The Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne
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Few French Emigrants


French emigrants

It is a cold and wet spring here in France, and the First of May was rather gloomy. It is good weather for going to the archives or trawling genealogy sites on the Internet, not so lovely for visiting cemeteries or brocante fairs. Indoor weather, essentially, preferably with a cup of Lapsang. 

Sipping that Lapsang, we were admiring the online exhibition about immigration from Europe to America entitled "Leaving Europe: A New Life in America", originally created by the Digital Public Library of America, but which we were viewing via the fabulous culture website, Europeana, on the exhibitions section. This is so very much our kind of eye candy.

We were brought up short, however, when we read that "Countries like Belgium and France weren’t major players in the migration streams."*   Well, really! That seems a surly way to say that most French were happy at home. Those who were unhappy enough and brave enough to emigrate, and who tend to be the ancestors of you, Our Dear Readers, were clearly of a rare and, we like to think, exalted -- or at least demanding -- group.

The website of the Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration, which is mostly about immigrants to France, has a single page about the waves of emigrants from France:

  • Early immigrants to Quebec in the seventeenth century
  • Those who went to Mexico in the nineteenth century
  • Basques went to Argentina and Uruguay
  • Bretons went to Newfoundland
  • People from the provinces of Maine and Anjou went to Canada
  • Vine-growers went to California
  • Alsatians to the United States (who get special mention for having taken le savoir-faire français to that primitive land)
  • The some 300,000 French now living in London (Sid among them)

It is interesting that they make no mention of the Protestants, the émigrés who fled the Revolution, or the political exiles of the tumultuous nineteenth century. History is written by the winners, as the saying goes.

"Major players" or not, the French certainly have contributed to global migration over the centuries.

©2013 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


*Page 3 of "The Homeland of Migrating Groups - Western Europe" section of the exhibition.