SouthWestern Quebec Placenames

Notes regarding Language


The Province of Québec is 85% or so french speaking, so it is natural that french is the predominate language of place names in Québec. Notwithstanding this fact however, the Southwest region of Québec, especially the upper Chateauguay Valley is balanced between the two languages and is probably the most bilingual region in Québec after the Island of Montreal. Much of this area was first settled by immigrants from the British Isles and United Empire Loyalists from the USA starting in the early 1800s. As a result most of the early placenames were english. Starting in the 1840s, more francophones started moving into the area from the east and many of the early English and Scottish settlers packed up and moved to Ontario where there was new land opening up in the southwest counties as well as to the mid-west USA. As a result, the names evolved into french names, often with an intermediate form. For example near the Richelieu River, there was settlement called Stotts Settlement in the early days. As the hamlet grew it was called Stottsville. In the 1890s, it became St-Valentin de Stottsville and now is just plain St-Valentin with no modern references to Stottsville. In recent decades, there has been a nationalist inspired pressure to eliminate old english names, and more are disappearing. Fortunately the government commission that reviews names will support keeping an english name IF there is local support for it and a continuous history of local usage.

In this same vain, english names would sometimes be corrupted when used in french and would take on a whole different spelling and implied meaning. For example, near Howick, there is the Scotch Concession. Scotch in french is Écossais and the end of the concession nearest the french community of St-Urbain-Premier is now known as "Le Carcasse" which means carcass in french. It does not take much immagination to realize that Écossais could be corrupted into Carcasse. On a similar case, Le Portage was an old name for Dewittville but some english settlers corrupted it into "The Potash".

In this document, at this time I have tended to list the name under the language that I first encountered it and provide the other language version where appropriate. In many cases, I have provided cross-referenced entries in the list. I have also added some place related words such as pont/bridge or cimetiere/cemetery with the other language form and a suggested "See also:" reference. In this way hopefully, people living in other parts of the world will be able to check the french spelling of names and understand what they mean.

With apologies to francophone viewers, I must admit that I have not got all the accents on all the french words that need accents. The data was entered using an english keyboard and the most common words needing accents were replaced but no doubt there are quite a number of instances missed. They hopefully will be corrected in the future. Another issue is the use of connecting dashes between parts of a name in french. I admit to total confusion in this matter and would welcome advice on proper usage.

Another issue that applies to both languages is the "correct" spelling of placenames. The early settlers were often illiterate and did not know the correct spelling of their home names. Often old maps would show various spellings of a name, not like today when such things are highly regulated and standardized. When a minister or priest would record a birth, marriage or death in a church register, he would write it the way he heard it and the people involved would not be able to enlighten him as to the spelling. When searching for your relative's place of residence, be sure to check other possible spellings for the name.

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