Interregional Migration and the Emergence of Dialect Zones in Quebec

Marc Tremblay (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi)

Our study focuses on achieving a better understanding of the role played by migration in the formation and development of Quebec’s French-Canadian population. It  involves analyzing the migration patterns of previous generations based on genealogical data spanning more than three centuries. Such an analysis allows us to better identify the chronological and genealogical contexts in which different North American regions contributed to the emergence of the current French-Canadian population. Using regional samples of ascending genealogies for French Canadians born and/or married in Quebec during the second half of the twentieth century, we explore intergenerational migration patterns starting with the earliest colonial settlements.

In addition to migration within Quebec, we are looking at the role of ancestors from other regions of Canada (Acadia, Ontario, the West) and from the United States, including migrants from former French territories and French Canadians returning from the New England states to participate in the settlement of Quebec. Furthermore, by identifying presumably non-Francophone international immigrants in the genealogies, we can provide insight into the linguistic integration of these immigrants (or their descendants) within French-speaking Quebec society. For example, consider the German mercenaries who settled in Quebec during the late eighteenth century, following the American Revolutionary War. Some of these immigrants married French Canadians, and their descendants quickly integrated into the Francophone population. Likewise, many descendants of Irish immigrants, large numbers of whom arrived during the quarter century after 1850, are today wholly French Canadian. We are therefore pursuing our analysis of intergenerational migration patterns at several geographic levels (Quebec regions, other parts of Canada, regions of the United States, other countries), with the aim of highlighting how various sources of migrants contributed to the development of Quebec’s French-Canadian population.

Furthermore, an analysis specifically focused on paternal lineages (i.e., following male branches only) provides a better understanding of how various Francophone family names spread within different regions. Once again, such an analysis sheds light on not only the intergenerational development of French surnames, starting with the earliest colonial settlements in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but also the transmission and transformation of certain non-French surnames introduced by immigrants from non-Francophone countries.

The study mainly draws on data available in the BALSAC database, which can support the reconstruction of ascending genealogies for the Quebec population as far back as the early seventeenth century. Such temporal depth is rarely achievable for other populations, especially on this scale. The genealogies can provide detailed information on the origins, formation, and structure of the Quebec population over the centuries. They include places and dates of marriage, making it possible to track intergenerational migration patterns by comparing the places of marriage for a given generation with those of previous generations.

Identifying the places of marriage for ancestors has already made it possible to assess the extent to which contemporary individuals have deep or widespread ancestral roots in a particular region, whether their families’ presence can be expressed in terms of years or generations. These preliminary results show significant variability in the depth and development of genealogical roots in different regions. Regional characteristics serve to highlight the importance of not only geographic proximity, but also the age of a given settlement. The work conducted so far has provided an initial estimate of the extent of interregional and intergenerational migration since the seventeenth century. A more detailed analysis based on places of marriage will make it possible to track the main migration patterns underlying these trends. In addition to describing and quantifying migration patterns (nature and frequency of the main flows, intergenerational mobility intervals), we will seek to illustrate the data cartographically.

Our study draws on a corpus of some 10,000 ascending genealogies produced in the context of previous studies and available for analysis. These genealogies trace the lineages of individuals married in Quebec between 1966 and 1985 and/or born in Quebec between 1940 and 1970, and living in Quebec during data collection (2009–2010). In short, the study will provide a representative portrait of Quebec’s baby boomer population.