Pioneers’ demographic legacy: a measure of the descendances of early immigrants in the Quebec population (17th-20th centuries)

Marc Tremblay, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Bertrand Desjardins, Université de Montréal
Houde Louis, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Helene Vezina, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

The population of the province of Quebec (Canada) presently numbers about 7.5 millions, of which nearly 6 millions are French-speaking. Most of these francophones are the descendants of French pioneers who immigrated to Quebec (then New-France) during the 17th and 18th centuries. Although many characteristics of theses early pioneers, such as their geographical origin, their age/sex distribution at arrival and their demographic behaviour are well known, it is only recently that the precise identification of those pioneers who still have descendants in the contemporary Quebec population began to be investigated. Such investigation was made possible with the use of extended genealogical material dating back some 350 years (12 generations and more). The main objective of our work is to establish the links between the contemporary Quebec gene pool’s structure and the demographic history of its population. Recent studies based on the analysis of more than 2000 ascending genealogies have shown that the genetic contribution of the first founders of the Quebec population varied quite significantly according to origin and period of arrival. For instance, some founders appear several times in most of the pedigrees while others are found only once or twice. This is clearly a result of differential demographic behaviour among founders and their descendants. Comparisons between founders who were identified in the genealogical sample and the immigrants who settled in New-France during the 17th and 18th centuries have shown that nearly half of these immigrants had no descendants at all in the contemporary population. Using data from the Early Quebec Population Register (17th-18th centuries) and the BALSAC Population database (19th-20th centuries), extensive analysis is now under way that will shed new light on the descendances of early immigrants and on the mechanisms by which these descendances have evolved up to the present-day.

Presented in Session 29: Evolutionary- and Bio-Demography