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Session III: The Irish in Quebec
Summary: As a quarantine station, Grosse Ile was the first point of contact with their new home for thousands of immigrants to Canada.
Initially constructed as a temporary facility, the quarantine station quickly became a permanent structure and played an important role in public health in Canada. More than four million immigrants arrived at the Port of Québec between 1832 and 1937. Close to 100,000 Irish immigrants arrived on the island in 1847, fleeing the Great Famine.
Weakened by malnutrition and poor conditions during the crossing, most were suffering from typhus. The authorities were overwhelmed, and the facilities were inadequate. During that year, 5,424 people were buried, and the future of the island changed forever.
In 1897, an idea developed: to erect a Celtic cross on the large promontory known as Telegraph Hill. Fifteen years later, in 1909, more than 2,000 people gathered to dedicate the monument. The cross still stands, and 2009 marks the centenary of this symbol that reminds us of the history of this site, where human dramas and acts of outstanding dedication were played out.
Summary: In the 19th century, an increasing wave of people were leaving Europe to rebuild their lives in North America. Around 1830, an average of 30,000 immigrants arrived annually in the City of Québec, the main port of entry to Canada. Approximately two-thirds of these newcomers were from Ireland.
This unprecedented immigration along the St. Lawrence River took place at a time when major cholera and smallpox epidemics were sweeping through Europe. To help control the spread of disease, the quarantine station at Grosse Île, located in the St. Lawrence River downstream from the City of Québec, was established in 1832 and operated until its closure in 1937.
Through a variety of documents preserved and digitized by Library and Archives Canada, such as lists of births and deaths at sea, hospital registers, journals, letters, photographs and maps, ARCHIVED - In Quarantine: Life and Death on Grosse Île, 1832–1937 tells the story not only of the quarantine station, but also of the individuals who arrived on the island.
Summary: Names of Irish immigrants can be found in many databases available online at Library and Archives Canada. This presentation focuses on 3 of them:
Summary: The church registers of Grosse Île, the Saint Lawrence River quarantine station below Quebec City, offer a mine of information on the origins of the thousands of people, mostly from Ireland, who came to Canada, fleeing famine in Europe.
These documents, registers of births, marriages and deaths were made during the summer of 1847, by the chaplains both Roman Catholic and Anglican who cared for the sick and dying in that tragic summer. The Anglican register is especially rich in information about the places of origin of Irish Protestants all over Ireland. The Anglican books (Saint John the Evangelist) are kept in the Archives of Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. The Roman Catholic documents (Saint Luke of Grosse Île) are kept in the Archives of the dioceses of Ste. Anne de la Pocatiere. Both documents are also held within the pages of Eyewitness: Grosse Isle 1847 / Les témoins parlent: Grosse Île 1847, published by Carraig Books.
National Archives of Ireland [www.nationalarchives.ie]