French Canadian Americans
|Regions with significant populations|
|Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Michigan, and Louisiana|
|French (Canadian and American) · English|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism, minority of Protestantism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|French Canadians, French Americans, Canadian Americans, French people, Cajuns, Métis Americans|
French-Canadian Americans (also referred to as Franco-Canadian Americans or Canadien Americans) are Americans of French-Canadian descent. About 2.1 million U.S. residents cited this ancestry in the 2010 U.S. Census; the majority of them speak French at home. Americans of French-Canadian descent are most heavily concentrated in New England and the Midwest. Their ancestors mostly arrived in the United States from Quebec between 1840 and 1930, though some families became established as early as the 17th and 18th centuries.
The term Canadien (French for "Canadian") may be used either in reference to nationality or ethnicity in regard to this population group. French-Canadian Americans, because of their proximity to Canada and Quebec, kept their language, culture, and religion alive much longer than any other ethnic group in the United States apart from Mexican Americans. Many "Little Canada" neighborhoods developed in New England cities, but gradually disappeared as their residents eventually assimilated into the American mainstream. A revival of the Canadian identity has taken place in the Midwestern states, where some families of French descent have lived for many generations. These states had been considered part of Canada until 1783. A return to their roots seems to be taking place, with a greater interest in all things that are Canadian or Québécois.
French-Canadian population in New England
In the late 19th century, many Francophones arrived in New England from Quebec and New Brunswick to work in textile mill cities in New England. In the same period, Francophones from Quebec soon became a majority of the workers in the saw mill and logging camps in the Adirondack Mountains and their foothills. Others sought opportunities for farming and other trades such as blacksmiths in northern New York State. By the mid-20th century French-Canadian Americans comprised 30 percent of Maine's population. Some migrants became lumberjacks but most concentrated in industrialized areas and into enclaves known as "Little Canadas in cities like Lewiston, Maine".
Driven by depleted farmlands, poverty and a lack of local economic opportunitunities, rural inhabitants of these areas sought work in the expanding mill industries. Newspapers in New England carried advertisements touting the desirability of wage labor work in the textile mills. In addition to industry's organized recruitment campaigns, the close kinship network of French-Canadians facilitated transnational communication and the awareness of economic opportunity for their friends and relatives. Individual French-Canadian families who desired dwellings developed French Canadian neighborhoods, called Petit Canadas, and sought out local financing. Most arrived through railroads such as the Grand Trunk Railroad.
French-Canadian women saw New England as a place of opportunity and possibility where they could create economic alternatives for themselves distinct from the expectations of their farm families in Canada. By the early 20th century some saw temporary migration to the United States to work as a rite of passage and a time of self-discovery and self-reliance. Most moved permanently to the United States, using the inexpensive railroad system to visit Quebec from time to time. When these women did marry, they had fewer children with longer intervals between children than their Canadian counterparts. Some women never married, and oral accounts suggest that self-reliance and economic independence were important reasons for choosing work over marriage and motherhood. These women conformed to traditional gender ideals in order to retain their 'Canadienne' cultural identity, but they also redefined these roles in ways that provided them increased independence in their roles as wives and mothers.
The French-Canadians became active in the Catholic Church where they tried with little success to challenge its domination by Irish clerics. They founded such newspapers as 'Le Messager' and 'La Justice.' The first hospital in Lewiston, Maine, became a reality in 1889 when the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the "Grey Nuns", opened the doors of the Asylum of Our Lady of Lourdes. This hospital was central to the Grey Nuns' mission of providing social services for Lewiston's predominately French-Canadian mill workers. The Grey Nuns struggled to establish their institution despite meager financial resources, language barriers, and opposition from the established medical community. Immigration dwindled after World War I.
|Van Buren, Maine||65.%|
|Fort Kent, Maine||63.%|
|Berlin, New Hampshire||53.4%|
|Hallandale Beach, Florida||42.1%|
French Canadian immigration to New England
|Distribution of French Canadians in New England, 1860–1880|
|Distribution of French Canadians in New England, 1900–1930|
American cities founded by or named after French Canadians
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- Biloxi, founded by Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville
- Bourbonnais named after François Bourbonnais
- Davenport, Iowa founded by Antoine LeClaire
- Detroit, Michigan, named by French explorer Cadillac*
- Dubuque, named after Julien Dubuque
- Huron, founded by Jean-Baptiste Flemmond
- Juneau, named after Joe Juneau
- La Barge, Wyoming, named after Joseph Marie La Barge
- Laramie, Wyoming, named after Jacques La Remee
- Milwaukee, founded by Solomon Juneau
- Mobile, founded by Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville
- New Orleans, founded by Lemoyne de Bienville
- Portage Des Sioux founded by Zenon Trudeau and François Saucier.
- Provo, Utah, named for Etienne Provost
- Saint Joseph, founded by Joseph Robidoux
- Saint Paul, first settled by Pierre Parrant
- Vincennes founded by François-Marie Bissot
- "2013 ACS Ancestry estimates". Factfinder2.census.gov. 2013. Archived from the original on 2020-02-12. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
- "Languages Used at home:" (PDF). 2010 U.S. Census. U.S. Census Bureau. October 2010.
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- Harvard encyclopedia of American ethnic groups,Stephan Thernstorm, Harvard College, 1980, p 392
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- According to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2000
- Ralph D. VICERO, Immigration of French Canadians to New England, 1840–1900, Ph.D. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1968, p. 275; as given in Yves ROBY, Les Franco-Américains de la Nouvelle Angleterre, 1776–1930, Sillery, Septentrion, 1990, p. 47
- Leon TRUESDELL, The Canadian Born in the United States, New Haven, 1943, p. 77; as given in Yves ROBY, Les Franco-Américains de la Nouvelle-Angleterre, Sillery, Septentrion, 1990, p. 282.
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- Doty, C. Stewart. "The Future of the Franco-American Past," American Review of Canadian Studies, Spring 2000, Vol. 30 Issue 1, pp 7–17 calls for further research on trade unionism, politics, farming and logging, links with Quebec elites, and literary figures.
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- Fréchette, Louis (1900). The United States for French Canadians, 345 pages online free
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- Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld, Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
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- Rumily, Robert. (1958) Histoire des Franco Americains. a standard history, in French
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- Robbins, Rhea Cote. 'down the Plains,' (2013) http://www.rhetapress.com/
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- American-French Genealogical Society A genealogical and historical organization for French-Canadian research