Paris 2014: The Boulduc Apothecary Dynasty

In the Spring of 2014 my wife and I traveled to Paris and I decided to spend one day getting acquainted with my Boulduc ancestors of Paris and Senlis, a small city about 100 km north of Paris. I discovered a lot about my 9th great grandfather, Pierre Boulduc, and also a lot more about the Boulduc apothecary dynasty that he started and was continued by his favorite son Simon (brother of Louis) and Simon’s son Gilles-Francois and finally ended with Gilles’s son Jean-Francois who died childless.

My genealogy day in Paris began with a visit to Paris Descartes University on Rue de l’Ecole de Medicine. The curator of the museum there pointed me in the direction of the Pharmacy branch of the university which was located on Avenue l’Observatoire below the Jardin du Luxembourg. There on the second floor I encountered La Salle des Actes de la Faculté de pharmacie, sort of a Hall of Fame with portraits of several illustrious personages involved in the history of the pharmaceutical sciences, including three of my Bolducs: Pierre, his son Simon and his grandson Gilles-Francois.

The entrance to Paris Descartes University near the Odéon Metro station.

The entrance to Paris Descartes University near the Odéon Metro station.

The ground floor of Paris Descartes University. We visited the university in the morning and went upstairs to visit the museum but it was not open to the public until 2pm that day.

The ground floor of Paris Descartes University. We visited the university in the morning and went upstairs to visit the museum but it was not open to the public until 2pm that day.

We found x a few blocks away on Avenue de l'Observatoire below the Luxembourg Gardens.

We found La Salle des Actes de la Faculté de pharmacie  a few blocks away on Avenue de l’Observatoire below the Luxembourg Gardens.

Pierre’s father Louys (my 10th great grandfather) and brother Louis were Master Grocers but Pierre left the grocer-spicer business and became a Master Apothecary in 1636 after serving 10 years of apprenticeship. Going from one occupation to the other was not uncommon during the 17th century. Successful grocers were often also merchants who imported herbs and spices from faraway places. And successful apothecaries analyzed and cultivated these plants for medicinal purposes. It was also not uncommon to find doctors and apothecaries working together in the teaching of chemistry: doctors were lecturers and apothecaries were demonstrators at the Jardin du Roi (King’s Garden) known nowadays as Le Jardin des Plantes. Chemistry students from England, Scotland and Germany came to Paris to hear the lectures and observe the demonstrations. The field of chemistry was being modernized and Parisians were leading the way!

Pierre Boulduc, my ninth great grandfather.

Pierre Boulduc, my ninth great grandfather.

Pierre (1607 – 1670) was a successful grocer-pharmacist who lived above his apothecary shop on Rue Saint-Jacques across from the College de France. He tended to the King’s Garden and actively participated in a guild of more than 70 apothecaries and served as Warden of the Community and Councilor of the jurisdiction consular . He also taught his third son Simon everything he knew. But his second son Louis was not inclined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Louis must have gotten himself in some trouble early in his life. His father got him assigned to the Army when he was only 17 years old. So Louis went to Canada and founded the Bolduc dynasty of North America. But Simon stayed by his father’s side and continued the Boulduc Apothecary Dynasty. Pierre had three other sons but two of them preferred the religious life and became Capuchin brothers. And his oldest son, also named Pierre, decided on a career as an attorney.

Simon Boulduc, brother of my eighth great grandfather.

Simon Boulduc, brother of my eighth great grandfather.

Simon (1652 – 1729) was the first Boulduc to be a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences. He also was a demonstrator of chemistry at the King’s Garden near his Saint Marcel apothecary shop. He is best known for his expertise in vegetable analysis and for his innovative investigating procedures. He wrote a total of 17 mémoires for the Academy, most of them dealing with purgative drugs. He became a Master Apothecary in 1672, a Warden of the Community in 1697, a Consul in 1698, a Judge in 1707, and a Director of the Apothecary Garden in 1722. He also served as First Apothecary to the King (Louis XIV). Simon had four children including two daughters who married well and a son who became a priest. His oldest son, Gilles-Francois, continued the Boulduc Apothecary Dynasty.

Gilles-Francois Boulduc, son of Simon and nephew of Louis.

Gilles-Francois Boulduc, son of Simon and nephew of Louis.

Gilles-Francois (1675 – 1742) was appointed to the Royal Academy at an early age and served for many years with his father and then succeeded him as demonstrator of chemistry at the Royal Garden. As an academician and demonstrator he was most well-known for his analyses of mineral waters. He was also a successful apothecary and he ran a very popular shop on Rue de Boucherie near Saint-Germain. As his career progressed he had to reduce his time at the Academy and take in a partner at his apothecary shop because his presence was required so often at Versailles by first Louis XIV and then Louis XV. He served in some of the same positions that his father did before him and he was also appointed Alderman of Paris in 1726. For awhile he was the personal apothecary to the family of Louis XIV’s brother and he was also present at the death of Louis XIV.

Gilles-Francois turned his business over to his son Jean-Francois (1728 – 1769) who prospered as a pharmacist but never made a name for himself as an academician and so his picture is not up on the wall of La Salle des Actes de la Faculté de pharmacie. He did serve, though, as First Apothecary to the King. He split his time between Versailles where he served the king (Louis XV) and Marly where he lived well in a fancy house complete with wine cellar, garden and a second house that he used as an apothecary laboratory and as a storage facility for his large shell collection. Jean-Francois never married and had no children. And so the dynasty came to an end when he died in 1769 at the age of 41.

The dynasty lasted 133 years and coincided with the reigns of three kings of France: Louis XIII (1610 – 1643), Louis XIV (1643 – 1715) and Louis XV (1715 – 1774).

My Bolducs came to Paris from Senlis in the 1500s. We were gong to take a trip to Senlis and look around. The cathedral there is about as old as Notre-Dame de Paris. But we never made it. We also planned to take the train to Versailles one day. That plan was canceled, too. Nor did we ever get to Rouen. Nor Normandy. We stayed the entire three weeks in Paris (except for the metro ride one day to Saint-Denis). I guess we’ll just have to go back some day and visit all of these places!

Note: I first learned about the story of the Boulduc Apothecary Dynasty when I came across a youtube video series on the Boulducs of Senlis and Paris produced by a distant cousin named Dany Bolduc. You can find that series here, here and here. And his video on the Apothecary Dynasty is here. Also, Yan J. Kevin Bolduc translated a couple of articles he researched about the dynasty in his Boulduc to Bolduc document which you can find here.

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About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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14 Responses to Paris 2014: The Boulduc Apothecary Dynasty

  1. Michelle says:

    Finally got a few minutes to read this. Holy smokes! We had relatives who hung out at Versailles! I’ve been there and it’s amazing! The idea that a distant relative was there in it’s hey day is mind blowing!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Michelle! I’ll have another posting about our Bolducs in a couple of weeks.

  3. I live in New Hampshire and my family comes from Louie Bolduc. I found the pharmacy connection very interesting because my husband and I retired from pharmacy. Loved your story, there is a Pierre Bolduc in Old Quebec City who has given me a lot information. Ellen Bolduc Evitts

  4. Cathy Bolduc Augros says:

    This is so wonderful! Pierre Bolduc was my ninth great grandfather, also. My line of Bolducs descends from Louis Bolduc and Elisabeth Isabelle Hubert. There is a Facebook group called Bolduc Family History.

  5. Lynn Ayres says:

    Very nice work. Thanks very much. Pierre is my 9th gr grandfather as well, through grandson Jacques who married Marie Anne Racine. We may know the names of our ancestors but it doesn’t seem enough. To learn of their occupations is amazing. I’ve been to Paris a few times but this was well before I started my genealogy so of course I never visited the above. Well, that just means another trip to Paris!

  6. Debbie Sainz says:

    Symon Bolduc was my 11th great grandfather– Louis Bolduc and Elizabeth Hubert were my 8th greats. Follow the line of Louis’, Jacques’ and Alexis’ and you get to my grandmother Mina Edie Bolduc. It has been so much fun researching and finding all this interesting family history. Thanks to all that have contributed.

  7. Carol Johnson says:

    WOW. I found your blog today. I am also descended from Pierre and Gilette, and their son Louis and Elizabeth Hubert. Your summary of our family history is excellent and easy to understand. Your pictures are superb. Would appreciate your permission to copy the picture of the Salle and of Pierre for personal journals (not for publication). Great work.
    Carol

    • Hello Carol — I’m glad you liked the posting. You have my permission to copy the pictures.

      • Carol Johnson says:

        Thank you so much. I have told my family about your blog and how easy it is to understand. They are amazed at the family connections and your proficiency putting it all together. Thanks again.
        Carol

  8. Rhonda Bolduc says:

    Hey- My husband is directly descended from Louis Bolduc, but one of his sons went to Quebec and that is the line he comes through. I know he has relatives that have gone back and done the genealogy so it’s been confirmed. We are planning to go to Paris at some point, any advice on getting in to see the portraits? It’s a bucket list item for my husband. Appreciate any advice.rh

    • Hi Rhonda — The curator of the medical museum at Descartes University gave me directions to the pharmaceutical branch of the university but warned me that I may not be allowed to enter the Hall of Fame room. She even told me that she was not allowed to enter that room! But I decided to try, anyway, and walked to the building just south of the Luxembourg Gardens (about a 10 minute walk from the main university building) where I went directly to the office and asked if I could see the room with the portraits. She told me right away that the room was closed to the public and I told her that I was an American from California who traveled all the way to Paris to see the portraits of my ancestors — which wasn’t quite true: there were many more reasons for our visiting Paris! — and she smiled and told another employee — he seemed to be a keeper of the keys — to escort me to the second floor to see the portrait gallery. He unlocked the door for me, turned on the lights and told me that I could stay as long as I wanted but be sure to turn off the lights when I left. I took my pictures, turned off the lights and closed the door. On my way out of the building I ran into that same employee and thanked him again, told him I was through and he could lock the door. I think I was very fortunate that everyone I encountered at the university was polite, friendly and spoke English!

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