France, french-canadian, New France, Quebec

French Seaports and New France

During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the French competed with the British and Dutch for control of the fur trade in North America.

British merchants traded in Massachusetts and coastal New England from the 17th century until the American Revolution. The British also carried on trade in the Hudson River valley, and they controlled much of the trade out of Hudson’s Bay in the north.

Early on, Dutch merchants were in business in what is now the New York City area. Between about 1830 and 1842, the American Fur Company of New York City, owned by John Jacob Astor, monopolized the fur trade in the United States.

From the late 16th century until New France fell to the British in 1759, merchants from France, New France and Acadia (in today’s Maritime provinces) dominated the fur trade throughout a vast area. They were the leading fur trading merchants in the St. Lawrence River Valley, the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin), the Missouri River Delta, the Mississippi River Delta and the Great West regions in present-day Canada and the American States bordering Canada. French merchants were also present in the Hudson Bay and James Bay regions of northern Quebec in the 17th century and early 18th century.

The French also exploited other resources, such as fish, in North American waters, and they supplied household goods to the farmers who settled in New France as well as goods to trade with the First Nations people.

The merchants who carried on this busy trade had operations at the ports of Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Louisbourg in North America, and they were associated with fellow merchants at various port cities of France.

La Rochelle was one of the most important French ports for trade with New France, along with Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. Saint-Malo was the home port of explorer Jacques Cartier, while Samuel de Champlain, recognized as the father of New France, was based at the port of Honfleur in Northern France. Other French port cities with connections to the new world included Brest, Calais, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Dunkerque, Fécamp, Le Havre, Lorient, Rochefort, Royan and Vannes, while a few ships sailed from Marseille in southern France.

The research guide attached below provides more information about these French ports. Some of the articles are in French, so if you have trouble following them, use an online translation tool such as Google Translate.

To access this research guide, click here: Ports of Departure

This is the fourth in a series of weekly posts about the merchants, fur traders and ship owners who did business with New France, from the time Jacques Cartier planted a French flag on the shores of the Gaspé in 1534 until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 and New France became a British colony.

The series includes a pair of research guides focused on the individual fur traders, ship owners and private bankers involved in trade between France and New France. See https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/05/the-merchants-ship-owners-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-1-a-g/ and https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/10/the-merchants-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-2-h-to-z/

A research guide to the trading companies these merchants were associated with can be found at https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/26/the-trading-companies-of-new-france/

Next week I will post a list of authors and researchers who have written about this period, including links to some of their publications.

France, french-canadian, New France, Quebec

The Merchants and Fur Traders of New France, part 2, H to Z

In the days of New France and Acadia, a merchant, fur trader, private banker or ship owner was sometimes called a négociant, or dealer. Some négociants were based in Canada, but most had their headquarters in France, especially in La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. Other French port cities with connections to the new world included Brest, Calais, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Dunkerque, Fécamp, Le Havre, Lorient, Rochefort, Royan, Saint-Malo and Vannes, while a few ships sailed from Marseille in southern France.

Rich merchants from La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Caen and Rouen often sent young family members to the French colonies of New France, Acadia and Louisiana to manage their North American investments.

Most such dealers, especially those who settled in New France and Acadia, were Catholics. Some were Protestants (Huguenots or Calvinists) and a few from the city of Bordeaux were Jewish. Following the 1759 British conquest of New France, the number of Huguenot merchants increased slightly, at least in Montreal and Quebec City.

These négociants were the people who opened communications between Europe and ports located in the American colonies. Many of the French traders also dealt with associates in South America, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East.

Hundreds of dealers were in business over the approximately 250 years that New France existed. In the compilation attached below, I have only selected a fraction of them, addressing primarily the French traders who dealt directly with family members or associates in New France, Acadia or Louisiana. In regard to the fur traders, I have tried to identify those who had a place of business in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City or Louisbourg. I have also included a few well-known explorers who were associated with merchants in these four towns.

Many of the French traders who were associated with Quebec, Louisiana or the Great Lakes regions are profiled in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. If your ancestor was a fur trader, banker or ship owner, you may find a great deal about his life in this publication, available online or in many libraries. See http://www.biographi.ca/en/index.php or http://www.biographi.ca/fr/index.php for the French-language edition.

This post is the second in a series of compilations focused on these négociants during the period of colonial New France in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The series will include brief biographies of these merchants, background on the French port cities where they were based, information about the trading companies they were associated with, the names of historians and other researchers who have written about this people, and a list of archives where you can obtain further information.

To see last week’s post introducing the merchants, fur traders, private bankers and ship owners of New France with last names beginning A to G, go to https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/05/the-merchants-ship-owners-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-1-a-g/

To read this week’s compilation on the merchants, fur traders, private bankers and ship owners of New France and Acadia with last names beginning H to Z, click on this link: Merchants, Fur Traders and Ship Owners of New France, H-Z Merchants, Fur Traders and Ship Owners of New France, H-Z

France, Genealogy, New France, Quebec

The Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders of New France, Part 1, A – G

There are a couple of versions of this story: in 1539, someone told the King of France that explorer Jacques Cartier had found gold and silver along the shores of the Saguenay River. Another source says that Cartier had only suggested there might be gold and silver in the Saguenay region. (It turned out to be fool’s gold.)

According to both sources, however, Cartier suggested that trading beaver pelts and other wild animal furs could become a great source of income for the king. Needless to say, the fur trade turned out to be a lucrative business that lasted for almost 250 years.

Eventually, many types of traders established operations at the ports of Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Louisbourg. All these merchants were associated with fellow merchants at various port cities of France, including La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. And in the days of Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac and Governor of New France between 1672-1682 and 1689-1698, merchants in New France and its territories held a special place among the elite of the French colony.

Some of these traders married in North America, or brought their wives and children with them. They became the ancestors of many French Canadian or Acadian families, but, as of today, few family history researchers have searched for these early merchants, traders, private bankers, ship owners or tannery operators.

If you think you might have merchant ancestors, and you enjoy research online in France and Canada, try searching for the following term: Name of Ancestor (family name only, négociant du 17ème et 18ème siècles en France et Nouvelle-France. You can also try replacing Nouvelle-France with Acadie. This may bring you surprising search results.

First, however, you must determine on the spelling of the family name in France in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. For example, my Gagné brothers who settled Château-Richer near Quebec City in the 17th century were Gasnier in France – same pronunciation, different spelling.

This is the first in a series of weekly posts about these merchants, fur traders and ship owners during the period of Colonial New France (until around 1760.) It will include:

two compilations including very brief biographies of these merchants and usually including their wives’ names;

links to information about the port cities in France with which they traded;

links to information about the trading companies they were associated with;

a list of authors, historians and academic researchers who have studied this period, with links to some of their publications;

a list of the archives and other repositories where you can learn more about this subject.

Click on the link to read Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders A-G