Record of paternity: at the time of our great families

Historical documents, Unclassified

An Olympic Paternity Record

Text of the Press, Perspectives, the 25 September 1976
by Jean Hêtu

At the time of our big families

In Quebec, our parents experienced what houses full of children were like. Some 5413 families had thus earned free land towards the end of the last century, under a law of 1890 that the Mercier government had adopted and which was entitled: “Act granting privilege to fathers and mothers of families aged twelve living children”.

The world paternity record, even if it is not registered in the Guinness Book of Records, belongs to Jean-Baptiste Lepage, better known as Pierre Lepage, plumber, roofer and farmer in Saint-Colomban, Irish colony

In 1940, a newspaper wrote following an interview with the happy father, aged 68, that this was the 43rd child in 51 years of marriage. the parish priest of Saint-Colomban, Father Jean Jenson, also said he had heard the - almost Olympic - number of 43.

Having checked the registers and if we add the premature and non-viable births which were reported to us by Mrs. Monique Lepage-Bernier, daughter of Mr. Lepage, we obtain the grand total of 42 births.

First wife, Rose-de-Lima Campeau and her children: Rose-de-Lima, Laurenza, Pierre-Jean, Edouard, Ulric and Louis

Second wife, Parmélia Brière and her children: Olivine, Lucienne, Lucien, Cordélia, Jeanne, Blanche, Lorette, Eglantine, Albert, Patrick and Henri

Third wife, Rose-de-Lima Francoeur and her children: Roger, Louis, Laurentine, Arthur, Colette, Fernande, Léopold, Jeannine, Raymond, Jacques, Fernand, Maurice, Denis, Denise, Monique, André, Bernard and Thérèse.

Of the 25 children still alive in 1940, there were 17 left in 1976. Mr. Lepage died in 1948 at age 76 and his wife in 1949 at age 50. Mr. Lepage did not deserve free land. He received only a few checks for family allowances, a federal program in effect in 1945. Benefits ranged from $5 to $8 per month. The allowance was reduced by $1 from the 5th child, by $2 for a 6th and a 7th, and by $3 for the 8th and subsequent children. This restriction was likely to hit French-speaking families in Quebec. The name of Pierre Lepage deserves to be known. He is a national hero. Everything suggests that Pierre Lepage's feat is not about to be repeated. It's a big challenge.

NB see pages 719 and 720 of the Lepage Genealogical Dictionary (2e 2004 edition)