Married in 1699, Jean Préau becomes Jean Prou at his widow’s second marriage in 1712

Married in 1699, Jean Préau becomes Jean Prou at his widow’s second marriage in 1712

February 19th, 2017 0 By Jean-Pierre Proulx

In December 2015, we read on this site:

Clement Préaulx settled in Sainte-Geneviève, where his name changed from Préaulx to Proulx, probably in contact with the many Proulx that exist in the region. Married on February 11th, 1737 to Marie Placide Dubois in Montreal, he died in the parish of Sainte-Geneviève on March 28th, 1760. From now on, all the Proulx of this lineage will bear the name of Proulx dit Clément, Descendants of Clément Proulx, in order to differentiate them from the other Proulx of the region, especially Proulx dit Poitevin[1].

Clément’s parents were Jean-Baptiste Préau and Marie Fleury. We conducted the research in the Historical Demography Research Program (PRDH – Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique) database and in the Lafrance de Genealogie Québec (l’Institut Drouin).

The act of marriage of Marie Fleury, known as the widow of Jean Prou (5th line)

The first mention of Jean-Baptiste is in the Charlesbourg register dated December 6th, 1696. He is the godfather of the baptism of a little girl. But the priest, Doucet, wrote “Pro“. This suggests that Préau’s “é” could hardly be pronounced. In fact, we find, for the first time, the patronym Préau in 1699, at the marriage of Jean-Baptiste with Marie Fleury. And appeared one last time in 1710, almost always in acts drafted by the priest Leboullenger. The act of sepulture of Jean from May 22nd, 1711, identifies it quite clearly as a Préau, but in the margin, we read rather Prou. Then at the remarriage of Marie Fleury, on May 30th, 1712, this one is identified as the widow of Jean Prou. The act, however, was written by the same priest. The patronym Préau disappears from this date.

Two of the three boys in the family will also be hospitalized at the Hôtel-Dieu in Québec City. Clement, 16, is enrolled on January 18th, 1722, under the name Prout. His brother Jacques (16 years) is also there on July 18th, 1726, under the name of Prou[2].

Three of the five children of Jean Préau and Marie Fleury were married between 1729 and 1734. The three were registered under the patronymic of Proux or Prou and their father is identified in the same way in these acts.

We must therefore review the thesis that the change from Préau to Proulx was the work of Clément, the son of the pioneer, and his moving to Ste-Geneviève on the island of Montreal. This change dates back to the early 1710s. This change happened in Charlesbourg and even in Quebec City. It subsequently touched all the children of Jean Prou and Jeanne Pilon and their descendants[3].

Remain an unresolved question: how to explain this change from Préau to Prou or Proux? No one will doubtless know it accurately. Let us risk a hypothesis: it may well be that the bearers of the original surname Préau pronounced it in such a way that the listeners understood Pro then Prou. Few, the Préau would then have been the victims of a patronymic environment where the Prou or Proux dominated clearly.


[1] Éliane Labastrou. Familles souches de l’île Bizard: suppléments généalogies l’Histoire de l’île Bizard. The author here refers to the descendants of Jacques Proulx and Jeanne Pilon. This Proulx is actually qualified on occasion of Potvin. He was originally from Gournay, a small village not far from the east of Poitiers.

[2] Registre de l’Hôtel-Dieu, Le monastère des Augustines, Québec.

[3] The Drouin fonds, however, contains two persons with the surname Préau in the 19th century, but we did not establish a filiation with Jean-Baptiste and Marie Fleury. There are also some Pro and Prost in the 18th century.