QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2007-10 > 1193403969
From: "Desjardins Bertrand" <>
Subject: Re: [Q-R] Marriageable Age in New France: was] Martin Cote andSuzannePaget
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2007 09:06:09 -0400
Bravo Mona for this scholarly message...For anyone interested, may I add that our book published in French in 1987 was also published in English:
The First French Canadians: Pioneers in the St. Lawrence Valley
Authors: Hubert Charbonneau, Bertrand Desjardins, André Guillemette, Yves Landry, Jacques Légaré, and François Nault, with the Collaboration of Réal Bates and Mario Boleda Newark, University of Delaware Press, and London and Toronto, Associated University Presses, 1993
Bertrand Desjardins Ph.D.
Département de démographie
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, succ. centre-ville
Canada H3C 3J7
Tél.: 514-343-7613 Téléc.: 514-343-2309
De : [mailto:] De la part de Mona Rainville
Envoyé : 25 octobre 2007 23:26
Objet : [Q-R] Marriageable Age in New France: was] Martin Cote and SuzannePaget
Bonsoir Françoise and all other cousins,
You are quite probably not far off the mark, Françoise, at least
according to some of the studies that were published here and in France
on this subject.
A demographer called Jacques DUPAQUIER who studied the phenomenon of
population growth in France showed that girls who married between the
age of 15 to 20 bore at least two children more, on average, during
their reproductive life, than women who married between the age of 20 to
24. But he also found that French couples who were married between
1720-1739 had a complete progeny (meaning the total number of children
of a couple not separated by death before the wife reached her 45th
birthday), of 6,15 children - (one wonders about the 0,15 child, but
remember this is an average) . This number, he adds, citing work done
here by the Henripin, falls very short of the average number of children
in the complete progeny of Canadian couples for the same timeframe,
which was 8,39 children. So, not only did younger brides have a greater
number of children overall, in France, if they were Canadian or living
in Canada, this number was even greater. Provided, of course, that these
child-brides lived to see their 45th birthday.
The study of the intervals between the marriage and the first born also
tells an interesting story. On average, in France, regardless of the
age of the bride, in couples married between 1720 to 1739, the wait
pariod lasted about 13 months. But the wait was longer, almost 17
months, if the bride was less than 20 when she married. Moreover, the
proportion of still-born births was greater in very young mothers. And
these young brides also had a higher rate of childbirth related death
than brides who married after they reached the age of 20. Finally, the
younger the bride, the sooner her rate of fecundity would start to drop,
as early and repetitive pregnancies eventually took their toll. These
are the French statistic.
A similar study was conducted by the University of Montreal (you guessed
it, the PRDH) in cooperation with l'INED (National Institute of
Demographic Studies) of the population growth in New France in the 17th
The study looked at 684 marriages where the bride came from France, and
323 marriages where the bride was Canadian born.
The results tended to show that the fertility rate in both groups did
not appear to be influenced by the age of the mother, if she was between
20 and 40 years old. And the difference in overall fecundity was less
marked here than in France between the median group and the younger
(10-19) and oldest (40-44 year old) brides. Furthermore, the interval
between the marriage and the first birth, as well as between each
subsequent births, was smaller here, in both groups, for all ages, than
in France. The marked diminishing fertility rate observed among French
women in France was not observed here, even if the bride was born in France.
This tends to show that environmental factors, more than age, greatly
influenced these numbers. Simply put, New France women had more
children, overall, than Old France women because the conditions of
living were generally better here, and not because they married younger.
In this study, a greater number of Canadian born women married between
the age of 10-14 (154 in all) than French born women (79 in all).
But more French born women married between the age 15-19 (220), than
Canadian born women of the same age group (132).
Between 1646 and 1715, women represented only 20% of the permanent
immigration here. A number of these women arrived here already married
or as part of a religious order. In 1681, there are nearly 10 bachelors
for each woman aged 20 or more. Given the rarity of marriageable women
in the early years of the colony, it is no surprise that families felt
pressured by circumstances, by the clergy, or even enticed by the Crown,
to allow their sometimes pre-pubescent daughters to marry. And not
surprisingly, then, more than half, 585 out of 1007, of the brides in
the study above were less than twenty years old. And about one marriage
out of four involved a bride aged less that 16. In fact, some were as
young as 10.
Louise DECHENE in her study of the marriages (381) at Notre-Dame parish
of Montreal between 1696 and 1715 shows the average age of the brides to
be 21 years. HENRIPIN found that average age to be 21,9 for the period
of 1700 to 1760. But in the very early years of the establishment of
our country, children, often not yet 12 years of age, were joined in
holy matrimony. The 1666 census reveals that at least 14 couples were
formed when the wife was still pre-pubescent and unable to procreate.
Often, the first child only arrived after two, and even six, years of
The Catholic Church did not openly sanction this behaviour, but in some
cases it did more than turn a blind eye. Many clergymen believed then -
as many still do today - that a man can unite with a woman as soon as
she able to procreate. This certainly led Mgr de Laval to authorize the
marriage of Jeanne CARION, then aged 11, to Jacques LEMOYNE. However,
when such a marriage was publicly denounced, Church officials would
simply proceed with a second ceremony, to rehabilitation the first
marriage. A case in point is Marguerite SEDILLOT who was married off to
Jacques AUBUCON when she was still only a girl of 11.
But as the colony grew and the ratio of men and women became more
balanced, the occurrence of child-brides becomes rarer. They are not
completely gone, though. And there is presently a case pending in the
Court of appeal of Quebec which involves a young woman who was married,
in Montreal, in 2001, on her 10th birthday, with a 40ish year old man
who was subsequently charged with several counts of sexual misconduct
with minors under his care. The case - of a criminal nature - -
raises an interesting point about the validity of a marriage where one
of the spouse is clearly under the marriageable age. The Superior judge
found the man guilty on some counts, and dismissed his defense which was
based on the fact that having married the 10 year old girl, any sexual
contact he had with her subsequently was consensual sex. But this man
also raises that his marriage was never attacked by anyone with a valid
interest to do so within the time frame permitted to do so, and is
It will be interesting to see how the Quebec Court of Appeal handles
1. Hubert CHARBONNEAU, Bertrand DESJARDINS et al: Naissance d'une
population. Les Français établis au Canada au XVIIe siècle. Travaux et
Documents Cahier n°38. INED et PUF. Paris. (1987);
2. Jacques DUPAQUIER: La population Française aux XVIIe et XVIIIe
siècles, Collection Que sais-je. PUF. Paris. (1979);
3. Louise DECHENE: Habitants et marchands de Montréal au XVIIe siècle.
Librairie Plon. Paris. (1974);
4. Jacques HENRIPIN: La population canadienne au début du XVIIIe
siècle. Paris. (1954).
FRANCOISE SEGUIN wrote:
> Darrell, You are forgetting that in that day and age girls got married a lot
> earlier that they do now. One of the reasons for that is that women died
> frequently in childbirth or some other desease and thay were a lot more
> mature than our little girls are now. As a result men would take a younger
> girl thinking that she would have a better chance of survival. Now that's
> my opinion but logically it makes sence. Fran
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Darrell Martin" <>
> To: <>
> Cc: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 3:51 PM
> Subject: [Q-R] Martin Cote and Suzanne Paget
>> I'm replying to a message I got from RootsWeb although I'm not subscribed
>> to the list. I am also sending it to the list so the admin can choose
>> whether to post it.
>> I think you may need to reverse your thinking a bit. The assumption that
>> is implicit in your questions is that Martin and Suzanne were "connected"
>> *before* she started living with Martin and his mother. It is just as
>> possible -- in fact in may be more likely -- that Suzanne moved in before
>> she and Martin started down the road to matrimony. That is, she might have
>> been a servant or other kind of domestic help; or she might have been part
>> of a family that could not support her, and she was taken in by Martin's
>> family; or any one of quite a few other scenarios that have her arrival in
>> the family predate Martin's interest in her (or vice versa). If you think
>> in *those* terms, a young man falls for a precocious 12 year old who is
>> living with his family, as opposed to wondering why his betrothed had
>> already moved in with him, then I think many of your doubts can be laid to
>> Put in another way, Suzanne's moving in with Martin and his mother may
>> have been the *cause* of their eventual marriage, not an *effect* of that
>> Of course, all this is speculation. More evidence of any kind would be
>> really nice. Absent that, though, I just don't see anything happening here
>> that is all that unusual. Only Suzanne's age raises eyebrows, and the
>> blunt fact is she would not have been the youngest girl ever to make a
>> hasty leap into adulthood, for whatever reason and whether or not the
>> church and society approved of how it happened; not by a long shot.
>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: "" <>
>>> Sent: Oct 24, 2007 3:22 PM
>>> Hi father John L.,
>>> Thanks for the confirmation. We are set there - you and I are have
>>> agreement with Suzanne's and Martin's birth and marriage dates BUT here is
>>> the snag (as I see it):
>>> The 1667 census from the PRDH shows:
>>> 1. Martin Cote and Suzanne Paget living with Martin's mother (PRESUMABLY
>>> Martin and Suzanne would be MARRIED if living together with his mother BUT
>>> maybe not) and
>>> 2. the census has their ages listed as 27 and 12 which doesn't make sense
>>> if the ages were 28 and 13 when they were MARRIED and ASSUMING they were
>>> already married when living with Martin's mother.
>>> My Conclusion: So the census data doesn't make sense to me unless I
>>> ASSUME that the census was taken in early April 1667 before both Martin's
>>> and Suzanne's birthdays AND Suzanne was just visiting/working with
>>> Martin's mother for a while in March and April prior to the July marriage.
>>> My Question: Would this be a logical conclusion that Suzanne (unmarried)
>>> was staying with Martin's mother (maybe helping with the household) prior
>>> to her marriage to Martin? Sounds 'goofy' but maybe that is the answer.
>>> I just to make sure this is a reasonable conclusion considering Quebec
>>> customs etc. during this time period.
>>> Sorry that this is so confusing but maybe Suzanne really was working in
>>> the Martin's mother's home helping out.
>>> Thanks for the help,
>>> Charlie King
>>> Father John L. wrote:
>>> Hi, Charlie!
>>> According to the DGFQ [Jette]:
>>> Martin COTE, son of Jean COTE & Anne MARTIN was baptized on 12 July
>>> 1639 at Quebec.
>>> Suzanne PAGE, daughter of Raymond PAGE dit Quercy & Madeleine BERGERON was
>>> born 30 April and baptized 03 May 1654 at Quebec.
>>> Martin COTE and Suzanne PAGE were married at Chateau-Richer on 25 July
>>> Taking Martin COTE's duly recorded baptismal date as his birth date, he
>>> was 28 years, 0 months, 13 days old on the day of his marriage. Suzanne
>>> PAGE, whose birth and baptism are both duly recorded, was, in fact, older
>>> than 12 on the day of the marriage. She was 13 years, 2 months, and 25
>>> days old. She was of legal age to marry according to both civil and
>>> canon law.
>>> She was, by the way, 14 years, 4 months and 6 days old when her first
>>> son was born on 06 June 1668, and 29 days older on the day of his
>>> burial. Her second son, named Jean like his older brother, was born on 18
>>> March 1770, when Suzanne was 15 years, 10 months and 18 days old.
>>> So, Charlie, I don't know how to answer your question "Am I missing
>>> something here?" The records are there, and they are authentic,
>>> according to Jette and PRDH.
>>> On the other hand, I would be wary of some of the paths continuing this
>>> thread might lead to. A school committee in northeastern New England and
>>> an ecclesial community on the Arizona-Nevada border come to mind.
>>> Let's not go there!
>> Darrell A. Martin
>> a native Vermonter in exile in Illinois
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|Re: [Q-R] Marriageable Age in New France: was] Martin Cote andSuzannePaget by "Desjardins Bertrand" <>|