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Origin of Charron and Ducharme family names

CHARRON family name

A “ charron ” is a cartwright, or a wheelwright and as such he is a workman, a craftsman building wagons, carts and wheels. A cartwright constructs and repairs all sorts of heavy and light vehicles, light carts, trucks, tip-carts, wagons, carts, wheelbarrows, to name a few. He works as much with metal as he does with wood. He forges the axles, the springs and the brakes. He builds flat beds and installs the side panels, then mounts the vehicle on wheels he himself has built (note 1). It is more than likely that a very distant ancestor who may have been a charron (cartwright) adopted as his family name that of his trade, around the XIth or XIIth century when family names came of age in France.

DUCHARME family name

The origin of the Ducharme family name is less obvious. Was it because the person who adopted this family name was charming or pleasant, an attribute of an attractive and seductive person? Or was it because of hornbeams (charmes), a tree of medium height (10 to 15 meters – 40 to 50 feet) that is widespread in France in forests mixed in with oak and beech trees? In southern Quebec the hornbeam grows mostly in the northern part and rarely reaches as high as it does in France. The hornbeam is a hard white wood making it very useful in cart building and for fashioning tool handles (note 2). The association has retained this last hypothesis as the basis for representing the Ducharme families on its Coat of Arms.

What family name did our ancestor Pierre Charron use?

We have relatively few documents concerning Pierre Charron but not one refers to the Ducharme name. The following is a list of some of these documents:

  • enrollment contract dated October 2, 1662; it constitutes the first official proof that our ancestor was in fact in New France at that time;

  • list of members of the Sainte-Famille militia, 20th squadron, which Pierre joined upon its creation by Maisonneuve in January of 1663;

  • list of those confirmed in the catholic religion by the Lord Bishop of Laval on July 11, 1664 ; both Pierre Charron and Catherine Pillard are listed;

  • marriage in 1665, in the Notre-Dame church in Montréal, when he signed legibly and correctly as Pierre Charron;

  • document dated July 28, 1666, granting his first farmland;

  • 1667 census, where he is listed as Pierre Caron, a likely error in his family name since he is listed with his wife Catherine. For some unkown reason, however, they are not listed in the 1666 census.

  • 1681 census;

  • burial on December 26, 1700 in Montréal;

Furthermore, when Catherine Pillard remarried in 1709, and when she was buried in 1717, the officiant noted that she was the widow of Pierre Charron without any reference to the Ducharme family name.

Finally a search in the Répertoire des actes de baptême, mariage, sépulture of the Programme de recherche et démographie historique (PRDH) of Montreal University confirms that during the whole XVIIth century neither Pierre Charron nor his sons ever used the Ducharme family name. Officially at least, Pierre Charron seems to have used only the one family name.

Let’s point out, however, that various authors such as Marcel Trudel, historian, and René Jetté, genealogist, refer to our ancestor as Pierre Charron dit Ducharme. It is likely that the two authors have used the Ducharme surname only to link the ancestor to a number of his descendants.

From Charron to Ducharme

François, third son of Pierre and Catherine, was the first to use the Ducharme surname. He married Marguerite Piette in 1701 but unfortunately, the marriage certificate cannot be found, no more than the birth certificate of their first child. The birth certificate of their second child, Jean-François, baptized on June 27, 1704, refers to the father as François Charron dit Ducharme. It is the first document in our possession referring to the Ducharme surname. Some months later a notarized document dated October 11, 1704 also refers to the Ducharme surname.

The Ducharme surname surfaces again almost two years later. Indeed François is present at the wedding of his brother-in-law Jean-Baptiste on April 15, 1706 held in St-Pierre church in Sorel. He is referred to only as Ducharme without a first name. But it confirms that François was commonly using his surname at that time and that his community knew him as Ducharme.

François and Marguerite had 9 other children that were baptized in l’Île Dupas, or sometimes in Sorel, since there were no resident priest in l'Île Dupas. On these occasions, François is either referred to as Charron (1710, 1723, 1725) or as Charron dit Ducharme (1708, 1712, 1715, 1716, 1718). It can be seen that the use of the Ducharme surname was not yet firmly established.

Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain why François used the Ducharme surname but not one stands out for lack of documents to support it. The use of surnames was prevalent particularly in the Richelieu valley and the Lanaudière region which were inhabited by large numbers of demobilized soldiers. It could be the reason that influenced François to use a surname.

The Ducharme surname has never been used by his siblings nor by his ancestors to our knowledge. We can then conclude at this time that the use of a surname by François was his own personal choice. During the next two centuries his descendants used equally Charron, Ducharme or Charron dit Ducharme as family names. However, in the late XIXth century the Charron dit Ducharme definitively dropped the Charron name in favor of Ducharme.

Let’s point out that the Ducharme surname was very popular at the time since, in addition to the Charron dit Ducharme, other families such as Tétreault, Provencher, Repoche, Morin used the “ dit Ducharme ” surname. Finally, let’s recall that Fiacre Ducharme was one of the first settlers in Montreal. He arrived in 1653 and became an important member of the emerging community. He died in 1677, one year before the birth of our François.

(1) Translated from : Leland - “ Nouvelle encyclopédie du Monde ”, page 1065.
(2) Idem, page 1061.

Updated in November 2011

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