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Jean Pitre was born around 1636. His origin is not known. Mathurin Pitre and Felicite Thibodeau are often said to be his parents, as are Simon Pitre and Marie Louise Mezey at times, but there is no evidence to support either hypothesis.
Around 1665, Jean married Marie Pesseley, daughter of Isaac Pesseley and Barbe Bajolet. At the time of their marriage, the English controlled the colony, however, they didn't make much of an impact. During this period Acadia had much more contact with New England than with France.
Between 1666 and 1688, the couple had 11 children: Marie, Catherine, Claude, Marc, son unkown, Pierre, Jean, François, Marguerite, Jeanne (b.c1701), and Jeanne (b.c1688). They were all possibly born in Port-Royal.
France regained official control in 1670 and during the next 20 years of Jean and Marie's marriage the settlement grew outward. Positioned between New France and New England made Acadia the subject of disputes and attacks. It received little help from France and the Acadians still continued to trade with New England, although it was forbidden to do so.
In the 1671 census of Port-Royal, Jean Pitre's occupation was listed as taillandier, which translates most closely as an edge-tool maker. He had no land and only one cow, so the assumption is that he made his living providing sharpened tools for others. By 1678 he had two cows and two arpents of land under cultivation.
The 1686 census listed his growing family of seven children who were still living with them, while the two eldest daughters had married and were settled nearby with their husbands.
With the youngest child Jeanne born c1688, Jean Pitre probably died c1689 at the age of about 53. Widow Marie was only 44 with eight children and quickly remarried to François Robin c1690 and together they raised the remaining minor children.
After French attacks on New England in 1690, in retaliation the English captured and plundered Port Royal. The Port Royal Acadians swore an oath of allegiance to England to avoid further persecution. It was around this time that Jean Pitre died. His widow's second husband was presumably a recent arrival, as he did not appear in the 1686 census. The family continued to live in Port Royal, though by the early 1690's the families of the two elder daughters had moved south to Port Razoir. Over the next 16-17 years sporadic attacks from New England occurred at Port Royal, Minas and Beaubassin, while the children Claude, Marc, Jean, Francois, Marguerite and Jeanne started their own families. Most stayed in the Port Royal area, except Jean who went north to Cobequit. Marie was about 62 when she died the day after Christmas in 1707. Francois Robin had died 14 months before. The end of French control of this part of Acadia was only a few years away.
The Pitre children married into Amireau, Bertrand, Comeau, Henry, Brun, Babin, Prejean, and Piat.
Theories of Jean Pitre’s origins
According to the declaration at Belle-Île-en-Mer by his grandson Claude Pitre, the pioneer of the Acadian Pitre family is of Flemish origin. However, Père Clarence d'Entremont believes that it is "more likely that he was English" (Histoire du Cap-Sable), according to a report in An Account of the Customs and Manners of the Micmakis and Maricheets (published London 1758), "where it is said that Peters, a toolsmith in England... was of English origin." Excerpt from Dictionnaire Genealogique Des Familles Acadiennes (Stephen A. White), original in French. This mention of a blacksmith named John Peters in Acadia who came from England and the 1671 census showing Jean Pitre as a specialized sort of metalworker raises the theory of this being the same man. Stephen White says, "While there is no proof that the blacksmith and the edge-tool maker were one and the same, there is no real contradiction in supposing that they might have been, inasmuch as there were many Flemish artisans in England during the middle part of the seventeenth century, and one of them might have chosen to emigrate to Acadia sometime after the English capture of the colony in 1654."
The publication, fully entitled, 'An Account of the Customs and Manners of the Micmakis and Maricheets Savage Nations, Now Dependent On The Government Of Cape-Breton' was from an original French manuscript letter written by a French Abbot. The Abbot lived as a missionary for many years in Nova Scotia. He says in his letter that "Except a few families from Boston or New England I could never learn there were above three of purely British subjects, who also, ultimately conforming both in the religious and civil institutions to the French, became incorporated with them. These families were the Peterses, the Grangers, the Cartys. These last indeed descended from one Roger John Baptist Carty, an Irish Roman Catholic. He had been an indented servant in New England, and had obtained at length his discharge from his master, with permission to remain with the French Acadians for the freer exercise of his religion. Peters was an iron-smith in England, and together with Granger, married in Acadia, and was there naturalized a Frenchman. Granger made his abjuration before M. Petit, secular-priest of the seminary of Paris, then missionary at Port-Royal (Annapolis). These and other European families then soon became united with the French Acadians, and were no longer distinguished from them."
Or was Jean Pitre really Jan Pietr from Holland? Leopold Lanctôt theorizes that in about 1656 Jean emigrated to the American colonies founded by the Dutch, either to Fort-Orange (Albany, NY), or New Amsterdam (New York, NY). England had seized Acadia in 1654, renamed it New Scotland, and sent an expedition led by Sir Thomas Temple which arrived there on 1st May 1657. When war broke out between England and Holland in 1664, Bostonians seized Fort Orange and New Amsterdam. Temple then recruited the Dutch colonists for his new seignory, supposedly including Jan Pietr. (There is no list of settlers from this expedition but the timing allows for the possibility.)
Another theory of Jean's origins appeared in The History of St. Anthony's Parish 1803-1980 (which includes the descendants of Jean Pitre in Prince Edward Island, most of whom have taken the name Peters). This account would have him in Permambuco, Brazil and escaping the Dutch wars in South America by hopping a schooner to Acadia.
Excerpt from 1984 letter from Stephen White to Leo F. Peters: “The best direct evidence of Jean Pitre’s parentage and origin would have been the record of his marriage to Marie Pesseley. Without that one will have to be very lucky indeed to trace him in Europe, even with the area of research narrowed to Flanders. Even if you found a Jean Pitre born in Flanders in 1636, it would be impossible to be sure he was the same Jean Pitre who settled in Acadia without some positive evidence making the connection, such as a record showing his departure for Acadia. Such a record might be almost anywhere, if it exists at all.”
He could have arrived in Acadia in 1666 on Le Saint Jean Baptiste from France to New France (Quebec), listed as Jean Pitran. His name may have originally been different from what we have in the 1671 census. But whatever his origins, there are today thousands of descendants across Canada, America and France who all trace their way back to Jean Pitre of Acadia.
More information regarding the Pitre ancestry can be found here.
Selon la déclaration à Belle-île-en-Mer de Claude Pitre, l'ancêtre des Pitre de l'Acadie serait d'origine flamande. Cependant, le Père Clarence d'Entremont est d'avis qu'il est plus probable qu'il fût anglais en se rapportant à "An Account of the Customs and Manners of the Micmakis and Maricheets... London 1758, p. 105" ou il est dit que PETERS, un forgeron d'Angleterre, était d'origine anglaise.  La graphie originale de ce patronyme acadien s'est toujours écrit "Pitre", mais plusieurs descendants ont pris le nom de Lepitre, surtout au Québec.
Au recensement acadien de 1671,  Pitre est âgé de 35 ans, et pratique le métier de taillandier, marié depuis 1665, avec Marie Pesselet, âgée de 26 ans, ce qui la fait naître vers 1639. Il est né vers 1636, mais, on ignore le nom de ses parents. Dans certains documents, il est dit que son épouse, Marie Pincelet ou Pesselet est originaire de la ville de Paris. Dans d'autres, elle est plutôt née en 1644, à Port-Royal, fille de l'ancêtre Isaac Pesselet et de Barbe Bajolet, dite Bayol. Son père, Isaac Pesselet est tué lors de l'attaque du gouverneur d'Aulney, le 17 avril 1645. Sa mère, Barbe Bajolet se remarie avec Martin Lefebvre, en 1646. Marie Pesselet et Jehan Pitre ont ensemble onze enfants.
Jean PITRE, edge tool maker, 35, wife Marie PESELET 26; Children: Marie 5, Catherine 3, Claude 9 months; cattle 1.
Jean Pitre & Marie Pesselet, 2 acres & 2 cows, 4 boys: age 10-born 1668, 5-1673, 3-1675, 1-1677; 2 girls: 14-1664, 11-1667
Jean PITRE 61, Marie PESELET 45; children: Claude 16, Mare 12, Pierre 9, Jean 6, Francois 4, one girl 2, one girl 1 month.
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