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French Americans or Franco-Americans are Americansmarker of French descent. About 11.8 million U.S. residents are of French descent, and about 1.6 million speak French at home.An additional 450,000 U.S. residents speak a French-based creole language, according to the 2000 census.While Americans of French descent make up a substantial percentage of the American population, French Americans arguably are less visible than other similarly sized ethnic groups. This is due in part to the high degree of assimilation among Huguenot (French Protestant) settlers, as well as the tendency of French American groups to identify more strongly with "New World" regional identities such as Québécois, French Canadian, Acadian, Cajun, or Louisiana Creole. This has inhibited the development of a wider French American identity. The majority of Americans of French descent are descendants of those who first settled in Canadamarker in the 17th century (known as New France at the time), which later became the Canadian Province of Quebecmarker after Canadian Confederation in 1867.

French American population

While found throughout the country, they are most numerous in New Englandmarker, Northern New Yorkmarker, Louisianamarker (where more than 15% of the population of the Cajun Country reported in the 2000 United States Census that French was spoken at home making French the fourth most-spoken language in the country, behind English, Spanish, and Chinese. French Louisiana, when it was sold by Napoleon in 1803, covered all or part of than fifteen current U.S. states and contained French colonists dispersed across it, though they were most numerous in its southernmost portion.

Often, Franco-Americans are identified more specifically as being of French Canadian, Cajun, or Louisiana Creole descent . An important part of French American history is the Quebec diaspora of the 1840s-1930s, in which one million French Canadians moved to the United States, principally to the New England states, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Historically, the French in Canada had among the highest birth rates in world history, which is why their population was large even though immigration from France was relatively low. They also moved to different regions within Canada, namely Ontario and Manitoba. Many of the early male migrants worked in the lumber industry in both regions, and, to a lesser degree, in the burgeoning mining industry in the upper Great Lakesmarker.

Another significant source of immigrants was Saint Domingue, which gained its independence as the Republic of Haitimarker in 1804 following a bloody revolution; much of its white population (along with some mulattoes) fled during this time, often to Louisiana, where they largely assimilated into the Creole culture.

The Cajuns of Louisiana have a unique heritage. Their ancestors settled Acadia, in what is now the Canadian provinces of New Brunswickmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, and Prince Edward Islandmarker, in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In 1755, after capturing Fort Beauséjour in the region, the British army forced the Acadians to either swear an oath of loyalty to the British crown or face expulsion. Thousands refused to take the oath, causing them to be sent, penniless, to the 13 colonies to the south in what has become known as the Great Upheaval. Over the next generation, some four thousand managed to make the long trek to Louisiana, where they began a new life. The name Cajun is a corruption of the word Acadian. Many still live in what is known as the Cajun Country, where much of their colonial culture survives.

Because the ancestors of most French Americans had for the most part left France before the French Revolution, they usually identify more with the Fleur-de-lis of monarchical France than with the modern French tricolor.

French American communities

According to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2000, French Americans (of French and French-Canadian ancestry) made up close to, or more than, 10% of the population of:

New Hampshiremarker 25.2% Vermontmarker 23.3% Mainemarker 22.8% Rhode Islandmarker 17.2% Louisianamarker 16.2% Massachusettsmarker 12.9% Connecticutmarker 9.9%

In states that once made up part of New France (excluding Louisiana):
Michiganmarker 6.8% Montanamarker 5.3% Minnesotamarker 5.3% Wisconsinmarker 5.0% North Dakotamarker 4.7% Wyomingmarker 4.2% Missourimarker 3.8% Kansasmarker 3.6% Indianamarker 2.7%

French Americans also made up more than 4% of the population in
Washingtonmarker 4.6% Oregonmarker 4.6% Alaskamarker 4.2%

National percentage of Americans of French & French-Canadian ancestry: 5.3%

States with the largest French communities include (according to the 2000 U.S. Census)
French and French-Canadian
1. Californiamarker 927,453 2. Massachusettsmarker 818,388 3. Michiganmarker 680,939 4. Louisianamarker 680,208 5. New Yorkmarker 628,810


French Americans are divided between those of Roman Catholic heritage (which includes most French Canadians and Cajuns) and those of Huguenot (Protestant) background, most of whom came during the colonial period. For most of its existence, New France was open only to Catholic settlement. In response, many Huguenots who sought to emigrate as they faced religious discrimination in France moved instead to other countries; (mainly Englandmarker, the Netherlandsmarker and Prussia) and their overseas territories, including the 13 colonies of Great Britain and the Dutch Cape Colony. Huguenots tended to assimilate more quickly into English-speaking society than their Catholic counterparts. Famous politicians such as Alexander Hamilton and U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker Chief Justice John Jay have a Huguenot background.

French language in the United States

According to the National Education Bureau, French is the second most commonly taught foreign language in U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities behind Spanish. French was the most commonly taught foreign language until the 1980s; when the influx of Hispanic immigrants aided the growth of Spanish. According to the U.S. 2000 Census, French is the fourth most spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese with over 1.6 million speakers. In addition to parts of Louisianamarker, the language is also commonly spoken in Floridamarker, northern Mainemarker, Vermontmarker, and New York Citymarker; home to large French-speaking communities from France, Canada, and Haiti.

As a result of French immigration to what is now the United States in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the French language was once widely spoken in much of the country, especially in the former Louisiana Territory, as well as in the Northeast. French-language newspapers existed in many American cities; especially New Orleans. Americans of French descent often lived in predominately French neighborhoods; where they attended schools and churches that used their language. In New England, Upstate New York, and the Midwest, French-Canadian neighborhoods were known as "Little Canada".

France's influence on American society

  • Founded by the French and the Indians, Chicagomarker is pronounced with the French pronunciation of the sound ch as opposed to the English ch (China, Chair, etc...)
  • Detroitmarker was founded by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French army captain and was originally called Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, after the minister of marine under Louis XIV and the French word for "strait."
  • The limousine car is named for the French province of Limousinmarker, and is associated with the long cloaks once worn by the shepherds there
  • The Louisiana Territory, sold to the United States in 1803, comprised 15 of today's modern states (from North to South: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and parts of Texas and New Mexico).

State names with French language connections

  • Michiganmarker (French translation of Ojibwe word Mishigamaw which means "great lake")
  • Vermontmarker (comes from a contraction of French words, Vert(e), green, and montagne, mountain. Hence the "Green Mountain" state);
  • Louisianamarker (French: Louisiane, in honour of king Louis XIV);
  • Illinoismarker (French for the land of the Illini, a Native American tribe);
  • Mainemarker (one theory supported by many is that the state was named after the ancient French province of Maine);
  • Delawaremarker (named after English Baron de la Warr which in turn was originally the Anglo-Norman surname "de la Guerre");
  • Arkansasmarker (French pronunciation of a Quapaw word meaning "land of downriver people" or "people of the south wind");
  • Wisconsinmarker (Named after the Meskousing River. This spelling was later corrupted from the local Native American language to Ouisconsin by French explorers, and over time this version became the French name for both the Wisconsin River and the surrounding lands. English speakers anglicized the spelling to its modern form when they began to arrive in greater numbers during the early 19th Century); and
  • Oregonmarker (One theory is that French explorers called the Columbia River "Hurricane River" ("le fleuve aux ouragans"), because of the strong winds of the Columbia Gorge).

See also


  1. 1.6 million Americans over the age of five speak the language at home; Language Use and English-Speaking Ability, fig. 3 (PDF)
  3. Website Accessed 7 June 2009
  4. "The Random House College Dictionary" p. 777 Random House, Inc., 1975 ISBN 0-394-43600-8


  • Marianne Fedunkiw. " French-Canadian Americans", in, retrieved April 24, 2008
  • Bradley G. Bond (2005). French Colonial Louisiana and the Atlantic World, LSU Press, 322 pages ISBN 0807130354 ( online excerpt)
  • James S. Pritchard (2004). In Search of Empire. The French in the Americas, 1670-1730, Cambridge University Press, 484 pages ISBN 0521827426 ( online excerpt)
  • Yves Roby (2004). The Franco-Americans of New England. Dreams and Realities, Montreal: Les éditions du Septentrion, 543 pages ISBN 2894483910 ( online excerpt) translated by Mary Ricard.
  • Jean Lamarre (2003). The French Canadians of Michigan, Wayne State University Press, 209 pages ISBN 0814331580 ( online excerpt)
  • François Lagarde (2003). The French in Texas. History, Migration, Culture, University of Texas Press, 330 pages ISBN 029270528X ( online excerpt)
  • Jacqueline Lindenfeld (2002). The French in the United States. An Ethnograpic Study, Greenwood Publishing Group, 184 pages ISBN 0897899032 ( online excerpt)
  • Patricia Keeney Geyh, Joyce Soltis Banachowski, Linda Boyea, Patricia Sarasin Ustine, Marilyn Holt Bourbonais, Beverly Ploenske Labelle (2002). French Canadian Sources. A Guide for Genealogists, Ancestry Publishing, 320 pages ISBN 1931279012 ( online excerpt)
  • Peter J. Gagné and Adrien Gabriel Morice (2000). French-Canadians of the West. A Biographical Dictionary of French-Canadians and French Métis of the Western United States and Canada, Quintin Publications, ISBN 1582112231
  • Carl J. Ekberg (2000). French Roots in the Illinois Country. The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times, University of Illinois Press, 376 pages ISBN 0252069242 ( online excerpt)
  • Armand Chartier and Claire Quintal (1999). The Franco-Americans of New England. A History, Manchester and Worcester: ACA Assurance and Institut français of Assumption Collegemarker, 537 p. ISBN 1880261057
  • Albert Valdman (1997). French and Creole in Louisiana, Springer, 372 pages ISBN 0306454645 ( online excerpt)
  • Dean R. Louder, Eric Waddell (1993). French America. Mobility, Identity, and Minority Experience Across the Continent, Louisiana State University Press, 371 pages ISBN 0807116696
  • Carl A. Brasseaux (1987). The Founding of New Acadia. The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765-1803, LSU Press, 229 pages ISBN 0807120995
  • Gérard-J Brault (1986). The French-Canadian Heritage in New England, Hanover: University Press of New England, 1986, 282 p. ISBN 0874513596 ( online excerpt)
  • Louis Fréchette (1982). The United States for French Canadians, 345 pages ISBN 0665177941 (was originally published in the 1890s)
  • Pierre Anctil (1979). A Franco-American Bibliography: New England, Bedford, N. H.: National Materials Development Center, 137 p.
  • J.L.K. Laflamme, David E. Lavigne & J. Arthur Favreau.
  • Charles Washington Baird (1885). History of the Huguenot Emigration to America, Dodd, Mead & Company, (online: Volume I)
  • Philip Henry Smith (1884). Acadia. A Lost Chapter in American History, published by the author, 387 pages ( online)

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