Teens’ Corner

The Family

What if we get married?

In New France, the ideal age for getting married is 12 years old for girls and 14 years old for boys! Nevertheless, girls generally get married around 20 years of age and boys around 27. Between 18 and 20, they can, at times, set out on their own. However, the financial dependence of these young people on their parents can continue until they are married.

In the XVIIth century, Minister Colbert and Intendant Jean Talon implement measures to promote population growth. To promote early marriages, the Intendant offers a "present from the King": a sum of 20 livres to be paid, on the day of their wedding, to men 20 years old or younger and to women 16 or younger.

Marriages do not only stem from incentives, but also from intimidation: “fathers who do not marry their children off young enough — before 20 for boys and before 16 for girls — are required to explain their reasons to the Intendant, and can even face fines. As for confirmed spinsters and bachelors, they might see their rights to hunt, fish and trade with Native peoples suspended or revoked.”

And love?

In France, as in New France, marrying for love also exists. It is especially possible for peasantry and other lower classes of society. For the nobles and bourgeois, marriages are more often arranged according to social and economic motives. But love always manages to find its place!

Have many children

Not long after the marriage, babies are born and major responsibilities are taken on very early… Families have several children, many of which die at a very young age.

Jean Talon also implements a birth promotion policy. Families with ten living, legitimate children able to marry receive an annual "family allocation" of 300 livres. The allocation is increased to 400 livres for families with twelve or more children.

“Although it was often difficult for a settler's son to establish himself before the age of 20, the Intendant's matrimonial and birth policies soon began to bear fruit. Between 1664 and 1674, the average number of births tripled, compared to rates during the previous ten years and the population of New France grew from 3,200 in 1666 to 6,700 by 1672.”

Source : Canadian Museum of Civilization (external link)