France has been home to many ethnic groups, including Celts, Germans, Romans and Greeks.
Julius Caesar brought Roman culture and the Latin language to Gaul [which covered most of western Europe] when he conquered it in 59 BC. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, a Germanic tribe [the Franks] captured some of the region. It later became part of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire. The country of France was a monarchy from then until the French Revolution in 1789, after which Napoleon became premier consul of the new French Republic. He crowned himself emporer of France in 1804 and reigned until 1815, when the monarchy was restored under Louis XVIII. Today, France has a bicameral legislature, a president and prime minister.
During the 17th and 19th centuries, France was a religious battleground torn apart by warring elements of the predominantly Catholic population and its much smaller Protestant flock. Although laws called for tolerance, Protestant emigration siphoned off talented craftsmen. Though such turbulent episodes spurred some immigration to America, the French didn't come en masse like other ethnic groups ... they arrived in trickles rather than floods.
In 1608, Samuel de Champlain formed North America's first permanent French colony in Quebec. La Nouvelle France [New France] was based in Canada with a string of settlements along the Mississippi River. Protestants fleeing persecution in France were banned from New France; many went to the British Colonies. By the American Revolution, New France had an estimated population of 80,000, compared to 1.5 million in Britain's 13 Colonies.
During the French Revolution from 1789-1799, thousands of political refugees left for the United States. Another immigration wave occured during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, when France lost its Alsace-Lorraine region. Many in this group settled in New York New Orleans and Chicago.
Following the American Civil War [1861-1865] the United States saw an increase in French Canadian immigration, most frequently into Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island. Our ancestors, Jean-Baptiste Morin and his wife Julie (Lareau) immigrated from Canada to Lee, Berkshire, MA in December 1871.
The 1930 census revealed that more than 135,000 US residents were French natives. The total French immigration from 1820 onward is about 750,000.
- 59-51 BC -- Romans conquer Gaul
- 486 -- Frankish king Clovis I captures Roman territory in Gaul
- 800 -- Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne emperor of the Romans
- 845 -- Viking invaders ransack Paris
- 1152 -- Henry IIs marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine gives England control of southwestern France
- 1348 -- The bubonic plague arrives in France
- 1429 -- Joan of Arc leads French forces to end English siege of Orleans
- 1562 -- Religious wars start between Catholics and Protestants
- 1598 -- Henry IV issues the Edict of Nantes
- 1685 -- Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes
- 1789 -- The French Revolution begins with the storming of the Bastille
- 1804 -- Napoleon is crowned emporer of France
- 1870 -- France loses Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War
- 1914 -- Germany attacks France as WWI breaks out
- 1944 -- Allied forces march down the Champs-Elysees after the liberation of Paris