The French

Arrival of the "Filles du Roi"
Source

Genealogy and Family History

The French began to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the mid-16th century to explore the New World and settle there. They arrived in 1604 at Port Royal and colonized Acadia first. During the 1630s, about 20 families arrived from the Loudunais region along with soldiers and labourers (known as engagés in French). By 1670, the Acadian population had reached 400 people.

The French also settled further west in the St. Lawrence Valley when they founded Quebec in 1608. By 1660, only about 3,000 inhabitants called the St. Lawrence Valley home. In 1665, 1,200 men belonging to the régiment de Carignan-Salières arrived on the shores of Canada to fight the Iroquois Nation who constantly threatened the development of the colony. The King asked the district administrator, Jean Talon, to motivate soldiers to settle in the colony once the war with the Iroquois ended. As an incentive, a married soldier who settled in the colony would receive a sum of 12,000 pounds. It was this colonial policy that prompted 400 soldiers and officers to put down roots in New France.

However, to maintain a permanent settlement, these men had to marry and have families. Hence, groups of women started to arrive in New France during two distinct periods: 1634 to 1662 and 1663 to 1673. The first group of women came under the auspices of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés; the second under the authority of the King—where the term filles du roi [Daughters of the King] derives.

When beaver pelt hats became increasingly popular in the early 17th century, a lucrative fur trade business emerged in New France. To meet the demand, trappers and travellers gradually extended their hunting grounds beyond the St. Lawrence Valley to the interior of the continent. The French also explored and then settled in several regions of the United States. At the turn of the 18th century, French colonies were established in the present-day states of Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, MIchigan, Mississippi,Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Between 1820 and 1910, a decrease in the availability of tillable land in Canada drove close to 470,000 French settlers to the United States. They settled chiefly in New England and in Michigan, where they found meaningful employment in the famous “factories” (textile mills) during difficult economic times.

It is estimated that nearly 40,000 French settlers lived in New France during the French Regime and 10,000 of those stayed in New France and became the ancestors of nearly 6 million French Canadians.

Research at Library and Archives Canada
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Census Returns

Consult our Census page for other census returns from Canada.

The régiment de Carignan-Salières (1665–1668)

A thematic guide (MSS1943) [PDF 1.1 MB] provides references to manuscript sources and contains a complete bibliography.

Marriage Indexes

Many marriage indexes covering extensive geographical areas are available, including the following:
Fichier Loiselle
Index for Catholic marriages held in the province of Quebec, some parts of Ontario and New Brunswick, and New England, mostly between 1750 and the early 1900s. Available on microfiche. On-site consultation only.
Collection Drouin
Different indexes for French-Canadian Catholic marriages, 1760–1935, including La Masculine (The Men Series), La Féminine (The Women Series) and the Kardex. Consists of many volumes and microfilms. On-site consultation only.
Fichier Histor
Index including all Catholic and Protestant marriages held in Quebec from 1730 to 1825, and also marriages in the Western French Forts, such as Detroit (Series C) and Acadian marriages (Series D). Available in book format. On-site consultation only.
Jacques-Henri Fabien Collection (MG 25 G231)
Collection of microfilm consisting of genealogical information covering the period from 1657 to 1974, distributed on more than 250,000 cards, mostly for marriages, indicating date and place, and the names of spouses and their parents. Includes parishes in the Outaouais region of Quebec and Ontario, some parishes in Eastern and Northern Ontario, counties of Pontiac, Vaudreuil, Châteauguay, Huntingdon, Beauharnois, l’Assumption, Laval, Deux-Montagnes and Argenteuil in Quebec. These microfilms have been digitized and are available online through the Héritage project.

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • Admission to Canada of French subjects for enlistment with the forces of General Charles de Gaulle, 1940–1942, RG 76, volume 462, file 706126, microfilm C-10402
  • Reverend Father H. Peran, St. Laurent, Manitoba—Special agent to Brittany France, 1906 and 1921, RG 76, volume 364, file 471120, microfilm C-10265
  • Currie and Co., Havre and Paris, France. Booking agents, 1907–1924, RG 76, volume 434, file 652754, microfilm C-10314
  • Admission of Jewish children from unoccupied France, 1942 to 1948 RG 76, volume 477, file 739325, microfilm C-10413
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds other archival records relating to French families, such as copies of microfilms from the French Colonial government (MG 1 to 9). Records included in the “Fonds des colonies” 1540–1898 (MG 1) represent the official archive of the French presence and expansion throughout the world. LAC holds a copy of the records that relate particularly to Canada and to the rest of North America. Those records mostly cover the period between the beginning of the exploration of the American continent and the end of the French occupation of New France in the second half of the 18th century.
 
Consult the Archives Search database using keywords, such as a surname, the name of an organization, a subject, or a place name.

Research at Other Institutions and Online

Use AVITUS to find other websites about French people in Canada.

Research in Published Sources

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