Try finding a Québecer on Facebook. It can be an exercise in patience and oftentimes an exercise in futility.
When the first colonists arrived in the St. Lawrence River Valley in the seventeenth century, they found a fertile, but wild land that demanded intense labor before it would provide sustenance. Their success, therefore, depended on a large family – a labor force – to work the land. They also found a colonial ruling class virtually begging them to multiply. And they obliged.
Today, the family names of those first colonists dominate the phonebooks of the province of Québec. As example, consider Jean Côté and Anne Martin. Married in Québec City in 1635, they gave birth to five sons who would carry on the family name. Those sons, in turn, brought 19 grandsons into the world. Today, there are 52,000 Côtés in the province, nearly all of whom are descended from Jean and Anne.
The case of Pierre Tremblay and Ozanne Achon is even more remarkable. They had 12 children together over the course of the 1650s, 60s, and 70s. Today, after 350 years of reproduction, there are approximately 82,000 Tremblays in a province that numbers just over 8 million people. Once again, nearly all of them are descended from those first two intrepid colonists.
In fact, the surname Tremblay is the most common in the province; over 1% of Québecers are named Tremblay. Although 1% may not sound that impressive, try finding your Pierre Tremblay on Facebook, when 1 out of a hundred share his surname. You are probably better off having Pierre friend you…