Summer 2013 marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival in New France of the first contingent of the “Filles du roi” (“King’s daughters”), young women who became the ancestors of numerous French-Canadian families. A variety of celebrations are planned throughout Quebec, culminating in the New France Festival in Quebec City from August 7 to 11, 2013.
Between 1663 and 1673, King Louis XIV supported the emigration of these young women, many of them orphans. Their passage to the colony was paid and they received an average dowry of 50 livres, along with a small hope chest containing clothing and sewing materials. In exchange, the women agreed to marry on their arrival in New France, to start a family and to help their husbands work the land. These women were instrumental in helping to populate and develop the colony.
The first contingent of 36 “Filles du roi” landed in 1663. Over the next ten years, an estimated 800 young women settled in New France under the same program.
If you would like to know whether one of your ancestors was a “Fille du roi,” there are many genealogical publications and reviews you can consult. However, the most valuable reference work is Yves Landry’s Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle, orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada which was published in 1992 and which includes biographical notes. You can also visit the website of the Société d’histoire des Filles du roy.
Library and Archives Canada has several historical documents in its collection pertaining to this wave of immigration, including correspondence between the Governor General of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac; Intendant Jean Talon; and the Secretary of State for the Navy, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Of particular note are a letter dated October 27, 1667 and a memorandum written on November 10, 1670.