Saturday, March 16, 2013

An O'Brennan in New France

The Irish presence in New France was small, but noticeable.  The first Irishman to arrive in the colony was probably Tadhg Cornelius O'Brennan.  Born in Ireland during the 1630s, feasibly in Dysart-on-the-Dinen in the county of Kilkenny, to Connor O'Brennan and Honora O'Connor, he showed up in Ville-Marie (Montreal) around 1660.  It is not clear why or how he got there.  As O'Brennan's new compatriots found it challenging to pronounce and spell his Gaelic name, he appears in documents under the names Thecle, Teque, Tecq, Tec, Corneille, Aubry, Aubrenam, Aubrenane, Aubrenaue and O'Brenam. Modern historians and genealogists have generally referred to him as "Tec Aubry".
Shortly after his arrival, while serving as a farmhand for Urbain Tessier, Tadhg O'Brennan aka. Tec Aubry was captured by an Iroquois war party.  Released seven months later, he returned to work on farms in the Montreal area.  Notarial records reveal that, besides his farm work, he was also involved in the fur trade.
“Tecq Aubrenaue”, son of "Connehour Aubrenaue" and "Honorée Iconnehour", married Jeanne Chartier, a fille du roi hailing from Paris, at Quebec in the fall of 1670.  The couple settled on a farm at Pointe-aux-Trembles near Montreal, and subsequently resettled close by in Lachenaie.  The couple had seven children, who in turn had plenty of their own.  O'Brennan died in 1687, but today thousands of Aubrys in Quebec trace their lineage back to him. 
Eager for more?  Have a look at the paper published by Louis Aubry, a descendant, in Anglo-Celtic Roots vol. 9, no. 4 (Winter 2003), available online here. Those eager to slog through shorter biographical sketches of almost all the Irish who settled in New France should try to get a hold of a copy of Marcel Fournier's Les Européens au Canada des origines à 1765 (Hors France) (Montreal, Édition du Fleuve, 1989).  And then there's Being Irish in Quebec, an online exhibition on the Irish presence in Quebec from New France through recent times, courtesy of the McCord Museum (the brick and mortar version was on display back in 2009-2010).
Happy St. Patrick's Day.

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