The word ‘Verchère’ can be translated in French as 'terre en jachere’, meaning ‘land not cultivated’. In English, we might call it land that is fallow, or at rest.
Interpretations differ, though – some say it simply refers to land next to a house where animals and chickens were kept. A respected Verchère researcher in Rouen told me, ‘I was told that Verchère meant the contrary of fallow land. It would be the best field, where hemp is grown’. (Hemp? – hmmm?)
But one thing is certain, – in France it is a very localized term, unique to the southern Burgundy area, where many very small villages carry the name. Some people in this area who owned 'Verchère' land adopted the word as their surname. The earliest mention of Verchere as a family surname that I’ve seen dates from a Verchère genealogy of the village of Marcigny (25km north of Roanne) in the mid 1300’s.
One Verchère researcher from Marseilles, experienced in researching the origin of the Verchere name in France, sent me the following tantalizing insight into very ancient Verchère history. This is amazing stuff. For fear of getting it wrong, I’ll let you do the translation:
"Le nom de Verchere, ou Verchère, ou Verchères ...est originaire des régions du Massif Central , monte vers Moulins et descend vers l'Est, Roanne..(comme un croissant de lune). Votre famille vient donc des "fiefs" à Verchère. Les villages qui portent ce nom se situent dans ces régions aussi.
"Verchère vient du Gaulois , Ver Carrus, et veut dire Grand Char (du char de guerre des Gaulois sans doute).
"Il faut aussi tenir compte qu'il y a dans ces régions beaucoup de Verchère (comme 100 rien que dans le Massif Central).
"Bienvenue dans la tribu des Allobroges, puisque c'est le nom des Gaulois qui vivaient entre Bourg et Lyon quand le nom des Verchere commença à y être porté."
How many Verchères are there? Today there are 633 address listings for Verchères in France. Lyon has 29, Paris 22, Onnayox 17, Roanne 11, and most of the remainder appear to be scattered among numerous small villages in the Burgundy area. In the rest of Europe, Germany has 2 listings, and England 4 (the latter being related to me). The USA has only 5 listings, 2 of which are also related. In Canada there are 17 Verchère listings, all of whom are related and descended from a single ancestor, whose children emigrated to Canada in the 1880's.
For more, see my genealogy page on Rootsweb's WorldConnect.
The town of Verchères, Quebec, and Madeleine de Verchères – Thanks to a prominent Quebec genealogist for the following. - "The name of the town of Verchères, Quebec has no connection whatever to any known Verchères. It was first used by Francois Jarret, a French officer who arrived in Canada in 1665 as an Ensign in the Regiment of Carignan. He was the father ofMadeleine de Verchères.
"It is likely (but not proven), that Francois Jarret used the word for Verchères town because he needed a name for his army and because his mother’s family had some Verchère land in Dauphine, France, where the word was in common usage."