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.
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 (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 (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 (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.