Our search for the Gimbrères in the heartland was initially focused on church records. Their certificates of baptisms, marriages and funerals give insight in descent and family relationships. We soon found out that Ayguetinte was a central place for the Gimbreres in the 17th and 18th centuries. But unfortunately, church records of Ayguetinte from before 1760 are not available. Therefore, we also explored notarial deeds. Marriage contracts and last wills proved to be important sources of information on family relationships. For Ayguetinte most notarial deeds seem to have survived from the year 1629 onward. From these deeds, we have indeed been able to reconstruct the direct descent from Jean Gimbrere, the wealthy innkeeper in Ayguetinte in the beginning of the 17th century, to Jean François, umbrella manufacturer in Tilburg in the middle of the 19th century. The notarial deeds of Jegun from 1595 onward, which we later discovered, even uncovered Jean’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The deeds also shed some light on the society in which the Gimbreres lived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

It is noteworthy how much was put down in notarial deeds in those days. A small village like Ayguetinte had its own notary (in the 17th century even two), which shows that he did not serve only the upper stratum of the village. In addition to marriage contracts and last wills, we found contracts for the sale of small or larger pieces of land, farm tenancy, cattle trade, loans and dispute resolution by mediation by friends and acquaintances. Most people could not read or write. That is why witnesses were always present, usually men who could read and write. Gimbreres often served as witnesses, for contracts between farmers, but also for bigger loans between members of the nobility. Due to their position of Maitre Chirurgien (see Ch. 6), they apparently had a position of trust for all strata of the local community. The role of the maitre chirurgien can probably be best compared to that of the traditional family doctor: accessible for everybody, but nevertheless one of the dignitaries, together with the parish priest and the notary.

Pactes de Mariage

Marriage contracts show how marriage was viewed: as a business arrangement. The future wife received a dowry from her parents, to strengthen the financial position of the future family. She also brought a trousseau with her. The dowry ensured improvement of the future family’s financial position, so that the husband should be able to provide the family with accommodation, food and clothing, preferably at the level befitting the families from which they originated. The community was obviously a class-ridden society. Often the husband received a gift from his parents. In some contracts, it is arranged that the dowry is returned to the widow (with interest!), upon the death of her husband,

An example:

On February 7, 1687, Antoine Gimbrere concludes a marriage contract with Isabeau Carrere. He is a maitre chirurgien, son of Blaise, also maitre chirurgien. Isabeau is the daughter of Pierre Carrrere, a lawyer.

The marriage contract:

Isabeau receives, to support the new family, 600 pounds from her parents. She also receives a trousseau: “a bed with sufficiently stuffed pillows and cover, a quilt and a matrass with green cover, a set of curtains, a bed canopy with grey serge and orange fringe, plus a dozen sheets, two dozens of linen towels and two dozens of tea-towels, 4 linen tablecloths, of 6 ft length, plus two complete sets of dresses, with blue smooth woollen slips, shoes, lace-up shoes and a walnut case with lock and key. In this contract Blaise grants his son half of his possessions. This provides Antoine with “the old house”, 6.3 hectare (15.6 acres) of arable land, half a hectare (1 acre) of vineyard and a quarter hectare of woodland. The other half goes to Antoine’s older (twin?) brother Bernard, as laid down in his marriage contract which was made up a few days earlier. 

February 7, 1687, marriage contract between Antoine Gimbrere and Isabeau Carrere.

Bernard had an impressive set of witnesses to his marriage contract:

    • Jean d’Auxion, lord (seigneur) of Ayguetinte,
    • Jean Margastaud, lord (sieur) of Lahourcade
    • Maitre Bernard Dubarry, judge and lieutenant of the king in the city of St. Puy,
    • his father Blaise and his brother Antoine
Signatures under the marriage contract of Antoine from 1687 Top right father Blaise, left bridegroom Antoine, at the right brother Bernard

As the younger brother, Antoine has to settle for:

    • Pierre Carrere, brother of his bride (and husband of Claude Gimbrere, a second cousin),
    • Jean Labarthe, the notary’s son,
    • Piere Mothe, lord (sieur) of la Hitte and deputy judge in Verduzan,
    • His father Blaise and his brother Bernard.

The mentioning of the witnesses illustrates the class-society. Jean d’Auxion belongs to the nobility and therefore is “seigneur” of his manor. The other gentlemen are owners of a manor, but no peers. That is why they are called “sieur” of their manor, instead of “seigneur”. I’m me and you are you!


Last wills

Last wills also provide insight into life in Gascony’s past. In 1675, Guilhaume Gimbrere lay sick in bed in his house in La Claverie. The notary came to draw up his last will. Guilhaume was the elder son to the late Blaise, a “praticien” (legal adviser) who often acted as witness in notarial deeds. Blaise was the brother of Jean, the Ayguetinte innkeeper. His son Guilhaume did not follow in his father’s footsteps: in his testament he is called “homme d’armes en Armagnac”, suggesting that he had a military career.

The Roman Catholic faith played a central role in life. The last will starts with Guilhaume making the sign of the cross; speaking the words “in nomine patrii et filii et spiritui sancti, amen”. He confided his soul to the Almighty Father, hoping that God would grant him forgiveness and mercy for his sins, at intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary. Subsequently Guilhaume indicated that he would like to be buried in the tomb of his ancestors in the church of la Claverie. His father lived in la Claverie, but his parental grandfather did not. It seems Blaise was buried in his maternal ancestors’ grave, to which Guilhaume was now referring. Guilhaume leaves 12 pounds to the church, to be divided by his brother Jean Agent, for celebration of requiem masses from his funeral until the end of the year. The late Georgette Boubee was his first wife, with whom he has two living children: Françoise and Jeanne. Now he is married to Anthonye Labat, but that marriage is childless. Guilhaume leaves 150 pounds to his wife. Furthermore, he acknowledges that his father did not leave sufficient means for the lawful inheritance for his brother and out of appreciation for his friendship and services rendered, Guilhaume leaves two rooms of a house with an attic and a dovecote, to his brother Jean Agnet. This illustrates the way of life in those days: a community like la Claverie often consisted of one organically grown building, in which the occupation and property was divided by room. Guilhaume states that his late mother left 60 pounds and that he himself also owed some money to Jean Agnet, for the year that his brother was a consul (alderman).Guilhaume lacks the means to do justice to Jean Agnet. Therefore, he leaves him a piece of vineyard with a surface of 37 ares (1 acre). Guilhaume appoints his daughters as general heirs. Witnesses present are: brother Jean Agnet, two merchants, two drapers, a maitre (probably a legal advisor) and a farm worker.

Guilhaume Gimbrere makes the sign of the cross when he draws up his last will and speaks the words in nomine patri et filii et spiritui sancti, amen”
Lease contracts

Gascony was an agricultural society. Some farmers cultivated their own land, but many had a farm on lease. These farms were owned by the nobility or by the wealthier bourgeoisie. As such, Jean Gimbrere, innkeeper in Ayguetinte (and direct ancestor of our Jean François), became owner of the métairie de la Borde deu Bosc, a lease farm with grounds north of Ayguetinte. The lieu-dit still exists. In case of a métairie, tenants paid by handing over half of their crops. In 1673 Jean’s son Blaise (maitre chirurgien) and his sister-in-law Jeanne Despenan (widow of his half-brother Raymond, also a maitre chirurgien) were joint owners of the métairie. This appears from a contract in which the farm is leased to the brothers Bertrand and Joseph Saint-Martin.

Oxes pull the plow

The contract was valid for 6 years and 6 harvests. In addition to paying with half of their crops, the tenants had more obligations: they had to live on the farm, which should be maintained well; fruit trees had to be planted in the orchard, hedges along the fields, hay to be stacked and they had to look after the landlord’s cattle. Moreover, they had to supply the landlord once a year with a pair of chickens, hens, capons (a castrated domestic cock fattened for eating, with delicate meat) and some geese. The poultry was a kind of ritual acknowledgement of the ownership. The landlord provided bullocks for ploughing and three bags of wheat and three bags of beans to enable the start of the exploitation. Of course, these seeds had to be returned in kind from the harvest. The size of the farmland is specified by indicating that it can be ploughed over the season by one pair of bullocks. This will be approximately 6 hectares (15 acres).


Business conflicts and family quarrels

When business is done, conflict is sometimes inevitable. This applied, and still applies, also to last wills. The notary’s records in Ayguetinte show that conflicts were often solved by mediation by family or mutual friends. The mediation is then followed by an agreement, an accord, laid down by the notary. The agreement is preceded by an extensive description of the conflict and the considerations for the agreement.

One accord from 1677 was a jewel for us: it provided insight in previously mysterious family and other personal relationships. The accord has been agreed between Blaise Gimbrere, maitre chirurgien, on the one hand, and his nephews Jean, chirurgien, and Guilhaume, on the other hand, on the inheritance of (grand)father Jean Gimbrere (the innkeeper) and his first wife Anne Panjas.The introductory statements clarify that (grand)father Jean had two sons from his first marriage, with Anne Panjas: Raymond, chirurgien, and Bernard, cordonnier. His second marriage, with Jeanne Dache was blessed with three sons: Blaise, chirurgien (ancestor of Jean François); Raymond, cordonnier, and Jean, chirurgien. The eldest son, Raymond, had four sons from his marriage with Jeanne Despenan: Jean, chirurgien, Blaise, Raymond and Guilhaume. Blaise and Raymond are supposed to have been killed in action in the service of the king in the Army of Catalonia. The dispute is between Jean and Guilhaume and their uncle Blaise.


The dispute:

The nephews Jean and Guilhaume demand a thing or two from their uncle Blaise from the inheritances of grandfather Jean and grandmother Anne. Blaise disagrees, stating that he had already given more than demanded now, by training Jean for three years to be a chirurgien, with boarding, and by a payment to the priest, at their mother’s request. The nephews state that the value of the final inheritance of (grand)father Jean was higher than their father had received upon his marriage as his fair portion. They were about to go to trial when the family intervened. In the resulting agreement, Blaise bought off the rights of his nephews with 80 pounds. Second cousin Jean Agnet Gimbrere signed as witness and probably acted as mediator.

The relationships remain strained: nephew Jean moves to Valence. Some years earlier, this Jean had already quarrelled with his brother Guilhaume on the split of the house in Borde deu Bosc, which they inherited from their father. This had also been resolved by an accord, after mediation by friends, surprisingly not by members of the family. Apparently, Jean was a difficult man.

It is striking that some given names pop up frequently. It was common to name a child after grandfathers and uncles. With the names Jean, Blaise, Raymond and Guilhaume (and later also with Bernard and Antoine), we had to be very careful not to confuse them.