Epidemics in Quebec

I was noticing that there were some families that had many deaths in the same year  – so checked on various epidemics in Quebec. There were many. I found these.  

1732-1733 Influenza Epidemic  

1755-1757 Smallpox epidemic, the worst epidemic in French Canada occurred between 1755 and 1757 and spread to New England.  

1759 – Measles Epidemic  

1761 Influenza Epidemic  

1772 Measles Epidemic  

1775-1776 Influenza Epidemic  

3 Responses to “Epidemics in Quebec”

  1. Marty Miles Says:

    I found this while researching Marie-Renée Marsan, wife of Jean-Baptiste Dufresne, who lost three babies and her husband in a month’s time in the summer of 1703. First to go was three and a half year old Marie-Anne on July 3. Next, on July 18 was her husband of nine years, Jean Baptiste, aged a little over 30 years. On July 21, only one week after his second birthday, little François died. On August 6, five and a half year old Antoine passed away leaving his mother with a five month old baby sister, a seven year old brother and a nine year old sister.

    The chronicles of the Ursulines provide us with opportunity to do the precise research necessary to understand the history of these plagues. “In the winter of 1700-1701, there was an illness among the people of Québec which had some strange symptoms. The sickness came on with a bad cold, soon augmented by a high fever followed by pains in the sides, after which it carried the people away in a few days … By the end of November (1702-03), the sickness began in the city. It had been brought here by a savage from the frontier. It was a kind of measles, accompanied by facial marks, and in less than two months, more than 1500 were ill and between 300 and 400 died.” It seems that this epidemic struck down a fourth of the population of Quebec.

    Demographic aspects of the 1702-1703 smallpox epidemic in the St-Lawrence valley (p. 49-67): Data compiled by the “Programme de recherche en démographie historique” of the Université de Montréal were used to number and characterize deaths within the population of European extraction from the 1702-1703 smallpox epidemic in the St-Lawrence valley. Between 6% and 6.5% of the settled population in the late fall of 1702 was eliminated by the disease; adding the death of an extra 25% of newborns, the epidemic’s toll reached some 1,300. A significant proportion of adults died among the Canadian-born population, surpassing 10% for women of childbearing ages in particular.

  2. Dolly Says:

    Some, particularly Natives, argued that the illness was different than smallpox, which they were already familiar with. If you can look at the Beauport, Quebec Vital and Church Records from the Drouin Collection (Catholic birth, marriage and death register) for 1702-1703, you can clearly see that it went through there in force beginning in January 1703. Everything appears normal through the end of December 1702 with the occasional birth one day, a marriage another day, and a death perhaps a week later. In January 1703, they’re suddenly burying two and three bodies at a time. The multiple burials continued in Beauport through August 1703, taking even the wealthy, to include Paul Vachon, some of his children, and grandchildren. see http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/vachon_paul_1703_2E.html for more on Paul Vachon. Historians and epidemiologists have conflicting opinions of the type of epidemic that raged through Quebec during this period, that was said to have been brought in by a Native leader who had come in for a large council between Natives and French. (The Native died in his lodge after experiened symptoms of a “cold”, complicated by extreme fever and side pain.) Nobody bothered to leave precise medical records at the time. The epidemic has since been attributed to either smallpox, measles, or the grippe (the flu). However, medical annals indicate Scarlet Fever arrived in New England in 1702, the sick Native traveled through or from New England, and the symptoms described match Scarlet Fever.

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