The census of 1666

In 1666, Jean Talon, newly-appointed Intendant of New France, ordered the first census of New France to be taken. Of course, this was a count of only the European population in the colony, not the native population.

The total population of settlers is usually presented as 3215. However, Quebec historian Marcel Trudel, in his book La population du Canada en 1666: recensement reconstitute, puts the number at 4219. I believe that is much more likely. He uses an analysis of records that show people for whom we have church and civil records that prove their residence in New France at that time, but who do not appear in the official record.

I have been able to find 145 of our Hogue/Girardin ancestors in the official census. Our 13 Carnigan soldiers weren’t included, soldiers being considered “transients”. Plus, I have identified 31 people that records show were in the country, but are missing from the official census. That gives us 189 ancestors. No matter which figure you use, our ancestors counted for about 4 to 5 % of the population.  (Plus we have at least 16 ancestors who had come to New France and died BEFORE this census was taken!)

Stats Can tells us:
“Talon conducted his census on the de jure principale – that is, counting people where they normally reside. And he did much of the enumeration himself, going door-to-door. Talon’s census recorded everyone in the colony by name and included age, occupation, marital status, and relationship to the head of the family in which they lived.”

Below is a digital image from Library and Archives Canada
for the 1666 Recensement du Canada. It shows our Hogue ancestors Zacharie Cloutier, Marie Madeleine Emard, and Barbe Cloutier,  along with Barbe’s siblings Rene, Xaintes, Genevieve, Marie, another Marie and Charles. They are living in Beaupre, and Zacharie is described as a carpenter and habitant.

Page from the 1666 New France census for Beaupré Source: Library and Archives Canada/Fonds des Colonies/ DAFCAOM03_G1_460_18R /P. 35

Page from the 1666 New France census for Beaupré
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Fonds des Colonies/ DAFCAOM03_G1_460_18R /P. 35


My analysis of the official 1666 census shows that our ancestors made up 71 family groups, including 6 widows. The majority of the men are listed as habitants. There is a common misconception that a habitant in New France was a farmer. To quote Suzanne Boivin Sommerville, writing in the magazine Késsinnimek – Roots – Racines:

“In reality, a habitant was an inhabitant of New France who had chosen to remain and be a free citizen, to pursue whatever occupation or trade that became available.”

13 men are not living with their own families, but are listed as domestics or other trades. These men were probably engagés who had signed contracts to come to New France to work.

Among the occupations listed for the men (women of course are only listed as wife, widow or daughter) we have:

1 Royal Judge (Michel Leneuf du Herisson)
4 carpenters
3 masons
1 cabinet maker
1 salt maker
1 cook/baker
1 brick maker
1 tanner
1 hatter
1 weaver
1 tailor
1 cobbler
1 shoemaker
1 toolmaker

1666…348 years ago.

189 people.

How deep are roots go back!






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