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Family names rich in history in St. Vital

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I’m interested in family history; I’ve traced my ancestry on my father’s side back to 1735, and on my mother’s side to about 1555.


Family names intrigue me as well — a couple that apply to St. Vital are Des Meurons and Cinq-Mars.


The de/des/Meurons family has an interesting history. One famous scion of the name was the Swiss Charles-Daniel de Meuron (1738-1806) who raised his own regiment to serve with the Dutch East India Company in Ceylon.


However, the British offered him a better deal so he did not fight for the Dutch (who surrendered in 1796), and eventually entered into British service full-time.


De Meuron’s regiment served in the Mysore Campaign (India) of 1799, the Mediterranean and Peninsular Campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars (1806 to 1812), and finally came to Canada to serve in the War of 1812 — it took part in the Plattsburg campaign. The regiment was disbanded in 1816 but more than half of the soldiers stayed in Canada. Lord Selkirk recruited several of the officers for his expedition to Red River, and they in turn persuaded some Swiss people to come to the colony. Des Meurons Street is named after the family.


In contrast is the Cinq-Mars name. There are a number of families listed in the phone book. The family originated in France; perhaps the most famous of the ilk is Henri Coiffier de Ruze, Marquis of Cinq-Mars, who led an almost-successful attempt to overthrow Cardinal Richelieu in 1641 — he was beheaded for his efforts. But I haven’t been able to find any information on the origin of the name.


One story is that "there were five brothers serving the king of France who were very good soldiers: as Mars is the god of war, the five were nicknamed the Five Mars, and that’s where the name came from."


Another source claims the name was originally Saint-Medard, which degraded through usage to Saint-Mars and eventually to Cinq-Mars. Obviously, something happened upon the fifth of March, sometime, somewhere, and the family took the name to commemorate the event; but the actual circumstances seem to be lost.

Peter Lacey is a community correspondent for St. Vital. Contact him at thehoctor@mymts.net

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