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By Rhonda R. McClureGenealogist
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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.
Répertoire des Noms de Famille du Québec, des Origines à 1825 by René Jetté and Micheline LécuyerNEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books CS88.Q4 J47 1988French-Canadian Sources, A Guide for Genealogists by Patricia Keeney GeyhNEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books CS88.Q4 F74 2002Miller’s Manual, A Research Guide to the Major French-Canadian Genealogical Resources, What They Are and How to Use Them by Douglas J. MillerNEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Reference CS83.M55 1997Genealogy and Local History to 1900: A Bibliography Selected from the Catalogue of the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions, CIHM by J. Brian GilchristNEHGS, 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 RegistersNEHGS, Microfilm Collection CS88.Q4 I572 MicroformThese records are also available on the American-Canadian Genealogical Society website and Ancestry.com. FamilySearch.org currently offers the images of the non-Catholic parish registers, 1763–1967, searchable by keyword. Browse by image here.
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 1979Répertoire Alphabétique des Mariages des Canadiens-Français, 1760–1935 Masculin 1760–1880, 1880–1935Féminin 1760–1880, 1880–1935NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfiche CS88.Q4.I57 1989 MicroficheFichier Loiselle (Part I: Hommes; Part II: Femmes) by Rev. Antonin LoiselleNEHGS, 4th Floor Microfiche CS88.Q4.L6 1986Guide to Quebec Catholic Parishes and Published Parish Marriage Records by Jeanne Sauve WhiteNEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books F1051.5.W45 1993
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, 1621–1799NEHGS, 4th Floor Computer CS88.Q4.R466 2002 CD
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 civilService à la clientèle205 rue MontmagnyQuébec QC CANADA G1N 2Z9phone: 418-643-3900www.etatcivil.gouv.qc.ca
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 JettéNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81.J4 1983Dictionnnaire Généalogique des Familles du Québec: des Origines à 1730, Corrections et Additions, 2001 by René JettéNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81.J4 1983 Suppl. 2001Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Canadiennes: Depuis la Fondation de la Colonie Jusqu’a Nos Jours,7 vols., by Cyprien TanguayNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS81.T3 1871Complément au Dictionnaire Généalogique Tanguay by J.-Arthur LeboeufNEHGS, 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 ElliotNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F1027.F74 1992Répertoire des Actes de Baptême, Mariage, Sépulture et des Recensements du Québec Ancien, 47 vols. by Hubert Charbonneau and Jacques LégaréNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS88.Q4 R46Note: 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 AncienNEHGS, 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, 1666–1681NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm HA741.C4 1666/1681Census of Part of the Province of QuebecNEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm HA741.C4 1765Les Recensements des Éboulements de 1825 à 1891NEHGS, 4th Floor Microtext Books CS88.Q4 E31991The censuses from 1851–1911 are available online as follows:
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:
Index to NotariesFiche 100012-603548NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfiche CS88.Q4 R44 IndexNote: 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 QuebecNEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.Q4 R44Note: 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.
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 LalibertéNEHGS, 4th Floor Stacks F1051.8.L34 1991The Notaries of French-Canada, 1626–1900: Alphabetical, Chronological, By Area Served by Robert J. QuintonNEHGS, 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, 1764–1800NEHGS, 4th Floor Microfilm CS88.Q4 L5FamilySearch – Quebec Land and PropertyThis 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 G46Official 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 1995Previously: Lost in Canada? (1973–1994); NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F1051 .L68Je Me Souviens (1978– )NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS80 .J3Official journal of the American French Genealogical SocietyLifelines (1984– )NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F116 .L53Official journal of the Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical SocietyLinks (1996– )NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F46 .L56 1996Official journal of the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical SocietySociété Généalogique Canadienne-FrançaiseNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks CS80.M4
American-Canadian Genealogical Society, acgs.orgAmerican-French Genealogical Society, afgs.orgFrench-Canadian Genealogical Society of Connecticut, fcgsc.orgFrench-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, fchsm.orgNorthern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society, nnyacgs.comVermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society, vt-fcgs.org
Library and Archives — Genealogy and Family History, collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogyFrancoGene, francogene.com/genealogyFamilySearch – Quebec, familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Quebec
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.
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.
Note: Dates are often written out in long form e.g.: Mil Huit Cent Soixante Dix-Huit = One Thousand Eight Hundred Seventy-Eight = 1878
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