Catherine Laîné (also known as Laisne), like so many other colonial women who gave birth to 10 children, could tell a story that would be entirely remarkable in today’s world, yet it’s unlikely that her life was anything exceptional in the squally 1600s. She was just doing what normal people did.
Catherine was baptized February 6, 1654 in the parish of Sainte-Croix-des-Pelletiers in Rouen, Normandy, the daughter of Jean Laîné and Marie Renault. In the spring of her 17th year she prepared to leave her homeland for New France and made the short journey from Rouen to Dieppe. Since her home was near the area where Madeleine Auvray originated and she appears to have boarded the same ship in 1671, it’s entirely possible that they travelled together or were at least acquainted prior to leaving France.
In Catherine's possession was the trousseau awarded by the king packed with goods as her dowry whose worth she estimated was 300 livres. Along with about 90 other Filles du Roi was another teenaged girl who would likewise appear among our ancestors, Perrette Loriot. And they must have boarded Le Prince Maurice that spring, like hundreds of others before them, with mixed feelings of hope and apprehension.
In the long journey across the Atlantic, we can only imagine the discussions that ensued among so many like-minded women who had no way of knowing how their decisions to leave France would affect them. Their fates until now had been in the hands of the king’s representatives who had explained what to expect. But how could they possibly have understood? Everything about their lives until departing France had occurred solely for the benefit of their wisdom in the future. They would take those mental images to a new world where they might be recalled, but they would never return to revisit their girlhood memories.
The ship arrived in Québec City in mid-summer. For the eighth year in a row, Québec City residents would have lined up to welcome these same sea-weary ships from the motherland, loaded with human cargo and tonnes of goods needed by the colonists of New France. And as usual, the enfeebled Filles du Roi who survived the passage would have been met by the Ursuline nuns for the next stage in what could only have been a most unpredictable rite of passage.
On October 21, less than three months after her arrival, notary Romain Becquet drew up a marriage contract between Catherine and a man named Jacques Bluteau that was annulled almost as quickly as it began. There were no children. Clearly the Catholic custom of the day left liberties to dissolve marriages that were mutually ill-decided. Perhaps it was a blessing for both of them.
Étienne Mesny was born about 1646 in Mesnières-en-Bray, Normandy, the son of Jean Mesny and Marie Cané. He appears in the official census of 1666 as the servant-labourer of Jean Gagnon at Beaupré, Québec. Before meeting Catherine, he had also annulled a marriage contract that he had drawn with a woman named Charlotte Godin, endorsed in the prior year by notary Claude Aubert.
Étienne was persistent in his quest to find a good woman. While it's less likely that they met at the convent of the Ursulines, he and Catherine Laîné obviously crossed paths and soon reached an understanding before the wrath of Québec’s winter had arrived. On November 23 of the same year, 17-year-old Catherine married 25-year-old Étienne at Sainte-Famille, Île d’Orléans, Québec and was given the king’s gift of 50 livres, likely in the form of livestock and supplies they needed to begin the 23 years they would spend together. Neither spouse was literate enough to sign, although the actual marriage contract was never located to refute this.
Catherine and Étienne first settled at Sainte-Famille where three daughters were born in succession, the third named Catherine after her mother. But the plot thickens. The family then relocated to Saint-François, Québec where six more daughters and a son were born within a 14-year period. The records indicate that two of these did not survive childhood.
For some confounding reason, one of the later daughters was also named Catherine, endowing two living siblings with the same name, albeit they were 14 years apart. One explanation might be that the older Catherine had always been informally known by a different name when the younger Catherine was born. Luckily the marriages of early Canadians inextricably bound them to their new families in the records, and there were rarely problems for genealogists in later centuries. Ironically it was the marriages of both Catherine Mesnys in this family and the children of those marriages who created the lineages directly connecting Clarice Bergeron to one, and Lazare Côté to the other, in associating our family with their Fille du Roi mother of the same name:
- 1698 Catherine Mesny 
m. Jacques Barron » Ignace
- 1743 Ignace Barron
m. Genevieve Baudon » Josephte
- 1771 Josephte Barron
m. Alexis Genest » Alexis [Jr]
- 1795 Alexis Genest [Jr]
m. Charlotte Aubin » Louise
- 1826 Louise Genest
m. Antoine Bergeron » Alfred
- 1847 Alfred Bergeron
m. Lucie-Marie Bibeau » Clarice
- 1870 Clarice Bergeron
m. Lazare Côté
- 1698 Catherine Mesny  m. Jacques Baron » Ignace
- 1743 Ignace Baron m. Genevieve Baudon » Josephte
- 1771 Josephte Baron m. Alexis Genest » Alexis [Jr]
- 1795 Alexis Genest [Jr] m. Charlotte Aubin » Louise
- 1826 Louise Genest m. Antoine Bergeron » Alfred
- 1847 Alfred Bergeron m. Lucie-Marie Bibeau » Clarice
- 1870 Clarice Bergeron m. Lazare Côté
- 1709 Catherine Mesny 
m. Nicolas Croteau* » Marie-Anne
- 1743 Marie-Anne Croteau
m. Jean-François Sevigny » Catherine
- 1780 Catherine Sevigny
m. Michel Charest » Joseph
- 1807 Joseph Charest
m. Marguerite Aubin » Marie-Desanges
- 1845 Marie-Desanges
Chaurette m. François Côté » Lazare
- 1870 Lazare Côté
m. Clarice Bergeron
- 1709 Catherine Mesny  m. Nicolas Croteau* » Marie-Anne
- 1743 Marie-Anne Croteau m. Jean-François Sevigny » Catherine
- 1780 Catherine Sevigny m. Michel Charest » Joseph
- 1807 Joseph Charest m. Marguerite Aubin » Marie-Desanges
- 1845 Marie-Desanges Chaurette m. François Côté » Lazare
- 1870 Lazare Côté m. Clarice Bergeron