The lesser-known Filles à marier

Time to confess. I am jealous of those who have Filles du roi in their ancestry. Despite my envy, I still read stories about these young women — and on occasion, I will listen to friends tell me about their illustrious ancestors, provided I am sipping a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

While having lunch with genealogy friends in a local pub this week, a friend reminded me about the Filles à marier (marriageable girls) and an interesting web page she had found.

Many of us are familiar with the story of the 800 Filles du roi who came to New France (Quebec) between 1663 and 1673 as part of the King of France’s program. Fewer know the story about the 262 Filles à marier (marriageable girls) who arrived in Canada almost 30 years earlier, between 1634 and 1662.

Unlike the Filles du roi, the Filles à marier came to Quebec alone or in small groups. They did not receive a dowry from the King. They were promised nothing but the possibility of a better life. While the Filles du roi were recruited by the state, the Filles à marier were recruited and chaperoned by religious groups or individuals who had to assure their good conduct. In general, the young women were poor, although some were members of the petty nobility. Most of the them were daughters of peasants and farmers.

The website, The Filles a Marier, provides a list of the names of the young women. Click on a name to read a short biography of each woman, including the name of her husband, date and location of marriage, and names and birthdates of her children.

Thanks to Ms. O’Leery for reminding me about these young women. But next time, let’s order wine, not water.

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About Gail Dever

Gail Dever is a Montreal-based genealogist and blogger and a webmaster for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.
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