Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mexico, New York!

The information passed down to us says the Coquigne family came to America around 1832, first settling in New York state.  But the question has always been Where in New York?  The obituary of Louisa C. Coquigne Larobardiere says that the family settled near Syracuse, New York.  This would make sense to me because Syracuse was actually a stop along the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825. This would also agree with the family story which says that John B. Coquigne rode a horse along the old Erie Canal when he was a boy.

But still, I have not been able to find one piece of documentation that places the Coquigne family in New York. So I started looking for the Larobardiere family because around 1838, the oldest daughter of Pierre F. and Cecile Coquigne, Louisa Constance Coquigne, married Francois Larobardiere. They had three children in New York, namely Mary Louisa, Cecelia, and Joseph. In 1844, both the Coquigne family and the Francis Larobardiere family migrated to Michigan. In fact, the family story is that Louisa had her fourth child, Ora, while on the way there!

So where do the Larobardiere's come from?  It appears they came from Imling, Moselle, Lorraine, France, which is close to Strasbourg and not exactly near where the Coquigne's had lived near Paris, so it doesn't seem likely that the two families knew each other in Europe. Nevertheless, Joseph Louis Larobardiere did make his way to New York, and in 1836 he purchased property in Mexico, Oswego, New York. Mexico is a town about 35 miles north of Syracuse, and just east of Oswego, which is on Lake Ontario. In fact, there was a small branch off the Erie Canal called the Oswego Canal, which you can see in this 1840 map (credit to wikepedia).

In researching the Larobardiere family a little more, I found that later generations who stayed in New York married into the Bequillard family. Thanks to a fabulous biography written by Esther Rancier about Jacques Bequillard, we get a wonderful picture of what it was like for arriving French immigrants to the area:
"When the group reached Syracuse, the canal boats were usually met by a person who spoke French with an Alsace-Lorraine accent. They heard about the wonderful pasturage, the climate much like home and fair leases for the land. Whether they wanted to settle in Oswego County or were just tired of the journey remains unknown, but this Catholic family went to inspect the area.

Whether they arrived before the Catholic Church at Mexico, NY, St. Ann’s was built in 1845 or later, they found a population of fellow Catholics primarily from Alsace-Lorraine. They stayed on content with familiar sights and sounds of home."
So there are several questions to pose here, some of which include:
  • Did the Coquigne's also live in Mexico, or were they living in or closer to Syracuse?
  • Did the families simply meet because the Coquigne's were doing business with other French families along the Oswego Canal?
  • Were the Coquigne's at that point in time practicing Catholics? I believe the Larobardiere's were because Joseph L. Larobardiere who died in 1849 was buried in the St. Anne's Catholic cemetery in Mexico, as are several other Larobardiere's of later generations. But if St. Anne's was not established until 1845 (research on this point is ongoing), where would Francois and Louisa have been married? And were their three children baptized as Catholics somewhere in the area?
The question of religion as relates to the Coquigne family is perhaps the subject of a different post.  Let's just say the Coquigne's were definitely Catholic when living in France, and they were definitely NOT Catholic when they lived in Michigan. My feeling is that the Coquigne family paid taxes to the Catholic Church for generations in France since the Church was the biggest landowner before the French Revolution. And even though the Church lost most of its lands after the Revolution, much of its authority was reinstated after Napoleon.  I am completely speculating here, but perhaps the Coquigne family had had enough of Catholic influence in their lives.  That part is just my wondering at this point.

So the question here remains can we find a marriage record for Francois Larobardiere and Louisa Coquigne, and should we be looking through Catholic records?  It seems like a good place to start. Even though the family story places our Coquigne family in New York in the 1830s, I would very much like to find at least one piece of documentation that provides confirmation.

As always, please feel free to contact me with feedback.

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