German migration to New France

(The first article of this series can be found here.)

My name is Claude Crégheur, and in this second article of my series on the German presence in Quebec, I will focus on Germanic migration during the New France era.

The first marriage of a German found in the registers of Notre-Dame de Québec is that of Hans Bernhardt and Marie de Bure, widow of Gilles Enart, on December 27, 1666.

Marriage of Hans Bernhardt and Marie de Bure from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Marriage of Hans Bernhardt and Marie de Bure from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Source: Record 66714, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

The marriage is under the name Jean Bernard, a surname which will survive him. The record indicates that he was from “the parish of Ste-Croix de Thionville, diocese of Trèves in Germany”; Thionville is in Lorraine, which is now French territory.

In 1666, the Duchy of Lorraine was also French. Indeed, France had annexed it to its territory in 1648, as well as Alsace, following the Thirty Years’ War. In 1860, Berlin demanded the return of the two provinces according to the principles of nationalities defined by language. Germany got its wish through the Treaty of Frankfurt on May 10, 1871, after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This political entity then took the name of Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen.

Among the contemporaries of Hans Bernhardt, we have Georg Stems married to Marie Perodeau on September 16, 1669 at Notre-Dame de Québec. Georg, a stonemason, was from the city of Luzern in Switzerland.

Marriage of Georg Stems and Marie Perodeau from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Marriage of Georg Stems and Marie Perodeau from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Source: Record 66846, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

We then have Peter Mahler married to Jeanne Gueneville on November 3, 1671, also at Notre-Dame de Québec. He is said to have originated from Escalis in Germany. As this city does not exist, it was surely a bad reading or transcription of what Henri de Bernières, the celebrant, heard.

Marriage of Peter Mahler and Jeanne Gueneville from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Marriage of Peter Mahler and Jeanne Gueneville from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Source: Record 67023, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

We should also mention Léonard Créquy, who signs Lenart Kreickeldt, originally from the bishopric of Cologne in Germany. He married Catherine Trefflé dit Rotot on May 22, 1680 at Notre-Dame de Québec and was a carpenter, master cabinetmaker and sculptor.

Marriage of Lenart Kreickeldt from the registry of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Marriage of Lenart Kreickeldt from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Source: Record 67220, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

Here we have the sailor Jean D’Eyme, or rather Johann Deigme, patriarch of the Daigle dit Lallemand families. In his marriage certificate on November 5, 1685 in Charlesbourg with Marie-Anne Proteau, he is said to be from Vienna in “Lower Germany”. Could it be Vienna in Austria? It is quite possible, but we cannot confirm it for the moment.

PRDH family file of Jean Daigle L'Allemand and Marie Anne Proteau
PRDH family file of Jean Daigle L’Allemand and Marie Anne Proteau
Source: Family file 5587, PRDH-IGD.com

And finally, we have shoemaker André Spénard, who signs Andre Spennert, originally from Lorraine according to his marriage certificate recorded on April 5, 1690 at Notre-Dame de Québec with Marie Charlotte Thérèse Arnaud. Interestingly, Leonard Créquy, mentioned earlier in this article, is present at the wedding and signs Lennart Creigie (and not Lenart Kreickeldt as he did at his own wedding).

We also sometimes deal with more mysterious cases, such as that of the marriage of Denis Lagneau and Marie Anne de Kierk/Decker on September 15, 1718 at Notre-Dame de Québec. Marie Anne is said to be from Saxony in Germany. How did an unmarried German woman end up in Quebec? A mystery! After 1723, we lose track of the couple.

Marriage of Marie de Denis Laigneau and Marie Anne Dekierk from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Marriage of Marie de Denis Laigneau and Marie Anne Dekierk from the register of Notre-Dame-de-Québec
Source: Record 68199, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

As we can see, these German immigrants were mostly tradesmen, as was the case for the first French settlers in New France. It would be very interesting to know how they got wind of this opportunity, especially considering the geographical distance separating them from the French west coast.

It is also important to mention that the Catholic religion did not seem to be an obstacle to the integration of German immigrants into Quebec society, as would be the case a century later.

Germanic surnames are likely to have irritated the ears of New France’s priests and notaries who, despite their level of education, mistreated them or simply Frenchified them as in the case of Vogel in Loiseau, or Schneider in Tailleur.

In my next article, I will focus on German immigration around the Seven Years’ War.

Claude Crégheur

The German presence in Quebec

My name is Claude Crégheur and I have been interested in German history for several years. This interest was born from the discovery of my German origins following genealogical research carried out from the end of the 1960s.

I will not hide from you that it was still quite taboo, at that time, to talk about my German roots; the end of the Second World War was not so far away and Germany had very bad press. However, my curiosity got the better of me!

This is the introduction to a series of articles in which I will attempt to draw as complete a portrait as possible of the history of German immigration to Quebec territory, from New France to today.

In general, the discovery of German ancestors in one’s family tree brings its share of surprises and frustrations. The greatest difficulty lies in the spellings of surnames which have evolved over time, some having simply been translated into French.

Before going any further, I want to focus on the definition of the word German. A German is defined as a person living in the country called Germany. This country, as we know it and to which we refer today, has changed a lot over the past centuries. Its borders have shifted with wars and political treaties. As a Nation-State, Germany only exists since its proclamation on January 18, 1871. Before this date, there existed a Germanic world made up of several small States, Principalities, Duchies and even Free Cities.

Its history is complex and must consider the geographical and political limits as well as the ethnogenesis of the German people.

German regions

For example, it is common to find in the parish registers of Quebec the words “German by nation”, even if the person came from Alsace or Lorraine, territories that have changed hands between Germany and France on numerous occasions. The majority of “German” ancestors who settled in Quebec came during the 17th and 18th centuries, before Germany as we know it today. The more we go back in time, the more we get lost in the ethnic subtleties which are ultimately only labels. The great invasions into Europe in the first millennium created a mixture of Scandinavian, Saxon and Frankish origins across the continent.

New France was populated and developed by sustained French immigration until the Conquest of 1759. Following the conquest, other waves of immigration from Europe to Canada took place, this time including Europeans of various origins. If we want to talk about Germanic immigration, we must take into account these waves of immigration.

It must first be understood that there are two types of immigration here: the first type, and probably the most important for Quebec, was military immigration. The various conflicts that opposed Germany and England and then England and its American colonies contributed to the greatest wave of immigration to Quebec. In most cases, these soldiers integrated so well into their new culture, including religion, that many Quebecers are unaware that they are of German descent.

Soldier from the troops of Brunswick

The second type of immigration is more random and developed through wars, famines and political tensions that affected European countries between the 17th and 20th centuries. It is categorized by the fact that the emigrant left his native land of his own accord. These emigrants arrived mainly in the second half of the 19th century and formed more closed communities, sometimes even isolated, with their own churches and schools, and often retaining their Lutheran language and religion.

The first half of the 20th century, characterized by the two great wars, also contributed to Quebec society with the arrival of a new group of immigrants.

In the next article in this series, I will take a more in depth look at German immigration from the New France period until the Seven Years’ War.

Claude Crégheur

Quebec death records and burials – The best online sources

Quebec death records and burials have been kept by the church and later by the government for now over 400 years. Thanks to the efforts of many organizations, it is now possible to consult the majority of these documents online. In this article, you will find a list of the best sources of Quebec death records available on the internet.

For an article about obituaries published in newspapers and online, head over to this page.

The LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec (Quebec death records from 1621 to today)

Quebec death record from the burial registers
Marguerite Bourgeois’ burial as presented on the LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec

The LAFRANCE is a tool equipped with a search engine containing Ontario, Acadia and Quebec birth, marriage and death records. In addition to millions of marriages and baptisms, the tool contains EVERY Catholic burial recorded by the Church in Quebec from the beginnings of the colony to 1861, as well as tens of thousands of death records dating from 1862 to today.


Browse the LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Marriages and deaths 1926-1997 on Genealogy Quebec

The Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997 collection contains most of the marriages and deaths recorded by the Government of Quebec during this period. The tool is equipped with a search engine allowing you to search by the name of the deceased person as well as their spouse or parents.


Browse the Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997 collection on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Connolly File and NBMDS tool on Genealogy Quebec (Quebec death records from 1621 to today)

The Connolly File and the NBMDS tool are databases equipped with search engines containing Quebec death, marriage and birth records. More specifically, they contain over 1,400,000 Quebec death records dating from the beginnings of the colony to the present day.

Browse the Connolly File on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Browse the NBMDS tool on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Quebec Civil Registration (1621 to the 1940s)

The civil registration of Quebec collection is made up of parish registers produced in Quebec between 1621 and the 1940s. Although these registers are digitized, the records they contain are not individually indexed; you will have to browse the register manually to find the death you are looking for.


Browse Quebec’s civil registration up to the 1920s on the BANQ website (Free)

Browse Quebec’s civil registration up to the 1940s Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Quebec Parish Registres (1621 to 1979)

A second copy of Quebec’s parish registers was kept in the churches themselves and differs slightly from the other copy. It is also available online and is partially indexed. This copy covers up to 1979 for Catholic parishes, and 1967 for Protestant parishes.


Browse Quebec’s Catholic Parish Registers on Family Search (Free)

Browse Quebec’s Protestant Parish Registers on Family Search (Free)

PRDH-IGD (Quebec burials from 1621 to 1849)

PRDH-IGD individual file containing an individual's burial details based on Quebec death records
PRDH-IGD individual file, containing the information relating to the death of the individual.

The PRDH-IGD contains all the Catholic vital events recorded in Quebec from the founding of the colony until 1849. In addition to these records, the PRDH-IGD contains files used to reconstruct the lives of individuals and families who lived in Quebec during this period. These files are interconnected and form a massive genealogical tree of the entirety of the French-Canadian population of Quebec up to the middle of the 19th century. With this tree, entire genealogical lines can be traced in minutes.


Browse the PRDH-IGD ($)

PRDH-IGD subscription: starting at $19,99 CAD

NosOrigines

Family file containing burials from NosOrigines
NosOrigines family file

NosOrigines is a free resource containing files pertaining to Quebec and Acadian individuals and families. The source of these files is often the parish records (baptisms, marriages and burials) themselves, and a link to the original document from which the file is sourced is sometimes included.


Browse NosOrigines (Free)

BMS2000

BMS2000 is a genealogical search site offering more than 16 million Quebec death, birth and marriage records. Navigation within the records is done using a search engine, and a link to the original document to which a record refers is often included.


Browse BMS2000 ($)

BMS2000 subscription: starting at $20 CAD

Fichier Origine

The Fichier Origine is a database that focuses on Quebec’s first immigrants. Each pioneer has their own file on which is found, among other things, their death and burial information.


Browse the Fichier Origine

Quebec birth records and baptisms – The best free and paid sources

Thanks to the efforts of the religious authorities and eventually the government, Quebec birth records have been documented for more than 400 years. Nowadays, most of these records can be consulted online easily. In this article, you will find a list of the best sources of Quebec birth records and baptisms available on the internet.

The LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec (Quebec birth records from 1621 to today)

Quebec birth record from Genealogy Quebec
Louis-Joseph Papineau’s baptism as presented on the LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec

The LAFRANCE is a database equipped with a search engine containing Ontario, Acadia and Quebec birth, marriage and death records. In addition to millions of marriage and burial records, the LAFRANCE contains ALL Catholic baptisms recorded in the province from the beginnings of the colony to 1861, as well as tens of thousands of baptisms dating from 1862 to the present day.


Browse the LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Connolly File and NBMDS tool on Genealogy Quebec (Quebec birth records from 1621 to today)

The Connolly File and the NBMDS tool are databases equipped with a search engine containing Quebec birth, marriage and death records. Notably, it contains nearly 3 million Quebec birth records dating from the beginnings of the colony to the present day.


Browse the Connolly File on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Browse the NBMDS tool on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Quebec Civil Registration (Quebec birth records from 1621 to the 1940s)

The civil registration of Quebec available to the public consists of parish registers recorded between 1621 and the 1940s. This is a digitized version of the registers, but it should be noted that the various events are not individually indexed; you will have to browse the registers manually to find a specific event.


Browse Quebec’s civil registration up to the 1920s on the BANQ website (Free)

Browse Quebec’s civil registration up to the 1940s Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Quebec Parish Registres (Quebec birth records from 1621 to 1979)

A second copy of Quebec’s civil registration exists, which was kept within the churches. This copy is available online with a partial index and stops in 1979 for Catholic records, and 1967 for Protestant records.


Browse Quebec’s Catholic Parish Registers on Family Search (Free)

Browse Quebec’s Protestant Parish Registers on Family Search (Free)

PRDH-IGD (Quebec baptisms from 1621 to 1849)

Certificate sourced from a Quebec birth record
Baptism certificate from PRDH-IGD

The PRDH-IGD contains all of Quebec’s Catholic baptism, marriage and burial records from 1621 to 1849. These records are presented on the site in the form of a certificate, but are also used to reconstruct the life of an individual or a family via detailed files. This process is called “family reconstruction” and results in an extremely detailed and accurate family tree of the entire French-Canadian population of Quebec up to 1849. This tree can be used to trace an entire lineage in the span of minutes.

Browse the PRDH-IGD ($)

PRDH-IGD subscription: starting at $19,99 CAD

NosOrigines

Family file containing baptisms from NosOrigines
NosOrigines family file

NosOrigines is a free site containing files pertaining to individuals and families of Quebec and Acadia. These files are based on vital events which mainly come from the parish registers. A link to the original document from which the information was sourced is sometimes included.


Browse NosOrigines (Free)

BMS2000

BMS2000 contains more than 16 million Quebec birth, marriage and death records. The database can be navigated with ease using a search engine. A link to the original source document is often included.


Browse BMS2000 ($)

BMS2000 subscription: starting at $20 CAD

Fichier Origine

The Fichier Origine is made up of individual files compiled from parish and notarial records. These files pertain to the first immigrants of families who settled on Quebec soil, from the origins of the colony until 1865. These individual files list, among other things, the place and date of birth of these pioneers.


Browse the Fichier Origine

Quebec marriages – The best free and paid sources

In genealogy, the marriage record is the key to tracing one’s ancestors. We are fortunate in Quebec to have access to the majority of marriages recorded in the province from the beginnings of the colony until today, thanks to the archives kept by the church and the government. In this article, you will find a list of the best free and paid sources of Quebec marriages available on the internet.

The LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec (Quebec Marriages 1621 to today)

Quebec marriage from Genealogy Quebec
Quebec marriage as presented on the LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec

The LAFRANCE is a database equipped with a search engine containing birth, death and marriage records from Quebec as well as from Ontario and Acadia. In addition to millions of baptisms and burials, it contains the following records:

  • ALL of Quebec’s Catholic marriages from 1621 to 1918
  • ALL of Quebec’s Protestant marriages from 1760 to 1849
  • 1,450,000 Quebec Catholic marriages from 1919 to today
  • 80,000 Quebec civil marriages from 1969 to today
  • 140,000 Ontario marriages from 1850 to today
  • 38,000 marriages from the United States
  • 3,000 Quebec Protestant marriages from 1850 to 1941
  • 17,000 miscellaneous Quebec marriages from 2018 and 2019

Browse the LAFRANCE on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997 on Genealogy Quebec

Quebec marriage from Genealogy Quebec
Quebec marriage from the Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997 tool on Genealogy Quebec

The Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997 tool contains most of the marriages and deaths recorded in Quebec by the government during that period.

The tool is equipped with a search engin and the original document can be viewed in many cases.


Browse the Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997 collection on Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Quebec Civil Registration (Quebec marriages from 1621 to the 1940s)

The civil registration of Quebec is a collection comprising almost all the parish registers recorded in Quebec between 1621 and the 1940s. This collection includes a digitized version of every register, but the individual records they contain are not indexed; you will have to go through the register manually, year by year, to find the record you are looking for.


Browse Quebec’s civil registration up to the 1920s on the BANQ website (Free)

Browse Quebec’s civil registration up to the 1940s Genealogy Quebec ($)

Genealogy Quebec subscription: starting at $7 CAD

Quebec Parish Registres (Quebec marriages from 1621 to 1979)

A second copy of Quebec’s civil registration exists. This one was kept within the churches themselves. This collection is available with a partial index up to 1979 for Catholic parishes, and 1967 for Protestant parishes.


Browse Quebec’s Catholic Parish Registers on Family Search (Free)

Browse Quebec’s Protestant Parish Registers on Family Search (Free)

PRDH-IGD (Quebec marriages from 1621 to 1849)

Family File from PRDH-IGD containing Quebec Marriages
Family file as presented on PRDH-IGD. It centralizes the information available about a couple and their children on a single page.

The PRDH-IGD is a directory of ALL vital events recorded by the Catholic church in Quebec from 1621 to 1849, which represents over 2.5 million records.

Every individual mentioned in one of these records gets their own “individual file” in which the information available on the individual is centralized. Links to all records where the individual is mentioned are also included in the file.

In addition, every married couple from the database is assigned a “family file” which fulfills a similar role as the individual file, but in relation to an entire family. It lists all the couple’s children with redirections to their individual files and their vital records. The family file also contains additional information pertaining to the married couple.

To put it more simply, the PRDH-IGD database is a exhaustive family tree of the entire French Canadian population from the early days of the colony to 1849.


Browse the PRDH-IGD ($)

PRDH-IGD subscription: starting at $19,99 CAD

NosOrigines

Family File from NosOrigines containing Quebec Marriages
Family file as presented on NosOrigines

NosOrigines is a free website with hundreds of thousands of files pertaining to Quebec families. These files usually refer to vital events from Quebec’s parish registers. A link to the original document available on Family Search is sometimes included.


Browse NosOrigines (Free)

BMS2000

BMS2000 is a research website containing over 16 million Quebec marriages, baptisms and burials. A search engine allows for easy browsing of the database. A link to the original document available on Family Search is sometimes included.


Browse BMS2000 ($)

BMS2000 subscription: starting at $20 CAD

Fichier Origine

The Fichier Origine contains individual files based on civil and notarial records relating to the first immigrants of families who settled on Quebec soil from the beginnings of the colony until 1865. These individual files contain information about the marriage of these pioneers, whether it took place in Quebec or in the country of origin.


Browse the Fichier Origine

Genealogy and women’s history

(This article is a follow-up to Genealogy and care work)

As genealogists, we have access to little windows into the past. Our familial histories, the lives of our ancestors, all fit into the much larger context of the society in which they lived. If we pay enough attention, we can see traces of that in our research. These little pieces of the past can be very instructive, as they can help us better understand certain realities. In this sense, I believe genealogy can serve feminist emancipation : it can shed light on women’s history.

Genealogy can teach us a lot about the living conditions of women at different times. In our genealogical research, we can discover how many children our female ancestors had, at what interval, how many survived, how old they were when they got married and when they gave birth, if they became widows, how many times, at what age, etc. From these facts, we can rebuild their life stories, partially of course, since their lives cannot be summed up entirely to their familial context. However, because the social role of women has often been to take care of their families, these facts can teach us a lot about their daily lives, the major milestones of their lives and the challenges they faced.

Source: Individual File 13420, PRDH-IGD.com
Source: Family File 4903, PRDH-IGD.com
Marie Catherine Sicotte’s individual and family files from PRDH-IGD.com give us a relatively detailed overview of her life; her place and date of birth, marriage and death, the names of her parents as well as the list of her children including the place and date of their birth, marriage and death.

We can also certainly see in this information the different ways in which patriarchy influenced women’s lives. Subtle social norms and very concrete laws concerning the injunction to marriage and motherhood or access to contraception and abortion are directly reflected in our family trees and in our family histories. When we connect the life stories of several generations, we can see how these influences changed over the decades, or even centuries.

Genealogy can also help us understand what roles women played in society. The documents we use in a genealogical research often mention the men’s occupations, but it’s a lot more rare for women, who were taking care of the children or helping with the family business in the shadows of their husbands. However, there is an exception : the midwives! Midwives who assisted the birth of a child are sometimes mentioned on baptismal records.

Source: Record 2953156, LAFRANCE, GenealogieQuebec.com

The roles women played in our societies were rarely recognized, let alone valued: and yet, they were crucial. Midwives often were essential local medical resources, especially in smaller or remote villages where access to a doctor was not always guaranteed (Laforce, 1983 :7 ; Bates et al, 2005 :18). House work and child rearing are also essential in any family, and it was often because women took care of it that men were able to devote themselves to more public and supposedly important activities (like politics, art, science, etc).

This devalorization continues to this day : women who choose to be stay-at-home-moms are often seen as ‘’not working’’ (we can think of the notorious play ‘’Môman travaille pas, a trop d’ouvrage’’  (mom doesn’t have a job, she has too much work) (Théâtre des cuisines, 1976)) and jobs typically done by women are significatively underpaid. Canadian Women’s Foundation underlines that ‘’jobs that conform to traditional gender roles tend to be undervalued because they parallel domestic work that women were expected to perform for free’’ (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2021). By putting these roles forward in our genealogical research, we can participate in their revalorization, so that the contributions of women from the past and the present are more recognized.

This type of genealogical research can also bridge the gap between familial histories, personal to each genealogist, and the much more global history of a society. Genealogy can therefore link the public and private spheres even if they are presented as fundamentally opposed by the patriarchy (Bereni and Revillard, 2009). This opposition is directly linked to women’s oppression : because these spheres are seen as completely different, even incompatible, women’s assignment to the private sphere necessarily excludes them from the public sphere.

Feminists worked towards the deconstruction of this opposition : this idea is notoriously carried in the famous slogan of radical feminists ‘’the personal is political’’. We can therefore consider that particular genealogical practices which link these two spheres and blur the line that divide them participate to this deconstruction and to the feminist emancipation project.

Audrey Pepin


Bibliography

Bates, Christina, Dodd, Diane and Rousseau, Nicole (2005). Sans Frontières : quatre siècles de soins infirmiers canadiens. Ottawa : Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa. 248 p.

Bereni, Laure and Revillard Anne. (2009). « La dichotomie “Public-Privé’’ à l’épreuve des critiques féministes: de la théorie à l’action publique ». In Genre et action publique : la frontière public-privé en questions, Muller, P. et Sénac-Slawinski, R (dir.). Paris : L’Harmattan. p. 27-55.

Canadian Women’s Foundation (2021). The Facts about the Gender Pay Gap in Canada  [Online]. https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/the-gender-pay-gap/ 

Laforce, Hélène (1983). L’évolution du rôle de la sage-femme dans la région de Québec de 1620 à 1840. (Master’s thesis). Québec : Université Laval, 368 p. https://corpus.ulaval.ca/jspui/handle/20.500.11794/28994 Théâtre des cuisines. (1976). Môman travaille pas, a trop d’ouvrage. Montréal : Les Éditions du Remue-Ménage, 78 p.

Genealogy and care work

L’attribut alt de cette image est vide, son nom de fichier est IGD-large-1024x336.png.

In my first article series on this blog ”The omission of women in family trees”1, I talked about the place of women in genealogy, exploring the reasons and the consequences of their exclusion from most research. For this new series, I wanted to reverse the perspective and talk about how women practice genealogy. Why do they do genealogical research? What can they accomplish with their investigations? What place does gender take in their practices? Can genealogy be a source of feminist emancipation for women?

Individual genealogical practices are often related to one’s family. We practice genealogy to find our ancestors, to share our discoveries with our loved ones and to bequeath to future generations a better knowledge of their past. Therefore, it seemed logical to start by trying to see if genealogy could be a part of women’s traditional role in a family : care.

The Spring Clean, unknown artist. Source : Wikimedia Commons.

What does ‘’care’’ mean ?

The word ‘’care’’ has first been popularized by Carol Gilligan, who talked more precisely about the ethics of care. Her work put to light the particular bases of the moral and ethical judgement of women and showed it was more contextual and anchored in the maintenance of human relationships as well as in the interdependence of individuals (see Gilligan, 1982). The concept of ‘’care’’ eventually superseded the philosophical and psychological questions of Gilligan. Contemporary feminist theories often refer to ‘’care work’’. Care work is a set of concrete (or material) and less visibles (or more immaterial) tasks which aim to take care of others and the world around us.

Those tasks are usually (at least, in our patriarchal societies) attributed to women. Joan Tronto, a researcher who is interested in care, defines the concept this way : ‘’a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web’’ (Fisher and Tronto, 1990 : 40).

The concept thus includes housework (maintaining the household, planning, preparing meals, purchasing household goods, educating the children, etc (see Robert, 2017 : 15)), but also a way to perceive the world and others and a way to be preoccupied by them, to be aware of the responsibility we have towards them and to care about their wellbeing (Garrau and Le Goff, 2010 : 5). Examples would be listening to and empathizing with our loved ones, adapting to their situations to help them, giving them little marks of affection to maintain our relationship, etc.

Care work is also part of the famous public-private divide that I discussed in my previous articles (particularly here). To prevent women from accessing the public sphere, where the decisions were made and power was held, the patriarchal system has historically relegated them to the private sphere, particularly by assigning them to care work within their families.

Genealogical research and care practice

Genealogy can also be a form of care work. In her doctorate thesis, ‘’ Family webs : the impact of women genealogy research on family communication ’’, Amy M. Smith (2008) interviewed 22 female genealogists to understand how their genealogical practices fit into their family environments as well as in the patriarchal society we live in. Considering the results of her interviews, Smith names care as an important component to women’s genealogical practices. She explains that genealogical research plays a key role in the construction of the individual identities of family members as well as of the identity of the family as a whole. Genealogy can also be very useful in healing intergenerational traumas, and to more serenely live through  certain losses, as it can help understand the history of our family. Taking care of our family’s genealogy can therefore be a way to take care of its individual members and the relationships that unite them.

Does this mean that genealogy necessarily confines women? Not at all! Care work is not oppressive in itself : feminists rather criticize the ways in which it is devalued, the absence of recognition for the women who do it, its instrumentalization to keep women away from the public sphere and its uneven distribution between men and women.

Mother and Child (The Goodnight Hug), Mary Cassat. Source : Wikimedia Commons.

Care and emancipation

Care is otherwise revendicated as a part of feminist emancipation. Some theoriticians consider care as fundamentally subversive, because it ”shows the importance of valorizing what women valorize, as opposed to allowing them to access what men valorize”2 (Savard-Laroche, 2020 : 63). Some even go so far as to say that ”care is neither more nor less than a coherent response, both realistic and visionary, to the pitfalls of the dominant paradigms” (Bourgault et Perreault, 2015 : 14). The idea of taking care of our environment and of others, of not stigmatizing dependency and vulnerability but to put forward the interdependence between humans can be a way to counter capitalist and colonial ideologies which destroy our environment and valorize autonomy, individuality and independence to the detriment of solidarity.

A genealogical practice anchored in care could therefore, under certain circumstances, contribute to the valorization of care ethics and to a certain feminist emancipation. In her thesis, Amy M. Smith notes that because they take a particular interest in connections between individuals and between families, genealogists can see the interconnection that exists between all human beings (Smith, 2008 : 107). Between this interconnection and the interdependence put forward by care ethics, there is only a small step! 

We also need to remember that care is only one aspect of women’s genealogical practices. There are as many relationships to genealogy as there are women practicing it, and they can be emancipatory in numerous ways : that will be the subject of the second part of this article series. 


1  By clicking on the links, you can read part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this series. 
2 This quote and the one following have been translated by the author of this article.

Bibliography :

Bereni, Laure and Revillard Anne. (2009). « La dichotomie “Public-Privé’’ à l’épreuve des critiques féministes: de la théorie à l’action publique ». In Genre et action publique : la frontière public-privé en questions, Muller, P. and Sénac-Slawinski, R (ed.). Paris : L’Harmattan. p. 27-55.

Bourgault, Sophie and Perreault, Julie. (2015). « Introduction. Le féminisme du care, d’hier à aujourd’hui ». In L’éthique du care. Montréal : Remue-Ménage. p.9-25.

Fisher, Berenice and Tronto, Joan. (1990). ”Towards a Feminist Theory of Care”. In Circles of care, Abel, E. and Nelson, M. (ed.). New York : State University of New York Press, p.36-54.

Garrau, Marie et Le Goff, Alice. (2010). Care, justice et dépendance. Introduction aux théories du care. Paris : Presses Universitaires de France. 160 p.

Robert, Camille. (2017). Toutes les femmes sont d’abord ménagères. Montréal : Éditions Somme Toute. 180 p.

Savard-Laroche, Sophie (2020). Travail et justice du care. (Mémoire de maîtrise). Université Laval.

Smiths, Amy M. (2008). Family Webs: The Impact of Women’s Genealogy, Research on Family Communication. (Thèse de doctorat). Graduate College of Bowling Green State University. 


Quebec’s civil registration is 400 years old

October 24, 2021 marks the 400th anniversary of the establishment of civil registration in New France. On this exact date, Father Joseph Denis, priest of the Notre-Dame de Québec parish, baptized Eustache Martin, son of Marguerite Langlois and Abraham Martin dit l’Écossais [who gave his name to the Plains of Abraham]. Since the beginnings of the colony, the registration of vital events was entrusted to the ecclesiastical authority which enforced royal ordinances such as the keeping of duplicate registers – one being kept by the parish, the other being deposited at the local court.

Record 57096, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

From 1703, the drafting of records by the parish priests of New France was done according to the rules prescribed by the Ritual of the Diocese of Quebec. When New France was ceded to England through the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the colonial authorities maintained the old French laws relating to the registration of vital events. In 1774, the Quebec Act confirmed that the keeping of parish registers, whether Catholic or Protestant, was the responsibility of the clergy.

In 1760, Anglo-Protestant registers were introduced following the British Conquest. Protestant marriages were celebrated in accordance with the Marriage Act, a British law of 1754. The first of theses registers is that of the Anglican Garrison Church in Montreal, which covers the 1760 to 1764 period. Between 1760 and 1770, Protestant parishes opened in Montreal , Quebec, Trois-Rivières and Sorel.

Record 5585366, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

In 1795, a law enacted by the Parliament of Lower Canada confirmed the application of the French ordinances while adapting them to the new situation of the country. Over the next two centuries, very few changes were made to the registration of vital events apart from a few minor adjustments resulting from the adoption of a new Civil Code in 1866.

We had to wait a hundred years before a major change was made to Quebec’s civil registration with the introduction of civil marriage which, since 1968, can be celebrated in courthouses and other authorized places. With the number of different denominations, and consequently, the number of celebrants authorized to register events having reached a new high – 5,417 registers were deposited for the year 1989 only – a change was in order. In 1991, a new civil code was adopted, confirming the prerogative of the State in matters of registration of vital events.

In 1994, the government implemented a modern civil registration system and created the position of Directeur de l’état civil which provided Quebec with a single non-denominational register. The new regulations transferred the legal responsibility of recording births, marriages and deaths in the province from the churches to the State. Despite these new regulations, priests and ministers of all faiths are still considered civil officers for the celebration of religious marriages, even if most unions are now contracted before a civil officer approved by the Directeur de l’état civil.

Between 1621 and 1800, the priests of the 159 Catholic parishes of Quebec recorded 690,000 vital events, to which we must add the few thousand Protestant events recorded from 1766 onwards. Between 1800 and 1900, seven million vital events were recorded, a number that grew to more than seventeen million for the 1901 to 2000 period. The Quebec archives now hold nearly 25 million vital event records spanning 4 centuries.


Consult all of Quebec’s parish registers from 1621 to the 1940s by subscribing to Genealogy Quebec today!


Civil registration is an essential source of information for any genealogical, historical or demographic research. The quality of Quebec’s parish registers is unique in the world and the baptism, marriage and burial records drafted by ecclesiastical authorities since the beginning of New France have survived time without many gaps.

Until 1994, parish records were accessible to researchers, but they were closed to consultation with the advent of the new provisions on civil registration. This situation makes genealogical research more difficult and deprives Quebecers and their descendants of an important part of their collective memory. Genealogists such as myself understand that the protection of personal information is a priority in modern times, but shouldn’t our administrative authorities find compromises so that family history research can continue, and to allow the current and future generations the opportunity to learn about their roots?

Recently, the Fédération québécoise des sociétés de généalogie and the Directeur de l’état civil du Québec held exploratory meetings that lead to a certain openness with regard to the consultation of death certificates between 1994 and 2021. It is to be hoped that these discussions will allow the dissemination of certain genealogical information while respecting the privacy of Quebecers. Quebec’s civil registration remains an essential collective asset for reconstructing the history of our families across space and time.

Marcel Fournier, AIG
Historian and genealogist

Priests, the moral authority of New France

The parish registers of Quebec are an invaluable resource for genealogists and historians interested in the story of the inhabitants of the province. But it is important to emphasize that this window into the past comes to us from a small group of individuals: the priests of the province.

Father Marquette preaching

When drafting a parish record, the priest had to follow a predetermined format, dictating a formulation that generally did not deviate from record to record. Genealogists are familiar with this format; date of writing, date of the event, name of the subject(s), name of the parents, all framed by formulas such as “by us, the undersigned priest of the parish” and “who have declared not knowing how to sign”.

But these guidelines did not prevent some priests from adding a little color to their records, as you will see in this article.


The documents used in this article are from the LAFRANCE, one of 15 tools available to Genealogy Quebec subscribers.


We begin our visit of the past in 1734 with priest René Portneuf of the parish of Saint-Jean-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, celebrating the baptism of Marie Renée Marguerite Charlan.

The priest was much more than the officiant of the religious ceremonies of his parish; he was also its moral authority! Let us admire the zeal of Father Portneuf here:

« Je me suis nommé parrain après avoir répudié Simon Campagna à cause de son ignorance […] sur la religion ainsi qu’il apparu à tous ceux qui étaient présents lorsque je l’ai interrogé sur le Petit Catéchisme. »

“I named myself godfather after having repudiated Simon Campagna because of his ignorance […] about religion as it appeared to all those who were present when I asked him about the Small Catechism.”

Source: Record 143891, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

It is interesting to note that Simon Campagna was already 5 times godfather before his regrettable meeting with Father Portneuf. You will not be surprised to learn that he will have no other godchildren during his lifetime.

The burial of soldier Jean Simon dit Sansregret at the Hotel Dieu de Québec, also in 1734, reminds us of the importance and omnipresence of religion in the customs and culture of the French colony.

« […] sans avoir jamais voulu recevoir les sacrements quoy que les Prêtres et Religieux se fussent employés avec beaucoup de zele pour le gagner, il fut enterré par nos infirmiers proche de la caserne sans honneurs et sans prières, et avec l’horreur qu’il inspirait. »

“[…] without ever having wanted to receive the sacraments despite the Priests and Religious employing great zeal to gain him, he was buried by our nurses near the barracks without honors and without prayers, and with the horror he inspired. “

Source: Record 169203, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

Clearly, Mr. Simon dit Sansregret (which translates to without regrets) was aptly named.

Speaking of horror, it is hard to miss the blatant racism that is often found in the registers. Take, for example, the baptismal record of Marie Louise, daughter of Marie Anne, dated July 17, 1688 in Lachine.

« […] a été baptisée Marie Louise fille d’une sauvagesse nommée Marie Anne femme de mauvaise vie connue pour folle par tous les pais et coustumière d’avoir de tels enfans »

“[…] was baptized Marie Louise daughter of a savage named Marie Anne woman of ill-repute known for being mad by all the inhabitants and known to have such children”

Source: Record 13426, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

Family reconstruction work carried out by the PRDH at the University of Montreal allows us to learn a little more about the fate of young Marie Louise. She would have been taken from her mother by the parish priest and entrusted to the Sulpicians, and then brought up by a Pierre Sarault dit Laviolette. Married three times over the course of her life, she drowned in 1777 at the ripe old age of 89.

Source: Individual file 39257, PRDH-IGD.com

But all is not dark in the registers; they often remind us of the humanity within some of the colony’s priests. The burial of Marie Benoist on January 13, 1736 in Longueuil, is a good example:

« […] a été inhumé le corps de defunte Marie Benoist […]  âgée d’environ 44 ans, pendans lesquels, il a plû au Seigneur de l’éprouver par des maladies et des soufrances continuelles, qui ne lui ont rien fait perdre de l’espris de charité de douceur et de patiance, qui l’ont fait admirer par tous ceux qui ons connu cette vertueuse vierge sans vices qui est décédée comblée de merite et de grâce. »

“[…] was buried the body of deceased Marie Benoist […] aged about 44 years, during which it pleased the Lord to test her by continual illnesses and sufferings, which did not make her lose anything of the spirit of charity, gentleness and patience, which made her admired by all those who have known this virtuous virgin without vices who died full of merit and grace. “

Source : Record 106904, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

In a similar vein, we have the burial record of naturalist and surgeon Michel Sarrazin, who died on September 9, 1734 at the Hôtel Dieu in Quebec.

« Il avait exercé son art en ce païs plus de 45 ans avec une rare charité, un parfait desinteressement, un succès extraordinaire, une adresse surprenante, une application sans égale pour toutes sorte de personnes qui luy faisait faire avec joye et avec grace, tout ce qui depandait de ses soins pour le soulagement des malades qu’il traitait, il était aussy habile chirurgien que scavant médecin, comme les belles cures qu’il a faites en sont les preuves. »

“He had exercised his art in this country for more than 45 years with rare charity, a perfect disinterestedness, an extraordinary success, a surprising address, an unequaled application for all kinds of people which made him do everything with joy and grace, everything that depended on his care for the relief of the patients he treated, he was as skilful a surgeon as he was a doctor, as the fine cures he performed are proof of this.”

Source: Record 169208, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

It is evident that Mr. Sarrazin had the esteem and the deep respect of his contemporaries, and he is regarded today as the first Canadian scientist. You can learn more about this fascinating individual here.

We are all aware of the value of church records in the genealogical sphere, but are we paying enough attention to the anecdotes they contain? The priests have offered us, in their own way, a fascinating window into our past, and all researchers should make it their duty to carefully read the records that pertain to their ancestors.

In the next articles in this series, I will continue to explore various historical subjects and themes using the documents available on Genealogy Quebec.

François Desjardins

Women in Quebec’s toponymy

In genealogical research, locations often play a very important role : they can help us confirm a person’s identity or guide our research when looking for an ancestor. Even if their role is not central to our investigation, from the moment we consult modern sources such as civil records or a nominative census, we will necessarily encounter a variety of toponyms (Jetté, 1991 : 89) – cities, parishes or even street names!

Saint-Thomas de Joliette church, one of many Quebec parishes named after a man.
Source: Drouin Institute’s Miscellaneous Collections (Fonds Pierre-Colpron), GenealogyQuebec.com

Thereby, you may have noticed that Quebec’s toponyms are far from parity. We estimate that women represent less than 10% of Quebec anthroponymic toponymy. To phrase it differently, for each place named after a woman, there are 10 others named after a man (Beaudoin and Martin, 2019 : 1).

Faced with this observation, a movement for toponymic parity was created. Sarah Beaudoin and Gabriel Martin are both involved in this cause : Beaudoin as a feminist activist and Martin as a linguist. They published a book about the subject : Femmes et toponymie, de l’occultation à la parité.

The book offers a surprisingly complete overview for its 125 pages. The authors first present a historical portrait of the movement for toponymic parity in Quebec, then address common myths. From the supposed low importance of working towards toponymic parity to the so-called insufficient number of prominent women in history, all arguments against resolutions aimed at achieving toponymic parity are examined.

Through the development of this argument, the authors discuss a variety of feminist concepts such as radical feminism and patriarchy. The book also demonstrates a sensibility towards different types of oppression (like racism and colonialism), particularly for indigenous issues. The cover is a tribute to An Antane Kapesh, an innu band leader and author of the well-known book Eukuan nin matshimanitu innu-iskueu – I am a damn savage. However, the use of the term “amerindian” a few times in the book is regrettable since it is now considered derogatory (Picard, 2018).

The book ends with a list of potential toponyms and a chart for toponymic parity, which serves as a concrete link between the demands of the movement and Quebec’s reality. It is also a good opportunity to discover women who have marked our history : among the 145 toponymic suggestions, 10 are the subject of a short presentation, more than half of which are racialized and/or indigenous women.

Notarized contract mentioning Sainte-Thérèse and Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, cities named after women.
Source: Notarized documents tool, GenealogyQuebec.com

The book accomplishes the feat of remaining very accessible while addressing several issues in depth. Those who are not very familiar with feminism or toponymy will nonetheless understand, the book serving as a good introduction to these subjects. Those who have a deeper understanding of either feminism or toponymy will also find their read interesting : even after studying feminism in university, I learned quite a lot reading this book, finding ways to refine my feminist argument and discovering prominent women of our history.

All in all, it is an excellent book that will provide you with a different outlook, both in your genealogical research and in your everyday life.

Audrey Pepin


Reference list :

Jetté, René. (1991). Traité de Généalogie. Montreal : Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 716 p.

Beaudoin, Sarah et Martin, Gabriel (2019). Femmes et toponymie, de l’occultation à la parité. Sherbrooke : Les Éditions du Fleurdelysé, 125 p.

Picard, Ghislain (2018, September 26th). « Non, les Autochtones ne sont pas des Amérindiens ». HuffPost Québec. https://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/ghislain-picard/autochtones-pas-amerindiens-terminologie-colonialisme_a_23541813/