Episode 007-March 4, 2014
Just about everyone with French-Canadian ancestry has one or more Filles du Roi, or King’s Daughters, as an ancestor. Although it does not mean you have royal blood, you still have ancestors worthy of the gratitude of subsequent generations. In episode 7, we learn the story of the Filles du Roi as well as a program that will allow you to honor your very own King’s Daughter.
To make sure we are pronouncing the word fille correctly, in Language Tip #7 we cover the pronunciation of some double-L sounds and how it affects surname spellings.
Language Tip #7-the French double-L
As in Spanish, the French double-L, especially but not always after an ‘i,’ can make the sound of a /y/. In the word ‘ville,’ it retains the /L/ sound; but in fille, the double-L changes to a /Y/ sound. The plural filles is pronounced the same way because there is no silent e after the s. (See maplestarsandstripes.com/1 to review that lesson.) We distinguish between the two with the article:
La fille = the daughter
Les filles = the daughters
When searching for ancestors, we have to keep in mind that the double-L and the Y are interchangeable. So when searching for Antailla…
…also look for Antaya.
When looking for Aillot…
…also look for Ayotte.
Les Filles du Roi (the King’s Daughters)
The Filles du Roi, or King’s daughters, were a group of young ladies who traveled from France to New France from 1663-1673 as a result of extraordinary circumstances. There were approximately 800 of the King’s Daughters. The exact number ranges anywhere from 700 to a thousand.
Interview with Sylvia Montville Bartholomy:
The French colony in the New World was not growing as quickly as the English colony to the south. Around 1632, King Louis gave a grant to a group of private investors called the Cent–Associés, or the Hundred Associates, charged with growing the colony and making it self-sufficient. Between 1632 and 1662, they did succeed in bringing people over, but very few stayed because of the harsh conditions, but more importantly, because the men did not have women to marry.
In 1662, the King canceled the grant and decided to see what he himself could do. His main concern was that there were 80,000 Englishmen to the south and only 2500 Frenchmen to the north, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
Louis sent over a new intendant named Jean Talon. He came up with the idea of the King’s Daughters as a way to grow the colony.
The King took over as the figurative father. He paid these young women’s dowries and gave them each a trunk of goods. He also paid their transportation and paid for them to live with the Ursuline nuns until they married.
In France, parish priests announced the program from the pulpit as an attempt to recruit women to leave France and travel to the New World. The women were told they would be doing good for their God and their country to go to this primitive land and build families. For some women who were orphans or had no financial prospects, it was a chance at a better life. In those days a woman without parents or who was poor had no dowry. Without a dowry, she could neither marry nor become a nun. Her only option was a life of servitude.
After a perilous and uncomfortable journey across the ocean with an appointed chaperone, they reached Quebec. Here the Ursuline nuns would take them in and nurse them back to health and teach them survival skills.
The nuns would then hold a social so the women could meet the men of the colony. These men had to first prove to the nuns that they were ready and able to support a wife and family. The women always had the choice as to whether or not they accepted a marriage proposal. Then a contract would be drawn up. Some of these marriage contracts were later annulled.
If a woman did not find a husband in Québec, she would travel up river to another convent to try again in Trois-Rivières; and if not successful there, would try again up river in Montréal. The men of Montréal began complaining that by time the women reached them, the chance of an attractive wife was much slimmer.
If a woman did not find a suitable husband, the nuns would find her a position with a local family until she did find one. She was never forced into a marriage she didn’t want.
Sylvia runs a Canadian French language open house every second Thursday of the month at the Harris Public Library, Clinton St. in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, from 7:00-9:00 PM. This allows participants to practice the language they don’t get the chance to use very much anymore in a fun way with games and puzzles. It is a chance to re-awaken their knowledge of the French language.
There is a documentary called Waking up French by Ben Levine which covers the immigration of the French-Canadians and how and why they lost their language. The movie inspires the desire to reawaken the French language in those who lost it
The AFGS will be holding an open house on Sunday, March 16, at their library at 78 Earle St. in Woonsocket from 1-4. If you’re in the vicinity, stop by for a tour, get started with your research, and see what the AFGS has to offer. You might be surprised to see they have much more than just French-Canadian resources.
Where to Find the Filles du Roi
Some websites with information on the Filles du Roi are in French. Although translations are not exact, they usually can at least help you understand the basics of the article. One alternative is to use Google Translate. I prefer to download the Google toolbar which has the translate function on it. Then whenever I am on a French site, I just click the Translate button up top and the entire page is transformed into passable English.
There is a list of Filles du Roi on the AFGS website. You can check to see if your ancestor is there. This list is taken from Peter Gagne’s well-researched 2-volume set called ‘King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: the Filles du Roi, 1663-1673.’ Although out of print, the AFGS received permission to reprint the books for their 350th anniversary celebration. Check out this wonderful resource, especially if you don’t read French and would like to know the stories behind your King’s Daughters.
Sites in French:
- Migrations.fr website: lists many of the King’s Daughters as well as their origins in France, the name of the ship they traveled on and its arrival date, and notes about their marriage and life in Québec.
- Migrations.fr website: this page takes you alphabetically to each Fille du Roi and then presents an actual image of her marriage record from the parish register.
- Museum of Civilzation in Quebec, Filles du Roi page: takes you through the story of the King’s daughters along with illustrations.
- Société d’Histoire des Filles du Roi : check out their links under Filles du Roy.
- Généalogie des Français d’Amérique du Nord : find out approximately how many descendants each Fille du Roi has.
Sites in English :
- The CBC Learning website, Le Canada
- Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home, King’s Daughters
- Daughters of the King and Founders of a Nation: Les Filles du Roi in New France, Aimie Kathleen Runyan’s masters thesis:
- We Relate, King’s Daughters
- The King’s Daughters:”Les Filles du Roi” by Robert Chenard
- Les Filles du Roi by Juliana L’Heureux
- Library and Archives Canada Blog, The “Filles du Roi”
If you’re looking for a book which covers the Filles du Roi, Jan Noel has written Along a River: The First French-Canadian Women.
The AFGS Filles du Roi certificate program, Jan Burkhart interview:
To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the coming of the Filles du Roi, the AFGS offers a certificate and pin (for a nominal fee) to anyone who documents their ancestry back to a Daughter of the King. So far the program has been so successful that they’ve issued about 1000 certificates. Also, of the approximately 750 girls who came, 353 are represented.
To get your pin and certificate, click here.
If you like to travel vicariously, check out a new podcast on traveling in France at joinusinfrance.com. Annie from Join Us in France has graciously volunteered to help people with their French pronunciations. If you send her an email with your surnames or words, she will send you an audio file with the proper pronunciation. Her contact info is at the bottom of the page at maplestarsandstripes.com/3. Thanks to Annie for volunteering to do this.
Periodically I’ll post items of interest to French-Canadian researchers on the Maple Stars and Stripes Facebook page. If you haven’t already, Like us at facebook.com/maplestarsandstripes so you don’t miss any of these announcements.
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