Academic journal article Population

Concordance between Reported Ethnic Origins and Ancestral Origins of Gaspé Peninsula Residents

Academic journal article Population

Concordance between Reported Ethnic Origins and Ancestral Origins of Gaspé Peninsula Residents

Article excerpt

Ethnic identity is one of the collective aspects of identity construction (Dorais, 2004). According to Louis-Jacques Dorais and Edmund Searles (2001), it can be defined as "the awareness felt by a group (conceived as sharing the same geographic origin, phenotypic traits, common language or lifestyle, or a combination of all these things) of its economic, political and cultural position in relation to other groups of the same type that are part of the same nation". At the individual level, it stems from a feeling of belonging, to a greater or lesser extent, to a group with its own distinct characteristics (Nagel, 1994; Statistics Canada, 2003; Ville and Guérin-Pace, 2005). Such characteristics are transmitted from generation to generation, but over time and depending on various factors, they may change and even fade or disappear (Barth, 1998; Sillitoe and White, 1992; Sanders, 2002; Trimble and Dickson, 2005).

An individual's ancestry is but one facet of his or her identity. While it is not the only factor underpinning the sense of belonging to a given group (Simon and Clément, 2006), it is certainly of fundamental importance, especially in countries where a large segment of the population can trace its origins to a history of settlement dating back several centuries. This is the case for populations of European descent living in the Americas. Michael Hout and Joshua Goldstein (1994) have reported that practically all adults in a survey of white Americans were able to name at least one country or region of the world from where their ancestors came. In addition, ancestral origins provide important information for research in the field of human genetics, particularly for studies of the distribution and incidence of hereditary diseases (Race, Ethnicity, and Genetics Working Group, 2005).

The majority of available data used to characterize individuals in terms of their ancestral origins come from statistical sources such as censuses and surveys, which rely for the most part on information reported by the persons concerned. In Canada, a question about ethnic origin has been asked in every census since 1871 (Statistics Canada, 2008a). Another way of approaching this topic is to look at the origins of immigrant ancestors identified in family trees. This approach is less common, for few populations have genealogical data of sufficient depth and quality to be used for scientific purposes (Brunet and Bideau, 2000). When this method is possible, however, it can be used to explore differences between the ethnocultural origins reported by respondents in censuses or surveys and their origins as revealed through their genealogical characteristics. Given the multidimensional nature of the question and the resulting subjective interpretations (Simon and Clément, 2006), there may be discrepancies between the responses provided by respondents and their immigrant ancestors' actual origins as documented in genealogical sources. For example, do respondents who report a single origin differ from those who claim multiple origins? Is there a stronger tendency to identify with the paternal side than with the maternal one? Are some origins omitted or forgotten?

The study presented here was part of a ten-year research programme that looked at the genealogical and genetic characteristics of regional populations in the province of Quebec (Tremblay et al., 2003; Bergeron et al., 2008; Tremblay et al., 2009; Moreau et al., 2011; Roy-Gagnon et al., 2011; Vézina et al., 2012) Using information from a sample of 397 residents in the Gaspésie region of eastern Quebec, we compared the ethnic origins reported by participants at the time of recruitment with the geographic origins of their immigrant ancestors identified through genealogical reconstruction.

The aim was to examine the extent to which the Gaspesians' perceived origins reflect their real ancestry, i.e. the origins of their ancestors who first settled in Quebec. For a given participant, the number of first ancestors depends on the number of generations separating the participant from each of those ancestors. …

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