The first group of the King’s Daughters (filles du roi) arrived in New France in 1663. Eight-hundred more women, typically of poor and common birth, followed the “first daughters” of Louis XIV over the next decade, writes Sara Zhang.

The French “Sun King” did indeed pay the passage and dowry of these so-called “daughters of France” — women whose sole purpose was to marry male colonists and have their children, in order to fortify France’s presence and hold on North America.

“French Canadian genealogy is so well documented, it’s just a piece of cake to trace any line you have,” Susan Colby, a retired archeologist and French-Canadian, told Zhang.

Yet, these women also brought with them a set of genetic mutations, including an hereditary optic neuropathy, which causes vision loss, typically in young men.

Using French-Canadian genealogy, geneticists were able to examine the effects of Leber’s and discern a long-theorized pattern of inheritance called the “mother’s curse.”

The mother’s curse refers to mutations passed down from only the mother to her offspring; however, when the mutation harms men but not women, there is no way for natural selection weed it out.

Read more of this fascinating study and its implications at The Atlantic


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