Traditional songs, a well-established part of European culture in New France, accompany the first explorers and voyageurs as they travel across the expanse of Ontario. Later, as the pioneers colonize different parts of the territory, they will take root in what will become the Province of Ontario. The oldest settlement is located in the southwest, around present-day Windsor, and dates back to the founding of the colony of Détroit by the French in 1701. For more than a century, the small population established along the south shore of the Detroit River will remain the only permanent French community on Ontario soil. The descendants of these first settlers—who now live in Windsor and in Essex and Kent counties— maintain distinct cultural traits and linguistic particularities that reflect the long history of their community, which was established so far from the heart of New France.
The second area to be colonized by francophones, starting in the 1830s, is the territory that borders the present-day Province of Quebec. In the beginning, habitant farmers from Lower Canada, mostly French-Canadians, are drawn to the area by jobs in the forest industry. However, they eventually end up crossing the Ottawa River to form farming communities in the united counties of Prescott and Russell, between Ottawa and Montreal. During the same period, other pioneers emigrate from Lower Canada to join the descendants of Métis voyageurs who have established themselves near Penetanguishene, in old Huronia, at the south end of Georgian Bay. Towards the end of the 19th century, another wave of emigration from Quebec will lead to the colonization of the Near North part of Ontario. This group, lured by the prospect of railway and forest industry jobs, and later by opportunities in the mining sector, will settle in communities along the Mattawa–Sudbury–Sault Sainte-Marie axis north of Lake Huron. Towards the middle of the 20th century, francophones take part in the colonization of the Greater North in two other areas—the Ontario side of the Lake Timiskaming District and the “Clay Belt” that stretches from Timmins to Hearst.
Each one of these groups, whose descendants now make up the majority of the Franco-Ontarian population, left the Laurentian Valley at different periods of its political and cultural evolution. Having common roots, those arriving in these various communities bring with them and conserve an oral legacy that reflects the period of their arrival in Ontario, the situations they have to cope with, and the nature of the contacts they maintain with other ethnolinguistic communities. Each group also makes the most of its situation in its own distinctive way. These differences are always present in the oral traditions developed by each group, as are the regional features that add colour to the Franco-Ontarian songbook.