By Rhonda R. McClure
People researching their French-Canadian ancestors will be happy to find a wealth of resources and records available in both Canada and the U.S.—thanks in part to the work of earlier genealogists, including Joseph Drouin, Rev. Cyprien Tanguay, and René Jetté. However, French-Canadian genealogy is not without its quirks. This subject guide provides a listing of essential resources available at NEHGS and other repositories, information on locating and using records, and how-to tips. This guide focuses on the resources available for the region of Quebec. A subject guide for Acadian research will soon be available.
French Canadian Resources at NEHGS
Live broadcast: November 12, 2015
Presented by: Rhonda R. McClure
Level: Beginner - Intermediate Running Time: 1:10:58
Description: Learn what resources exist for French Canadian genealogical research and how to get the most out of them.
Répertoire des Noms de Famille du Québec, des Origines à 1825 by René Jetté and Micheline Lécuyer
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books CS88.Q4 J47 1988
French-Canadian Sources, A Guide for Genealogists by Patricia Keeney Geyh
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books CS88.Q4 F74 2002
Miller’s Manual, A Research Guide to the Major French-Canadian Genealogical Resources, What They Are and How to Use Them by Douglas J. Miller
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Reference CS83.M55 1997
Genealogy and Local History to 1900: A Bibliography Selected from the Catalogue of the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions, CIHM by J. Brian Gilchrist
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books F1003.G45 1995
“The Genealogy Services at Library and Archives Canada, with an Emphasis on French-Canadian Resources” by Nicole Watier and Sylvie Tremblay, American Ancestors, Fall 2010, pp. 32–33
Until the late twentieth century, the churches within the province of Quebec registered vital records. The largest religious group in Quebec is the Roman Catholic Church. The first Catholic parish registers were for Notre-Dame de Québec, founded in 1621. Protestant records begin in 1766 with the founding of the first Church of England (Anglican) parishes in Montréal.
The Drouin Collection, contains millions of records for Quebec’s Catholic and Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues, which may begin in the 1600s and go until the 1940s. These records were microfilmed in the 1930s and 1940s by L’Institut Généalogique Drouin (the Drouin Institute) in Montreal and are available at NEHGS. Read more about the Drouin Institute and collection.
Drouin collection: Quebec Parish Registers
NEHGS, Microfilm Collection CS88.Q4 I572 Microform
Digitized images of these records can also be browsed in the library of American-Canadian Genealogical Society. The registers are searchable on Ancestry.com. The Catholic Paris registers are also available on FamilySearch.org in separate database: Quebec Catholic Parish Registers 1621-1979.
Drouin Collection: Indexes
There are indexes to assist in searching the Drouin Collection, but only the marriages found in the Catholic registers are indexed on microfilm. To search Protestant registers, view the Drouin registers on Ancestry.com. Note: On Ancestry, the record may only be indexed by surname.
Dictionnaire national des Canadiens-fran̨cais (1608–1760), 3 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks, CS81 .D53 1979
Fichier Loiselle (Part I: Hommes; Part II: Femmes) by Rev. Antonin Loiselle
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfiche CS88.Q4.L6 1986
Guide to Quebec Catholic Parishes and Published Parish Marriage Records by Jeanne Sauve White
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books F1051.5.W45 1993
Programme de Recherche en Démographic Historique (PRDH)
The main objective of the Programme de Recherche en Démographic Historique was to transcribe the parish registers of Ancient Quebec. It covers the 17th and 18th centuries and “contains the personal history of the Québec ancestors of all French-Canadians.” Read more about the PRDH.
Répertoire des Actes des Baptême, Mariage et Sépulture du Québec Ancien, 1621–1799
NEHGS, 4th Floor Computer CS88.Q4.R466 2002 CD
PRDH—Université de Montréal
www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/ is a pay-per-view website of the PRDH. A first-level search may be conducted for free, which will reveal a list of references. To view the individual references will require paying for “hits.” A fee schedule can be found on the website. Patrons within the NEHGS library can access the website's content at no additional charge.
Civil registration in Quebec was not begun until 1994. Prior to this, the province required the churches to send copies to the government archives. Records prior to 1900 are available in a variety of places and are open to anyone. For records after 1900, only the person named in the record or that person’s legal representative can gain access to the civil registration or civil copy of the church records. Read more about vital records in Quebec. To access these later records visit or contact:
Directeur de l’État civil
Service à la clientèle
205 rue Montmagny
Québec QC CANADA G1N 2Z9
Because of the availability of church records, censuses and notarial records, several genealogical dictionaries have been compiled. Some of the most useful are:
Dictionnnaire Généalogique des Familles du Québec: des Origines à 1730 by René Jetté
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81.J4 1983
Dictionnnaire Généalogique des Familles du Québec: des Origines à 1730, Corrections et Additions, 2001 by René Jetté
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81.J4 1983 Suppl. 2001
Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Canadiennes: Depuis la Fondation de la Colonie Jusqu’a Nos Jours,
7 vols., by Cyprien Tanguay
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81.T3 1871
Complément au Dictionnaire Généalogique Tanguay by J.-Arthur Leboeuf
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81 .T3 Suppl.
The French Canadians 1600–1900: An Alphabetized Directory of the People, Places and Vital Dates, 3 vols. by Noel Montgomery Elliot
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F1027.F74 1992
Répertoire des Actes de Baptême, Mariage, Sépulture et des Recensements du Québec Ancien, 47 vols. by Hubert Charbonneau and Jacques Légaré
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.Q4 R46
Note: This compilation attempted to list the entire population of Quebec before 1765.
Key to the Repertory: Répertoire des Actes de Baptême, Mariage, Sépulture et des Recensements du Québec Ancien
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.Q4 R46 Suppl.
There are provincial and national census records. Many of these can be found online. Most of the censuses from 1792 to 1842 are known as “head of household” enumerations. Quebec was partially enumerated in the Lower Canada census of 1825, 1831, and 1842. Lower Canada then became known as Canada East, and the same southern Quebec areas were included in the 1851 and 1861 censuses of Canada East. NEHGS has all the censuses from 1666 to 1901 for Quebec on microfilm. Read more about the Canadian census.
Quebec Province, Recensements, 1666–1681
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm HA741.C4 1666/1681
Census of Part of the Province of Quebec
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm HA741.C4 1765
Les Recensements des Éboulements de 1825 à 1891
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books CS88.Q4 E31991
The censuses from 1851–1911 are available online as follows:
- FamilySearch.org has indexes to the 1851/52, 1861 (Provincial), 1871 (National), 1881 (National), 1891 (National), and 1901 (National) censuses.
- Ancestry.com has searchable indexes and images for the 1851/52, 1861 (Provincial), 1871 (National), 1881 (National), 1891 (National), 1901 (National), and 1911 (National) censuses.
- AutomatedGenealogy.com has indexes and images to the 1851/52, 1901 (National), and 1911 (National) censuses.
- Library Archives Canada (www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/) has indexes and images to the national censuses which comprise the years 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911.
Notarial records are records prepared by a notary and include a wide assortment of documents including property deeds. In early Quebec you will also find wills and marriage contracts as well, with the marriage contracts phasing out as you reach the mid-1800s. Among the documents, those that are most useful for researching your family history are:
|Contrats de mariage||describe the bride’s dowery and the division of property should the marriage dissolve|
|Testaments||commonly known as wills|
|Inventaires après décès||inventories of deceased persons, similar to the inventories found in other probate records|
|Partage records||list of family members who receive a share of an estate—similar to distribution lists in other probate records|
|Tutell et curatelle or guardianship records||include information about orphans and the conservation of their property|
|Donations entre vifs||donation records or “early wills” in which elderly parents divide their property before their death; often include conditions, such as taking care of the elderly couple until their death|
|Engagements or indenture records||labor contracts|
Index to Notaries
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfiche CS88.Q4 R44 Index
Note: To identify the correct fiche, use either the Notary Indexes – Index by Notary, or the Notary Indexes – Index by Location compilations found in the 4th Floor Finding Aids, Tab 21.
Notarial Records of Quebec
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.Q4 R44
Note: To identify the correct microfilm, use either the Notarial Records – Index by Notary, or the Notarial Records – Index by Location compilations found in the 4th Floor Finding Aids, Tab 21.
Notarial Records – Finding Aids
Index des Lieux de Résidence et de Pratique: Des Commis—Des Garde-Notes—Des Greffiers—Des Tabellions—Autres—et Des Notaires, 1621–1991 Ainsi Que Les Lieux de Dépôt de Leurs Minutiers avec Leurs Cotes Aux A.N.Q. by Jean-Marie Laliberté
NEHGS, 4th Floor Stacks F1051.8.L34 1991
The Notaries of French-Canada, 1626–1900: Alphabetical, Chronological, By Area Served by Robert J. Quinton
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1051.5.Q563 1994
While most land transfers between individuals were handled by the notaries, land grands, land petitions, and seigneurial records are the exceptions. Seigneurial records were the earliest of land grants from the Crown to the Seigneurs (Lords) who held them in servitude to the King. The land was not owned by the Lords, but they managed it (and the indentured servants hired to work the land). Through the “right of occupancy” they could eventually buy and sell the land.
Lower Canada Land Papers, Lists and Returns of Petitions, Applicants, 1764–1800
NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.Q4 L5
FamilySearch – Quebec Land and Property
This is a wiki (or community website) which discusses the various land record options found in Quebec and includes links to resources available from FamilySearch.org.
American-Canadian Genealogist (1991– )
NEHGS, Research Library E184.F85 G46
Official journal of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society; formerly The Genealogist (1975–1991)
Canadian-American Journal of History & Genealogy for Canadian, French & Metis Study (1995–2003)
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1027 .C36 1995
Previously: Lost in Canada? (1973–1994); NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1051 .L68
Je Me Souviens (1978– )
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS80 .J3
Official journal of the American French Genealogical Society
Lifelines (1984– )
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F116 .L53
Official journal of the Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society
Links (1996– )
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F46 .L56 1996
Official journal of the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society
Société Généalogique Canadienne-Française
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS80.M4
American-Canadian Genealogical Society, acgs.org
American-French Genealogical Society, afgs.org
French-Canadian Genealogical Society of Connecticut, fcgsc.org
French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, habitantheritage.org
Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society, nnyacgs.com
Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society, vt-fcgs.org
One of the most difficult areas many researchers face when tracing their French-Canadian roots is discovering the actual names of their ancestors in Quebec. Read more about French-Canadian surnames in the United States, first names in French-Canada, and “dit” names.
Language Notes & Abbreviations
Not surprisingly, the majority of records you’ll encounter pertaining to your French-Canadian ancestors will indeed be in French. Even if you are not fluent in the language the below word list will help you pick out key dates, events, and other information important to your genealogical research.
|Mars||Mar||March||Septembre||Sept or 7bre||September|
|Avril||Avr||April||Octobre||Oct or 8bre||October|
|Mai||Mai||May||Novembre||Nov or 9bre||November|
|Juin||Juin||June||Decembre||Dec or 10bre||December|
Note: Dates are often written out in long form e.g.: Mil Huit Cent Soixante Dix-Huit = One Thousand Eight Hundred Seventy-Eight = 1878
Common Terms in French-Canadian Records
|cimetière||cemetery||illégitime||illegitimate||m or mineur||minor||sépulture||burial|
|corps||body||inconnue||forgotten||moi(s)||months||sic (lat.)||as shown in original|
|de||of||indien(ne)||Indian||né or née||born||St or Saint||Saint (m.)|
|décédé||died||inhumé||buried||ne savoir signer||did not know how to sign their name||Ste or Sainte||Saint (f.)|
|def or defunt||deceased||jour(s)||days||oncle||uncle||la veille||the day before|
|et||and||legitime||legitimate||parrain||godfather||vf or veuf||widower|
|feu||late (deceased)||m or majeur||of age||paroisse||parish||vve or veuve||widow|
Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.
Meet one-on-one with our genealogists
Want research guidance from a professional genealogist? Our experts provide 30-minute to two-hour consultations in person or by phone.
- Find elusive ancestors—Whether you are searching in the U.S. or abroad, in the 17th or 20th century, our genealogists have the knowledge to assist you.
- Locate and use records—Vital records, military records, deeds, probate, and more—if you’re wondering where to look for them, how to read them, or what data you can find in them, we can guide you.
- Get more out of technology—Feel like you could be making better use of your genealogy software? Curious about websites and databases that might be relevant to your research? Let us help!
Hire our experts in Research Services
Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:
- Conduct hourly research
- Break down “brick walls”
- Retrieve manuscript materials
- Obtain probate records
- Research and prepare your lineage society application
- Organize your materials and files
- Write narrative biographies about your ancestors
- Create customized family charts