Pioneers Make More Babies

Women of the French families that colonized Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries had more children and grandchildren than late comers to the region.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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17th century oil painting by Simon de VliegerWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM

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.


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