Understanding the linguistic variation in your ancestors’ names

Your genealogical research might have left you with the impression that your ancestors liked to change names quite often. The concept of “dit names”, which was the subject of a previous blog post, sheds light on a part of this variation, which can be obscure to a present-day observer.

Although baptism was the cornerstone of civil identity in French Canada for four centuries, this identity was not, until the beginning of the 20th century, as constraining as it is today. It was not usual for an individual to use different first and last names in the course of a lifetime. This phenomenon is fostered by the orthographic instability of proper names, the flexibility of the civil registration system as well as illiteracy.

This article offers some tips to keep in mind in order to locate all the occurrences of your ancestors in the archives.

Do not cross without looking both ways – A name may hide another! 

Do not rely on spelling

This tip may seem trivial to experienced genealogists, but it is a very handy one. For example, the ancestor of the Hétu family would spell his name Estur. The silent ‹ s › and ‹ r › were orthographic relics, for which the French language is renowned. The ‹ h › was added over the years as an ornamental letter.

Orthographic variation should not be systematically attributed to illiteracy, as evidenced by the Hénault family. Four members of this educated and wealthy family signed, in 1816, the marriage record of Honoré Hénault and Julienne Mailloux and spelled their last name three different ways: Hénault, Heneault and Eno. The priest chose the unaccented variant Henault.

Honoré Henault and Julienne Mailloux’s marriage record – Source: Record 2352319, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

Before standardization of proper names, their spelling would be determined to some extent by the whims of the priest, the notary and the individual him or herself.

Keep in mind that language changes

Most Dions are patronymic descendants of pioneer Jean Guyon. How is that possible? First, note that Guyon is pronounced Guee-yon and not Gu-yon. Nowadays, hard ‹ g › is articulated at the velum while ‹ d › is articulated behind the upper front teeth. However, in the past, ‹ g ›, when followed by a vowel pronounced from the front of the mouth like ‹ ee ›, tended to move forward. This linguistic process induced a shift from Guyon to Dion.

Guyot, which derives from the first name Guy just like Guyon, went through a parallel transformation and gave birth to Diotte. However, some names went the opposite way: Pierre Andiran is the ancestor of all Languirands.

Similarly, the Chiasson and Giasson families share the same origin. Only the vibration of the vocal folds in the onset of the word separates those two names. In the absence of a fixed spelling, this phonetic feature was likely to fluctuate across regions, time periods and individuals. Like Guyon and Dion, these two names are two sides of the same coin.

Vowels are also impacted by linguistic change. Maybe you will be surprised to learn that most Harveys from Quebec did not receive their name from an Anglo-Saxon immigrant. It rather comes from the name Hervé.

Be on the lookout for deleted or added sounds

The absence of a strict orthographic norm when it comes to proper nouns opens the door to oral variation. Certain sounds and syllables have a natural tendency to appear or disappear according to their position in the word.

One reason for adding segments is the introduction of definite articles lela and l’(the) in front of last names: it was usual to call people le Gagnonla Corriveau (a famous folkloric and historical figure) or l’Andiran. Reinterpretation of this structure in a merged form completes the shift from Andiran to Languirand.

Now, pronounce Reguindeau (Ruh-guin-do) out loud, then Reyindeau (Ruh-yin-do). You will probably notice the similarity between the two forms, and how easy it is to go from one to the other. The change from hard ‹ g › to ‹ y › is an example of palatalization. English yellow is linked to German gelb through the same process. You might have recognized the French-Canadian last name Riendeau (Ryin-do), inherited from Joachim Reguindeau from La Rochelle, France.

The pioneer François Amirault dit Tourangeau offers another example of deletion: most of his patronymic descendants use the name Mireault or an orthographic variant. The reverse phenomenon can also be found as the female first name Zélie produced Azélie.

The alternation between first names that are essentially distinguished by a few additional sounds can be found without regard for etymological cognateness. In French Canada, Élisabeth and its ancient derivative Isabelle behaved as two variants of the same name until the 19th century. However, Domitille & Mathilde, Jérémie & Rémi, Apolline & Pauline as well as Napoléon, Paul & Léon are not related.

Detect shared consonants, vowels and syllables

 Beyond truncated segments, some names share more subtle similarities that explain why they have often been mixed up, or even used interchangeably.

Apolline & Hippolyte, Jérémie & Germain, Mathilde & Martine as well as Alice & Élise illustrate this phenomenon. In other cases, the similarities seem even more tenuous. It is improbable that a present-day genealogist would spontaneously perceive a link between Angélique, Julie and Judith. Yet records show that these three first names have often been used alternately.

All of the appearances of Marie Angélique (Judith, Julie) Desgranges in the PRDH-IGD.com records, illustrating the interchangeability of these first names throughout the records.

Focus on the most distinctive part

 A first name with a rare ending is susceptible to be substituted with other names that share the same characteristic. It is the case of David & Ovide or Stanislas & Wenceslas.

The most distinctive part of a first name, or even a last name, sometimes acts as a nucleus that can be completed with a variety of prefixes and suffixes. Thus, Rose generates Rosalie, Rosanna, Rosina and Rosa. The female first names structured around the nucleus ‹ del › provide another example. By varying starts and endings, this group includes Adèle, Adélaïde, Adeline, Délie, Délina, Délia, Délima, Odeline and even Odile, which are not all etymologically related but came to sound alike and sometimes be used alike.

Similarly, it is not surprising that Brunet is occasionally substituted with Bruneau or Brunel, and Gendreau may alternate with Gendron.

Know the first name combinations inspired by the saints

 To shed light on this last type of variation, religion rather than linguistics comes in handy. Some saints’ and blesseds’ names are composed of several parts, with Jean Baptiste (John the Baptist) being the most well-known. An individual may use one part or another. Thus, Rose de Lima (Rose of Lima) paves the way for Rose and its sisters Rosalie, Rosanna, Rosa, as well as Délima and even Délina.

François Xavier (Francis Xavier), Jean François Régis (John Francis Regis), Jeanne Françoise Frémyot de Chantal (Jane Frances de Chantal) and Marie des Anges (Mary of the Angels), among others, also open the door to alternation between their parts.

The resemblance function in the LAFRANCE and on PRDH-IGD.com

 The resemblance (or likeliness) function available on the search engines of both PRDH-IGD and GenealogyQuebec.com‘s LAFRANCE will neutralize some of this variation, making genealogical research easier.

PRDH-IGD.com search engine with the Likeness function activated

For example, searching for “Mathilde” will generate a list containing women named Mathilde, Domitille, Martine, Donatille, Mélitime, Métheldée and Militilde, with their various spellings.

 

Marielle Côté-Gendreau

The PRDH website is celebrating its 20th anniversary!

The PRDH website is celebrating its 20th anniversary! It was in the summer of 1999 that the Université de Montréal’s Programme de recherche en démographie historique  (PRDH) launched the website, with the goal of sharing the genealogical information compiled by the PRDH with the public.

Produced in collaboration with Maison Gaëtan Morin éditeur, and thanks to a grant from the  Fonds de l’autoroute de l’information, an initiative of the Government of Quebec aimed at increasing the presence of French-language content on the Internet, the website was the latest step in an already 20 year old process of making the PRDH data available outside of the academic fields.

The PRDH database takes the form of a computerized population register, composed of biographical files on all individuals of European ancestry who lived in the St. Lawrence Valley. The file for each individual gives the date and place of birth, marriage(s), and death, as well as family and conjugal ties with other individuals. This basic information is complemented by various socio-demographic characteristics drawn from documents: socio-professional status and occupation, ability to sign his or her name, place of residence, and, for immigrants, place of origin.

Over the years, the PRDH has become an evolutionary and multi-purpose database, available for queries regarding various human populations in general and that of Quebec in particular. It is a truly interdisciplinary information system.

Baptism certificate from the PRDH website

The project relies on exhaustive gathering of data from the parish registers of old Quebec. By systematic attribution of baptism, marriage, and burial certificates to the respective individuals – a “family reconstruction” made on the basis of names and family ties – people are identified and their biographies established. Thus, the PRDH contains the personal history of the Quebec ancestors of all French-Canadians and is of interest to a broad public.

Individual file from the PRDH-IGD website

That is why the PRDH inaugurated, in 1980, a series of publications intended for the general public – directory of baptisms, marriages and burials in 47 volumes covering the French Regime, CD-ROM extending this directory to the whole of the XVIIIth century, Genealogical dictionary of families from the origin of the province to 1765 on Cd-Rom -, culminating with the opening of the website in 1999. The sale of these various products derived from its academic activities has provided the PRDH with revenues that have always been reinvested in the project.

Constantly corrected when necessary and enriched over time, the PRDH site quickly became the reference for 17th and 18th century genealogy in Quebec. Moreover, the PRDH established a fruitful collaboration with the Drouin Genealogical Institute about ten years ago to pool their resources and expertise to extend the coverage of the PRDH database to the 1840s. Assisted by a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) obtained for the establishment of an integrated infrastructure of historical micro-data of the population of Quebec (IMPQ), the PRDH directory has now been extended to 1849, tripling the number of civil records in the database.

Family file from the PRDH website

Today, PRDH-IGD.com contains more than 2.5 million records and offers researchers, as well as amateur and professional genealogists, one of the most comprehensive database of its kind.

You can start using this incredible database right now by subscribing here!

And for a more in depth explanation of the database’s structure, as well as tips on how to best use the website, you’ll want to read this article on the Drouin Institute blog.

 

Bertrand and François Desjadins

French-Canadian “dit names” and nicknames

If you’ve ever done genealogical research in Quebec, chances are that you’ve encountered “dit names”, which are secondary family names associated with a primary name, sometimes even replacing it.

These abound in the nominative history of ancient Quebec. Their origins are multiple: military nicknames, nicknames related to a physical characteristic or to the place of origin, names of fiefs among nobles, mother’s name, father’s name, etc. Some go back to the early ancestors, others are introduced by descendants; some are transmitted, others not; some are specific to the entire family line, others only concern a subset.

The result of this is that an individual may be identified under a nickname or secondary surname at any time, with no way real way to predict when.

Example from GenealogyQuebec.com’s LAFRANCE, an individual bearing the “dit name” “Bellefleur” in addition to “Pelletier”

In the context of genealogical research, “dit names” can be seen as a second family name given to an individual.

To illustrate the phenomenon, we can use Roy dit Desjardins, a frequent “dit name” combination. If you come from the Roy dit Desjardins line, your ancestors may have been named Desjardins, Roy and Roy Desjardins over the generations, which can be confusing if you are not familiar with the concept of “dit names”. Your ancestors could have alternated between one or both of these names over the records, for seemingly no reason!

Which is why you will find, on PRDH-IGD.com and GenealogyQuebec.com‘s LAFRANCE, a window dedicated to “nickname / dit name” associations. This window is located directly in the search engine.

When you enter a surname in the search engine, you will see the “dit names” associated with this last name according to their frequency in the database. This tool is particularly useful since it can allow you to trace a line of individuals who have held different family names over the generations. For example, if you do not find the marriage of the parents of your ancestor Pierre Desjardins, you will know that it is possible for Pierre Desjardins’ father to be named Roy on his wedding record, allowing you to trace the record in question more easily.

“Dit names” in the context of genealogical research

“Dit names” can help you as well as hinder your genealogical research, hence the importance of being familiar with the concept.

On the one hand, “dit names” represent, in a record, an additional source of information to identify an individual. That is, an individual with a “dit name” will be easier to identify over the various records, as the combination of the two names should distinguish it from other individuals with more common names.

For example, if you are looking for an ancestor by the name of Pierre Tremblay, you may have difficulty distinguishing him from the dozens of other Pierre Tremblay who are his contemporaries. On the other hand, if your ancestor is named Pierre Tremblay dit Boucher, it should be much easier to identify him in the records as it is a more recognizable and unique name.

However, “dit names” can also be an obstacle in your search for your French-Canadian ancestors, especially if you do not take them into account when doing your research.

Let’s use Roy dit Desjardins as an example of a common “dit name”. If you descend from the Roy dit Desjardins line, your ancestors could have been named Desjardins, Roy, and Roy Desjardins over the generations.

If you are not familiar with the “dit name” concept and are looking for records pertaining to your ancestor Pierre Roy, your research may omit several records where he is identified as Pierre Desjardins. This is why it is important to search for the both surnames individually when your ancestor has a “dit name”.

The PRDH-IGD (subscribe to PRDH-IGD) and GenealogyQuebec’s LAFRANCE (subscribe to Genealogy Quebec) search engines give you the ability to search for two last names at a time for a single individual. You can either search for both or one of the 2 names entered. To do so, select either “AND” or “OR” in the drop down menu located between the two name fields.

GenealogyQuebec.com’s LAFRANCE search engine
PRDH-IGD’s search engine

The search engine will then find all the individuals with one or/and the other of the selected names, which ensures you do not miss any records pertaining to your ancestor.

Name-nickname associations in the LAFRANCE and on PRDH-IGD.com

Wondering what combinations of surnames and “dit names” were most common at the time of your ancestors?

You can find out thanks to this free tool made available to you by Genealogy Quebec:

Name-nickname associations in the LAFRANCE

Simply enter the name you are interested in to obtain a list of all the names associated with it in one of the 3.6 million records contained in the LAFRANCE. These are listed in alphabetical order, and the frequency of each combination of names in the database is also indicated.

 

François Desjardins

Acadian genealogy – Researching your Acadian ancestors

The term Acadian is used to identify the descendants of the first French and European settlers established in Acadia during the New France era. Originally from west-central France, they settled starting in 1604 in an area comprising parts of the Maritime Provinces and Quebec, which is known today as Acadia.

As is the case with French Canadian genealogy, Acadian genealogy is largely based on the parish records of the Catholic Church. Due to their French roots, a majority of Acadians were Catholic.

It is predominantly through baptism, marriage and burial records that we are able to trace the family history of the Acadians.

Acadian genealogy

Acadian genealogy is not as well documented as that of surrounding regions, which can be attributed to the disappearance of a large number of records and documents during the Great Upheaval. Nonetheless, there are several tools and databases related to Acadian genealogy available online.

Free acadian research websites

Genealogie-Acadienne.net contains a database of more than 750,000 individuals and 300,000 Acadian families that can be searched for free. The database contains the dates and places of birth, marriage and death of hundreds of thousands of Acadian descendants, and sometimes even photos of the individuals and the original records themselves. It is an excellent resource for finding Acadian ancestors and cousins.

Acadian-Cajun.com, another great Acadian research website, offers a comprehensive list of resources pertaining to Acadian genealogy. It also contains Acadian censuses that can be consulted directly on the website. In addition, various family associations and websites dedicated to Acadian families, all classified by family name, are compiled here.

Acadian genealogy on Genealogy Quebec

GenealogyQuebec.com, the Drouin Instiute’s genealogical research website, offers two research tools dedicated to Acadian genealogy.

The Drouin collection Records

The Drouin Collection records are a collection of parish registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) from Quebec, Acadia, as well as parts of Ontario, New Brunswick and the United States. Here we are focusing on the Acadian records.

Acadian parish register from the Drouin Collection

Here is the list of the Acadian parish registers available in the Drouin Collection:

Acadie (St-Bernard) Acadie (St-Pierre) Acadieville
Ardouane voir Cocagne Argyle (Ste-Anne) Arichat
Baie-des-Winds voir Cocagne Baie-du-Vin Baie-Ste-Marie (Nouvelle-Écosse)
Baie-Verte voir Cocagne Balmoral Barachois
Barnaby-River Bartibogue Bathurst
Beaubassin Belledune Blackville
Bouctouche Boujagane voir Cocagne Burnt
Cam’s River Cap-Pelé Caraquet
Central Kingsclear Charlo Chatham
Chigibouachis voir Cocagne Chigibougouet voir Cocagne Chimougouis voir Cocagne
Clair Cocagne Dalhousie
Dorchester Drummond Ecouipahaq
Edmunston Eel-Ground Escuminac
Fairville Fort St-Jean Frédéricton
Gagetown Gédaic voir Cocagne Gloucester, comté
Golding-Grove Grande-Digue Grand-Sault
Haute-Aboujagane Hillsborough Île-du-Prince-Édouard
Île-Royale Île-St-Jean Johnville
Kent, comté de Kouchibouguac Lac Baker
Lamèque Loch-Lomond Louisbourg
Lower-Caraquet Madawaska Maliseet
Memramcook Milltown Moncton
Mont-Carmel Nash Creek Néguac (Northumberland)
Nelson Newcastle Northumberland, Comté de
Norton Notre-Dame-de-Kent Paquetville
Petersville Petit-Rocher Plaisance
Pokemouche-en-Bas Pokemouche-en-Haut Port-Royal
Red-Bank Remous-Bridge Restigouche, comté de
Rexton Richibouctou Richmond
Riverside Rivière-Jacquet Robertville
Rogersville Sackville Scoudouc
Shédiac Shemogue Shippagan
St-André St-Andrew St-Anselme
St-Basile St-Charles-Borromée St-Charles-les-Mines
Ste-Anne Ste-Anne-de-Kent Ste-Anne-de-Restigouche
St-François-Xavier St-Georges St-Ignace-de-Kent
St-Isidore St-Jacques St-Jean
St-Léonard St-Louis-des-Français St-Paul-de-Kent
St-Stephen Sunbury Sussex
Tracadie Victoria Wellington
Westmorland Woodstock  

The years covered differ according to the register. The collection also contains Acadian censuses from 1673 to 1784.

The Acadia – Families tool

This tool contains family files based on the Acadian parish records mentioned above. In total, the tool contains 96 000 family files from 1621 to 1849 and is equipped with a search engine which allows searches by last name, first name, date and parish.

In addition, the original records are attached to the family files, allowing the information contained in them to be viewed and verified.

You will find more information about this tool at this address.

 

A subscription to Genealogy Quebec is required to view these 2 collections. You may subscribe here:

24h access –  5$
One month subscription – 13$
One year subscription – 100$

You will find more information about GenealogyQuebec.com in this article.

What your ancestors can tell you about your life expectancy

In the two previous articles of this series, “Quebec mortality rate under the French regime” and “The first French-Canadian centenarians in Quebec“, we successively mentioned the high mortality which afflicted our ancestors at all ages of life and the scarcity of people reaching extreme ages. Today, we will present some factors underlying these realities.

As a first step, we used the PRDH (What is the PRDH?) database to establish the list of native-born French-Canadians who reached the venerable age of 97 before 1850.

Deaths of Native-born French-Canadians at age 97 and older which occurred before 1850

SEX Year of birth Year of death Age at death
F 1648 1748 99 ans
F 1691 1789 97 ans
F 1701 1800 98 ans
F 1703 1800 97 ans
M 1703 1802 98 ans
F 1709 1806 97 ans
M 1714 1811 97 ans
F 1714 1813 99 ans
F 1722 1819 97 ans
F 1725 1832 107 ans
F 1726 1825 98 ans
F 1731 1828 97 ans
F 1731 1835 103 ans
F 1732 1829 97 ans
M 1734 1834 99 ans
F 1736 1834 98 ans
F 1736 1838 101 ans
F 1738 1847 108 ans
F 1740 1838 97 ans
F 1740 1839 98 ans
F 1741 1840 98 ans
M 1741 1840 98 ans
F 1741 1841 100 ans
F 1741 1841 99 ans
F 1742 1840 98 ans
M 1743 1842 98 ans
M 1743 1842 98 ans
M 1744 1841 97 ans
F 1744 1842 97 ans
F 1744 1843 99 ans
M 1745 1844 98 ans
Men: 8 ; Women: 23

Thirty-one people accomplished the feat, twenty-three women and eight men. Why such an imbalance in favor of women, when their life expectancy at age 25 is 2.5 years less than that of men?

It is that beyond the reproductive period, when mothers were at a significant risk of dying in childbirth, women have a survival advantage over their partners. We know that part of this benefit is biological because male mortality is higher than female mortality from the very beginning of life, including in-utero. This genetic difference is especially associated with a better resistance of women to biological aging, as well as an hormonal advantage.

Indeed, for example, estrogen facilitates the elimination of bad cholesterol and thus reduces the risk of heart problems; testosterone, on the other hand, is associated with violence and risk taking.

That said, regardless of sex, why do some individuals reach higher ages than their contemporaries? While we know that there is more to it than chance, no explanation of this reality is currently unanimous. The study of extreme cases of longevity does not really reveal much: the “little glasses of gin before dinner” and other recipes of the kind  have no serious basis.

It is tempting to believe, however, that some individuals initially have an advantage over others; Is it not said that the best chance of living old is to have parents and grandparents who have themselves reached an old age?

In this regard, I submit to you the extraordinary family of Nicolas Lizotte and Marie-Madeliene Miville-Deschênes, who married on May 3, 1724 in La Pocatière. Out of the 5 French Canadians who became centenarians before 1850, two of them were born of this couple, and one of their sisters is also part of our above-mentioned list, since she died at 98 years of age!

Nicolas Lizotte and Marie Madeleine Miville Deschesnes’ Family File sourced from PRDH-IGD.com

And it doesn’t stop there! The father, Nicolas Lizotte, died at 98 years old, making him the second oldest French Canadian male who died before 1850. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being a Lizotte right now!

 

Bertrand Desjardins and François Desjardins

August 2018

How far back can you research your ancestry in Quebec?

Thanks to the systematic recording of baptisms, marriages and burials by the Catholic church, Quebec genealogists – novices and professionals alike – have access to a detailed outlook of their ancestors’ lives and family connections. Through these documents, researching your ancestry in Quebec is much easier than it is in other parts of the world. But how far back can you retrace your ancestors in Quebec?

In 1608, Samuel de Champlain establishes the city of Quebec along the shores of the St-Lawrence river. 8 years will pass until the city’s first vital events (baptisms, marriages and burials)  start being recorded.

Guillaume Couillard and Guillemette Hebert’s marriage, with none other than Samuel de Champlain as witness. Source: LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

Nowadays, the oldest surviving records are from the City of Quebec for the year 1621.

Beginning of Quebec city’s register for the year 1621, sourced from the Drouin Collection Records available on GenealogyQuebec.com. The first 20 years were reconstructed from memory shortly after being lost to a fire in 1640.

This register, as well as those from every Quebec parish between the years 1621 and 1940, is available in the Drouin Collection Records with a subscription to GenealogyQuebec.com.

First immigrants

In a previous article, we explored the lasting impact that first immigrants had in the frequency and variation of last names in Quebec. In this context, the “first immigrant” expression refers to the first member of a given family who settled in a region. When trying to research your ancestry in Quebec, your goal is to establish a direct link between generations spanning from yourself to the first immigrant in your family line. This guide, which describes the process of establishing your ancestry using GenealogyQuebec.com, is a must read for anyone interested in researching their ancestors in the province.

When it comes to women, many of these first immigrants are known as “King’s Daughters” (Filles du Roi). The King’s Daughters were single women recruited by the King between 1663 and 1673 in order to populate New France. You will find more information about these fascinating women in this article.

Fichier origine

To go back further than the Quebec parish records, the best resource available is the “Fichier Origine“. The “Fichier Origine” is a free-access directory of civil and notarized records pertaining to the family origins of  immigrants – mostly French – established in Quebec between the early 1600s and 1865.

Antoine Roy dit Desjardins’ Fichier Origine file

It contains every individual whose birth or baptism record was traced back to their country of origin. As such, you can use the Fichier Origine to find information predating the arrival of your ancestors in the province.

In addition, you should know that the PRDH-IGD individual files often integrate information sourced from the Fichier Origine. For example, here is Antoine Roy dit Desjardins’ individual file, where the date and location of his baptism were taken from the Fichier Origine.

Antoine Roy dit Desjardins’ individual file sourced from the PRDH

To conclude, it cannot be overstated how lucky we are in Quebec to have access to such a wealth of historical documentation and information, which makes it possible to research our ancestry all the way back to the early 17th century. This is particularly evident if your genealogical research takes you to another region or country, where the information is unlikely to be as accessible and detailed.

Good luck with your research!

The King’s Daughters and the PRDH database

On the 22nd of September 1663 arrive the first of some 1000 King’s Daughters who will eventually establish themselves in Quebec between 1663 and 1673.

Their arrival was timely considering that in 1666, the province counted 719 single males between the ages of 16 and 40, compared to only 45 single women of the same ages. This disproportion was partly due to the fact that New-France was, in its early days, a colony based on the fur trade. Thus, the majority of the population was male.

But what exactly is a King’s Daughter?

“King’s Daughters” is used to refer to the single women recruited to emigrate to New-France between 1663 and 1673. What distinguished these women was the fact that the King himself took them under his wing, paying for their travel and settlement in the colony as well as providing them with a dowry in expectation of their impending marriage.

Often orphans and of modest origins, and frequently raised in urban settings, these women were not adapted to the harsh living conditions present in New France.

King’s Daughters list

The Programme de recherche en démographie historique has identified and indexed all of the King’s Daughters who married in Quebec. The complete list can be viewed at this address.

Using PRDH-IGD to learn more about the King’s Daughters

The PRDH database, accessible to the public via subscription, contains every Catholic individual who has lived in Quebec between 1621 and 1849, including of course the King’s Daughters. Through the PRDH’s unique database structure, it is possible to explore these women’s lives in greater detail.

You will find a more detailed explanation of the structure of the PRDH’s database in another article, but in short, you have to know that it contains three types of files:

Record Certificate –  It is a transcription of the relevant information contained in a baptism, marriage or burial record.

Individual File – It is a file centralizing all the information available on the individual

Family File – It is a file centralizing all the information and all the individuals pertaining to a family unit (parents and children)

You can use this structure to your advantage in order to learn about the King’s Daughters and, perhaps even more importantly, find out if you’re descendent from one.

Is there a King’s Daughter in your family tree?

The PRDH-IGD database can be used to confirm – or disprove – the presence of a King’s daughter in one’s ancestry.

Since the PRDH’s data stops in 1849, it is necessary to begin by retracing an ancestor to a date prior to the year 1849.

To do so, you may want to use a genealogical research website such as GenealogyQuebec.com, which will provide you with all the tools and resources necessary to trace back your ancestry.

The process of using the PRDH to explore your ancestry and more specifically discover if you are descendant from a King’s Daughter is rather simple. To demonstrate it, we will use Joseph Valade and Marie Lafond Lagrenade, married in montreal on the 20th of November 1820.

We begin with a search for Joseph Valade in the PRDH database, using the built in search engine.

This search allows us to find Joseph and Marie’s marriage record.

From this record, we can access to the couple’s family file.

From this point, we will go up the family tree in an attempt to find a marriage in the 1660s. If such a marriage is found, chances are it will belong to a King’s Daughter. To go back a generation,  click on the word “Family” which can be found under the husband’s parents’ names in every PRDH family file.

We finally make it to a couple married in the 1660s. Thanks to the list compiled by the PRDH, we can confirm that the bride is indeed a King’s Daughter.

Looking at her individual file only provides further confirmation, as we learn that she originates from La Rochelle, which is a common place of origin among King’s daughters.

And so, are you descendant from a King’s Daughter?

The first French-Canadian centenarians in Quebec

Lifespan is a topic that undoubtedly fascinates us. Cases of extreme longevity are regularly featured in the media, where individuals with extreme lifespans sometimes become symbols of national pride for their fellow citizens.

French-Canadiens are no exception. The case of Pierre Joubert, born in 1701 and erroneously believed to have lived to the ripe old age of 113 years old – as was featured in the Guinness Book of Records – was cited by Joseph-Charles Taché, a senior official in charge of Canada’s 1871 census, as an exemple of how French-Canadians formed “a population that, more than any other, perhaps, offers numerous examples of high longevity“.

Pierre Joubert’s baptism record, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

The problem is this topic, in an historical context, is prone to a lot of myths and exaggerations, so much so in fact that a majority of high longevity claims end up being proven false. The ages declared at the time of burial were particularly inaccurate, especially in the case of elderly individuals. Most people being illiterate, the documentation relative to a person’s birth wasn’t necessarily available or used, and the accuracy of the deceased’s age in the burial record was not considered important, being mostly an approximation.

Thankfully, the wonderful information compiled by the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), publicly available on the PRDH-IGD.com website, allows us to mitigate the issue of inaccurate ages in burial records. By linking the birth and death dates available through baptism and burial records, it is possible to accurately determine an individual’s age at death.

The PRDH individual file allows us to determine a person’s age at death through their baptism and burial dates. Source: PRDH-IGD.com

Thanks to this compiled data, it is possible to establish clear trends in the shifting of the mortality rate over time, as well as track the apparition of the first centenarians in the province.

This table identifies the 10 individuals born in Quebec that have reached the age of 99 years old before 1850:

We can see that the first five French-Canadian centenarians were women. While Marie-Élisabeth Dechavigny, one of the very first inhabitants of the country, reached the age of 99 years old in 1748, it is only in 1825 that we see an individual reach the 100 year mark. Not only that, Marie-Louise Plante is believed to have lived to the very respectable age of 107 years old!

Marie Louise Plante’s burial record. Notice the inaccuracy of the age given in the record; 117 years old! LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

François Parent is the oldest French-Canadian male listed in the PRDH database(1621-1849), dying at the age of 99 years old in 1834; no French-Canadian man reached the age of 100 years old before 1850, and as such, the first male French-Canadian centenarian still remains to be identified!

 

Bertrand et François Desjardins

April 2018

Last names in Quebec: the influence of the pioneers

In a previous article, we learned that the ethnic French Canadian population is issued from a surprisingly small amount of immigrants.

The influence of this small number of immigrants can still be seen in the frequency and variation of last names in Quebec to this day.

For example, here is the list of pioneers that have the most married descendants before 1800 (this list was compiled using the PRDH database):

Name of the pioneer Amount of descendants

married before 1800

Zacharie Cloutier 10 850
Jean Guyon 9 674
Marin Boucher 8 502
Jacques Archambault 8 445
Noël Langlois 7 847
Abraham Martin 7 765
Pierre Miville 6 552
Pierre Desportes 6 515
Jean Roussin 4 730
Louis Hébert 4 592

This list does not contain some of the most common names used today, and also includes some names that are rarely seen nowadays. This is because while some of these ancestors had a lot of descendants, most of these descendants were female. Thus, their last names were not transmitted through the generations. We have compiled a second list limited to patronymic descendants of these pioneers, which in other words refers to descendants through the male side:

Name of the pioneer Number of

“patronymic” descendants

married before 1800

Jean Côté 567
Pierre Tremblay 564
Marin Boucher 482
Jean Dumais 481
Louis Houde 471
Jean Guyon 449
Jacques Archambault 423
Pierre Parent 418
Zacharie Cloutier 391
Guillaume Pelletier 389

Let’s now compare this list with the most common last names used in Quebec in 2006:

Rank Last name Percentage
1 Tremblay 1,076
2 Gagnon 0,790
3 Roy 0,753
4 Côté 0,692
5 Bouchard 0,530
6 Gauthier 0,522
7 Morin 0,498
8 Lavoie 0,459
9 Fortin 0,449
10 Gagné 0,448
11 Ouellet 0,447
12 Pelletier 0,435
13 Bélanger 0,429
14 Lévesque 0,412
15 Bergeron 0,399
16 Leblanc 0,367
17 Paquette 0,361
18 Girard 0,356
19 Simard 0,354
20 Boucher 0,341
21 Caron 0,321
22 Beaulieu 0,300
23 Cloutier 0,297
24 Dubé 0,296
25 Poirier 0,295

(Source: http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/population-demographie/caracteristiques/noms_famille_1000.htm)

We find half of our previous list among the top 25 most common names in Quebec today. The impact of these few pioneers is undeniable, even to this day!

And your pioneer ancestor?

The PRDH offers a free tool that lists all the pioneers for a given last name. If you have a French Canadian name, you can enter it here and obtain a list of pioneers for that name, assuming they arrived in Quebec before 1766.

How to determine which pioneer is your ancestor

Oftentimes, a last name can be linked to several pioneers. For example, two Desjardins living in Quebec today will not necessarily share the same pioneer ancestor; one may descend from Antoine Roy dit Desjardins, who arrived in Quebec in the 1660s, and the other from Pierre Desjardins, who only arrives in Quebec in the 18th century.

The only way to determine which pioneer is your direct ancestor is to do your ascending genealogy, starting with your parents all the way back to your first ancestor on Quebec soil.

Genealogical research websites such as Genealogy Quebec and the PRDH are great tools to go up your family tree and ultimately find out the history behind your name.

Immigration from Old to New France

France under the Old Régime did not supply a great number of emigrants to its colonies across the Atlantic.

In fact, just 15 000 Frenchmen and Frenchwomen sailed for Canada in the seventeenth century, and two-thirds of them stayed in the colony for a short period and either returned to France or died in Canada without getting married. This was a very low number: the British Isles, with a population just over one-third of France’s, sent almost 380,000 immigrants to the New World over the same period.

In fact, France was at the time showing various symptoms of social discontent that should have justified a larger number of refugees fleeing to Canada, whose abundance of resources contrasted with the famine and unemployment among the poorest classes. Although France wasn’t really overpopulated, conditions there were favorable to emigration; these conditions, had they coincided with a real attraction of Canada, would have encouraged the departure of large contingents of settlers for the New World.

But few French people migrated, as Canada, a distant, wild, and dangerous country, had a poor reputation. On top of this, the authorities believed that the French population was not growing as quickly as it should be – and, in fact, that it was shrinking due to wars, plagues, and general misery.

In response to Intendant Talon, who had asked him to find the means to form a “grand and powerful state” in Canada, which would involve a massive wave of immigrants, Colbert said, in a sentence that was to mark the future of the country: “It would not be prudent [of the king] to depopulate his kingdom as he would have to do to populate Canada.”

And yet, even had departures been multiplied tenfold, the effects of emigration on the most populous country in Europe would have been imperceptible – and the fate of North America would probably have been quite different. Notwithstanding, reacting to the slow growth of the population, the King had women recruited between 1663 à 1673 to come to Canada. These women became known as «Les Filles du Roi» (the King’s daughters) and they can be found in virtually every family tree of French Canadians today.

In any case, the result of this small founding population was that the French-Canadian stock grew from a relatively small number of people, about 10,000 immigrants. If we consider the male immigrants, from whom family names were transmitted through the generations, the number is reduced to about 4,500 – the total number of immigrants who had at least one son who married.

These numbers were compiled from the PRDH database, which contains every single Catholic individual who lived in Quebec between 1621 and 1849. You will find more information on the PRDH in this article.

In our next article, we will explore the influence that this small number of immigrants had on the current French Canadian name diversity in Quebec.