Sunday 6 March 2011

France and our Catudal roots

I just came back from a trip to France. I wanted to visit the areas of France that are of particular interest to me because of my Catudal roots and, more fundamental perhaps, because of the inseparable connection between France and New France – the birth of Canada, my home.

One of my first stops was Honfleur in Lower Normandy in the French department of Calvados. It was here that in 1608 Samuel de Champlain set sail to New France. He'd been to New France before but it was on this voyage that he established one of the oldest cities in North America, Québec City. There are older cities in Canada and the United States but Québec City was the very first city founded with the concept of settlement in mind. Other cities had been established prior to this but they were outposts and not settlements; therefore, Québec City is considered the oldest city in Canada and the US. That is why this particular voyage by Champlain was so important. There is a plaque dedicated to Samuel de Champlain.

Next stop was St. Malo, in Bretagne (Brittany). It is here that Jacques Cartier was born: The person who made claim to Canada on behalf of France.

My next goal was to visit the areas where the highest number of Catudals lived in the 1600's and 1700's, the time-frame when Jean-Baptiste Catudal dit St-Jean was born and when he left France for New France. There were two towns of particular interest. The first was Kergrist-Moëlou, Bretagne in the Côtes-d'Armor department of France where 134 Church held events occurred which involved a Catudal in this time-frame. The second town was Maël-Carhaix, also in Bretagne in the Côtes-d'Armor department of France. It is here that 59 events involving a Catudal took place during the time-frame mentioned above.

Typical house in Kergrist-Moëlou

One of the biggest surprises for me was that the only thing original about either of these places is the churches. They have been preserved, repaired, overhauled and renovated over time. The oldest houses seem to be from the mid-1800's. The problem, I think, is that the stone used to build the houses deteriorate very quickly. I discovered this while walking through the cemetery in Kergrist-Moëlou. Headstones dated from the early 1900's were all but obliterated. There were older headstones but there was absolutely nothing legible left on them.

The biggest surprise was that there is not one hint of a Catudal living in the areas mentioned. Not one! I met an older man who was scrubbing the steps of the Eglise Paroissiale Notre-Dame/Parish Church of Our Lady, a 16th century church where our Catudal cousins where baptized, married and had their funerals. The gentleman was native to the area. He had never heard of anyone with the Catudal name. I went to the cemetery and looked at every single headstone looking for a Catudal and found nothing.

It was the same when I went to Maël-Carhaix.

There are Catudals living in France today but their numbers are much smaller than those living in Canada and the United States. The name variation that seems to have had a better survival rate in France is Cadudal. There are a little over a hundred listed in the French phone book as compared to 14 for Catudal. Most of the Cadudals listed live in the Bretagne region of France as well but none in the areas where the name Catudal was so prominent in the 1600's and 1700's.

One other discovery is that, unlike the other areas of France I visited, Bretagnians are very proud of their own languages, Breton in the west part of Bretagne and Gallo in the east. The strongest voice for self-identity and language can be seen with the Breton speaking people, the people with whom we, as descendants of Catudals, have the most affinity. Most road signs are in two languages, French and Breton.

There is so much more I could write about the trip and what I discovered but I will leave it at this, for now.


  1. Thanks for sharing those experiences.Interesting,the change to Cadudal.I get that pronounciation a lot!!!
    Thanks for all your hard work.

  2. So you had no luck in finding any info from the past? I'm planing to go to France next year and I sure will stop in Bretagne.
    Funny how the name Catudal seems to desapear...

  3. Sometimes it's the not finding that tells as much a story as finding.
    Bretagne is simply wonderful. It is very rich in Celtic traditions and history. The people are very proud of being distinct from the rest of France. In fact, up until the mid part of the 1900's French was not generally spoken or even understood by the majority of people.

  4. It sounds like a tedious investigation and i for one am grateful for the work you do. It could be we are relatives no? HAHA. ANyway I see you had Jean Baptiste Catudal listed as a name. By any chance do you know his wife's name? We have a name for her and his year was 1728. If they re the same Jean Baptiste then I'll be very surprised....

    1. The Catudal’ wife name was Sabourin

    2. Cathdal wife ame is Sabourin

  5. We are related Rowen and I've sent you an e-mail with the particulars. Nice to meet you!