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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 ($).

Years of Settlement

Remember the words of Senator Forsey who told us where to find the “English”:

In Canada East, …people of English, Scotch and Irish origin made up well over 20 percent of the population in 1867. Montréal was more than half “English,” Québec City about 45 percent, the Eastern Townships were overwhelmingly “English,” and there was a substantial “English” minority in Gaspé and several other counties [Ottawa River valley].

From “the Beginning”

Among the early non-French arrivals in the French colony of Canada were Irish and Scottish mercenaries in the French Army. Those who married local women were absorbed into French society and their children grew up part of it. You may have trouble recognizing the surnames; Riley became Riel, O’Brien became Aubry and O’Connor produced even more creative phonetic spelling[1]

AUBRY dit Thècle, Thècle-Cornelius ([son of] Connehour and Honorée Iconnehour) de St-Patrice de Diasonyden, Ireland, … m. 10-09-1670 Québec

CHARTIER, Jeanne … RIEL, dit Lirlande, Jean-Baptiste (Jean-Baptiste and Louise Lafontaine) de St-Pierre, v, et. év. Limerick, Irlande: cité 02-10-1700 Hôtel Dieu, Québec, 30 ans, naturalisé mai 1719, soldat de la compagnie de Lavaltrie

Those excerpts of entries are from René Jetté’s Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec[2] Dr. Jetté, among the best and most knowledgeable of Québec’s genealogists and demographers, has become a byword: “Have you looked in Jetté?” His Dictionnaire covers all the families who settled in the colony from the beginning to c. 1730, listed by surname, with all known facts. This widely available single volume is based on the early volumes of the computerized database of the P.R.D.H.

New England Captives

During the French and Indian Wars[3] , the French and their Indian allies raided New England settlements, and we have tales of some of them, often children, captured by Indians and carried off to Québec, baptized into the Roman Catholic faith, and integrated into Francophone society. There are many books both by and about New England captives, including Emma Lewis Coleman,New England captives carried to Canada between 1677 and 1760, during the French and Indian wars, 2 volumes (Portland: The Southworth Press, 1925). Try searches under the subject heading: Indians of North America - Captivities. These non-French ancestors, once they reached Québec, can be researched as you would any Francophone Roman Catholic, which is what most of them became.

After the Plains of Abraham

  • September 13, 1759: British army under General Wolfe capture Québec City.
  • September 8, 1760: Capitulation of Montréal. Canada surrendered to British.
  • February 10, 1763: Treaty of Paris ends Seven Years War, France cedes Canada and remaining colonies in Acadia to Great Britain.

Between the taking of Québec and the Treaty of Paris, General Amherst directed a sort of mopping up operation, using some regiments of British regulars and quite a number of Colonial Militia regiments from the New England colonies. Both groups of soldiers had a chance to look over this newly acquired territory, check out its possibilities, and doubtless meet some of the women. Some stayed.

Changes in Land Tenure—Limited Settlement

• 1763, 7 October, the Royal Proclamation established British institutions and laws in Québec. General James Murray, Governor, planned to survey vacant land into Townships and grant land in English tenure.

• 1774, on advice of Governor Sir Guy Carleton, the British Parliament passed the Québec Act. French Civil Law and the seigneurial system were restored, as was the tithe to the Roman Catholic church. As well, the oath of allegiance, required for anyone holding any government office, was modified to accommodate Roman Catholics.

• 1791, 26 December, a third change came after the Loyalist refugees arrived. The Canada or Constitutional Act (passed 10 June) came into force, splitting the Province of Québec into Lower Canada and Upper Canada. In Lower Canada, things were not much different than they were under the Québec Act, except that land tenure in the new Townships was to be English, i.e. free and common soccage, and there would be a democratically-elected Assembly.

Since English-speaking settlers did not pour into Lower Canada, the Assembly was destined to be dominated by French-speaking leaders and politicians, which, in turn, provided another reason for English settlers to avoid Québec.

The Beginnings of English Settlement

The English began to arrive after 1760 and trickled into Québec for almost 200 years but in the early years, the English population in Québec grew very gradually:

Very few English-speaking immigrants came to Québec, preferring to settle in the more fertile Ohio Valley rather than in the colder region to the north (amidst an alien French-speaking population).[4]

By the mid-1760s there were not more than 500 English-speaking residents of Canada.[5]

• 1760—With the British Army, came commissary merchants and other suppliers. The army’s forts and garrisons were built where they would defend the border and waterways. Records may have been kept by regimental chaplains. The Montréal Garrison Church records date from 1760 to 1869 [ANQ microfilm].

• 1763—Next came British officials and bureaucrats and more service personnel, who established themselves at Québec City, Montréal, and smaller cities. Some Protestant churches were built, but immigration was limited.[6]

• 1783—The American Revolution brought Loyalist refugees to the St. Lawrence cities and along the Richelieu. Later most moved west to what became Upper Canada, some settled in the Townships, and a few in Gaspé.

• 1791—saw the beginning of the survey of townships and in the following decade, land was granted and settlement began along the river and lake routes from the new American states. These “Yankis” spoke English and were, for the most part, Protestant.

• 1815—The end of the Napoleonic wars saw emigrants from the British Isles arrive in greater numbers at the ports of Québec and Montréal. Some were Protestant, others Catholic; most wanted land. Newcomers might search out land at once, or spend a generation in a Francophone parish where children would pick up French and get to know the other culture, before moving south to the Townships or west[7] up the Ottawa.

By 1867, “English” immigration into rural Québec had pretty well ended. Communities were stable, but sons were being educated to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors; if no son wanted the farm, usually it was a French-Canadian who bought it. The population changed gradually but inexorably, as more and more “English” moved to Montréal, or to Ontario, or to the “States”; at first, a few came back, but most did not.

Between 1880 and 1930, the population of the Montréal metropolitan area rose from 140,000 to a million. The completion of Canada’s first transcontinental railway brought a spurt of growth in 1885-1887. Another period of rapid growth came at the turn of the century, a consequence of the rapid colonization of Western Canada, and a third period, from 1922 to 1930, ended with the Depression of the 1930s.

The last large influx of new immigrants from Britain and western Europe came at the end of World War II, a few Swiss and Dutch settled in the Townships and farmed. Those from the British Isles who found jobs in Montréal, established themselves in the West Island communities and tried to ignore the “French fact” of the island. Like their predecessors a century or so earlier, they imagined they were coming to an English-speaking country with British laws. Duplessi’s Québec was an unpleasant surprise to many.

A smaller group who came from Eastern Europe after anti-Communist uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia fitted into Montréal’s cosmopolitan society and greatly enriched it.

The growth of the 1950s and 1960s ended and many moved on. Statistics are difficult to determine, but at least half a million “English” Québecers have departed since 1967. As their collateral ancestors did, they have spread all across the continent.

On the Move

Even in 1867 a prosperous farm could not support three or four sons and their families. Railroads meant that by the last quarter of the century, a son or daughter could work quite far from home, and commute by train, daily or on weekends. Some sons got an education, became professionals and moved to the city.

Others sought their fortune outside Québec, and even the sons who stayed on the family farm had a tendency to look for better land, or better schools for their children, in the next township or the next county.

Such mobility meant that they met and married people from another township or county, perhaps settled down in a growing town, or even Montréal and, when their parents retired from the farm, the parents moved to that same place and are buried there, not near their farm.

If members of a family moved to town, or to the city, or changed farms, and you have no idea where they went, consult the series published by the Genealogical Record Library in Toronto.

They produced, among other Regional indexes[8] , a three-volume set, The French Canadians 1600-1900. This should have been entitled “The People of Québec” because it includes both language groups. While it has indexed a few early sources, the bulk are mid-to-late 19th century, and may well indicate where a family relocated.


  1. O'Farrell, John, Annual concert and ball of the St. Patrick Society, Montréal, 15th of January, 1872: address delivered on invitation of the cociety by John O'Farrell. Covertitle: Irish Families in the ancient Quebec Records: With some account of Soldiers from the Irish Brigade Regiments of France serving with the Army of Montcalm, (Montreal: J. Lovell, 1872; reprints - Montreal: St. Lawrence Press, 1908; Ottawa: Dominion Loose Leaf, 1924; Mayo, Quebec: Our Lady of Knock Shrine, St. Malachy's Church, 1967).
  2. Jette, Rene, Dictionnaire genealogique des familles du Quebec (Montreal: Les Presses de 1'Universite de Montreal, 1983).
  3. A collective term sometimes used to cover King William's War (1689-97); Queen Anne's war (1702-13); King George's War (1744-48) and the Seven Years War (1754-63). For details see under these headings in The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Literature, comp. Norah Story (Toronto, London, New Youk: Oxford University Press, 1967).
  4. Readings in Canadian History: Pre-Confederation, editors R. Douglas "Francis and Donald B. Smith (Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, Ltd., 2nd edition, 1986) page 190. fckLRThe quote is from the introduction to Topic Six: "The economy and Society of Post-Conquest Quebec", which consists of Fernand Ouellet, "The Legacy of New France Restored to Favour", Michel Brunet, "French Canada and the Early Decades of British Rule, 1760-1791", and Jose Igartua, "A Change in Climate: The Conquest and the Marchands of Montreal". These three Readings in Canadian History will fill you in on two different theories of what went on as the British replaced the French, as well as the changes in the fur-trade. If you are researching families who came into Quebec in these early years, these Readings and others in the book, are both concise and historically sound accounts of the era.
  5. R. Cole Harris and John Warkentin, Canada Before Confederation: A study in historical geography (New York, London, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1974) page 66.
  6. The Archives of Canada has films of some, but not all, early Protestant registers: Montreal -Christ Church Anglican parish, BMD, 1766-1787+fckLRQuebec -Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, BMD, 1768+fckLR -StAndrew's Presbyterian Church, BMD, 1770-1829+fckLR -Garrison Protestant Chaplaincy, BMD, 1797-1800; 1817-1825fckLRSorel -Christ Church Anglican Church, BMD, 1784-1796fckLRNote: Sorel records include baptisms from Richelieu valley Garrison forts.fckLRThree Rivers -Protestant church and garrison MD, 1768-1786+
  7. Not north - Look at a map!
  8. Elliot, Noel M., editor, The French Canadians, 1600-1900: an alphabetized directory of the people, places, and vital dates, 3 volumes (Toronto, Ontario: Genealogical Research Library, 1992). Also useful in finding migrating Quebecers may be: People of Ontario, 1600-1900: alphabetized directory of the people, places and vital dates, 3 volumes (London, Ontario: Genealogical Research Library, 1984) and The Central Canadians, 1600-1900: an alphabetized directory of the people, places, and vital dates, 3 volumes (Toronto, Ontario: Genealogical Research Library, 1994). These indexes have now been compiled into a searchable database available on CD-ROM. The somewhat limited selection of sources has not changed.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors 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

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.