French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan
P.O. Box 1900, Royal Oak, 48068-1900
French-Canadian Culture, Heritage, and Traditions
 
While some people prefer to study the history of their ancestors and their culture working backwards in time, we feel that if you study the history of New France starting with the 17th century you will have a greater understanding of not only our shared history but of the historical events that greatly influenced our evolving culture.  The lives lived by our ancestors was also influenced by where they lived at a particular period of time as well as their occupations.  In other words, if you focus too much on the stories about French-Canadian culture or Native culture learned from your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents without reading about their history, you may make assumptions about their culture that are not supported by historical records.
 
Suzanne Sommerville’s 12 May 2018 Presentation at the FCHSM Meeting:
“The Marriage Contract in New France according to the Coutume de Paris / Custom of Paris: legal ownership of property in a marriage and inheritance rights.” Viewing the presentation provides you with the opportunity to learn about one of the most important aspects of French-Canadian culture.  Members of all classes of society entered into these contracts.  Suzanne’s presentation discusses the marriage contracts of many couples, including métis descendants, from the St. Lawrence Settlements, Detroit, and the Great Lakes.   Also, please see Suzanne Sommerville's articles below about Marriage Contracts.
 
Articles:
The Marriage Contract in New France, by Suzanne Boivin Sommerville
 
Cultural MétissageFrom the founding of New France by Champlain, the French immigrants began to borrow cultural practices from Native Americans.  Likewise, the Native Americans began to borrow cultural practices from the French immigrants.  See the following PDFs which provide you with examples from primary records and memoires which document cultural métissage, especially the practices in present-day Michigan and the Mississippi Valley from the 17th through the early 19th centuries.
 
Cultural Métissage – Clothing, by Diane Wolford Sheppard
Cultural Métissage – Food, by Diane Wolford Sheppard
Cultural Métissage – Tattooing, by Diane Wolford Sheppard
Cultural Métissage – Travel, by Diane Wolford Sheppard
 
Additional Articles:
Superstitions and Beliefs, by Suzanne Boivin Sommerville
 
Book Recommendation:
Kent, Timothy J.  Ft. Pontchartrain at Detroit: A Guide to the Daily Lives of Fur Trade and Military Personnel, Settlers, and Missionaries at French Posts, Volumes I and II (Ossineke, Michigan: Silver Fox Enterprises, 2001).  FCHSM member Timothy Kent’s two volumes about the early history of Detroit provide unparalleled detail about what life was like in the French Posts.  
 
The two-volume set includes the following chapters: Introduction; Historical Overview; Canoe Transportation; Provisions, Cooking, and Eating; Hunting and Warfare, Trapping and Fishing; Buildings, Hardware, and Furnishings; Furnishings of the Church, Vestments, and Activities of the Priest; Woodworking, Metalworking, and Masonryworking; Farming and Gardening; Clothing; Sewing, Laundry, and Cleaning; Grooming and Medical Treatments; Recreation; Trade and Commerce.  The appendices contain translations of 32 documents related to life and trade at Detroit.  Finally, Kent has illustrated the book with drawings, maps, and photographs.
 
Websites with mini articles about cultural topics in New France:
Loraine DiCerbo’s Photo of the Chevalier House at Colonial Michilimackinac
Download the PDF Brief Bibliography for researching French-Canadian Housing and Furniture above for an explanation of the building styles used at the Great Lake’s Posts and Forts
 
Hopkins - Encampment of Voyageurs - LAC
Frances Anne Beechey Hopkins – 1870 – Encampment of Voyageurs – Available from Library and Archives Canada (LAC), (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/arch_adv) Mikan #2838094
 During the French Regime (through 1760), the largest canoes were manned by eight-man crews and were introduced in 1730.