Québec Demographic Changes (National Institute)

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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 ($).

Demographic Changes[edit | edit source]

Before the coming of the railroads, few French Canadians had settled in the Eastern Townships. Some came to work on the early railroads but in spite of increasing population pressure in the seigneuries, they avoided the region as long as there were no Catholic parishes. There were no Catholic parishes because Priests were allowed to tithe only those who held lands under seigneurial tenure. The Clergy Reserves were for the support of the Protestant Clergy. This changed with an ordinance in 1839, “confirmed by an act of the Canadian Legislature in 1849”[1], and once it could establish Parishes, the Catholic Church encouraged new settlements in Québec rather than see their young parishioners emigrate to find work in New England factories.

Movement of French Families[edit | edit source]

French families gradually moved into “English” settlements, buying up a farm here or a house there as an English family moved away[2] . Francophone professionals and merchants then came to serve them and the Church supplied the schools and other social services. The Roman Catholic “Holy Name Society” became very active in English regions, adding a Saint’s name, usually that of the Parish, to that of the English founder of a town, so your map will show St-Paul d’Abbotsford, St-Felix de Kingsey, and St-Ignace de Stanbridge. Katevale became Ste-Catherine de Hatley. The French Canadians 1600-1900 has a very helpful index of place names with cross referencing to deal with these changes.

Myth—information[edit | edit source]

As you check various internet sources of Québec information, try to evaluate it, especially the historic commentary. I have encountered more than a little “Myth-information”, and the Myths are politically charged on both sides of the language divide. Always keep in mind the deep religious divide in 19th century Québec, where, as in Upper Canada (Ontario), the power struggle was essentially between Protestants and Roman Catholics (who included Irish and Highland Scots), rather than language groups.

Reading the newspapers will show that in the 1850s there was little antagonism to the French, but letters from Bartholomew Conrad Augustus Gugy (1796-1876), published in the Québec Gazette, railed against the unequal division of power between Roman Catholics and Protestants (Others). You might also encounter Robert Sellar, editor of the Huntingdon Canadian Gleaner; in a region subject to the same demographic forces. Sellar’s conspiracy theory, blames a Papal plot aided and abetted by the Roman Catholic clergy for the changing population of the “English” counties[3] . The past is a foreign country and Québecers in 1870 did not necessarily think the same way they did in 1970.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. O.D. Skelton, The Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, editor Guy MacLean (Toronto, 1966) pages 10-15.
  2. Bellavance, Marcel, A Village in Transition: Compton, Québec, 1880-1920 (Ottawa: Environment Canada, Parks Canada, 1982). This small (under 100 pages) book gives an excellent and balanced account of such demographic changes. Originally written in French, the notes and bibliography provide a very good list of sources in that language.
  3. Sellar, Robert, The Tragedy of Québec: the Expulsion of its Protestant Farmers (Huntingdon: 1907/1916) (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1974) "Introduction by Robert Hill - Social History of Canada, general editor Michael Bliss.


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 wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.