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York University
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Franco-Ontarian History at the Archives of Ontario at the Keele Campus

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*Étienne Brûlé at the mouth of the Humber
F. S. Challener
Oil on canvas 166.4 cm x 135.9 cm
Government of Ontario Art Collection,
619849
September 25th is now Franco-Ontarian Day in Ontario, celebrating the vital contributions of the province’s Francophone communities. The date marks the anniversary of the Franco-Ontarian flag’s unveiling in 1975. It also commemorates the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s first journey to what is now Ontario.

At the Archives of Ontario, we acquire, preserve and showcase records related to Ontario’s history, and we have some significant collections that help tell the story of the French presence in the province.

French explorers and missionaries began travelling throughout Ontario during the 17th and 18th centuries. The first European settlement was Ste.-Marie-Among-The-Hurons (1639-1649) near Midland, and French-speaking settlers arrived in the Windsor area starting in 1749. Our cartographic holdings include original French maps from this time period, as well as maps and plans documenting Francophone settlement areas. Our library holdings contain original works by early explorers. And our private records include documents created by early settlers, fur traders, merchants and politicians.

Francophones settled in various areas across Ontario during the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly in the northeast, southwest, Georgian Bay, Ottawa, and Prescott-Russell area. Today Ontario is now home to close to 600,000 Francophones of all origins, the largest Francophone population outside of Quebec. Our government records detail milestone events and movements like the struggle for French-language education, the creation of the Office of Francophone Affairs, and the development of French-language provincial services from the 1960s on. We also have collections of French-language newspapers from the early 20th century up until the 1980s.

The records of numerous Franco-Ontarian families give unique insight into Francophone communities from the 18th century to the present. The Max LeMarchant deGodart du Plany collection consists of research notes, genealogies and correspondence of several French families. Our holdings on the Dionne quintuplets – the first known birth of quintuplets, in 1934 – are of special interest because both the family and then news of the children’s tragic exploitation became world-famous.

To learn more about the Archives of Ontario’s Franco-Ontarian holdings, visit us in person at our new facility on York University’s Keele campus, or online at www.archives.gov.on.ca. Our online exhibit, French Ontario in the 17th and 18th Centuries, is a great introduction to the early Francophone history of the province.

Published on September 10, 2010