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/ 

Our slave-owning ancestors, part 2

This article follows up on the one published on July 7th 2021, and aims to highlight the presence of First Nation and Black slaves within the English and French populations of the Laurentian valley.

Source : Création Bernard Duchesne

James McGill is one of the most famous cases of a slave owning member of the elite. This trader, who at some point was magistrate and member of the council which constituted the government of Montreal, will have at least five slaves (McGill, 2021). One of these slaves was a Black girl named Marie-Louise: 

          ” On the sixth of February one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, by me, the undersigned priest was buried in the cemetery near the church, the body of Marie Louise [black] belonging to Mr. McGuil squire, justice of the Peace, deceased yesterday, at the Hôtel Dieu de St-Joseph, aged ____, the undersigned Sieur Baron and Duransaux Montres were present. André Baron “

        « Le six février mil sept cent quatrevingt neuf, par moi prêtre soussigné, a été inhumé dans le cimetière proche de l’église, le corps de Marie Louise [Noire]appartenant a Mr Mcguil Ecuier Juge à paix, décédée d’hier, a l’Hotel Dieu de St Joseph, âgée de ____ ont été présent les sieur Baron et Duransaux montres soussignés. André Baron  [sic] »

Marie Louise’s burial record.
Source: Record 572200, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

There is a popular belief that the enslaved people of ancient Quebec mostly belonged to nobles. But as it turns out, only 38% of slaves lived in upper class households according to the information available today. 31% were enslaved by merchants, and another 31% by farmers, labourers, voyageurs, blacksmiths, bakers, and other members of the lower class (Dupuis, 2020).

In this last stratum of the population, we find François Campeau, a blacksmith and second-generation slave-owner, who enslaved at least two First Nation girls: Marguerite, who died at 15 years old, and an unnamed young girl who died at 13 years old.


           ” The year one thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven on the eighth of January, I the undersigned Jean Bouffandeau, priest of the seminar of st-joseph have buried in the cemetery of the poor the body of Marguerite [First nation] aged about fifteen (?) belonging to Francois Campeau blacksmith who died yesterday in the communion of the said Roman Church, were present the same Campeau and Simon Mongino “

         « Lan mil sept cent trente sept le huit de janvier, je soussigné Jean Bouffandeau pretre du seminaire de (?)ay inhumé dans le cimetière des pauvres le corps de Marguerite sauvagesse âgée d’environ quinze ans ayant appartenant a Francois Campau forgeron décédé hier en la communion de laditte Église Romaine ont été présent led. Campeau et Simon Mongino  [sic] »

Marguerite’s burial record.
Source: Record 151707, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

What tasks were asked of Marguerite? Why was she living in this household? These questions are difficult to answer, but the biographical archives allow us to speculate on her living conditions.

François Campeau, married in 1698 to Marie-Madeleine Brossard, will have a total of 14 children. Marie-Madeleine died in 1729, which could correspond with the year of Marguerite’s purchase. We do not know the date of Marguerite’s arrival in New France, but we do know that Native slaves arrived on the territory at a young age (Trudel, 2004).

If so, she would have joined the Campeau family around the age of eight and the household would have included François Campeau, six of his sons as well as three of his daughters, all single and aged between 11 and 30. It would therefore be entirely possible that Marguerite performed domestic chores in the household to help with the needs of the family following the death of Marie-Madeleine.

It turns out that the Campeau will become a multigenerational slave owning family. François Campeau’s father, Étienne Campeau, is the first in a line of five generations of slave owners. Without being very wealthy and coming from modest professions such as mason, carpenter and blacksmith, this family will nonetheless build a slave network that expanded from Montreal to Detroit.

The Campeau family is not an isolated case. Biographical research has allowed us to learn more about the various slave owning families, such as the Demers, Boyer, Hervieux and Parent families, who will own slaves for at least three generations. This is in addition to the rich slave owning families: the Baby, the Tarieu de Lapérade, the Lemoyne de Longueil, the Lacorne Saint-Luc and the Fleury D’eschambault, to name a few.

Commemorative plaque of Olivier Le Jeune, first African slave and resident of New France

We even find traces of slaves in the families of the last two Prime Ministers of Quebec: Guillaume Couillard (direct ancestor of Philippe Couillard), owner of Olivier Le Jeune, the first known black slave in Quebec territory, and Charles Legault Deslauriers senior (direct ancestor of François Legault), owner of a young native Panisse who died at 10:

          ” The fifth of August one thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven were buried in the cemetery the body of a baptized panise who died yesterday, aged about ten, belonging to Charles Legault dit Deslauriers senior. Was present Jacques Perrier said who signed with me.”

         « Le cinq aout mil septcent soixante et sept a été inhumé dans le cimetière le corps d’une panise Baptisée décédée d’hier âgée d’une dixaine d’années appartenante a Charles Legault dit deslauriers pere. A été présent jacques perrier led au qui a signé avec moy  [sic] »

Burial record of a Panise owned by Charles Legault.
Source: Record 368509, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

In conclusion, I hope to have demonstrated that slave owners were not necessarily well off and came from various backgrounds and classes. In New France, we find Black and First Nation slaves in several families and institutions, in all social strata, as well as in all regions of the Laurentian Valley, from Gaspésie to Detroit.

Cathie-Anne Dupuis
MSc. Demography,
Doctoral candidate in history

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Boulle, Pierre H. 2007. Race et esclavage dans la France de l’Ancien Régime. Paris, France: Perrin.
Peabody, Sue. 1996. « There are no slaves in France » : the political culture of race and slavery in the Ancien Régime. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Our slave-owning ancestors, part 1

My last publication, Slavery as witnessed through New France’s parish registers, demonstrated how the presence of enslaved First Nation and African slaves on Quebec territory could be detected in the parish registers. This first study only grazes the surface of this poorly documented population’s history.

Source: Benjamin Henry Latrobe, An Overseer Doing His Duty, 1795, The Maryland  Historical Society

This article will demonstrate that slavery was omnipresent in French Canadian society, mostly during the 18th century. Slaves were owned and used by people issued from the whole socioeconomic spectrum. It is a common misconception that slavery was practiced exclusively by the elite, yet farmers, blacksmiths, traders, clergy members and governors also enslaved Native and African individuals.

The parish registers, available on the Drouin Institute’s website Genealogy Quebec, allow us to find slave owners from every socioeconomic level. For example, the sisters of the Congregation, members of the clergy, owned five slaves between 1733 and 1796: two Panisse girls, one Fox, two Poutéoutamises and one male of African descent named Paul Étienne:

          ” The twenty-nine of November one thousand seven hundred seventy-two by me, undersigned priest, was buried in the cemetery near La Poudrière the body of Paul Etienne [black] belonging to the sister of the Congregation, who died yesterday in the hospital aged about seventy years. Were present Mr. Fortin and Pierre Baron beadle who have undersigned “

          « Le vingt neuf novembre mile sept cent soixante et douze par moy pretre sousigné a eté inhume dans le cimetière proche la poudriere le corps de paul étienne [noir] appartenant au sœur de la Congregation, decedé d’hier a l’hopital âgé d’environ soixante dix ans ont étés presens monsieur fortin et pierre baron bedeau qui ont sousignés [sic] »

Source: Record 363708, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

Paul Étienne was likely given or sold to the sisters of the Congregation because of his old age, which made him useless to the family that enslaved him in his younger years. He was baptized only one year and two months before his death. No other part of his life is known as of today.

The king of France is regularly mentioned as a slave owner in the archives. We identified 26 individuals who were slaves to king Louis XV. Curiously, France advertises itself at the time as a free land for everyone (Peabody, 1996 : 3). Many French and Quebecers would be surprised to know that their ancestors enslaved Native and Black men and women, in New France as well as on the old continent (Boulle, 2007).

Among the king’s slaves, we find two Panisses who were buried simultaneously:

          ” On the eleventh of November, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-six were buried in the cemetery of the general hospital the bodies of two small panises belonging to the king who died on the present day, baptized in the room. Was present Mr. Curatteau ecclesiastique who signed. “

          « Le onze novembre mil sept cent cinquante six a été inhumé dans le cimetière de lhopital general les corps de deux petits panisses appartenant au Roy décédés du jour présents, ondoyés dans la sale. A été présent Mr Curatteau ecclisiastique qui a signé [sic] »

Source: Record 303757, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

We do not know the name or the age of these two little girls: they have lost their voices. They were likely predestined to domestic work for the hospital or would have occupied other functions serving the population and the king. One can only speculate on their situation. 

After receiving a death sentence for attempting to escape his condition in Martinique, a black slave named Mathieu Léveillé is offered the possibility of avoiding death on the condition he migrates to Canada and becomes maître des hautes œuvres de la société under the king of France. The tasks associated with this title consisted of torturing prisoners and executing death row inmates. As a matter of fact, he was the torturer of Marie-Josèphe-Angélique, a black slave accused of having set the city of Montreal on fire. He died ten years after his arrival on Quebec territory, during which he was hospitalized eleven times. Mathieu Léveillé will have fled certain death in Martinique to impose the death penalty on the criminals of New France.

          ” On the tenth of September, one thousand seven hundred and forty-three was buried in the cemetery of the Hôtel Dieu of Quebec the body of Mathieu [black] maitre des hautes oeuvres who died the previous day aged about thirty-four years and provided with the sacraments of penance and extreme unction were present Jean Baptiste Le Fort Devilleneuve and Louis Rose dit Bellefleur who signed with us “

          « Le dixieme Septembre mil sept cent quarante trois a été enterré dans le cimetière de l’hôtel Dieu de quebec le corps de mathieu [noir] maitre des hautes œuvres mort le jour précédent âgé d’environ trente quatre ans et muni des sacrements de penitence et d’extreme onction ont été présente Jean Baptiste le fort devilleneuve et Louis rose dit Belle fleur lesquels ont signé avec nous [sic] »

Source: Record 169488, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

The first part of this article demonstrated that the enslavement of native and black individuals was widely accepted in society, although it was not the norm in France. In the second part of this article, we will direct our observation towards slaves living within commoners.

Cathie-Anne Dupuis
MSc. Demography,
Doctoral candidate in history

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Boulle, Pierre H. 2007. Race et esclavage dans la France de l’Ancien Régime. Paris, France: Perrin.
Peabody, Sue. 1996. « There are no slaves in France » : the political culture of race and slavery in the Ancien Régime. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The omission of women in family trees – Part 3

(This is a 3 part article. Click to read: Part 1, Part 2)

In my previous article, I detailed the consequences of the erasure of women in familial histories. Fortunately, although the patriarchal bases of this erasure are well rooted in our society, they can be rethought and subverted. Now that we know this problem exists, what can we do? How can the genealogical community help, to the extent of its practice, build a society that is closer to the gender equality ideal?

Two women practicing archery, 1942. Source: BAnQ digital archives.

First, we can change our vocabulary. In the first part of this article, I  stressed that, often, the terms that are used in genealogical research seem to forget about women (Cousteau Serdongs, 2008 : 133). This issue is of great importance : according to numerous authors, language, words, shape our interpretation of reality (it is the subject of the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis, see Whorf, 1978. On the link between linguistics and women’s condition, see Yaguello, 2002). Francine Cousteau Serdongs (2008: 134) therefore suggests that we should create a non-sexist genealogical vocabulary as well as a more neutral numbering system.

Secondly, we can review our way of doing genealogical research. Cousteau Serdongs (2008: 134) suggests that we should create search tools which facilitate the search for one’s female ancestors by separating them from their husbands: although there are some exceptions, for example the Féminine (Women series) in the Great Collections of the Drouin Genealogical Institute, most search tools will list a couple under the man’s name.

In the Drouin Institute’s Women Series, couples are listed according to the bride’s surname and first name. Source: La Féminine (Women series), Drouin Institute’s Great Collections, GenealogyQuebec.com

On an individual level, Cousteau Serdongs invites genealogists to take interest in their matrilineal line, traced from mother to daughter, to publish their research and to try and reunite descendants from uterine pioneers in associations (2008: 143). This lineage could even be highlighted by a new tradition of last name’s transmission, as suggested by Pierre-Yves Dionne. In his book De mère en fille : comment faire ressortir la lignée maternelle de votre arbre généalogique (From Mother to Daughter : How to bring out the maternal line of your family tree) (2004), he suggests that we could pass on the name of a common female ancestor to subsequent generations of girls.

Dionne also presents in his book his own process of reconstructing his matrilineal line: it can therefore be used as a reference for anyone who wishes to do the same. Judy Russell (Clyde, 2017b) also makes some suggestions for those who struggle with finding their female ancestors: for example, to search in divorce, school, or churches registries.

We also need to think about the future: to make sure that women will not be ignored or left in the background of tomorrow’s research, we can recognize the value of their perspectives and make them visible today. Some women have already started, like the American genealogists who participated in the study of Amy M. Smith (2008). One in particular explained how she was keeping a diary for her descendants, so that they can understand her life and her points of view (M. Smith, 2008: 93). This ensures her life will be documented for future generations to read. This practice also represents women as subjects of their own story, rather than objects in a man’s story.

Westmount Catholic Women’s Club, 1943. Source: BAnQ digital archives.

Multiple feminist genealogical practices are already applied by researchers. In future articles, I will have the occasion to explore in depth the ways in which genealogy can help bring the experiences of women to light or subvert the division between the public and the private sphere, a division which plays a primordial role in patriarchal oppression (see Bereni and Revillard, 2009). We have in front of us a world of possibilities to make genealogy more feminist: it is up to us to get involved!

Audrey Pepin

Bibliography

Bereni, Laure et 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.

Clyde, Linda. (2017b, 3 mai). Where to Look to Find Your Female Ancestors. Rootstech [Blog]: https://www.rootstech.org/blog/where-to-look-to-find-your-female-ancestors

Cousteau Serdongs, Francine. (2008). Le Québec, paradis de la généalogie et « re-père » du patriarcat : où sont les féministes ? De l’importance d’aborder la généalogie avec les outils de la réflexion féministe. Recherches féministes vol. 21, no. 1, p.131-147. https://doi.org/10.7202/018313ar

Dionne, Pierre-Yves. (2004). De mère en fille : comment faire ressortir la lignée maternelle de votre arbre généalogique. Sainte-Foy: Éditions MultiMondes ; Montréal: Éditions du Remue-Ménage, 79 p.

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

Reny, Paule et des Rivières, Marie-José. (2005). Compte-rendu de Pierre-Yves Dionne De mère en fille. Comment faire ressortir la lignée maternelle de votre arbre généalogique. Montréal, Les Éditions Multimondes et les éditions du remue-ménage, 2004, 79 p. Recherches féministes, vol. 18, no. 1, p.153-154. https://doi.org/10.7202/012550ar

Whorf, Benjamin Lee. (1978 [1971]). Linguistique et anthropologie essai. Trad. de l’anglais par Claud Carme. Paris: Paris Denoël/Gonthier. 228 p.

Yaguello, Marina. (2002 [1978]). Les mots et les femmes. Paris: Éditions Payot. 257 p

Quebec birth, marriage and death records

The keeping of Quebec birth, marriage and death records dates back to the very beginnings of the French colony in North America.

In 1621, the first Catholic parish register opens, recording the births, marriages and burials of the population of the young colony.

Guillaume Couillard and Guillemette Hebert’s marriage in 1621, from the Notre-Dame-de-Québec register.  Samuel De Champlain, friend of Guillaume, serves as witness. 
Source: Record 66317, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

In the 1760s, following the conquest of New France by the British Empire, and the arrival of many individuals of Protestant faith in the province, the Catholic Church looses its monopoly in the documentation of birth, marriages and deaths in Quebec.

John Cativin and Isabella Donaldson’s marriage in 1766, from Montreal’s Anglican register.
Source: Record 4777972, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

In 1926, the State establishes the Registre de référence à l’état civil, which didn’t replace but rather complemented the practice of recording birth, marriage and death records in churches. This register includes a majority of the marriages and deaths recorded in the province between 1926 and 1997. It can be consulted with a subscription on Genealogy Quebec at this address.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage in Montreal in 1964.
Source: Marriages and Deaths 1926-1997, GenealogyQuebec.com

In 1994, Quebec centralizes the registration of its population’s vital events with the creation of the Direction de l’état civil. The vast majority of these documents are not publicly available.

How Quebec birth, marriage and death records are used in genealogy

Thanks to the recording of Quebec’s birth, marriage and death records, initially by the church and then by the government, the descendants of Quebecers can easily trace the history of their families. But in concrete terms, how are birth, marriage and death records used to trace a family’s history?

Quebec marriages

The key to tracing a genealogical lineage is found in marriage records. The reason is simple: historically, the marriage official was required to include the names of the parents of the spouses in the marriage record.
This information allows us to go back a generation and find the marriage record of the parents of the spouses.
A complete lineage can thus be traced through the chain of marriages of the individuals forming it.

Several databases containing Quebec birth, marriage and death records exist on the Web, but the most complete is the LAFRANCE, available on Genealogy Quebec. We will use it here to illustrate the principle explained above.

To begin our research, we need a starting point, a marriage from the desired lineage. For demonstration purposes, we will be using the marriage of the great-grandparents of the author of this article, François Eugène Desjardins and Anna Jacques.

We begin with a search for the spouses in the LAFRANCE.

This allows us to find their marriage record, in 1907.

The marriage record contains the groom’s parents’ names, Charles Eugène Desjardins and Marie Malvina Fortin.

We will now search for their marriage.

Again, this search leads us to their marriage record, in 1864

This process is repeated for each generation, until we arrive at the first immigrant of the Desjardins line in Quebec, Antoine Roy dit Desjardins, who’s marriage record can be seen below.

Quebec birth and death records

Births and deaths, on the other hand, can be used to paint a more complete picture of the lives of one’s ancestors.

For example, PRDH-IGD‘s “family files” group together all the vital events (baptisms, marriages and burials) related to a family unit.

Family file of Pierre Roy Desjardins and Marie Anne Martin, with their children listed as well as links to the baptisms, marriages and burials of every individual mentioned.
Source: Family File 6710, PRDH-IGD.com

This global portrait, drawn from the baptism, marriage and burial records of the Catholic Church, gives us a unique insight into the lives of our ancestors and their migratory movements over the years.

Whether consulting a marriage, a birth or a death record, one can hope to learn the names of the involved parties and their parents, the date and place of the event being recorded, various additional information such as the place of residence or origin of the individuals mentioned, their marital status, age, and more. That’s a lot to learn about our ancestors!

The best sources of Quebec birth, marriage and death records online

Quebec is recognized worldwide for the comprehensiveness of its genealogical collections, and there are many sites offering access to Quebec birth, marriage and death records on the Internet.

Genealogy Quebec

Genealogy Quebec subscribers have access to the largest collection of Quebec records available on the internet. These can be found in various formats on the site: church parish records, civil government records, baptism, marriage and burial records, vital event register indexes, and more. The majority of these documents can be found in the LAFRANCE tool, a detailed index with a link to the original document of several million civil and religious records from Quebec. The tool is equipped with a search engine allowing you to browse the following documents:

  • ALL of Quebec’s Catholic marriages from 1621 to 1918
  • ALL of Quebec’s Catholic baptisms from 1621 to 1861
  • ALL of Quebec’s Catholic burials from 1621 to 1861
  • 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

Church record as presented on Genealogy Quebec’s LAFRANCE

A subscription is necessary in order to access the collections available on Genealogy Quebec. You can subscribe at this address.

PRDH-IGD

PRDH-IGD is a directory of ALL vital events (baptisms, marriages and burials) recorded by the Catholic church in Quebec and French Canada from 1621 to 1849, as well as a genealogical dictionary of families commonly referred to as “Family Reconstructions”. The PRDH-IGD database contains over 2,500,000 records.

What makes PRDH-IGD a unique resource is the structure of its database. In addition to baptism, marriage and burial records, PRDH-IGD contains what are called individual and family files.

Every individual mentioned in a record in the database receives their own “individual file” in which all the information available on the individual is centralized.

Similarly, every married couple is assigned a “family file” which fulfills a similar role as the individual file, but in relation to a family unit.

The family file lists all of the couple’s children and provides a link to the events where these children are mentioned.

Ultimately, the PRDH-IGD database can be described as a massive family tree encompassing every Catholic individual who lived in Quebec between 1621 and 1849, or in other words, almost every single ancestor of the French Canadian population of America.

A subscription is necessary in order to use the PRDH-IGD database. You can subscribe at this address.

Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (Quebec National Archives)

BAnQ’s website offers access to a digitized version of the parish registers of Quebec up to 1916, which can be consulted free of charge at this address.

Unlike the copy of this collection available on Genealogy Quebec, BAnQ’s version is not indexed. This means that you have to navigate through the church register manually, one page at a time, in order to find the desired record. Therefore, it is necessary to know the year and the parish in which the event was recorded in order to find it.

Genealogical societies

Joining a genealogical society can be a great way to access numerous collections of birth, marriage and death records, as they specialize in the preservation of genealogical and historical archives from their region. In addition, the volunteers and employees of the societies can guide you in your research and help you find the documents you are looking for.

You will find a list of genealogical societies in Quebec sorted by region at this address.

The omission of women in family trees – Part 2

(This is a 3 part article. Click to read: Part 1, Part 3)

In my previous article, I demonstrated that women are often forgotten in genealogical research: patrilineal lineages are prevalent (Jetté, 1991: 110 ; Drouin, 2015) and women’s presence is often  made invisible through the vocabulary used (Cousteau Serdongs, 2008 : 133). This problem is anchored in the patriarchal organization of our society as well as in the reproduction of sexism in genealogical practices. We will now detail the consequences of this omission and the reasons why this problem deserves our attention.

The omission of women in the construction of genealogical lineages is part of a system of erasure and devaluation of women’s accomplishments, as well as appropriation and control of their work and bodies. The consequences are very concrete. Francine Cousteau Serdongs points out that “the lack of knowledge of women’s history from women of one’s own lineage makes it impossible to identify with them [1](2008: 138). It might also make it more difficult to identify what shaped one’s family and the role gender played in its formation. Patriarchal values (such as imperatives imposed on women’s appearances or behaviors) are reproduced not only in the public space, but also in the private space as they are often transmitted to children from an early age.

Not knowing about the history of women in our family can prevent us from understanding generational traumas or gendered perspectives as an essential part of our familial dynamic and culture. A better understanding of those issues would certainly play an important role in the deconstruction of patriarchal schemes transmitted in the family and in the consolidation of solidarity between women (Cousteau Serdongs, 2008: 138).

Four generations in one picture, Wikimedia Commons.

The erasure of women in genealogy also tends to go hand in hand with their erasure in the great History. Francine Cousteau Serdongs gives many examples of that phenomenon (2008: 135-136). She mentions the women on the Grande recrue ship and the spouses of famous men, like Charles Le Moyne. This invisibility certainly plays a role in the devaluation of women’s roles and work that is still going on today in our society: if we can’t recognize women’s past realizations, why would we be able to recognize present ones?

Charles Le Moyne and Catherine Primot’s marriage. Source: Record 47196, LAFRANCE, GenealogyQuebec.com

When we neglect mothers in genealogical research, we also devalue their role and we negate their implication in passing on the heritage, while men, because they pass on their last name, are an obvious part of one’s lineage (Cousteau Serdongs, 2008: 132). To quote Francine Cousteau Serdongs: “In the second generation, women are ignored, allegedly because they don’t have the same last name. Everything happens as if women didn’t have a lineage of their own but were simply helping their spouse have one” (2008: 133). Symbolically, this perpetuates a representation of women as “objects” with no agency (Cousteau Serdongs, 2008: 139-140), when in reality, women were playing an essential and active role in their family and their society.

It is true that women have historically been relegated to reproduction and the private sphere. They were kept out of the public space: the places where decisions were made and power was held. We can find traces of this private/public division since ancient Greece and despite the recent feminist progress, in some ways, it is still accurate today (see Bereni and Revillard, 2009). But even if women were locked up in the private sphere, it was not really a place for them to lead either. Patriarchal values continually dictated how women should act, even in private spaces. Medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth, the imperatives about how they should raise their children and clean their houses and the restrictions concerning abortion are all glaring examples of the way women’s work (including their work with children) is controlled and appropriated by men (see Cousteau Serdongs, 2008: 141-142 or Guillaumin, 1978).

Painting of a woman doing laundry

As if it wasn’t enough, the private sphere has also been devalued (see Robert, 2017). The fact that women have been prohibited from giving their last names to their children for a very long time and that even today, we rarely allow them to appear in familial histories contribute to this appropriation of women’s work by men as well as in the patriarchal control and devaluation of the private sphere.

These consequences are even more important for racialized women, who are at the intersection of multiple oppression systems such as racism and sexism. For indigenous women, the erasure of their role in familial history meant the loss of their “Indian status” when they married a non-indigenous man. Their children couldn’t get the status either. This often meant being deprived of certain political, cultural, and social rights and often losing access to their community (see Arnaud, 2014: 213-217). The C-31 law, voted in 1985, allowed women who lost their status because of their marriage to a non-indigenous person to get it back, but their children could only get a non-transmissible status, unlike the children of indigenous fathers. It would take 25 years for this disposition of the law to be changed (Arnaud, 2014: 216). These simple changes in the law were not even enough to give their communities back to these women and children: the communities were lacking space and money and received no support at all to welcome back these people. Women were perceived badly, as if they were upsetting the established order and forcing the hand of their communities: this issue has yet to be resolved.

Native women with their children, Vancouver, 1901, Wikimedia Commons

(Trigger warning: mention of rape in the next paragraph.)

This conception of women as carriers of men’s lineages also contributed to the imposition of chastity and fidelity standards which were used to ensure the identity of a child’s father (Knibiehler, 2012). Outside of Quebec, rape has been used as a weapon of war in many contexts. Women’s bodies were used to “tarnish genealogical lineages” and punish certain peoples. To quote Véronique Nahoum-Grappe, talking about ex-Yugoslavia “rape became, some sort of a victory on war’s front against the collective identity of the enemy, a victorious invasion of their reproductive space” (1996, 153). While, to my knowledge, events of this sort have not been documented during Quebec’s colonization, it is still very possible they happened. In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that indigenous women were three times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault than non-indigenous women (Boyce, 2014).

In conclusion, the omission of women in genealogy contributes to a patriarchal culture which erases and devalues women’s accomplishments as well as the oppression they live under within their societies and families. It also contributes to the appropriation and control of their work and bodies. It is urgent that we find ways to change this situation and work towards a society in which we can all be equals: my next article will detail how we can achieve this in the field of genealogy.

Audrey Pepin

 

[1] Quotes which were originally in French have been translated by the author of this article

Bibliography

Arnaud, Aurélie. (2014). Féminisme autochtone militant : quel féminisme pour quelle militance? Nouvelles pratiques sociales, vol. 27, no. 1, p.211-222.

Baillargeon, Denyse. Compte-rendu de Yvonne Knibiehler, La virginité féminine. Mythes, fantasmes, émancipation. Paris , Odile Jacob, 2012 221 p. Recherches féministes, vol. 25, no. 2, p.191-193.

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

Boyce, Jillian. (2014). La victimisation chez les Autochtones au Canada, 2014. Statistiques Canada : https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2016001/article/14631-fra.htm

Cousteau Serdongs, Francine. (2008). Le Québec, paradis de la généalogie et « re-père » du patriarcat : où sont les féministes? De l’importance d’aborder la généalogie avec les outils de la réflexion féministe. Recherches féministes vol. 21, no. 1, p.131-147. https://doi.org/10.7202/018313ar

Drouin, Mathieu. (2015). Patrilinéaire, mitochondriale et agnatique : trois façons de faire votre généalogie! Histoire Canada. Récupéré de https://www.histoirecanada.ca/consulter/genealogie/patrilineaire,-mitochondriale-et-agnatique-trois-facons-de-faire-votre-genealogie!

Guillaumin, Colette. (1978). Pratique du pouvoir et idée de nature : 1- L’appropriation des femmes. Questions féministes, no.2, p.58-74.

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

Knibiehler, Yvonne (2012). La virginité féminine. Mythes, fantasmes, émancipation. Paris : Odile Jacob, 221 p.

Nahoum-Grappe, Véronique (1996). Purifier le lien de filiation : Les viols systématiques en ex-Yougoslavie, 1991-1995. Esprit, no. 227 (12), p.150-163. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24277272

Robert, Camille. (2017). Toutes les femmes sont d’abord ménagères. Histoire d’un combat féministe pour la reconnaissance du travail ménager. Montréal : Éditions Somme toute, Coll. « économie politique », 178 p.