in-law, whom he calls, “le bonhomme”, for not even thinking about scolding him. A contract, now only partially extant, entered into between May 15 and June 24, 1683 seems to indicate that the Jesuits also lent money to the Cliche family.

Has the husband of Catherine Pelletier been judged too severely?  At the request of Friar Didace, he truly tried to get his brother-in-law off the hook.  On February 28, 1685, Nicolas was obliged to pay 210 pounds to Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, money which he borrowed from the priest serving at Sainte-Anne, Louis Soumande.  Nicolas pledged to repay one half of the amount on the following All Saints Day (November 1), and the remainder on the same day the following year, and offered as collateral “all that he might acquire from the succession of the late Catherine Vannier, his mother-in-law, who died in March 1684.” 

In fact, Nicolas would sell, for 175 pounds, one-quarter of the land coming to him from the inheritance.  This did not please Guillaume, “something Morel had not thought of”, but Didace insisted on it.  One party reduced his debt, while the other increased the farmland which he already controlled, while at the same time receiving payment in full of the debt of 210 pounds.

All leads us to believe, as we have previously mentioned, that despite the property seizures, and because of the small sums they managed to pay, the Cliche family continued to live in the house on Cote-de-la-Montagne.

The final contract which concerns them directly is dated April 21, 1686.  Nicolas acknowledge  owing Martin Prevost, of the Cote de Beauport, the sum of seventeen pounds, five sols, of a greater amount owned for merchandise sold and delivered.  The notary, Claude Auber, describes him as a master locksmith and a bourgeois of the city of Quebec.  The two witnesses were close friends, Nicolas Gauvreau and Claude Chasle. 

C. The family

The marriage of Nicolas Cliche and Marie-Madeleine Pelletier lasted only twelve years, from October 13, 1675 to December 23, 1687.  That was the average duration of a marriage during that era, between ten and twenty years, at the most.

During those years, Marie-Madeleine gave birth to seven children, of whom six would live more than ten years.  The first three, Nicolas (1676), Jean-François (1678) and René, were born at Rue Notre-Dame, and the last four, the only daughter, who bears the name of her mother, Marie-Madeleine (1681), Claude (1683), Vincent (1685), and Nicolas-Lucien (1687), were born in the house at Cote-de-la-Montagne.  All were baptized in the church of the parish of Notre-Dame, the cathedral-basilica of Quebec, on Rue Buade.

The census taker who visited the Cliche household in the spring of 1681 enrolled them under the family name Queliche.  It seems that the name must have been difficult to grasp, as it is often spelled Clisse, sometimes Claiche, by the notaries and the court clerks.  On the other hand, while the age of the children is accurate, Nicolas is eight years younger (28 instead of 36), and Marie-Madeleine is two years younger (20 rather than 22 years, 4 months).  In the 1681 census, the administration keeps count of firearms, cattle, and the acreage of tilled land.  Nicolas has a long gun; Nicolas Rousselot, his neighbor, a long gun, two pistols, and six acres of tilled land.

Nicolas and Marie-Madeleine have good reason to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary in October 1685, since all six children born to them are still alive, their ages ranging from one to nine.  But the grim reaper is skulking about the hillside.  Within a year, all family members bearing the given name Nicolas will be taken.  First it was the eldest child, Nicolas, on November 7, 1686, only a month past his tenth birthday.  Eight months later, on July 24, 1687, the baby, Nicolas-Lucien, spent the last of his seventeen days in this world.  Insatiable death struck the pioneer, ancestor of all of the Cliche family members in North America, on December 23, 1687, at the age of 42.

His funeral rites were celebrated in the Cathedral of the parish of Notre-Dame de Quebec.  It is likely he was among the last to be buried in the first cemetery in Quebec, “the triangular plot which is visible on the right of Cote-de-la-Montagne”, which was the burial ground of Quebec until 1688. 

Henceforth, Marie-Madeleine Pelletier, mother and guardian, is duty-bound to reorganize the life of her family to meet the needs of her five young children:  Jean-François (9 years old), René (8 years old), Marie-Madeleine (6 years old), Claude (4 years old) and Vincent (2 years old).  The last three will assure the posterity of Nicolas and Madeleine, and perpetuate the Cliche family name. 

It is unlikely that Nicolas Cliche ever dreamed that his family name would endure for three and a half centuries, and that thousands of descendants would honor his memory.  He is the ancestor of between 20,000 and 40,000 individuals in North America, and it is unlikely that he will ever be forgotten.

Burial Record of Nicolas Cliche

On the twenty third day of December of
the year one thousand six hundred eighty seven, was
buried by me, Francois Dupre, parish priest of
Quebec, in the cemetery, Nicolas Cliche, locksmith,
having received the holy sacraments of penance,
viaticum, and extreme unction.  Attended his
burial Toussaint du bau, Joseph Pinguet

/s/ Toussaint Dubau        /s/ Joseph Pinguet
/s/ Francois Dupre

Marie-Madeleine Pelletier : a new household

A.   Head of the Family

1.  – The locations

What happens to a family when the head of the family dies?  Marie-Madeleine, now the sole parent of five children, has inherited a mortgaged house, and a precarious financial situation.  She swiftly takes measures to ensure sources of income.  Ironically, the real estate which once had been troubling to the couple was now a valuable asset, both while she was a widow and after she remarried.   On January 17, 1688, three weeks after the death of Nicolas, Marie-Madeleine leased the property, the house, and the adjoining shop, located “on the street leading from the lower to the upper town”, to Jeanne Badeau, on behalf of her minor son, Joseph Parent, who could not enter a legal contract since he was not of age. 

Marie-Madeleine set aside a space ten feet wide the full length of the cellar, where she partitioned off a room, with access to the fountain.  The two women agreed on a rental of 160 pounds per year for a term of three years.  Marie-Madeleine distributed this money to her creditors: ten pounds to the Jesuit Fathers, ten to an unidentified individual, and the remainder to Sieur Charles Auber de la Chesnaye, present, and signatory to the contract, which he approved. Four days later, on January 21, she offered her husband’s tools for rent, and gained fifty pounds.  As mother, and guardian of the children of the deceased, it was she who transacted all of the contracts.

The Cliche residence was in a good location, and soon found a buyer.  The lease dated June 7, 1690, to Julien Boissy dit la Grillade, a pastry confectioner, presents a good picture of the lodging.  It included a room with a fireplace, which probably served as the kitchen, three small rooms, a cellar and an attic, as well as a staked courtyard, the garden, the well, and the shop.   Was the downstairs room, which Marie-Madeleine reserved for herself, included among the rooms described?  Impossible to answer.   She insisted on keeping the building in good shape, as is evident from the contract.  The renter was in change of repairs and improvements: “an oven set in the proper place in the house … three shutters with latches, for the cellar, a door with a lock and a bolt, and a trapdoor.”  The chimney that served as a forge had been repaired by Joseph Parent, the preceding lessor.

There is no sign of the children during the three years that their mother remained a widow, except for their being mentioned in the contracts.  There are indications that Marie-Madeleine spent some time at Sainte-Anne with her father, who was in his sixties, and with her sister.

It is hard to imagine that a family of six could live in the room which served as her lodging in Quebec.  She said she was from Sainte-Anne when health problems brought her to the Hotel-Dieu in Quebec, in June and July 1690, a few months before her second marriage.  Even after remarrying, she seems to have shuttled between the pilgrimage site and the capital.  On February 28, 1694, when she was hospitalized for the third time, she is registered as a resident of Saint-Anne.  She is there again on August 2 and August 28, 1695, when she was godmother for Marie-Angélique Morel, daughter of Guillaume’s second wife, and for Louise Racine, but in both cases, the record shows Quebec as her place of residence.

The calligraphy of the signatures of the four sons, and a text addressed to one of them, Claude Cliche, indicate not only that the sons of Nicolas Cliche can sign their names, but that they able to read and write.  This suggests that they had spent some time either in a school such as the Jesuit College which provided a general education, or in an institution such as the Seminary or the Franciscan convent, which was dedicated to the formation of clergy and religious.  We cannot be sure, but since the Jesuits helped  their parents, and one of the sons of Claude Cliche, also named Claude, studied at the Jesuit College, it is quite likely that the boys were educated  there.  At least two of them would learn a trade.

2– Life Assurance

Considering the conditions of life in that time period, Marie-Madeleine has no choice but to seek a new consort.  “As soon as marriage is ended by the death of one of the spouses, the other seeks to enter a new marriage, as it is difficult to provide for oneself and the children without a new partner.  …  Marriage is considered a form of life assurance: four hands are better than two in the struggle against the innumerable difficulties of daily life.”

In 1688, at the age of 29, « le marché des femmes à marier » (the marriage market for women) works in Marie-Madeleine’s favor; on the other hand, having five children in her care is a handicap.  The interim period would be average for the times, as on November 9, 1690, in the third year of her widowhood, she signed a marriage contract with Pierre Millet (Millier or Milliet), a native of France, baptized on September 1, 1653 at Notre-Dame-de-Mirebeau, diocese of Poitiers, in Poitou.  The son of Vincent Millet, a hatter, and of Claude Perrin, he is first mentioned in New France in 1687.  He lived at the home of Jean Charron dit Laferrière, a close friend of the Cliche family, godfather of their eldest child.  He may well have been responsible for the encounter between Pierre Millet and Madeleine Pelletier.

Madeleine declares before the notary that the house at Cote-de-la-Montagne, mortgages to the creditors of the decedent, is the only asset that remains of the community property created at her first marriage.  The prospective groom eschews responsibility for this debt, “otherwise he would not have contracted or entered the said marriage with her.”   By these words, the scales tilt toward a marriage of circumstance or of interest, even if he insists that if he should die either in Old France or New France, wherever it may occur, he concedes to her all of his worldly goods “because of the love he bears for her”.  He is equally generous with the   « douaire préfix » that is, the amount agreed upon before the signing of the marriage contract. He  assures her of 600 louis of his personal assets in case of his death.

The death of Marie-Madeleine Pelletier

Marie-Madeleine Pelletier, maternal ancestor of all of the Cliche family members and a good part of the Millet descendants as well, passed from this world on either December 2 or 3, 1701.

Eight children, five named Cliche, three Millet, lost an attentive mother who gave them her affection and an education to prepare them for life.  She gave her support to two husbands, one who was often absent, the other who endured financial and perhaps personal difficulties.  When necessary, she took charge of several transactions which she signed with a hand much firmer than when she had signed the marriage contract.

Other than the consequence of an epidemic, or an accident, or the sequelae of childbirth, it is not easy to pinpoint the  specific cause of a death which occurred three centuries ago.  In Marie-Madeleine’s case, it may be the effect of 43 years of age, of the pregnancy and birth of Elisabeth-Genevieve, from which she did not recover, or from the lasting effects of the epidemic of the winter grippe of 1700-1701, which took several well-known individuals, such as clergyman Henri de Bernieres, who had baptized at least five of the children of Nicolas Cliche, Gervais, Beaudoin, the physician at l’Hotel-Dieu, the notable Louis Rouer de Villeray, first counselor in the Sovereign Council, and others. 

Less than two months after the death of Marie-Madeleine, a candidate nibbles at Pierre Millet’s bait.  The contract is signed on January 25, 1702, but the marriage would not take place.  He continues to dangle the hook, and eventually captures Marie Salois, the widow of Pierre Lefebvre, a sailor from Saint-Malo in Brittany. They are married on Monday, November 20, 1702 at Saint-Laurent, Ile d’Orleans.  Four of the eight offspring of this marriage will eventually be married.

 Burial Record of Marie-Madeleine Pelletier

The fourth day of the month of December in the year One Thousand Seven Hundred and One, was buried in the cemetery of this parish, by me, priest, pastor of Quebec,  Marie Magdeleine Pelletier, wife of Millet, about forty five years of age, after receiving the sacraments of Penance, Viaticum, and Extreme Unction, in the presence of Jean Dubreuil, Jacques Michelon and other witnesses,   /s/ Francois Dupre