The Two Branches
The surname Boisvert is a French topographic moniker. It is attributed to someone who lived in a dense forest or perhaps a copse of evergreens. From Old French,
bois ‘wood’ + vert ‘green’. This name is sometimes translated as Greenwood.
Although there are Boisvert family lines with countless spelling variations currently located in France, the inception of the Boisvert name in North America can be traced back to the beginnings of French colonization during the 17th century.
In the late 1600’s along the St. Lawrence River, between the towns of Trois Riveries and Quebec lived two unrelated men. Perhaps inspired by the brilliance of the greenery which surrounded them, a merchant named Etienne De Never sieur de Brantigy and a farmer named Jean Joubin decided independently to adopt the alternate surname of Boisvert.
At the time and for many years, the families continued to use both names. Etienne’s full name would have been Etienne De Never dit Boisvert. (Pronounced: Ay-tyen De-Navay deet Bwa-vere).
Jean would have called himself Jean Joubin dit Boisvert. (Pronounced: Zh-own Zhu-ban deet Bwa-vere).
Over the course of centuries, generations would alter their last name. Some would drop the “Boisvert” moniker and revert back to their original name. Others would only use the Boisvert surname, still others would change the spelling or upon reaching America, anglicize their name. It is not uncommon to see all three name alternatives within the same family group.
To complicate the task of the researcher, the families of Etienne De Never and Jean Joubin lived practically side by side or across the St. Lawrence River and their children were nearly the same age. Oft times, DeNever dit Boisvert married Joubin dit Boisvert.
With all the messing around with the Boisvert last name, one would think it impossible to find accurate infomation. Luckily the Boisvert surname is rare. As of the year 2012 there is an estimated 6,000 Boisverts living in the United States. In Quebec, only 1.6% of the population uses the name. That ranks 65th in popularity. In France, the surname Boisvert does not rank in the top 500.
It also can be stated that the Boisvert surname is a pure North American creation, it’s birth on the riverbank of the St. Lawrence can be clearly identified.
Since there is documented creation of the name Boisvert in Canada and small amount of Boisvert’s in North America, it is not far fethced to assume a fellow Boisvert is a distant relative. The only question that needs asking is,
“Are you a Joubin or a De Never?”
Boisvert Coat of Arms
A Boisvert family coat of arms was developed and adopted by the Boisvert Families Association in 1988. The European crests have no relation to the French Canadian Boisverts who descended from Jean Joubin and Etienne De Never sieur de Brantigy. Thus a new coat of arms was created that would accurately illustrate the proud lineage of the North American Boisverts.
On the left side, the RED portion: The color represents Languedoc, the ancestral home of the Joubins known as Boisvert. It also represents attachment to the earth of these families who put down roots in the Portneuf area, specifically in Grondines, Quebec.
At the top, the cross of Toulouse, an essential part of the coat-of-arms of Languedoc, symbolized the French origin of these families
The axe reminds us of the tools used by the colonists to clear the land. The wheat sheaves represent the attachment to the earth of the numerous farmers who settled there.
On the right side, the Blue portion: This is the predominant color of the coat-of-arms of Champagne, the ancestral home of De Nevers known as Boisvert. This color also reminds us of the water, boats and fishing activities associated with these families.
At the top, the cotices are from the arms of Champagne, the place of origin of their families. The scales represent the professionals among the original family. Among Etienne De Nevers sons were a notary and a surgeon.
The mid-portion of wavy silver represents the St. Lawrence River flowing between Grondines (home of the Joubin families) on the north shore, and Lotbiniere (home of the De Nevers families) on the south shore. The pale also unites both families so that there will be no distinction between them. We all belong to the large Boisvert family. This large family is united by the uprooted tree. The roots illustrate our heritage, and the “B” is for Boisvert.
The scroll contains the motto:
• Fierte: Pride in our origins
• Esperance: Hope to be all united some day, and for the color of hope born by our name
• Egalite: Equality so that the two families may be equally represented in one unit.
The “dit” names have an interesting origin. The English translation of “dit” is “said”. The colonist of Nouvelle France (New France) added “dit” as distinguishers. A settler might have wanted to differentiate their family from their siblings by taking a “dit” name that described the locale to which they relocated or their current profession.
French colonialists followed the customs of the French feudal system, in which land was divided amongst the first born sons (primogeniture). Soon there was not enough land to divide any further. Possibly an adventurous younger son, (i.e. our ancestor) would decide to establish himself, with or without family, in another area… say a fertile piece of land covered in maple and pine. He would add “dit Boisvert” to distinguish himself from his brothers.
The seigneural or feudal system
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the territory of New France, legally named the Dominion, was owned by the Crown. The King of France (or his representatives) distributed parts of land either to nobles, or to rich merchants or professionals, or to people deserving from the State like army officers, for example. These lands were called “seigneuries” or “fiefs”, the owner was called a “seigneur” (landlord). The landlord had to build and maintain a manor, distribute lands, declare faith and honor to the King, produce the census required, pay a right called “droit de Quint” in some cases or the revenue of one year in others, build a flour mill, reserve oak wood and mines to the King, reserve some space for roads.
A part of the seigneurie remained the domain of the landlord as a whole or as multiple pieces of land. The rest was divided in lots and distributed to habitants. These habitants had to build and maintain a house, clear the land, build a fence, pay multiple rights to the landlord, keep part of the lot for a road, reserve some quantities of building or heating wood for the landlord, pay hunting and fishing rights, perform communal work, etc. The seigneurie could also contain a communal land where the habitant could send his animals in pasture, while paying a right to the landlord to do so.
The landlord could redistribute part of his seigneurie in sub-fief. The owner of this sub-fief became landlord on his own, had the same rights but remained a vassal of the main landlord. It was even possible to redistribute anew a part of the sub-fief as a sub-sub-fief using the same method.
Following sales or inheritance, the seigneuries might have many co-landlords. Most of the time, the seigneurie itself remained undivided and only the income generated was divided between the co-landlords.
The lots were distributed or groups along the River or along a smaller watercourse, or in rangs (ranks) in the interior of the land. The name rang was extended to designate the road giving access to the lots. The road giving access to the interior lands was called a montée.
The seigneuries did not correspond to the territory of the parishes. One seigneurie could contain many parishes. Or it could be only a part of a parish territory.
Land was measured in french leagues. A french league was the equivalent of 2,280 toises. A toise was the equivalent of 6 pieds du roi (slightly longer than the foot). The lieue was a little less than 2.75 miles. Land was also measured in arpents, a unit for areas slightly bigger than an acre. One linear arpent was the equivalent of 10 perches. A perche was equal to 20 pieds du roi. One arpent was about 213 feet.
Marcus Bernard Boisvert and his decendents are related to Jean Joubin dit Boisvert. Originally from Southern France, Jean traveled to Quebec in the late 1600s. While his profession in France is unknown, he became a farmer in the new world. He settled upon a ribbon of land facing St. Lawrence River and began a new life.