Recently, the news media reported that Quebec Premier François Legault stated that “all” French Canadians are Catholic. While it is true that, historically, almost all francophone Quebecers were Catholic, today many are lapsed Catholics while others are atheists. There are also those who, for a variety of reasons, switched from the Catholic Church to a Protestant religion.
In my own case, I became a Protestant in my mid-forties. My father, Lionel Gagné, was also a Protestant. At a young age, he lost both his Catholic parents and was placed in a Catholic orphanage in east-end Montreal. At about the age of seven or eight, he was taken in by a Huguenot teacher and his wife, a Presbyterian from Massachusetts, who were teachers at a bilingual Protestant College in Pointe-aux-Trembles. This college was operated and financed at the time by McGill University and the Presbyterian Church of Canada.
Like many people, Premier Legault is probably not aware that a small minority of French Quebecers had Protestant ancestors, many of whom were forced to give up their religion when they settled here. Genealogist Michel Barbeau has estimated that about 320 Huguenots, or French-speaking Protestants, settled in New France between 1634 and 1763. See the database of names he identified as Huguenots: http://pages.infinit.net/barbeaum/fichier/index.htm). You can read more about the history of the Huguenots on Barbeau’s website Our Huguenot Ancestors, http://pages.infinit.net/barbeaum/huga/index.htm
Many of these people came to North America to escape from persecution in Europe, however, they did not find life much easier in New France. Many were forced to abjure, or renounce, their religion and others became Catholic after marrying in the Catholic Church. Those who remained Protestant were banned from certain trades, while some had their possessions confiscated.
Here are links to two of my research guides to the Huguenots of New France:
The following article describes the early Protestant churches of Quebec City:
In addition to being a list of French-language Protestant churches and their ministers, the research guide below includes an excellent article by Réne Péron about the lives of Protestants in New France, a list of books and authors who have written on the subject, and contact information for the archives of Protestant churches where you can find church registries:
The following research guide is a list of villages, towns and townships across Quebec where people from a variety of origins, including Huguenots, settled:
In 2020, I will be posting a series of articles about the Huguenots in Europe. The first will focus on the Protestants of Paris and surrounding region in the 16th and 17th centuries.