08 Dec The Case of the Disappearing Frenchmen
By Suzie Trepanier
My last name is Trepanier (tray-pin-yay). When pronounced correctly it is a beautiful French name. It is my married last name and although I have some French heritage, mostly my ancestors came from Scotland and Ireland (my maiden name being Riddle). My mother is an avid genealogist and because of that I feel pretty knowledgeable about my heritage. My husband, however, has not found time nor an interest in finding out about his people and where he came from. With a name like Trepanier, undoubtedly, his people are French.
Recently, I have felt a compulsion to learn more about his heritage and I found some interesting stories. Most of his ancestors are from Quebec, Canada. Indeed, the name Trepanier is as common there as “Smith” is in the U.S. The more I traced, however, I finally found the ancestors who originated in France and they were not ordinary people. They were dukes and landowners and courtier’s who hobnobbed with King Charles.
Another discovery was that of an ancestor named Peter Arave on my husband’s mother’s side who was orphaned and adopted by a Mormon pioneer family. His name implied that he was from England, but our discovery was that his name was changed from Pontier Aravee. He was also French. So my husband has a lot of French ancestry on both his father and his mother’s side. He has more French blood than he thought which makes him somewhat of a rarity. Alarmingly, the number of full-blooded Frenchmen is rapidly declining.
A large percent of the people currently living in France are immigrants. The majority of these immigrants come from North Africa and are Muslim in religious practice. (Table 1) This group of people place a huge value on having children, thus these families are larger. A very large majority of these children are born to married couples: among bi-national couples, the proportion is 59%; among foreign national couples, 78% (Prioux, 2005).” (Table 2) On the other hand, native French are marrying less, divorcing more, having more abortions and fewer children. Fertility rates have been steadily declining in almost every developed nation in the world, but France’s overall fertility rate is among the lowest. The combination of high immigration and low fertility among the native French leads demographers to predict that by the year 2050 the population of France will be dramatically changed and that it is not unrealistic that, in the not so distant future, there will be no such thing as an authentic Frenchman.
In fact, native populations all over Western Europe are declining at an astonishing rate. We are aware of other civilizations that have disappeared. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire is fascinating and is a popular study in history. The Roman society left remnants of influence and its people; however, it is essentially extinct. The more widely known contributors for this lost civilization are war and disease; however, something not often discussed is that low fertility contributed as well. What will history teach about the demise of the French? The fertility rates are below replacement rates and in addition, abortion is on the rise. (Table 3) The French are essentially committing suicide.
Impact of Religion
The reason that young people in are either choosing not to marry and have children or postponing family may be explained by, at least, one rising trend. It is the decline of religiosity. “Religion is an undeniable vector of values. The results show that religious practice, even occasional, is associated with a lower probability of having only one child (Yves, 2006).” On the other hand, those who consider themselves religious, consider the ideal family to have more than two children. Overall, religiosity has dropped significantly in all of Europe. People that consider themselves to be religious put a high priority on marriage and family. They have faith in the Bible which teaches to “…cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24).” Or “…happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them (Psalms 127:5).”
Secularism has been on the rise in Europe since the 1950’s and the focus of this group of people is individualism. The central truth that they live by is that of self-awareness and self-improvement. There is value in both of these attitudes for a society. Rather than one ideal combating the other, these two attitudes of family and self-improvement, when cooperating, will produce future generations that are in a position to improve the conditions of their communities, society and the world. The first step in this process is to actually procreate. Economics are driven by human capital which is defined by the knowledge, skills and information that humans acquire to produce goods and services. Sustainability for any society is dependent on births and the accompanying development of human capital.
The inevitable: we grow old
As the fertility and population of full French babies’ declines, the overall population has changed. The majority of full French are between the ages of 65 and 80. Over the next 20 years, as the full French citizens pass on, unless something changes, their numbers will not be replaced.
This change in population has economic consequences as well. There are fewer numbers born to replace the working and taxpaying adults needed to maintain the care required of a burgeoning elderly class. Frenchmen continue to age and pass on, but the young are not being born at a rate that will even begin to replace them. This trend is projected to continue over the next few decades. France will rely more and more on immigrants to maintain a working-age population.
The first Trepanier ancestor to leave France was Romain d’Discrepancy, who was born in 1614 in a church in Muchendent, Normady (pictured below). The composition of the population of France today would be almost unrecognizable to him. Now in these millennial years, his French descendants are leaving behind the religion he practiced and also the desire for posterity. The Trepanier line itself is not in immediate danger of disappearing. However, the threat of the disappearing Frenchmen to France is a real possibility. As human beings, our identity and feelings of self-worth are related to our connection to our heritage. In order to maintain our heritage, we must produce the children necessary to promulgate and strengthen the human species.
Suzanne Trepanier is the mother of four grown children and has been married to her good husband for 27 years. She lives in the beautiful city of San Diego, but is currently a full-time online college student at BYU-Idaho pursuing a degree in Marriage and Family Studies. She is passionate about protecting children through advocacy for marriage and traditional families.
Prioux, F. (2005). Recent demographic developments in france. Population, 60(4), 371-399,401-414. Retrieve from http://search.proquest.com/docview/196964556?accountid=9817
Stout, R. (2010). The New Economic Reality: A Demographic Winter. Retrieved from http://theneweconomicreality.com
Yves, L. (2006). Trends in Religious Feeling in Europe and Russia. Groupe Je Sociolgie des Religions et de la Lacite, 59-6. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/2098796/accountid=9817