Saturday, September 11, 2010

French Canadian multiplication

Have you ever met a French Canadian? At the rate they were multiplying before 1730, I'm surprised the globe isn't crawling with them. The following comes from a recently received genealogical document on the French immigration to Canada. 

"The typical emigrant was a 37-1/2 year old illiterate bachelor from the Seigneury or Canton of Tourouvre who was a laborer or carpenter and who signed a 36 month engagement to work in New France. The Perche pioneers were also prolific. L’Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques of the University of Montreal published “Naissance d’une Population” in 1987 which provided a lot of demographics concerning the Quebec pioneers prior to 1730. Among other lists the publication presented the ranking of the pioneers by the number of descendants they had prior to 1730, roughly three generations after their arrival in Quebec. In the top ten in Quebec there were: first  Jean GUYON & Mathurine ROBIN with 2,150 descendants; second Zacharie CLOUTIER & Sainte DUPONT  2,090; fourth  Marin BOUCHER with Julienne BARIL & Perrine MALLET 1,454; fifth Noel LANGLOIS & Francoise GRENIER  with 1,388 and tenth Nicolas PELLETIER & Jeanne de VOUZY with 939."

My family is descended from Jean Guyon, a very fecund guy; there are also Cloutiers in the original mix. My own grandmother had 9 children (only 4 lived beyond childhood) and according to my mother this size family wasn't unusual in the area. For farmers, the more hands the better.

Guyon bloodlines stretch far and wide - Celine Dion's family and Madonna share my Guyon ancestor. Apparently a celebrity in the wood pile increases sales of these geneology materials. Pardon my cynicism.

All my life I heard it whispered that we had Swampy Cree Indian genes in the family. From these records, I doubt it  - unless some of the women were Indian with French names - not likely as the lineage for everyone traces back to Perche, France. The births are all recorded and family members accounted for - no adoptions based on the census records.  Also, adios to the poor "hard scrabble" family tales...looks like most of my folks did well from the minute they set foot on Canadian soil. The original French Canadians left France looking for the land grants, adventure or for challenge and had trades or valuable skills - they were sought out by the seigneurs who were building communities. They were not escaping persecution or starvation, in fact the Percheron area they left behind is gorgeous and most were reasonably comfortable, the records indicating they had sufficient work and were on the record as lending out money. Makes for a different kind of immigrant. 

On the other side of the family, there's a story of an uncle that was tarred and feathered and run out of a town in Saskatchewan. He sold patent medicine and had a sales pitch:" It cures cough and colds and sore ass-holes, spots on the belly and spinal decay". As a child when I had to take medicine, my father would pour it on a spoon and serve it to me, reciting this little saying. The "T and F" Uncle may be another myth. 

Accuracy has a  short shelf life when facts are passed verbally from generation to generation, each adding a little spin.  Thankfully official records are kept which are hopefully more reliable - even though they are also screwed up - transposed numbers, names mis-spelled, births recorded twice. I'm not complaining though. My brother-in-law pointed out to me, many of these old records were written with quill pens on home-made paper by candle light....what do you expect? 

1 comment:

  1. Can I get some of that medicine? I think I have spinal decay. Luckily none of the other maladies.

    That's pretty interesting about your fecund ancestor. Isn't genealogy fascinating?