Canadian pioneers seemed to know they had a whole new country to populate: the first women to settle in the land birthed more children and had more grandchildren than the women that arrived in later years, according to a study published last week (November 3) in Science.
Data from the parish councils of Charlevoix and Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean, an area some 170 kilometers north of Quebec home to dairy farms, small villages, and some of the best-kept marriage records, according to BBC News, revealed that women who arrived in the first wave of Canadian immigration in the 17th and 18th centuries had 15 percent more children than those who moved to the country just a few decades later. Those women’s children also had more kids, suggesting that they inherited the higher fertility.
"This was a rare chance to study a relatively recent human migration," co-author Damian Labuda, a geneticist from the University of Montreal, told the BBC. The higher fertility rate meant that the first families to arrive in Canada contributed more to the contemporary gene pool than those who arrived later, he said. This imbalance may have increased the frequency of rare genetic variants in the population, and possibly contributed to the higher-than-average rate of some rare genetic diseases found in the region.