This post is part of a series about genealogy in France. You can read the complete series HERE.
The reality is, that migration of any kind, shares some commonality with other countries, both in terms of migrating from, migrating to, why and when.
France, like other nations in Europe with an element of colonial rule, provided a wide range of opportunity for migration. People could migrate within the European continent itself, or within the wide global focused Empire. Movement could be in a variety of formats involving people of Money and wealth, those who had saved and saved and saved from a small income, those who were to be incarcerated, those who were merchants and travelling as such, those who were indentured servants and those who were enslaved. Depending on the time frame, migration could be within the country itself and by a particular group of people, who might have been forced into migration.
Europeans learnt in 1497 of the rich cod stocks to be found in Newfoundland and Labrador waters. In 1504, the French were the first documented nation to be fishing there, and by 1520 between 60 and 90 vessels were regularly sailing each year and by the middle of the 18th Century this number had grown significantly with about 10,000 French migrating each year.
Most of the migrants came from Brittany and Normandy; plus the Norman ports of Rouen, Dieppe, Honfleur Granville, as well as the Breton ports of St Malo and St Brieuc. Those in the St Malo region were from the villages of Cancale, Coulomb, Chateauneuf, Pleudihen, Pleuguenec, and Dol.
Most of the migrants were single, young and poor men who were happy to spend the Spring and Summer away from France, despite sounding idilic, it would have been hard continual labour. That said, some of the fisherman migrated permanently, settling mainly at Plaisance prior to 1713, and along the north and west coast of the Island.
Prior to France and other nations becoming aware of the rich cod stocks of Newfoundland and Labrador, there was reliance on the cod fisheries of Scandinavia and the herring fisheries of the English Channel. The demand for fish existed heavily in France, whose religion was predominately Roman Catholic, which meant that for religious reasons many could not eat meat for more than 150 days. Fish was a protein alternative. Fresh fish was expensive and not easily readily available, as a result salt fish grew in popularity, as it was cheaper and more readily available. Cured cod preserved well and was easily transported when compared to the less tasty herring
Acadians also arrived in the west of Newfoundland and Labrador area from the late 18th Century into the mid 19th Century, mostly from Cape Breton. They were principally farmers, who migrated in family groups taking advantage of the rich soil. Many acquired land at St George’s Bay and Codroy Valley.