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, United States (USA) (American Colonies) - 1840 to 1860s - French-Canadian emigration to the United States


The large number of French-Canadians who crossed the border in the nineteenth century, particularly to the New England states, made their choice to seek a better life. These were predominantly young adults, some with families and others who were single. Traditionally, French-Canadian Americans had large families, and these numbers, coupled with dismal economic conditions, drove them south. Some estimates put the extent of the migration at 600,000, which had the effect of draining Canada of a generation.

Work in textile mills and the logging industry—anything besides the backbreaking farm work in Québec—was what drew them. For example, six mills opened in the Lewiston area of the state of Maine alone between 1819 and 1869. When they did settle, French-Canadian Americans sought to build a sense of community much like what they were used to "back home"—centered about a parish church and school, thus combining both the nuclear family and the extended family of the ethnic community. By 1850 about 20,000 French Canadians had settled in the New England area, with the majority living in Vermont. By 1860 there were another 18,000, including clusters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

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