Jean Costé, the ancestor

by Jacqueline, François and Stéphane Côté

Our ancestor Côté is one of the 80 pioneers and founders of Québec City and its surroundings. He became one of the first eight farmers of Beauport. The date of his arrival remains unknown. Researchers agree that he arrived in 1634-1635.

Of unknown origin, some believe he came from Normandy, others from Mortagne au Perche, in France. The date of his birth also remains unknown1. Of modest origin, Jean Côté did not have the chance to learn to read: several notarial documents mention that he could neither write nor sign.

His marriage

Shortly after his arrival in the country, at the Notre-Dame church in Québec City, Jean married Anne Martin on November 17, 1635. It was the Jesuit missionary Charles Lalemant who blessed their marriage. This was the 6th or 7th marriage celebrated in Nouvelle-France2.

Anne Martin

Like Jean Côté, the French origins of Anne Martin remain unknown. Some claim that she is the sister of Abraham Martin. Others suggest that she is the daughter of Galeran Martin, a widower living in the seigneury of Beauport at the time. Did she arrive in Nouvelle-France in 1634 or 1635? There is no evidence to choose. She died and was buried on December 4 and 5, 1684 in Québec City.

His family

  • – Louis – baptized on October 25 1635, married to Élisabeth Langlois in 1662;
  • – Simone – baptized December 09, 1637, married Pierre Soumandre in 1649;
  • – Martin – baptized July 12, 1639, married to Suzanne Pagé in 1667;
  • – Mathieu – baptized July 06 1642, married to Élisabeth Gravel in 1667;
  • – Jean – baptized February 25, 1644, married to Anne Couture in 1669 and to Geneviève Verdon in 1686;
  • – Noël – baptized on May 04, 1646, married to Hélène Graton in 1673;
  • – Marie – born and baptized on January 11 and 12, 1648, death and burial on January 25, 1648;
  • – Louise – born and baptized on April 10 and 18, 1650, married to Jean Grignon in16633.

The five sons will have lands on the Île d’Orléans, four of them will settle there.

Simone lived in Québec City and Louise in La Rochelle, France.  The Côté family thus became, in 1635, the 10th family to live in Nouvelle-France. The first nine were : Hébert (1617), Martin (1619), Desportes (1619), de Champlain (1620), Couillard (1621), Langlois (1634), Giffard (1634), Hébert (1634) and Bourdon (1635)4.

Its properties:

In Québec City

On August 26, 1636, Governor Montmagny granted him a one arpent fronting of land on the present Grande-Allée in Québec City5. The ancestor Jean will probably never live on this site which stretches to the river. Nevertheless, Jean became, at this time, the first individual, outside the Hébert-Couillard family, to receive a land in roture (non-noble property)6.

This land is located near the present Martello Tower, in the Parc des Champs de Bataille. Its neighbors at that time were the brothers Charles, Jacques and Thomas Sevestre, who had a livestock there as early as 16407. Then, Jean Côté sold this land on the Grande-Allée to Antoine Leboesme dit Lalime, a master harquebusier: he obtained 300 livres, a relatively large amount which implies that the ancestor Côté may have worked this land before selling it8. This money will be paid to him in goods from the store of the Compagnie des Habitants. On August 11, 1652, the notary Godet mentions this land located on the « grande route qui va de Quebecq au cap rouge ».

In Beauport

As early as 1635, the ancestor Côté settled on land belonging to Sieur Robert Giffard of Beauport. The latter first granted him a verbal concession for the said site. Jean Côté thus became one of the first eight land clearers in the history of Beauport. The land of the grandfather Côté, located between that of Zacharie Cloutier and that of Noël Langlois, is between the Beauport and Montmorency rivers, quite close to the waterfall of the same name.

He received the official papers from Giffard on February 5, 1645. The notary Tronquet, from Québec, takes note of the concession. The land in question is three arpents fronting on the river by 126 deep, an estate (more than 375 square-acres in area).

In Québec City

A little later, around 1642, the ancestor Jean Côté received a concession of 150 feet by 60 deep in the Upper Town of Québec, land and house valued at 450 livres. This site, numbered 11, was located directly on the present rue du Trésor and was bordered by Buade street. It is today the land on which the Café Buade is located.

In 1645, the grandfather Côté owned one of the 30 houses to be built in Québec City. One of his immediate neighbors was a certain Noël Morin. His other neighbors in the Upper Town at the same time were: the Hébert-Couillard family; Madame de la Peltrie, who lived in a stone house; a certain Chavigny de Berchereau; Antoine Brassard, Pierre Legardeur de Repentigny; Jean Bourdon9.

Jean Côté will live in this house only very periodically. He will sell it to his future son-in-law Pierre Soumandre and his daughter Simone. The notarized deed of November 15, 1649 mentions that he sells and gives his house « « sise à Quebecq, joignant d’un costé les terres appartenantes à l’église parochialle du dit Quebecq et dautre costé a la maison et terre appartenantes à Martin Boutet ». Jean Côté gave the couple the said house for 300 livres, thus giving them the 150 livres difference. In 1655, the Soumandre-Côté couple sold this property and this site to Jacques Boëssel.

At the beginning of the colony, around 1650-60, the Iroquois waged an almost unremitting war on the colonists, who were constantly exposed to the incursions of a few bands. It was not uncommon for an inhabitant to be attacked while working in the field and even in his own home. It was therefore important not to move away from each other in order to face all eventualities.

It is in this context that the bonds of friendship developed between neighbors Jean Côté and Noël Langlois, the latter inviting the former to stay near him until peace returned10. Langlois rented a portion of his land for five sols per year to build a house for the Côté family. When peace returned, Jean Côté retired to his land a little further away, abandoning the house and the piece of land given by Langlois.

A businessman – a friend
On July 21, 1641, during bad harvests season, Jean Côté and his friend Noël Langlois agreed to supply 500 bales of hay to the Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France for the sum of 80 livres tournois. In the contract drawn up by the notary Piraube, they insist that the hay be delivered in one month or as soon as possible11.

His death – his burial
Jean Côté died in Beauport on March 27, 1661. He was buried in Québec City the day after his death. Remarkably, his body was buried under the church of Québec. He was one of the 900 people honored in this way and who sleep in the cellars of the present Notre-Dame-de-Québec church12. His burial certificate reads as follows: « Lan 1661, le 28 mars a esté enterré dans l’Église Jean Costé ancien habitant de ce pays mort le jour précédent en sa maison ».

His estate
At his death, he left his assets to his wife Anne Martin, who survived him for several years since she died in 1684 in Québec City. Upon his death, the children from his marriage to Jean Côté inherited the family lands and goods. They sold the land of Beauport to André Parent and Marguerite Côté, daughter of Martin Côté, one of Jean’s sons.

His posterity
Jean Côté’s career seems surprising considering the closed and restricted environment of the time: from a simple hired hand in 1635, he became, after a few years, master of his lands, and owner of a few houses and promoted to the bourgeoisie. From the second half of the 17th century, Jean Côté’s family was highly regarded on the Île d’Orléans, notably because it was one of the first families to have taken up residence there (in the present municipalities of Saint-Pierre and Sainte-Famille).

Its memory
A monument has been erected in memory of the first settlers of Québec City (1617-1636). On a plaque, the names of Jean Côté and Anne Martin appear among the names of the 47 men and 47 women who laid the first stones of Québec City. On this monument is a plaque on which appear the names of Jean Côté and Anne Martin as founders of the city of Québec. Located in Montmorency Park at the corner of Côte de la Montagne and Rue des Remparts behind the present-day Petit Séminaire, this monument commemorates the Europeans who brought Québec City to life in the early 17th century.


  1. The origins of Jean Côté and his wife are unknown and will probably remain so forever. Indeed, on June 15, 1640, the Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance chapel went up in flames, taking with it the parish registers and all the administrative documents of the colony. The religious and clerics tried to reconstitute the registers from memory, with all the inconveniences that this implied.
  2. Marcel Trudel, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, 1983.
  3. René Jetté, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec (des origines à 1730), 1983.
  4. Samuel de Champlain’s wife did not arrive in Québec for good until 1620. From the various works of Marcel Trudel.
  5. Michel Langlois, Les ancêtres Beauportois (1634-1760), 1984.
  6. Marcel Trudel, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France : l’installation du peuplement, 1983.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Marcel Trudel, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, 1983.
  10. Michel Langlois, Les ancêtres Beauportois (1634-1760), 1984 and Alfred Cambray, Robert Giffard, Premier Seigneur de Beauport et Les Origines de la Nouvelle-France, Cap de la Madeleine, 1932.
  11. Michel Langlois, Les ancêtres Beauportois (1634-1760), 1984.
  12. Pierre-Georges Roy, Les cimetières de Québec, 1941.


  • Archives nationales du Québec, Pavillon Casault, Université Laval; That is to say: notarial acts, archives, contracts, censuses, parish registers, etc.
  • CAMBRAY, Alfred, Robert Giffard, Premier Seigneur de Beauport et Les Origines de la Nouvelle-France, Cap-de-la-Madeleine, 1932.
  • CÔTÉ, Louis-Marie, Les premières familles françaises du Canada, 1997.
  • CÔTÉ, Suzanne and CÔTÉ, Jean-René, Les origines d’Anne Martin et Jean Côté, in L’Ancêtre, 1999.
  • JETTÉ, René, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec (des origines à 1730), 1983.
  • LANGLOIS, Michel, Les ancêtres Beauportois (1634-1760), 1984.
  • LANGLOIS, Michel, Dictionnaire biographique des ancêtres québécois (1608-1700) tome I, 1999.
  • PRÉVOST, Robert, Généalogie, portraits des familles pionnières, 1994.
  • Relations des Jésuites, 1632-1672.
  • ROY, Pierre-Georges, Les cimetières de Québec, 1941.
  • ROY, Pierre-Georges, La ville de Québec sous le régime français, volume 1, 1930.
  • TRUDEL, Marcel, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, 1966, 1979, 1983.
  • TRUDEL, Marcel, Le terrier du St-Laurent en 1674 : de la Côte Nord au lac Saint-Louis, tome 1, 1998.
  • TURCOTTE, Louis-Philippe, Histoire de l’Île d’Orléans, 1983.

Photos, illustrations, plans, pictures, drawings
• Archives nationales du Québec, Pavillon Casault, Université Laval.
• TRUDEL, Marcel, Les terriers du Saint-Laurent, 1998.
• CHARLES, J.F., Les pionniers du nouveau monde, 1990.
• Stéphane Côté’s family iconographic collection.