Some 14,000 French men and women immigrated to New France during the seventeenth century. (On the other hand, approximately 380,000 individuals from the British Isles immigrated to the New World between 1630 and 1699.) (Charbonneau 33, 34, 214)
Approximately two-thirds of the French immigrants returned to the Old World or died unmarried in Canada. Only 3,400 French settled along the St. Lawrence River and laid the foundation for the new colony. (Charbonneau 40-41)
This was an immigration dominated by males. In the censuses of 1666 and 1667, men outnumbered women two to one.* (Charbonneau 27, 36)
The great majority of the French were single when they emigrated: 87% of the men and 79% of the women. (Charbonneau 37)
Most of the immigration took place in the ten years between 1663 and 1672, after the King (Louis XIV) assumed responsibility for colonization. One-third of the men and one-half of the women who came to the colony in the seventeenth century arrived during this ten-year period. This included the 770 King’s Daughters (Filles du roi). (Charbonneau 36-37)
Of the women who came, very few returned to France. Almost all crossed the Atlantic with the specific intention of settling in the New World. Some came as wives or as children in immigrating families. Others, the King’s Daughters and the Filles à marier before them, came as young, marriageable women. They were not specifically forced to stay in Canada; however, once they had married and given birth to children, their situation left them with few options. (Charbonneau 199)
Three-fourths of all emigrants from France had arrived in the colony by 1680. After that year, the population in the colony grew naturally, rather than through emigration from the Old World. (Charbonneau 37)
Only two hundred more women immigrated to the colony after the arrival of the last contingent of King’s Daughters in 1673. (Charbonneau 37)
There were three censuses in the seventeenth century, taken in 1666, 1667, and 1681 (the main period of immigration.) Most of the country’s founders appear in these documents. Exceptions listed in the censuses are those who died or who returned to France prior to 1666. (Charbonneau 45)
By 1680, both banks of the St. Lawrence River were settled. The census of 1681 lists a population of close to 10,000 in the colony. (Charbonneau 37)
* The reported male to female ratio in the young French colony varies considerably among historians. In his book, King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663-1673, Peter Gagné reports that “Up until the early 1670’s, there were six to 14 times as many men of marriageable age as there were women.” All researchers agree that there was a significant gender imbalance and that this impeded the growth of the colony.
Charbonneau, Hubert, Bertrand Desjardins, André Guillemette, Yves Landry, Jacques Légaré, and François Nault. The First French Canadians: Pioneers in the St. Lawrence Valley. Trans. Paola Colozzo. Ontario: Associated University Press, 1993.