I don’t know about you, but before I began researching my family’s history in Canada, I knew practically nothing about Canada’s history or what compelled French immigrants to move there.
It’s very difficult to write a family history without knowing the historical circumstances that shaped their lives.
For example, knowing that the private fur trade merchants were unsuccessful in settling the land and developing agricultural to the point where the colony could become self-sufficient and could produce its own resources is crucial. It explains a lot about why so many of the earlier settlers from areas such as Dieppe attempted to recruit immigrants from their home towns in France. Or why king Louis XIV took back the administration of the colony from the merchants in 1663.
To solve this problem of lack of context, I began reading history books.
I started in the library. The first ones I read were:
- A Short History of Quebec, by John Alexander Dickinson
- Champlain’s Dream, by David Hackett Fischer
I purchased a few books I found on Amazon.com, including:
- A History of Quebec, Vol. 1 by Laurent-Olivier David, Benjamin Sulte and C.E. Fryer (the 2 volumes can also be accessed for free online at Google Play)
- Canada, A People’s History, Vols. 1 and 2, by Don Gillmor and Pierre Turgeon (based on the Canadian documentary series)
To save money, I also searched for free books online and found a wealth of resources. Some of them are in French, but I was able to read those using my high school French knowledge and Google Translate. All of these are available on Google Play:
- Travels Into North America, Vol. 3, by Peter Kalm (18th-century Swedish naturalist, who visited New France in 1749)
- Pioneers of France in the New World, by Francis Parkman
- Picturesque Quebec, by Sir James McPherson
- History of Canada: Canada under French Rule, by William Kingsford
- The Seigniorial System in Canada, A Study in French Colonial Policy, by William Bennett Munro
- Le Bulletin des Reserches Historiques (a French-Canadian periodical from 1895 to 1961 published about French-Canadian people and history)
- The cradle of New France, a story of the city founded by Champlain – Sir Arthur George Doughty
- Canada and its Provinces, edited by Adam Shortt and Arthur McDoughty (22 volumes)
These are just some of the books that give a researcher a good idea of the politics, historical context, and other influences that created New France and shaped the lives of our French-Canadian ancestors.