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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 Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors by Althea Douglas M.A., CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Carte de La Gaspésie … au “Bas Canada”
Carte de La Gaspésie … au “Bas Canada” …
S. Drapeau, Québec [City], 1865.
Special Regions of English Settlement
Gaspé and the Gulf
Fish Bring Fishermen
As Senator Forsey pointed out, there are pockets of English-speaking Québecers in outlying regions: in the east of Québec, the Gaspé Peninsula and North Shore of the Gulf are home to the descendants of fishermen from France, the Basque country, the West of England and the Channel Islands who made seasonal visits to the coast from earliest times. Some small year-round settlements followed. When the British captured Québec:
- Cod fishermen from Great Britain and New England replaced the French at Gaspé. Seigneuries and fisheries passed into British hands and new peoples of various backgrounds settled there. Americans ravaged the region in 1778.
After the American Revolution, a few hundred Loyalists added to the population mix. Anyone working on the Gulf or Gaspé families should study Plate 54 in Vol. I of the Historical Atlas of Canada. It details early settlement, seigneuries, townships, population, origins of settlers, and much that you ought to know.
Some Useful Books
Marion Turk’s books will tell you much about the Channel Islanders. For some background on cod fishing, the economic system and social history, read Roch Samson’s Fishermen and Merchants in 19th Century Gaspé: The Fishermen-Dealers of William Hyman and Sons. Another useful work is Michel Emard’s Recensements et listes de la Gaspésie 1686-1881 Inventaire et guide (Pointe au Genièvre: Cahiers gaspésiens, No. 3, 1980), which itemizes all known census returns and name lists, and where they are located. Yes, it is in French only, but the vocabulary required to use it is minimal. It is an inventory and list only, not actual transcripts of lists.
Those you will have to locate in the public or private sources given. As you probably know, copies of the French Archives des colonies, the British War Office and Colonial Office papers are available at the Archives of Canada.
The Lower North Shore
Some settlements along the narrow stretch of coastline, south of the Labrador border running east to Blanc Sablon, are still English speaking. Harrington Harbour, for example, is a village of approximately 315 people, whose fishermen ancestors from Newfoundland settled there in 1871, so it is not on Arrowsmith’s 1846 map (opposite). “In a small place like this, everyone’s related.” That comment was made by thirteen-year-old Jonathan Cox to writer Brian Payton who visited the area. His article points out how another fishing settlement, Tête-à-la-Baleine/Providence Island, was a double community, a winter village on the mainland, a summer village on the island for the fishing season. “A migration practised for generations until motorboats came into use”.
As well as fish; fur, wood pulp, and later iron ore, aluminium and hydro-electric power brought others to this remote region. You can expect to find English-speaking traders, managers, foresters, and eventually engineers, sometimes bringing their families. Sept-Isles/Seven Islands, a fortified trading post was built around 1650 by the French, leased to the Northwest Company after 1763, taken over by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, closed in 1859, reopened in 1870, and for a long time it was where the road ended. It shares importance with Baie Comeau which for years supplied the newsprint for Col. Robert R. McCormick’s Chicago Tribune.
Travel by Boat
The Gulf is a region where the coastal schooner was considered the normal mode of transportation. Small vessels, some classed for light-ice duty, still serve the tiny communities. Roads and railways came late to Gaspé and even later to the Côte-Nord. Look at a map of the Gulf, it should be apparent that it is easy to sail from Gaspé to Québec City or Newfoundland or even Pictou or Chéticamp in Nova Scotia, but not easy to get to Halifax.
- Turk, Marion G., The Quiet Adventurers in Canada (Detroit: Harlo, 1979) is an excellent source of information on Channel Islanders. Her other books on these migrants include: The Quiet Adventurers (1971) The Quiet Adventurers in America (1975) with Supplements in preparation.
- Historical Atlas of Canada, Vol. I Plate 54 "Exploitation of the Gulf of St. Lawrence".
- Studies in Archaeology, Architecture and History, (Ottawa: Environment Canada, Parks Canada, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, 1984).
- The Globe and Mail (31 May 2000) Section R (Travel).
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