Frequently Used French Terms
One of the challenges in writing this story about my 8th great grandmother Jeanne Chevalier is the use of French terms. Not every word has an exact translation into English, and often a translation can result in a loss of meaning. So I have chosen to use the French terms where it makes the most sense and have italicized them. I have tried to define them within the next sentence. Any translations are my own, unless otherwise noted.
There are also some English terms that need clarification! To help me in this task, I am relying heavily on Richard Colebrook Harris’s book, The Seigneurial System in Early Canada. Although first written nearly 50 years ago, it is extremely helpful for many reasons, this task of translation or definition being just one of them! I will continue to add to the table as new terms come up!
|Terms||Definition / Translation
|Amerindians||This generic term refers to the native peoples who inhabited Canada before the French arrived. I have only identified a particular group specifically when necessary.|
|Arpent||192 feet. A square arpent is 5/6ths of an acre.|
|When Jeanne arrived in Quebec in the summer of 1671, the terms “Quebec,” “Canada,”and “New France” were used differently from their use today. New France (Nouvelle France) referred to the entire French colony in North America, which eventually at its height extended from Acadia (today Nova Scotia) west to Michigan and South to Louisiana, but excluding the Atlantic colonies. Canada was used for the colony larger area along the St. Lawrence River, to differentiate from Acadia and Louisiana. However it was often used interchangeably with Quebec (Kebec). I have used all three — New France, Canada and Quebec — synonymously.|
|Domain||This term refers to the section of a grant set aside by the seigneur for his (or her rarely, but occasionally!) personal use.|
|Filles du Roi||Daughters of the King. For more information about this program established by Louis XIV to colonize New France, see the appropriate blog posts.|
|Habitant||A permanent resident of Canada operating a small farm.|
|League||Roughly 3 miles|
|Livre||Unit of value, which can best be understood in relative terms. According to Harris, a laborer earned on average 2 livres a day, a skilled laborer up to five, royal officials of secondary rank from 300-3,000 livres a year, and the governor 12,000. A capon was worth about a livre. A sheep and pig around 10-20 livres, a cow 40-50 livres. Uncleared land was almost worthless, but a farm of average size with 20 cleared arpents (just under 20 acres), a one-room cabin, and a barn usually brought between one to two thousand livres.|
|Rang||Within a seigneurial grant, land was arranged in rows, or “rangs.” The first rang included land directly on the riverbank and was used for the first grants to settlers. The remaining rangs were left for subsequent grants and further development of a seigneurie.|
|Seigneur||One of a group of individuals who held land directly from the king. In early years, seigneurs were people of nobility or the church. In later years, the terms was not necessarily indicative of noble rank.|
|Seigneurie||The land granted to a seigneur|