MSS-069-Filles à Marier

Episode 069-January 1, 2018

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Today we’re taking a look at a group of girls who miss out on the spotlight and the credit given to the filles du roi. Before the filles du roi, other women did move to Nouvelle France, settle down, and raise families that became the early backbone of the new nation. These filles à marier came without the sponsorship of the king, so in many ways had it even more difficult than their successors. Peter Gagné, author of Before the King’s Daughters: the Filles à Marier, 1634-1662, shares their story with us.

Filles à Marier

Who were the filles à marier?

These were girls and women who came to Nouvelle France from 1634-1662, before the filles du roi. They were sponsored by different religious groups or societies rather than the King of France. Many came to marry. Many signed a work contract and had to complete their time before marrying.

They were mostly recruited from the rural provinces.

The term “fille à marier” was not used contemporaneously. It actually applied first to the filles du roi.

Some of the earliest filles à marier came from the La Rochelle area. Later they came from the northwest quadrant of France, near ports like Rouen and Dieppe.

Unlike the filles du roi, the filles à marier were not part of a large, organized group. They came over individually. A maximum of 20% of the girls came over to join other family members. The rest came alone.

Montreal was not founded until 1642. The first filles à marier went to Montreal around 1647. Sometimes an agent from one of the religious groups would sign up both men and women from France to come over. Then they would sell their contracts to interested parties in Canada.

Peter’s booksbook

Peter wrote a book about the filles à marier called Before the King’s Daughters: the Filles à Marier, 1634-1662. He also wrote a 2-volume set on the filles du roi called King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers. Both of these wonderful books are available from the American French Genealogical Society. Go to and click on Books and Publications – Other.

Certificate program

The AFGS is also offering a Filles à Marier Certificate Program similar to that for the Filles du Roi. You send in a straight line chart from you to your fille à marier ancestor. In return you will receive a certificate and a pin. If you think one of your ancestors was a filles à marier, check out the list here.

Peter Gagné

Peter is currently the archivist for the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City. He spends much of his time helping others who are researching their ancestors.

He is currently working on a book on the Carignan-Salière Regiment with biographical sketches on each soldier.

You can reach Peter through the AFGS, the Société des Filles du Roi et Soldats du Carignan, or by email at pezpete [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Filles à marier links


OCR and Translation Apps

Both OCR (optical character recognition) and translation software have come far in the last decade. Yet some are better than others. I received the following email from Mike which got me thinking seriously about this topic:

I’ve been collecting quite some number of books on all aspects of early Quebec history over the years, but I’ve typically shied away from those written in French because I can only read and understand them imperfectly with great effort, and the time investment just isn’t worth it. This has been bothering me, because I understand that many important works on the subject will be overlooked.

Tonight I decided to begin experimenting with OCR to see if that technology, combined with a good translation software, could help to overcome this barrier.

Text Fairy icon

In the Google Play store, I found several OCR apps, and decided to start with one called Text Fairy. It has a setting for French and testing on several pages of 2 different books yielded excellent results. The OCR was flawless, right down to the accent marks. The app also features built in Google Translate. (At least for me, but I already had that app downloaded, so that might have been a factor.) I didn’t have high expectations for that, but I have to say that it produced amazing results. The translated text, if not perfect, was absolutely understandable, and free of the clumsy word-for-word translation that we often experience with such apps.

This is still a clunky process, to be sure. You have to take a photo of the page of text, crop the image, and wait 10-12 seconds while the program straightens the image and converts it to text. A couple more screen taps and you have the translation. That said, this is very exciting because it essentially tears down a huge barrier for those of us who aren’t fluent in French, but still need to work in French language texts.

If you aren’t already familiar with this or similar apps, I would encourage you to give it try, and if you judge it to have value, perhaps toss it out as a suggestion in a future podcast for fellow non-French speaking researchers.

Thanks again for all the work you put into the production of MS&S. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously, and find it extremely helpful.

All the best,

Mike has shared an app he tried that works on Android devices. You may want to try it to see if it works for your needs. There are many others out there. Some you may have already tried; others you may look into in the future. Either way, please feel free to share your results with the MSS audience.

I have created a web page at to host reviews. After reading Mike’s email, I looked for a similar app for the iPhone or iPad. I purchased Scan & Translate Pro, used it, then wrote a review which you will find on the reviews page. Perhaps Mike will write one for Text Fairy. If you try a similar app, please send a review to me at maplestarsandstripes [at] gmail [dot] com. Include the following information so we can compare apps:

  • Name of app
    Where bought/found
    Is it for Android, iOS, or both?
    On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (best), how would you rate its OCR performance?
    On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (best), how would you rate its translation performance?
    Can you scan more than one page at a time?
  • Month and year of review

Include samples if you’d like, as I have for Scan & Translate Pro. I will add your review to the Reviews page for others to use in their decision-making process.

For printed text only
Translations do not work well with historical texts.

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One comment on “MSS-069-Filles à Marier

  1. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    Peter Gagné, delighted to hear your presentation. I have long admired your work. For an in-depth study, see my article on Fille à Marier “Judith Rigaud: Has This Interesting New France Woman Been Treated Fairly in Published Articles?”

    She is one who was hired to go to New France and, to a certain extent, “broke” her contract to marry, with resulting consequences.

    When I wrote this article years ago, I could not locate in my many, many folders a transcription that I knew I had of the now-missing original copy of the 24 February1654 (notary Ameau) marriage contract between Judith Rigaud and François Lemaistre.

    On page 6, I wrote:

    A savvy woman (she had savoir faire!), Judith apparently held on to several expensive items (as she may have been entitled to do by her marriage contract). Her creditors, Auger continues,

    “stated that the losses established in fact by the said Rigaud are false (…) and that the truth is that she has a bed evaluated at five hundred pounds [sic] and sumptuous clothes, and that she bartered merchandise with the Indians for which she has fine hides which she hid so as to defraud them of their just due.”

    However, Auger does not say that the Custom of Paris almost always guaranteed a widow her personal clothing and “lit garni,” her furnished bed, after the death of her husband.
    Not long ago, I found the misplaced folder, and the transcription of the contract does very definitely state that the spouses declared their marriage to be ruled by the Custom of Paris. Marguerite Legardeur did sign the contract, as did a number of the important people in the colony at that time. The creditors did not have a legal leg to stand on when they complained about her “bed evaluated at five hundred pounds [sic, livres] and sumptuous clothes.” I’ll see if I can add this as a postscript to my 2013 article.


    or directly at

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