Joseph Masse Gravel/Gravelle dit Brindeliere’s place of origin in France has been questioned over the years. It was documented as Normandy when he received confirmation along with 174 other adults at Chateau-Richer on 2 Feb 1660. Then it was thought Joseph had lived in the diocese of Sees in Normandy. Tanguay noted that he was born in 1616 in Tourouvre, Mortagne-au-Perche, Orne. PRDH believes he was born about 1614 in the medieval town of  Dinan in the department of Cotes-d’Armor.

Joseph Gravel individual sheet PRDH

Joseph’s parents are believed to have been Joseph Gravel and Marguerite Macé of Illiers-Combray in the department of Eure-et-Loir. This could be why the additional name of Masse was used by Joseph (as a given name).

When Joseph arrived in New France is uncertain, however the map of the Beaupre Coast in 1641, crafted by engineer Jean Bourdon, indicates the presence of Gravel in that territory.

Map from 1641 of the coast of Beaupre

On 1 May 1644, Joseph married Marguerite Tavernier in the chapel of Notre-Dame-des-Anges. According to Fichier Origine, Marguerite was born about 1626 in Randonnai (St-Malo), Mortagne-au-Perche, Orne. Marguerite was the daughter of Eloi Tavernier and Marguerite Gagnon. Her mother was the sister of the Gagnon brothers – Mathurin, Jean & Pierre – all of whom came to Quebec and can be seen living on the Beaupre Coast in 1641.

Joseph Gravel and Marguerite Tavernier marriage 1644

Joseph and Marguerite had 12 children together, including the first set of twins born in the New France settlement, Marguerite and Elisabeth, baptised 19 Apr 1651. Some researchers believe another set of twins was born to them, sons Joseph and Claude. PRDH disputes this however, claiming Joseph was born before 1660 while Claude was born 20 Feb 1662 at Chateau Richer. Whatever the case, we are descendents through their 6th child, son Jean (and as a fun sidenote, Madonna is a descendent through their twin daughter, Elisabeth).

Joseph Gravel family sheet PRDH

Jean Gravel was born 13 Feb 1654 and went on to marry Marie Cloutier. His brother Pierre married her sister, Marie Madeleine, 8 years before. Both were daughters of Zacharie Cloutier and Marie Madeleine Emard.

Four of the Gravel children never married. Alexis (male), born 25 March 1649 and lived to be 65, never married, which was highly unusual for this time period. However, the other three childen, all girls, grew up to become Ursuline nuns; Marie Madeleine, Francoise, and Genevieve.

Joseph died 26 April 1686 and was buried at Chateau Richer on 28 April. Marguerite died 12 January 1697 and was buried the next day at Chateau Richer.

Joseph Gravel sepulture 1686

The following biography is from “Our French-Canadian Ancestors” by Thomas J. Laforest. While it contains some discrepancies, overall it is a wonderful and historic source about our ancestor, Joseph Gravel.


This double first name results from a combination of inheritance, Joseph from his father and Mace from his mother, Marguerite Mace. According to Father Pierre Gravel, Joseph and Marguerite were from Illiers, capital of the Department of Eure-et-Loire in the Diocese of Chartres. Ancestor Gravel was born about 1616. According to some he first saw the light of day on the left bank of the river Rance, parish of Saint-Sauveur, town of Dinan, in Brittany. This is undocumented hearsay, without factual proof. But there is ample reason to believe that Joseph-Mace Gravel, or even Masse-Joseph Gravelle as he was sometimes known, had lived in the Diocese of Seez, in Normandy. Not far from this region, at Mortagne in Perche, the genealogist Archange Godbout, found a parish entry dated 9 September 1625, naming one Anne Gravelle, godmother to Nicolas Boucher, son of Gaspard. Jean Lefort, living in Canada at this same time and in the same region as Joseph-Mace, had a mother named Perrine Gravelle, who was the daughter of Denis Gravelle from Torouvre in Perche.

The founders of Ville-Marie arrived in Quebec in August of 1641. The temptation is strong among those who like reflected fame, to slide ancestor Gravel in with this eminent group. However, the reality is quite different. A map of the Beaupre coast drawn by cartographer Jean Bourdon in 1641 already shows the presence of Gravel in New France. Like Robert Drouin, Francois Belanger, and many others, Joseph-Mace Gravel had come with the encouragement of Giffard.


After several years of getting used to his new surroundings, J.-Mace Gravel dit Brindelierre or Brindilliere, a sobriquet probably given him because of his small stature, married Marguerite Tavernier on 1 May 1644. His bride, born about 1627 at Sainte-Madeleine de la Ventrouze, Randonnay, Perche, was the first daughter of Eloi Tavernier and Marguerite Gagnon, niece of the tree Gagnon brothers. Father Georges d’Endemare, S. J., missionary from Sainte-Anne du Cap-Breton, blessed their union in the chapel of Beauport. Witnesses present were Messieurs Legardeur de Repentigny, Noel Juchereau des Chatelets and Mathurin Gagnon, uncle of the bride.

At that time, did the couple settle on the Beaupre Coast, about a mile to the west of today’s church of Chateau-Richer? Mace must have had time enough to build himself a good cabin on his land of 6 arpents in frontage by 126 in depth, to which he obtained official title on 19 May 1650 from Olivier Letardif. We do know for certain that their first living child Pierre, was baptized at Chateau-Richer by Father Jean Le Sueur “in the house of Masse Gravel” on 9 February 1647. Godfather Pierre Gagnon gave his name to his godson, as was the custom. His aunt Marie Tavernier was the godmother.

In a contract before notary Lecoustre, on 8 September 1647, Gravel, a citizen living “at the long pointe,” that is to say, to the west of Chateau-Richer, admitted owing 100 livres to Pierre Legardeur, for the sale of delivery of some grain.

Madame Gravel, on 15 December 1648, acted as godmother to Jean Toupin, the future sieur de Belair, at Sault-a-la-Pace, not far from Sainte-Anne.


Ancestor Gravel, an honest and active man, knew how to cultivate his farm in a masterly fashion, all the while searching elsewhere for supplementary income. According to the census of 1667, J.-M. Gravel owned 52 arpents of cleared land and had 36 heard of cattle in his stable. At that time, this represented real prosperity.

From early on, Gravel was associated with the Gagnons who were brewers. So, on 6 October 1653, we find him with them as co-owners of a shop and residence in the port area of Quebec. This property measured 80 feet in length and had been granted by Messieur d’Aillebout on 14 August 1651. This place was rented to Jean Garos for 90 livres. He was a merchant from La Rochelle temporarily in Quebec for six months. On 8 November 1661, Gravel sold his share of the house which “consists of one bedroom, loft and cellar,” for the sum of 600 livres to be paid in three installments, by Louis Dupouty, sieur de Saint-Louis. Thomas Touchet had bought this house for the same price, on 7 September of the same year and was to have made his first payment on 29 September. It seems that Touchet did not honor his obligations nor cancel the verbal contract.


After more than 46 years of work in New France, at the age of about 70, our ancestor the stonemason, Joseph-Mace Gravel, left his loved ones for his eternal rest. He was buried in the cemetery of Chateau-Richer on 28 April 1686. He had done much for his adopted land. Let us add to what has been already said by quoting the Institute Drouin, which tells us that Monsieur Gravel “contracted for the masonry and carpentry of the Chateau Saint-Louis in Quebec, and of the church of this town.” Mace Gravel also had been church warden of his parish from 1660 to 1663, he was confirmed there along with his sons Pierre and Alexis and his manservant Robert Laberge, on the occasion of the first pastoral visit of Mgr. de Lavel. On 2 February 1669.

Marie Tavernier survived her husband by ten years. Her funeral took place at the Chateau-Richer on 12 January 1697. The following July the distribution of the estate to the three sons and heirs took place.

Gravel, Joseph Masse (1614-1686)
Tavernier, Marguerite (1626-1697)
Gravel, Jean (1654-1699)
Cloutier, Marie (1659- )
Boucher, Jean (1679-1758)
Gravel, Marie Madeline (1686-1724)
Bilodeau, Jean Baptiste (1717-1794)
Boucher, Marie Josephe (1722-1797)
Bilodeau, Jean Baptiste (1743)
Boulet, Marie Christine (1756-1842)
Bilodeau, Pierre (1784-1829)
Blais, Marie Anne (1786-1853)
Bilodeau, Jerome (1825-1880)
Boissoneau, Olive (1836-1870)
Bilodeau, Jerome (1859- )
Boutin, Rosalie (1854-1888)
Bilodeau, Amedee (1884-1966)
Taylor, Bertha (1884-1918)
Bilodeau, Frank (1912-1996)
Corwin, Laura (1915-1995)