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By Ryan Taylor

Lucille Campey's ongoing study of Scottish immigrants to Canada has resulted in a sixth publication, Les Ecossais: the Pioneer Scots of Lower Canada, 1763-1855.

A Canadian who lives in England, Campey has published studies of Scots in the Atlantic Provinces and Ontario. She now turns her attention to Quebec.

The British government occupied New France in 1763, and by 1774 had passed The Quebec Act making it a colony. They hoped that some English speakers would immigrate to the formerly French colony.

This coincided with what we call the Highland Clearances, when thousands of small farmers were put off their land by the large landowners of Scotland, who wanted to pasture large flocks of sheep there. The poor and homeless had no place to go, and many headed for Canada.

Some settled on the north shore of the Ottawa River, in the Chateauguay Valley southwest of Montreal and in the Gaspé. Later arrivals went to the Eastern Townships, which became largely English-speaking.

As with her other Scottish books, Campey includes some passenger lists, as well as other Scots lists which she has turned up. Most of these are from the early nineteenth century.

There are reminders of the difficulties faced by pioneer settlers. James Hamilton, who settled on the shore of the Chateauguay River, describes building a shanty and hewing trees. He and his friends had a long trip to Glengarry or Fort Covington (in New York) to buy potatoes and corn. He says, "As we had to carry everything on our backs, neither horse nor ox being able to pass Teafield, we cut the potatoes into seed, to make the burden less. As it was, we sank to our knees in water in places. My brother carried a grindstone on one of our trips, the heaviest load ever so brought."

He made a later trip carrying sixteen pounds on his back, driving a ewe lamb and leading a cow with a homemade rope made of withes (willow twigs). By the time he reached his destination, it was "so dark that I could only tell where I was by throwing chips into the river and being guided by the sound of their splashes." It makes a trip to Wal-Mart sound rather nice.

Campey's books are a combination of lists, erudite narrative, and sufficient background and bibliographical references to lead the reader on to greater things. She is already working on a seventh book, on Scots in New Brunswick. By the time she is finished, her combined works will provide a resource on Scottish immigration to Canada which will be unrivalled.

These books can be used in combination with Donald Whyte's A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada before Confederation. It now comprises four volumes, all available from the Ontario Genealogical Society . Whyte lists Scots he has found in a wide variety of sources, giving whatever information he can. The advantage of using his extensive listings is that you might be able to distinguish among the crowd of Janet Campbells, one of whom might be your ancestor.

Lucille Campey's Les Ecossais: the Pioneer Scots of Lower Canada, 1763-1855 is available for $26.95. It is available from Natural Heritage Books .

An interesting sidelight: people often find the names Upper and Lower Canada confusing. When Quebec is above Ontario, why was it Lower? The reference has to do with the St. Lawrence River. Ontario is farther up the St. Lawrence than Quebec, hence Upper Canada and Lower Canada!

From 1840 to 1867, the two Canadas were called Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario), before gaining their modern names. Don't confuse Canada West with western Canada, though.

Posted July 20, 2006
Column copyright © 2006 Ryan Taylor

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