To find out who we are we must look at where our families came from originally, in as much as we are able. The Beauchamp family migrated here from La Rochelle, France but was located at least from the mid 16th century in Nanteuil de Bourzac, a little town in Dordogne, Aquitaine, south of Angouleme. There is very little information about the town. It is about 42 kms from Angouleme and except for the production of paper at one time, it appears to have been an agricultural community. Below is a map of Nanteuil de Bourzac in relation to the various towns and cities around it. The first known ancestor to migrate there was Jean Beauchamp (born c.1579), grandfather to our three brothers.
You will notice the names of other well known places in the area, Poitier, La Rochelle and Limoges. They are noted Protestant areas. The distance between Nanteuil and La Rochelle, the birthplace of the three brothers, Pierre, Jacques and Jean Beauchamp, is not a small one by the standards of the day, being 175 kms. away. It is likely that they migrated there not only for work but to join other Huguenot relatives. I had spoken about the evidence for them being Huguenot being that they had friends and family who were Huguenot. Recently, I found that Ville Neuve was the town the Huguenots were forced to build and live in after the 1627 Seige of La Rochelle. (1) The record from fichierorigines.com states that the father Michel was a gardener at Ville Neuve (the New Town).
Angouleme is the capital city of Charente in southern France. It sits on a high plateau and is very close to the border of Charente-Maritime. During the time of our ancestors, it came into the hands of the Valois dynasty. Marie de Medici took refuge there when she was expelled from court by her son Louis XIII. John Calvin, one of the early fathers of Protestantism, also took shelter there when he was forced to leave Paris. Eventually, Protestantism spread there and Angouleme became involved in the Wars of Religion that plagued France for years. It was originally surrounded by ramparts which have since been removed for expansion and was often under siege because of its strategic position. (2)
Nanteuil itself is in the valley where the rivers Lizonne and Pude wind. A priory of farming nuns was estabished there called St. Claire de Dulac. The name Nanteuil is Gallo-Roman, from Nantholium which means “valley”. (3)
France’s economy during the 17th century was suffering as a result of the Black Plague and the many wars it was involved in. People moved to La Rochelle for work and protection. La Rochelle, being a port city had a good economy which was aided by the skilled labour of the Protestants.
Although it started out as a fishing and salt port, La Rochelle made little headway in landing a monopoly on the fur trade of New France because the town was largely Protestant and commerce with them was frowned upon. It was also in competition with the ports closer to Paris.(4) Being the good Frenchmen they were, the Rochelais took up smuggling which helped them maintain a presence on the St. Lawrence River. Smuggling, often involving women, was something the French government had to deal with as long as the colony existed. In her book, Along a River: The First French Canadian Women, Jan Noel talks about many women who were thus engaged. After 1650, La Rochelle would gain ground in trade with New France as both Catholic and Protestant ships transported a most important cargo, new settlers.