Records from the City of Tours 1526
The oldest mention of the surname Ducas in France comes from the City of Tours in 1526. Not only is the spelling of the surname identical to that of our ancestor, but our ancestor shows some curious links to this record and geographic region which might hint at a connection of some sort to Jehan Ducas, Goldsmith in the city of Tours. From the historical record of Amans Alexis Monteil in his collection Histoire des Francais des divers états we find the record from the city of Tours: "A Jehan Ducas, orfebvre, la somme de 40 livres, 10 sols tournois pour deux marcs deux onces d'argent convertis en orfebvrerie blanche dorée pour icelle mettre et asseoir sur les manches des robbes des quatre clercs et sergents de la dicte ville". Loosely translated, this document states that 40 livres, 10 sols of Tours were given to goldsmith Jehan Ducas for 2 marc, 2 ounces of silver to be converted to pendents and accesorize the sleeves of the robes of the 4 clerks and sergents of the city of Tours.
The indendent of finance for the city of Tours in the 16th century was a certain Mathurin dit Pierre Denys. His genealogy is quite well defined even this far back and it is his great-grandsons, Nicholas and Simon Denys, both from the same city of Tours who embark for New France in 1657; Nicholas in the company of Michel Leneuf de la Vallière, superior of our ancestor Jean Ducas dit Labrèche. Michel Leneuf shows a close alliance with this family in his career but also in his marriages. He married twice, the first to Marguerite Denys, daughter of Nicholas Denys and then later to Francoise Denys, daughter of Simon Denys. His sister, Catherine Leneuf de la Poterie also marries Pierre Denys, son of Simon Denys. The father of Nicholas and Simon was Jacques Denys, counsellor to the King Henri IV of Navarre and administrator of the Hospital Hotel Dieu in Tours. We also find in the 1667 Census of the parish of Notre-Dame des Anges, in New France, Simon Denys living beside Paul Chalifou(r) and his family including Louise, his daughter. Louise is the mother of Marie Charlotte Vandandaigue, wife of our ancestor Jean Ducas. In the same census we also find Pierre Denys and Catherine Leneuf and their family living 2 lots away from Simon Denys. The Denys family also had a link to the Barbeau family to which Pierre Ducas dit Labreche married into. Jean Denys, son of Pierre Denys and Catherine Leneuf was a marksman who may have murdered Pierre Gendron, wife of Marguerite Barbeau. Another link to the Denys family we find in the baptism of Jean Baptiste Ducas dit Labreche. His godmother, Anne Picard, was married to Jean Baptiste D'Ailleboust whose mother was Marie Louise Denys, daughter of the same Pierre Denys and Catherine Leneuf. Jean-Baptiste Ducas dit Labreche also is linked via fur trading contracts to Luc Lacorne who is descended from Simon Denys via his grandmother, Barbe Denys. So, while the relationship spans 4 generations this Jehan Ducas, goldsmith of Tours is linked to the very same Denys family who embarked for New France and is there variously linked to our ancestor, Jean Ducas.
Jean Ducas also exhibited other links to the city of Tours. He was close with the Tessier dit Lavigne family, who originate in Chateau Vallière, just outside of Tours as well as the Gervais family from Souvigné, also just outside of Tours and Charles Rameneau dit Tourangeau, from Tours. Most of these individuals' connections to our ancestor can be viewed on the 2nd Generation page of this website. We do know his parents had died before he came to New France; maybe he went to the area around Tours to live with relatives before leaving for New France. Certainly the area around Tours and central-western France in general was much more involved in the settlement and peopling of New France than Bearn. The Tanguay dictionary notes that Jean Ducas was baptized in 1681. Based on Hotel Dieu records, he would have been 24 years old at the time of this baptism. 1681 was also the year the dragonnades began forced conversions to catholicism but they did not start in Bearn until 1685. So, if he was in fact baptized at 24 years of age in 1681, it may be a result of the work of the dragonnades in France and thus, he may not have been living in his birth region of Bearn but more likely in Poitou or Touraine where the dragonnades had begun their work.