The first Davignon in America was born around 1685 to 1695 in France, perhaps in the southwestern region of France. The names of his parents are as yet unknown. He came to Canada near the turn of the century, perhaps a soldier. He settled in the Chambly basin, where he was one of the area's earliest pioneers. (Chambly is about 14 miles east of Montréal and situated in the Richelieu River valley. The church there was established in 1706. The fourth Fort Chambly was built nearby in 1709.) He farmed his homestead there all the rest of his life.
Nonetheless, he was a literate man, as evidenced by his various signatures in the Chambly parish records from as early as 1718 up to the year of his death. He used a couple of spellings of his name: davignot and davignont.
On the 24th of May in 1719, at Chambly, his marriage to Madeleine Mailhot (daughter of Jean Mailhot and Marie Courault) was formalized by a religious ceremony. At the time, their first child, Catherine, was nine-months old. The marriage record indicates that Catherine was legitimate. Perhaps there was a civil ceremony about the end of 1717 that wasn't captured in the historical record.
In the years that followed, they had at least ten more children. Altogether, six sons and four daughters survived to maturity. Most of François' descendants, surnamed Davignon, trace their ancestry through only two of François' sons: Jean-Baptiste and Clement-Amable. The descendants of Alexis, another son, go by the surname Beauregard, except for a few lines. The other three sons, François, Etienne, and André, had no surviving male issue.
On the 2nd of February in 1761, François and Madeleine attended the wedding of their son, Amable. A few weeks later Madeleine died; she was buried in Chambly, February 20th. (François claimed he could not write then.) Later that year, François died too; he was buried in Chambly on August 30th, aged about 75 years.
The origins of François remain unknown. A search on Ancestry.com and other genealogical sites, however, can bring up many "parents". Typically, these key off of François' dit name, Beauregard. For example, there was a François Beauregard who died in Hötel-Dieu, Montréal, 12 Jan 1709. No other facts are known about this person. Nevertheless, some people have designated him the father of our François. Others have gone so far as assigning a birth in France to him (1656), an immigration to Canada (1665), and a marriage in France (1691, Michelle James). I guess this François did a lot of traveling. This would no doubt be a surprise to the definitive Beauregard researcher, Denis Beauregard, who has been studying those lines at least as long as I have been researching the Davignons.
Other researchers have come across the birth of a François Davignon in France in 1690 and assigned him to our François. The problem with that is that that François can be found in later French records, both marrying and dying in France.
Perhaps the most provocative theory is that our François is one and the same as François Jarret dit Beauregard, son of André and Marguerite Anthiaume. This François was born in Verchères in 1686 and married Madeleine Pepin in Boucherville in 1706. Madeleine was listed as a widow in 1718 when she remarried. But, the speculation goes, François faked his death because the Catholic church did not allow divorce so that he could marry Madeleine Maillot, who was carrying his illegimate child, Catherine. And to hide he changed his name from François Jarret dit Beauregard to François Davignon dit Beauregard and moved far, far away (~10 miles) to Chambly. No one could ever make the connection. Hmmmm.
My own speculations are a little more mundane. François was born in France sometime in the late 17th century. (Note that François was a very common French name and Davignon was not uncommon.) He became a soldier and was sent to Canada to participate in the ongoing French and Indian Wars. In 1709, Fort Chambly was undergoing its last rebuild and probably saw numerous fresh troops coming in during the following decade. (Major renovations were carried out on the Fort between 1718 and 1720.) Many of these men were single, and often were given land grants and settled in the area. At some point during his service, François picked up the nickname, Beauregard (the good-looking), as was the custom for the early French-Canadians. The evidence for this is obvious in the generations of his male descendants. 😏
As previously stated, François' marriage record noted that Catherine was a legitimate child. Perhaps his military service hadn't quite ended in 1718 and it wasn't until 1719 that he and the parish priest were available for the formal ceremonies. Further evidence that they were legitimately married by 1718 comes from the fact that François and Madeleine served as godparents to Marie-Françoise Boudreau in March 1718, which certainly would not have been allowed if otherwise.
A number of acquaintances and sons-in-law of François were emigrants from the southwestern French provinces of Auverge, Guyenne, and Gascony. If these were also ex-military settlers and possible regiment mates, then it may suggest a possible region of origin in France for François.
On a symbolic note, if François was indeed a soldier come to Fort Chambly during its apex period, he also went out with the fall of the Fort. In September of 1760, the English completed their conquest of the French forts along the St. Lawrence with the capture of Fort Chambly. Both Madeleine and François died within a year.
Here are François' signatures from 1718 through to the year of his death, as found in the parish registers of Chambly. He usually spelled his name 'davignont' or 'davignot', and never with an apostrophe. Interestingly, he never used the canonical form of his name Davignon, by which the majority of his direct descendants go.
On the 27th of March 1718, François and Madeleine were godparents to Marie-Françoise Bourdeau, daughter of Isaac Bourdeau and Marie-Françoise Coulon.
On the 8th of March 1723, François signed the register at the baptism of his son, Jean-Baptiste. This signature is unusual in that he signed only with his dit name.
Later that year, on the 7th of June 1723, François was a witness at the marriage of Joseph Claveau and his sister-in-law, Marie Maillot.
In August 1733, François was a witness at the marriage of Michel Macé and his sister-in-law, Louise Maillot.
In about May 1745, François was a witness at the marriage of Basil Maillote and Agathe Trouillette.
On the 18th of April 1746, François was a witness at the marriage of Joseph Morin and Marie Claveau (goddaughter?). Interestingly, his firstborn son and namesake was married on the same day, about 10 miles away in St. Hilaire. This was not an insignificant distance in those times.
On the 2nd of February 1750, François was a witness at the marriage of his son, Jean-Baptiste.
On the 19th of June 1752, François was a witness at the marriage of his son, André.
1756 was a busy year for François. On the 7th of January 1756, François was a witness at the marriage of his daughter, Marie-Agathe, to Jean Soutière.
The following week, on the 12th of January 1756, François was a witness at the marriage of Theodore Chartier and Thérèse Loupe.
A few months later, on the 3rd of May 1756, François was godfather to his grandson, François Soutière.
Finally, near the end of the year, on the 3rd of November 1756, François was witness at the marriage of his widowed daughter-in-law, Marie Vallières, to Charles Legrain.
On the 9th of January 1758, François was witness at the marriage of Denis Laporte and Marie-Louise Maillot.
François' last known signature was on the 2nd of February 1761 at the marriage of his son, Clement-Amable.