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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian:Immigration Records by Patricia McGregor, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Permanent settlement dates from 1608 with the arrival of the French. New France, as it was called, grew along the St. Lawrence River and was settled by the French until their defeat by the British in the war of 1759-63. By the time Britain took control in 1763 there were 70,000 inhabitants in New France.
|1608||Champlain establishes settlement at Quebec|
|1611||Land cleared for settlement at Montreal, naming it Place Royal|
|1615||Champlain brings the Recollets to Quebec|
|1617||Champlain brings Louis Hebert from France. He was an apothecary who was interested in agriculture and had previously been in Acadia. He and his family became the first true colonists of Quebec|
|1643||300 people in Quebec|
|1665||Jean Talon arrives with shiploads of colonists|
|1666||Single women shipped out at King's expense|
|1713||Treaty of Utrecht|
|1744||War of the Austrian Succession begins|
|1755||Acadian Expulsion begins -- some flee to Quebec|
|1756||Seven Years' War begins|
|1763||Quebec ceded to Britian; French rule ends in North America|
|1776||American Revolution begins -- influx of settlers begin to arrive (1775-84)|
Champlain returned to the New World in 1608. He sailed up the St Lawrence and ordered construction of a habitation overlooking the river at what would be the first French settlement on the St Lawrence. It began as a tiny fur trading post dependent on France for its supplies. (Knowles 1990, 3)
Fur trading occurred with the Hurons and the Algonquins. In exchange, the Indians got not only European goods, but also conversion attention from the missionaries. Early on, Champlain realized that successful trade and conversion of the Indians was linked to colonization. He felt that European settlers would demonstrate Christian living to the Indians as well as make the colony self-sufficient. However, his suggestions were ignored for many years.
- “Large scale settlement was destined to remain a dream as long as settlement was tied to the fur trade, for bands of Indians supplied all the labour necessary for its operations and there was no other economic activity in New France to attract immigrants from overseas. The impetus for colonization had to be provided by a change in thinking, and this occurred with the rise of seventeenth-century mercantilism, the theory that called for a state to increase its monetary wealth by severely restricting imports of manufactured goods and obtaining as many of its raw materials from abroad as necessary. Colonies were an indispensable ingredient in the equation; they could supply the necessary raw materials for the mother country’s manufacturing industry and theoretically they could also furnish a market for some of its exports.” (Knowles 1992, 4)
By 1627 France realized the wealth of resources available beyond furs, and a commercial company was formed called The Company of One Hundred Associates (La Compagnie des Cent-Associés), it was designed to establish agricultural settlements, encourage missionary activity and exploit the resources of the new land. In return for title to all the lands claimed by France in North America, and a monopoly on all commerce except fishing, the company agreed to settle 4000 French Catholics in New France between 1627 and 1643.
The first wave of immigrants included merchants, professional men, landless nobles, skilled workers, soldiers and members of religious orders. A system of indenturing was often used whereby male immigrants were required to work for three years to pay off their passage and lodging costs. Another group developed and over time grew into the largest and the most important—the settlers who permanently occupied the land became known as habitants. You may also see the term hivernant used to describe those who spent the winters at remote trading posts and returned to New France for the summers.
Initial attempts at settlement between 1627 and 1634 were largely unsuccessful as several expeditions were wiped out during wars and skirmishes with England. A large group of settlers arrived in 1634 and colonies farther west along the river to Trois Rivières and Montréal began. However, despite these attempts the population of New France was in the low hundreds by 1641, well short of the promised 4000.
In 1663, Louis XIV took control of New France away from the company and made it a royal province governed by the Crown. Jean Talon was appointed administrator. He realized the benefits of branching out from the single focus of furs to lumbering, mining, fishing, manufacturing and trade with the West Indies and was determined to make the colony self supporting. However, before settlement could begin on a large scale, actions needed to be taken to control the natives. In 1665, 1000 soldiers from the Carignan-Salières regiment were sent to the colony.
When Talon arrived in Quebec, he conducted a nominal census which is available through Library and Archives Canada. Their catalogue of census returns on microfilm is available.
In 1635, the island of Montréal was granted to the Compagnie de Montréal which wanted to develop the area as a missionary and colonization headquarters. The first executive officer, Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve arrived in 1642 with about 60 settlers and soldiers and named the community Ville Marie. Another 100 settlers arrived in 1653. The town became known as Montréal about 1703. It became the centre of fur trade operations and the starting place for explorations.
Filles du Roi
Most of the colonists who came to New France during this time came from Normandy, Île de France, Poitou, Aunis, Brittany and Saintonge. The vast majority of those who came were single men—this created a large imbalance in the colony—as there was a severe lack of marriageable women. Indeed, up to the 1670s, there were 6 to 14 times as many men of marriageable age as women. Many of the male immigrants, unable to find a wife, chose to return home to France after their 3 year term ended. One solution was to encourage marriage with native women. It was believed that this would increase the population of the colony and civilize the natives. A dowry of 150 livres was promised to any native woman marrying a Frenchman, but this plan was not successful and was dropped.
French authorities persuaded a number of unmarried young women to emigrate. Their passage was paid by the Crown; they were promised lodging on arrival and were encouraged to marry as quickly as possible. Initially called filles à marier (marriageable girls), they came to be known as “Filles du Roi” (King’s daughters) and they were recruited primarily from houses of charity in French cities. Most were orphans, foundlings or women who had been incarcerated for prostitution, vagrancy or illicit Protestantism although some of higher standing were recruited for officers. (Knowles 1990, 11, Gagné 2001, 17)
- “... each girl received an assortment of practical items in a case: a coiffe, bonnet, taffeta handkerchief, pair of stockings, pair of gloves, ribbon, four shoelaces, white thread, 100 needles, 1,000 pins, a comb, pair of scissors, two knives and two livres in cash. Upon arrival, the filles received clothing appropriate to the country and some provisions ...” (Gagné 2001, 27)
The women and girls first landed at Quebec City, some went on to Trois Rivières or Montreal. Bachelors in the colony were prohibited from going on hunting or fishing trips from the time the ships docked until all the women were married. In the summer of 1666 ninety women arrived; 84 of them were married by November. There have been a number of books written about these women and a lot of genealogical work done on their descendants. One that can be recommended is: King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663-1673 by Peter Gagné (2 volumes). Gagné claims that the numbers of Filles du Roi differ depending on which definition is used and provides biographical information on each of 768 who meet the definition he uses, as well as another 36 who have been thought to be but he has proven were not part of this programme. He takes his definition from Gustav Lanctot’s works:
- “I only call the Filles du Roi the female emigrants—girls, women or widows—who went to Canada on the expenses of the King in convoys recruited and conducted by the French authorities, who were established in Canada by the Intendant and who received at marriage the King’s Gift of 50 livres for commoners and 100 livres for demoiselles and sometimes, but rarely even more.” (Gagné 2001, 40)
Gagné includes in his appendix (p. 575) a table listing all the filles du roi by year of arrival, identifies where they were received (Quebec, Three Rivers or Montreal), when they were married, the name of their husband, number of children and the number of descendants they had in 1729. This information has been compiled through examination of a variety of records as there seemingly was no official master list kept, or if there was, it has not survived.
Check out the following sites:
|Did you know... genetic researchers have traced a rare disease in Quebec back to Catherine Suret, one of the Filles du roi. An article appeared in La Presse on Aug 18, 2005 (this article has been removed from their electronic archives) explaining that the illness called Leber disease is transmitted down through the female line. Through a combination of scientific and genealogical research scientists were able to identify the person who brought the disease to New France. La Presse (cyberpresse) Aug 18 2005|
The French Canadian village developed its own uniqueness. The need to settle close together for protection from the Indians and the importance of rivers for transportation and food influenced community development and land allotment. Tracts of land were laid out in long strips back from the river giving each settler access to river resources, fertile valley land and forest.
A period of peace spanned thirty years from the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 until the beginning of the Wars of Austrian Succession in 1744 which again found France and England on opposite sides. In the 1730s the first network of roads was built and the growing colony was able to provide provisions to Louisbourg in Acadia. With the outbreak of war in 1744, troops were sent from France to defend the colony and more were sent out after 1755 during the Seven Years War. There were no barracks for the troops, so they were billeted with families.
- “Relationships developed between the colonists and the newcomers, marriages took place, and by the end of the war some 800 military men elected to remain in the colony as settlers.” (Knowles 1992, 14)
Adding to these settlers were exiled poachers, counterfeiters and salt smugglers sent from France as well as black slaves from the Caribbean. By 1765, the population was almost 70,000 inhabitants. Of course some French after defeat by the British in 1763 decided to return to France. Returnees included military, merchants and leaders in the colony. At this point French immigration to Canada ended and was initially replaced by Scottish settlers and soldiers from disbanded regiments including the Montgomery Highlanders, Fraser Highlanders and the Black Watch. At that time, there were also three small French settlements in what would be known as Ontario: Cataraqui (at Kingston), Rouille (Toronto) and along the east side of the Detroit River. While Britain was hoping that a surge of immigrants would arrive from the Thirteen Colonies to the south to outnumber the French now under their control, it would take yet another war to create that wave.
We have said little about the immigration and settlement of Catholic missionaries (male and female) because they (generally) have no descendants. However, from the earliest settlements the Church was involved as missionaries to the Indians, in providing education to the settlers, giving care to the needy, and in providing financial support from France to the colony. Those with ancestors in New France are fortunate that the Church played such a large role. Church records for the most part have survived from the earliest times. Together with the census records French Canadian researchers have a wealth of sources to consult. Today nearly all French Canadians can trace their ancestry to the original settlers who arrived in New France between 1665 and 1739.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Immigration Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
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