Thank you (merci!) to Salem State University in Massachusetts and Dr. Elizabeth Blood, for providing free access about French Canada and the history of l’Ile d’Orleans, now available on the digital commons! Readers will enjoy visiting this site.
L.P. Turcotte’s Histoire de l’Ile d’Orleans, originally published in French in 1867, has been translated into English, by Dr. Elizabeth Blood. This free download will give today’s English-speaking descendants of the early French colonists a peek into the lives of the 17th-century settlers who lived in New France. This translated book focuses on the history of l’Ile d’Orleans – a small island located in the St. Lawrence River just north of Québec City – where many colonial French settlers established their homesteads. This is the digital commons book at this website here.
Originally published in Québec: Atelier Typographique du “Canadien,” 21 rue de la Montagne, Basse-Ville, Québec City, 1867; Translated into English by Dr. Elizabeth Blood, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts, 2019.
Extraordinary information is available in this book, including historic details, with documentation, annotations and oral histories related to the period when it was written.
My husband and I were honored to be guests at l’Ile d’Orleans several years ago during Quebec Carnival. We were invited to a fantastic soiree, hosted at one of the farms, when we were with a group of visiting American journalists.
Following are some edited excerpts from l’Histoire, as published in the translator’s preface and a few highlights:
Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) described l’Ile d’Orleans in Voyages: “The Ile d’Orléans is six leagues long, very beautiful and pleasant due to its diversity of woods, prairies, and grapevines found in several parts; with walnut trees, the tip of the western edge of the island is called Cap de Condé.”
L’Ile d’Orléans is one of several historically significant places in Canada. This island was the site of remarkable events, including bloody conflicts, that should be of interest, not only to its inhabitants, but to all Canadians and Franco-Americans. Because of the proximity to Québec city, and the fortunate fertile land, l’Ile d’Orléans was one of the first places inhabited by the French, in Canada. From this location, the French population began to produce colonists for the rest of the country. It also produced many eminent and distinguished men of all social classes. Many families, including quite distinguished ones, have ancestors who were among the inhabitants.
L’Ile d’Orléans, is about twenty miles long and five and a half miles wide. That means 70 square miles, or 47,923 acres, which are divided into five small parishes: Saint Pierre, Sainte Famille, Saint François, Saint Jean and Saint Laurent. Thanks to its advantageous location in the middle of the majestic St. Lawrence River and so close to the former capital of Canada, its elevation creates a kind of amphitheater above the water, its fertile soil, its coastline of beautiful sand on one side and green prairies brimming with game on the other, its picturesque sites and its grand vistas, it is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful islands in Canada, and perhaps in the entire world. It is admired by travelers who are struck by the grandeur and beauty of the place. The earliest explorers took particular care to describe this magnificent island in their travel journals, an honor denied to other areas in the countryside.
Included in the digital commons book are a list of names with almost all of the French people who settled on the Ile d’Orléans, between 1651 and 1680. The named colonists were the ancestors of most of the families that currently live on l’Ile and a great number of other French families in Lower Canada. Although the lists are certainly not complete, they have provided quite a few names and documentation about them. The land grant documents and registers that were used to obtain this information were notoriously difficult to decipher, and sometimes completely illegible. For some of the early settlers, the documentation included their places of origin in France, the year they settled on l’Ile and the name of their spouses. Their places of origin were taken from the parish registers or from the list of the first colonists of New France, found at the end of Volume 1 of Monsieur Ferland’s Cours d’Histoire du Canada. Also, Reverend Father M.C. Tanguay furnished the names of several people on the list.
Among the oral histories published in l’Histoire includes this interesting and sad story:
“Long ago, another young girl from the Ile d’Orléans disappeared and was kidnapped, but in a different way. This young girl, at the age of maybe nine or ten, belonged to a family by the name of Baucher dit Morency; her parents, it seems, did not lead exemplary lives. One day, she left to go bring lunch to her father, and she was never seen again. Several years later, a letter was written to the Bishop of Québec by the Sisters in a convent in Louisiana. This letter gave the following details: A young girl was found one morning on the steps of our convent. Upon questioning, she said she was from the Sainte Famille parish on an island and that she was going to bring lunch to her father when she was kidnapped by a large white woman who took care of her and deposited her on the steps of the convent. The Sisters took pity on the unfortunate girl; they adopted her and educated her. Later, she became a nun in the same convent. This letter also informed the bishop of the death of the young lady, asking him to convey the information to her parents.”
Bonne lecture! D’Elizabeth Blood, Professor of French, Salem State University Summer 2019. Merci beaucoup! She told me how the translation project took her about 6 months to accomplish.
Contact at Salem State University: Dr. Elizabeth Blood at this site here.
By the way, there is a historic treasure trove of other interesting information posted on the Salem State University’s digital commons French-Canadian page.