When leaving the borders of Québec, especially to visit New England, it’s not uncommon to find French-sounding family names. So you might imagine that this person’s ancestors left the Francophone province to settle elsewhere, keeping traces of these origins with them. Between 1840 and 1930, over a million Quebecers left the territory to look for work. Many of them settled in the northeastern United States, which explains the strong presence of Francophone roots in this region.Some families were separated during this time, so many Quebecers have ancestors who settled elsewhere and established their own family line there. To better understand genealogy and find these Quebeckers ancestors, here’s some crucial information to know how to track down ancestors who settled outside Québec:
Quebecers in the United States
According to certain studies, around 30 million Americans are descendants of Quebecers ancestors. The family ties are therefore numerous, and given that genealogy is a very popular activity in the United States, the resources for finding information are abundant.
How to Find a Québécois Ancestor in the United States
To carry out such research, it’s possible, among other options, to use resources from Québec and to collect information from genealogical societies located in the most relevant American regions. In the United States, several groups specialize in searching for French-Canadian ancestors.
For example, the American-Canadian Genealogical Society, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, is a centre dedicated to the genealogical research of Canadian and/or Francophone roots. Their collection brings together documents from – among other sources – the Drouin Collection, several Canadian Protestant churches, and archives from various American states.
The American-Canadian Genealogical Society is far from the only organization of this type. Several states, cities, and villages in the region offer this type of service, including the American-French Genealogical Society in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and the French-Canadian Genealogical Society of Connecticut. It’s therefore possible to contact these organizations or to visit them in person.
The Drouin Collection
Over 25 million civil status documents make up the Drouin Collection. This collection consists of documents that come from Québec, as well as Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the United States. Indeed, it’s possible to search baptismal records, marriage licences, death certificates, and other official documents, including some from the New England region. It’s therefore a very rich resource to complete research. In addition, the Drouin Collection is easy to access and relatively simple to peruse.
Books and Periodicals About Québécois Ancestors Living in the United States
Was one of the most famous American authors actually Québécois? Jean-Louis “Jack” Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts to Québécois parents. For that reason, Kerouac’s first language was Joual. Kerouac’s mother was also the first cousin of none other than René Lévesque. In addition to this amusing anecdote, books about emigration from Québec to the United States provide very useful information within the context of research, because they can give us hints and clues.
Here are a few interesting and relevant books and periodicals on this subject, which can be found in a library or digitized on the internet:
La ruée vers le sud: migrations du Canada vers les États-Unis, 1840 à 1930 (Bruno Ramirez)
Histoire d’un rêve brisé? Les Canadiens français aux États-Unis (Yves Roby)
L’émigration des Québécois aux États-Unis de 1840 à 1930 (Yolande Lavoie)
The French Canadians in New England (Prosper Bender)
Les Canadiens français de la Nouvelle-Angleterre (Édouard Hamon)
Finding a Québécois ancestor in the rest of Canada
Besides the Drouin Collection, which was mentioned previously, other resources make it possible to research Québécois ancestors living outside the province. For example, it’s possible to contact various local genealogical societies, some of which specialize in searching for data on ancestors of Francophone origin. This is particularly true in Canadian provinces where the Francophone community is still highly developed, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and the Maritime provinces. Specialists know how to guide people towards the right resources while accompanying them in their research.
This is the key to starting the investigation off right and successfully finding specific information about Québécois ancestors who decided to emigrate to other places.
Founded at the end of the 19th century, the Drouin Genealogical Institute was given the mission of collecting and categorizing a multitude of notarized documents of genealogical interest and making them accessible to the population. The 1621-1967 Drouin Collection is thus invaluable for tracing the history of families in Quebec. It includes a significant number of official documents, mainly marriage, baptism and burial certificates. There are also other types of notarized documents, including contracts, wills and other legal documents.Parish Registers and Civil Status
Due to its very religious past, in this province, parish registers long served to collect all official documents related to the population and its civil status. This practice was particularly suitable because all the important moments in a person’s life were noted in churches, from baptisms to weddings and funerals.
Very early in the history of the province, Quebec also began to deliver and archive documents in order to keep track of the inhabitants by collecting a copy of the parish acts registered by the Church. This is how notarized religious documents came to be housed in courthouses. For a long time, information was collected by religious institutions, which then sent it to the courthouses. The documents were thus duplicated.
Gradually, the government’s mandate of storing and preparing these documents gained more and more importance, and in 1994, the Registrar of Civil Status obtained the full mandate.
Archiving Done by the Drouin Institute
In the 1940s, the Drouin Institute made microfilms of the civil registers of the Quebec courthouses. These documents were gathered to create the Drouin Collection. These documents thus come from both religious institutions and the Government of Quebec. In some areas, the microfilming process continued until 1968, so the Drouin Collection covers the period from 1621 to 1967.
Religious Genealogy Versus Civil Genealogy
During a genealogical search, researchers often find themselves facing documents that were collected by the Church or the government. To better understand the source and nature of the documents they consult, it is important to distinguish religious genealogy and civil genealogy. In the 1621-1967 Drouin Collection, most documents come from the Church.
Certificates from parish registers were created, validated and issued by religious institutions. Most of the documents that are in the collection came from the Catholic Church, but you can find certificates issued by other Christian denominations and other religions, including Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Protestant, Baptist, Orthodox, Methodist and Jewish. To find specific genealogical information—especially that dating back from before the 20th century—you must look at the certificates issued by these institutions. These documents contain information about the people and are often annotated with information that was considered relevant by those responsible for archiving (often parish priests).
After the early 20th century, material gathered by the Church began to be used by the state to produce statistics about the population of Quebec. These documents produced by the State are those available in the 1926-1997 Marriages and Deaths tool. These are based on the original certificates produced by the Church and available in the Drouin Collection.
The Differences Between Documents
The copies of certain documents contain differences. The same certificate may in fact present some discrepancies when one of the two documents is incomplete or damaged, for example. This decision to establish a duplicate recording enabled Quebec to have one of the most comprehensive civil status systems in the world, to the delight of genealogy enthusiasts.
In Quebec, amateur and professional genealogists alike have access to a rich collection of documents to trace their family roots and draw family trees. Since the days of New France, documentation of birth, death and marriage certificates was advocated by the Catholic Church to keep track of the families that established in these territories. The collection of this data has continued over time, so that today, it can be used to perform extensive genealogical research. The documents are filed among several registers and collections, including the Drouin Collection, which contains Quebec’s marriage records. The latter includes several elements of documentation about weddings that took place within the province, including copies of marriage records. These documents have been indexed and meticulously categorized by specialists. It is possible to consult them by becoming a member of Genealogy Quebec through the Drouin Collection Records or the LAFRANCE.
Search Tools for Exploring the Register of Marriages in Quebec
Given the incredible number of documents collected and indexed in the records through the years, it was important to develop sophisticated search engines to better navigate through these informations. These tools allow to search precisely and trace relationships among individuals. The 1926-1997 marriages and deaths tool is part of the range of tools for exploring the available documents. The vast majority of marriages and deaths that occurred during those years were documented with this tool, itself equipped with a search engine. Thus, anyone who is doing genealogical research and knows that the parental relations they want to discover or confirm took place at that time will probably find useful documents. Other research tools are suitable for other periods. Therefore, it is possible to find marriage certificates having taken place in Quebec during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries by using LAFRANCE. By doing so, genealogical portraits and related research are relatively easy to implement and support with several documents. This is a richness that is not available for all, because for many centuries, Quebec was particularly disciplined in keeping these kinds of records.
How to Use Marriage Records Search Engines
One must know that certain practices can complicate searching in these databases, including the spelling of names that may have changed over time. During research, it is advisable to first search more generally, limiting oneself to a family name and a date, if they are available. Then, if necessary, it will be possible to add parameters to refine your search. This technique increases the chances of finding relevant documents. If the results are inconclusive, the family name might have been written in other ways. The person conducting the research will then expand his or her search fields, for example using the character % as a result of the common root of the name (ex: Beau% to search for Beauregard, Beaulieu, Beaudoin, Beaudry, etc.). This form of research is broader and therefore slower, but it allows one to find documents that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Why Use a Register of Marriages for Genealogical Research?
Talk to any genealogy experts and they will tell you that registers are inexhaustible resources for tracing family ties to discover or confirm already known elements. The information found in these registers is usually very reliable. It has always been in the interest of religious and governmental authorities to collect very specific data about the province’s population. Today, genealogists continue to develop and improve these research tools, including those associated with the Quebec marriage records.
This guide will provide you with detailed instructions which will help you establish your ancestry and find your ancestors using the tools available on Genealogy Quebec. Examples of the challenges you may encounter while establishing your ancestry are used throughout the guide.
Your ancestry denotes all of your ancestors as far back as they are traceable, starting with your parents. With each generation, the amount of ancestors you have doubles: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, etc.
An ancestry can be total, or can be limited to a subset of ancestors:
Paternal ancestry (all the ancestors on the paternal side of your ancestry) or maternal ancestry (all the ancestors on the maternal side of your ancestry)
Patrilineal (father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc.) or matrilineal (mother, grandmother, great grandmother, etc.) An ancestry can be unlimited, going as far back as the genealogical sources allow, or limited to a certain amount of generations. The key to establishing an ancestry is the marriage record. Most marriage records will contain the name of the spouses’ parents or the name of the previous spouse, which are necessary in order to trace back an ancestry.
Genealogy Quebec offers a multitude of complementary genealogical tools which you will need to find your ancestors.
The LAFRANCE, which contains, among other things, all the Catholic marriages from Quebec between 1621 and 1916. Thanks to a refined search engine, you will be able to search without worrying about the different variations of a specific name. A link to the original document is included with every record. It is through the LAFRANCE that you will establish the majority of your ancestry. You can browse the LAFRANCEhere (subscription required).
The Men and Women series and the Kardex are marriage directories covering a period that goes up to 1940. These directories will be the bridge between your starting point and the firstLAFRANCE marriage (in other words, the first pre-1917 marriage) of your ancestry. You can browse the Men and Women series here, and the Kardexat this address.(subscription required).
Finding your ancestors using the LAFRANCE is easy once you find a marriage that predates 1917. The real challenge is to find that marriage.
When establishing your ancestry on Genealogy Quebec, your initial objective is to find a marriage that predates 1917. You will be able to do so by using our Marriage1926-1997, Men series, Women series and Kardex tools.
The ancestry of Bertrand Desjardins, born on the 24th of November 1948 in Montreal, will serve as our example throughout this guide.
First step – Gathering information
To find your ancestors using Genealogy Quebec, you must begin by establishing all the information you have on your family. It is always a good idea to ask parents, grandparents and other family members for clues and information regarding the family. The more information you start with, the easier your research will be. Make sure to have all this information readily available when starting your research.
Here is the information established by Bertrand before the start of his research.
Bertrand Desjardins, born on the 24th of November 1948 in Montreal
François-Joseph Desjardins born in 1908, died on the 1st of September 1963 and Suzanne Bertrand, born in 1919, died on December 31st 2014, married in 1943 in Montreal.
François-Joseph Desjardins’ parents: François Desjardins, died in July 1955 and Anna Jacques, died on September 1st 1975.
Suzanne Bertrand’ parents: Émile Bertrand, died on the 4th of November 1961 and Irène Michaud, died in june 1942.
François-Joseph is the eldest child of his family; Suzanne is the second child. François Desjardins’ father is Charles Desjardins.
Second step – Using the information to find your ancestors
It is now time to use the information we’ve gathered in the first step. First of all, we must verify whether this information allows us to track down a marriage that predates the year 1917. If that is the case, a simple search for the wife and husband’s names in the LAFRANCE should allow us to find the marriage record.
If that is not the case, we will have to turn to the complementary tools. Using your notes, try to find the earliest marriage you can get your hands on. This marriage will be your starting point.
If this marriage took place between 1917 and 1940, use the Men and Women series and the Kardex for your research.
(Unable to find the marriage you are looking for? Contact us at contact @ institutdrouin.com, we will point you in the right direction!)
Let’s go back to Bertrand Desjardins’ attempt at discovering his ancestors using the Genealogy Quebec website.
It is now time for Bertrand to put the information gathered during the previous step of his research to use. The first thing Bertrand notices is that his father, François-Joseph Desjardins, was born in 1908. This signifies that François-Joseph’s parents, François Desjardins and Anna Jacques, were married in 1908 at the latest; children born out of wedlock were a rarity at the time. A simple search for their names in the LAFRANCE should lead to their marriage.
Within minutes, Bertrand was able to find the first LAFRANCE mariage of his paternal ancestry.
The marriage record indicates that François Desjardins’ parents are Charles Eugène Desjardins and Marie Malvina Fortin. A search in the LAFRANCE should allow us to find their marriage.
The marriage record tells us that Charles Eugène Desjardins’ parents are Alexandre Roy Desjardins and Léocadie Gagnon.
From this point on, it is simply about repeating the process of searching for the parents’ marriage until we reach the first immigrant of the lineage. In Bertrand’s case, the first immigrant is Alexandre Roy dit Desjardins, who married Marie Major on the 11th of September 1668 in Québec city.
Bertrand Desjardins’ paternal ancestry is completed within minutes thanks to the LAFRANCE. All that is left now is the presentation of this work.
There are several templates available on the internet to organize and present your ancestry.
His paternal ancestry completed, Bertrand decides to tackle the maternal side of his family. This time, there is no way to know if Bertrand’s grandparents’ marriage was celebrated before 1917. A LAFRANCE search for Émile Bertrand and Irène Michaud yields no results. Bertrand must now turn to the Drouin Great Collections; the Men and Women series and the Kardex.
The results are separated by tools and are ordered in alphabetical order of the subject’s first name. As a result, an Albert would be found on the first few pages in the results. A Zenophile would be on the last page.
Note that it is possible for an individual to be sorted by his secondary first name. Émile could be sorted under Joseph Émile, since there is no distinction between the primary and the secondary first name. Similarly, a woman could be sorted under Marie despite usually being known under a different name.
The format used in the Men and Women series isn’t the most intuitive. This image should help you understand the layout:
Searches for the surnames Bertrand in the Men Series and Michaud in the Women Series produced no relevant results. The Kardex is next.
The Kardex must be navigated manually, as it doesn’t come with a built in search engine.
The files are sorted by letter and by the name of the husband.
Since we are looking for Émile Bertrand’s marriage, we have opened the BertrandEdouard – BertrandHypolite folder. The first file will contain the marriage of an Edouard Bertrand. Seeing as the files are ordered in alphabetical order of the husband’s first name, Émile Bertrand’s file should be among the first ones.
Unfortunately, the file isn’t in this folder.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible that Émile could be identified as Joseph Émile in his marriage file. To verify this possibility, we must look into the BertrandJoseph folder.
Note that the files are first sorted by the man’s first forename, and then by the woman’s surname. The marriage file of a Joseph Émile and a Michaud will be found at Michaud and not at Émile.
The file was in fact in the BertrandJoseph folder, sorted by Michaud.
Bertrand, Joseph Alfred Émile – Husband
(Bertrand), Antoine Wilfrid – Husband’s father
St-Aubin, Rose Anna – Husband’s mother
Michaud, Marie Lise Irène – Wife
(Michaud), Joseph Adolphe – Wife’s father
Bernard, Marie Lise Elisa – Wife’s mother
St Louis de France de Montréal – Parish
12 juin 1915 – 12th of june 1915, marriage date
(Please note that this guide was made when the period covered by the LAFRANCE ended in 1914. Today, we would’ve been able to find the Bertrand / Michaud marriage with a simple search in the LAFRANCE, as the period it covers extends to 1917, and the marriage was celebrated in 1915.)
We now know that Émile’s parents are named Antoine Wilfrid Bertrand and Rose Anne St-Aubin. We should be able to find their marriage in the LAFRANCE.
The next step is to find Antoine Wilfrid Bertrand’s parents’ marriage in the LAFRANCE, and to follow the paternal lineage all the way up to the first immigrant.
This first immigrant is Jean Bertrand, who married Marie Charlotte Brar on the 23rd of September 1697 in Montreal.
Bertrand’s maternal ancestry is completed.
In the world of genealogical research, it is often necessary to call upon one’s inner detective. Sometimes, the usual procedure doesn’t lead to the desired results. In those cases, a certain amount of creativity and initiative is necessary to pull through.
For a good example of that, let’s go back to Bertrand Desjardins’ paternal ancestry. Bertrand had no difficulty finding his grand-father’s marriage in the LAFRANCE thanks to the information established at the start of his research.
Let’s now imagine a scenario where Bertrand’s initial gathering of information did not allow him to find his grand-parents’ names. Essentially, Bertrand’s starting point is now his own parents and the only information available to him is his parents’ marriage date, their dates of birth and the date of death of his father.
François-Joseph Desjardins born in 1908, died on the 1st of September 1963 and Suzanne Bertrand, born in 1919, died on December 31st 2014, married in 1943 in Montreal.
A search for a Desjardins and Bertrand couple in the Marriage 1926-1997 section allows us to find their marriage:
While this document provides us with tons of interesting information, it doesn’t help us find Bertrand’s grand-parents’ marriage, as they aren’t mentioned in the record.
This is when some initiative and creativity is required to push the research further.
We know François Joseph Desjardins died on the 1st of September 1963.
Still in the Marriage and Deaths 1926-1997 tool, but this time in the Death 1926-1997 section, let’s attempt to find François Joseph’s death record.
We are able to find his death record. Luckily, the file indicates that the mother’s name is JACQUES, A. and that the father’s name is DESJARDINS, F. A search for a Desjardins/Jacques couple in the LAFRANCE will allow us to find their marriage, and to trace back Bertrand’s paternal ancestry.
The instructions and examples given in this guide will cover most of the situations you will encounter when establishing your ancestry on Genealogy Quebec.
Do not hesitate to contact us at contact @ institutdrouin.com if you have any questions regarding this guide or the process of retracing your ancestors.
In a previous article, we have shown using the family of Joseph Landry dit Penot and Marie Josèphe Coron dite Dauphinais how the PRDH family reconstructions, the centralization of all the vital events pertaining to a family, allow us to bring light to the living conditions of our ancestors. This exceptional couple, married in 1778, gave birth to an incredible 25 children, a great example of the natural fertility that prevailed in the absence of contraception and other social limitations.
Such a fertility rate would have been unsustainable due to the population increase resulting of so many births, had it not been for the mortality rate that was associated with the population of the time. Elevated mortality under the Old Regime made death an omnipresent part of our ancestors’ lives: it could happen at any age, contrarily to today, where it is mostly associated with old age. The infant mortality rate (death before the age of 1) was extremely high, and the children who did live past the age of 1 were still prone to sickness and accidents. Individuals reaching the age of 50 would be considered elderly. Men and women would die of malnutrition, work accidents, lack of proper hygiene as well as sickness, including smallpox epidemics that ravaged the population.
The information colligated by the PRDH allows us to put actual figures on these conditions. At the forefront is infant mortality rate. Between a quarter and a third of children born under the French Regime died before the age of 1, with a gradual increase over time, particularly in cities. Infant mortality rate is indeed directly linked to hygienic conditions and thus to the detrimental effects of overcrowding in cities. For example, 50% of children born in Montreal within the last few decades of the French Regime died before reaching their first birthday. Overall, less than half of the population would reach the average age of marriage, which was 20 years old for women, and 25 years old for men.
Marrying at the age of 25, an average man would go on living 39 more years, to the age of 64. An average woman, marrying at 20, would also go on living 39 more years, to the age of 59. Why such a disparity? Because 1.5% of childbirths would result in the death of the mother, which meant that on average over the course of her life, a woman had a 12% chance of dying while giving birth. This had a direct impact on the average length of marriages at the time: barely half of the married couples would reach their silver wedding anniversary. This also explains the frequency of remarriages, as the presence of two parents was necessary to raise a large family.
You are now acquainted with the average living conditions and mortality rates in Quebec during the XVII and XVIII centuries. How do these rates compare to those among your ancestors? Careful! You may notice that your ancestors fared better than what is being described in this article, which is entirely logical. If you are here today to research and explore your ancestors’ history, it is through an unbroken lineage going back to them. A lineage that is a testimony to their children’s survival, as well as their own…
You just have to look at a family tree to see how numerous the relationships within a family are. These may even seem exponential when you search far enough back into the past. That’s why we discover common family ties between our family and an important historical figure, or between two celebrities who were born in different countries, such as Hillary Clinton and Céline Dion.
These facts may seem surprising, but if you understand genealogy and the ancestral links between different human beings, they’re quite logical, even normal. Are all humans cousins ? Technically, yes, or at least, almost. Of course, the degrees of kinship are sometimes extremely distant. It’s because of this observation that it becomes both useful and interesting to be able to calculate and better understand family relationships.
But how do you go about this seemingly colossal task ? While it’s rather simple to perform calculations with respect to your immediate family branch, as soon as you extend this, the work gets complicated. However, it’s far from being an insurmountable task.
Calculating a Family Relationship: Which Technique to Use ?
When looking at a family tree, we see several types of links. There are the traditional links – that is, parents, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. Then, when we decide to go further, the issue of degrees of kinship becomes even more relevant.
There are several ways to calculate degrees of kinship. The direct line technique involves calculating the degrees according to the generations that separate two people. The collateral line technique reaches back to the common ancestor and counts one degree per generation. Here’s a more detailed explanation of the latter:
First-degree family links are those between parents and children. Second-degree links include brothers and sisters, and grandchildren and grandparents. At the third degree, there are great-grandparents, uncles and aunts, and nieces and nephews. Finally, at the fourth degree, we find a person’s first cousins. The calculation of the degrees continues in this way, without limits as to the number.
In short, the degree of kinship represents the number of intermediaries between two people, going back to the common ancestor, then returning to them.
The Role of the Family Tree in Calculating Family Relationships
If your family tree hasn’t already been completed, you’ll have to do this in order to calculate and better understand your family ties. Indeed, this is one of the best ways to efficiently present and analyze the family relationships between different people.
Having access to a pictorial diagram helps us better understand the network of links that unite us with our ancestors. This way of presenting family relationships is very concrete and greatly simplifies the calculations.
Why Calculate our Family Relationships ?
There are several reasons why we might want to make these calculations. First, because it’s fascinating to trace the history of the different people who were among our ancestors. When we want to better understand the history of our family or – more broadly – of our country, this research can bring to light some very interesting – even useful – information.
This research can also be done purely for practical matters. For example, this analysis can be used in legal cases, such as estates.
Each person comes from a vast succession of family branches that have been divided and developed over the course of history. Whether you want to find a third or a 23rd-degree link, the tools and techniques currently in use allow us to do research quickly and rather easily. Why not take advantage of them ?
Each human being is a link in a vast network that represents the past and present population of the planet. If we look back to study the origins of our ancestors, we move through this complex yet fascinating network, and we discover some very interesting historical tidbits along the way. For example, it’s possible to find out who was part of the founding families of Québec and the cities and villages established throughout the province. This research makes it possible to better understand why people settled in certain places and what roles they played in the economic and strategic development of the province.
The founding families who Came to New France
The first founding families in the history of Québec are those of the settlers who remained in New France following several attempts at colonization. During the initial voyages, the settlers had been systematically repatriated due to problems such as illness or a lack of preparation for the winter. It was finally around 1608 that the founding families came to settle here permanently.
The most famous of these families is that of Louis Hébert, who settled with his wife and children in 1617. They decided to settle in Québec only a few years after this city was founded by Samuel de Champlain. Louis Hébert and his family became firmly rooted in the region, taking their crucial role as some of the first permanent inhabitants of New France seriously. In 1626, they were even entrusted with the Saint-Joseph seigneurie.
The First Villages in Québec and Their Founding Families
Other families followed, thanks to the efforts of Robert Giffard and the Company of One Hundred Associates, among others. Giffard, himself the founder of the city of Beauport, returned to France several times to convince families to follow him to the new colony. Only a few agreed, but they decided to stay, then settled in New France and contributed to the growing population.
As the number of families increased, the exploration of the land continued, along with the creation of new seigneuries. Other parishes emerged, populated and organized by the founding families. Québec City and its surroundings developed little by little, and other sectors, such as Trois-Rivières and Montréal, also welcomed new families and were officially founded in 1634 and 1642, respectively.
Discovering Our Ancestors: Better Understanding the Role of the Founding Families
During genealogical research, it’s not uncommon to learn that certain family branches were formed during the creation of a new city or village. Since one of the goals of colonization was to populate the territory, families had the advantage of obtaining land to farm and coming together with other neighbours to form a community, which was also often based on links to the church.
Many cities and municipalities in Québec still celebrate their founding families. For example, as part of the 375th anniversary of Sorel-Tracy, a big party was organized to pay tribute to these pioneering families whose names still adorn many public places in the city. Other places, such as Repentigny, make it a point of honour during the annual city festivals to commemorate those people who came to live in the New World, with all the work and ambition that that implies.
Studying the founding families allows us to better understand the evolution and history of the province of Québec, as well as that of these many municipalities. In everyday life, it’s often the toponymy of the cities that reminds us of this, forcing us to remember. Genealogical research, as well as that done with the historical societies of the regions and municipalities in the province, help us learn more about these people and the reasons that made them settle here.
Where does your family name come from? What is its history? How long has it existed in this form? These are questions that many people ask themselves, because in most cases, our surname isn’t a choice, but a family legacy.Whether you come from a family with deep roots in Québec or of foreign origin, your family name says a lot about your past and that of your ancestors. Indeed, genealogy and surnames are closely linked. As a result, the study of surnames – or anthroponymy – is an interesting angle to adopt to get to know your family history in Québec.
Where do the Surnames in Québec come from?
Each family name is accompanied by a story, and traditions vary from one country to the next. In some areas, the first names of the father and mother are passed down to the children as a family name, while elsewhere, the professions and social ranks are used for this purpose.
In Québec, the etymology of these names comes from various sources, but we can identify several common roots. Of course, many names come from the settlers who arrived here from France and Great Britain. These names were sometimes kept as they were, or else underwent orthographic or structural changes. Some names come from the professions of the first ancestors, while others refer to the person’s place of origin.
Other immigrant populations have arrived in Québec over the years, bringing with them traditional names from their regions. That’s why we find surnames of Syrian, Chinese, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Spanish origin among newcomers, but also among families who have been living in the province for several generations.
Given that no specific pattern has been adopted over time, the family names used in Québec all have an etymology that’s specific to them. It’s therefore worthwhile for everyone to take the initiative to do some research to find out where their surname comes from and what its evolution has been.
What are the Most Common Surnames in Québec?
You may have already guessed that Tremblay wins the prize for the most common name in Québec. It shares top ranks with the Gagnon, Roy, Côté, and Bouchard families. However, it’s interesting to know that, in Québec, family names are quite varied. Unlike other countries such as China and Denmark, where a large proportion of the population bears the same surname, Quebeckers have a wide variety of names with different roots.
How to Learn more about the History of a Family Name in Québec
Genealogical research allows us to find valuable information about surnames. It’s usually possible to trace the family lines, to see the changes, and to find the different names that have intersected or appeared at a specific moment.
Many tools are available online for those who want to research their ancestors themselves. Among other options, it’s possible to consult parish registers and to gain access to several official documents such as birth certificates or marriage and burial documents.
It’s also possible to rely on the services of a genealogy specialist. They can help you trace the origin of your family name, create a family tree, and do several other searches related to parentage and history.
Finally, researchers and historians have published some very interesting books about the origin of family names in Québec. The book “Votre nom et son histoire” by the linguist Roland Jacob presents anecdotes about the most common names in Québec. These works can therefore aid you in your quest to better understand your surname and its meaning.
The parish registers of Québec are an invaluable resource for finding information about the previous generations. Until the end of the twentieth century, these registers were used to accumulate all the information relating to the civil status of the population. This information was archived in churches as well as courthouses.Starting in the 1940s, a conservation effort was launched by the Drouin Genealogical Institute, which microfilmed the registers. They wound up with a very important database that can now be consulted by anyone seeking to track down their ancestors.
The History of the Parish Registers
It was during the period of the French Regime that the collection of information from the inhabitants of New France took the form of parish registers. This method then continued under the British authorities and following the evolution of the political regimes in Canada. It was only in 1994 that the Registrar of Civil Status of Québec received the full mandate to issue and retain the documents associated with the register.
What Information can you find in a Parish Register?
Parish registers mainly include baptismal records, marriage documents, and burial records. You can also find certain information about the registered people there, such as their place of origin, their family members, their religion, and the places where they lived.
Although the register system is rooted in the French Catholic tradition, information about people from other religions was also collected there.
What are the Reliability Guarantees of the Québec Parish Registers?
The responsibility for keeping the parish registers fell to the priests, who were the only ones authorized to issue the documents and make modifications. Other people could also be appointed by the Chancellery to act in place of the priest. However, in all cases, the person had to sign all the documents that they issued and modified in their own name. In doing so, there was no room for error.
Much more than simple genealogical documents, the parish registers were quickly considered to contain essential information about the populations of the cities and villages. The role of record keeper was therefore taken very seriously.
No one should be surprised to learn that life in Québec was long centred around the church. Because of this, all the documents relating to a person’s civil status could be found there. This practice was very logical, since this was where baptisms, weddings, and funerals were held.
Like the Register of Civil Status that exists today, parish registers were kept rigorously. The currently available archives contain scanned versions of these paper documents, and there’s often a transcript of the contents as well as an image of the original document.
How to Consult a Parish Register in Québec
Faced with this rich collection of documents to which we have access, several organizations and genealogical societies have created tools and platforms where it’s possible to do research. There’s no centralized tool presented by the government, but the information is quite easy to find.
The Genealogy Quebec site itself contains several resources where different registers are collected. The LAFRANCE directory, the Drouin Collection records, the Little BMDs, and the Connolly File all contain information from the registers, including baptismal and burial records as well as marriage documents. To access this, just register on the site and choose the tool that suits you the best.
It’s also possible to perform research with the genealogical societies in your area. Genealogy specialists there can guide people through their process to find information about their ancestors.
Finally, Library and Archives Canada makes certain documents related to the registers available through its website.
The PRDH-IGD is a directory of ALL vital events (baptisms, marriages and burials) celebrated by the Catholic church in Quebec and French Canada from 1621 to 1849, as well as a genealogical dictionary of families (Family Reconstructions). The PRDH-IGD database contains over 2 500 000 records.
What makes the PRDH-IGD unique is how these records are connected to one another through genealogical links, which we refer to as Family Reconstructions. In addition to the baptism, marriage and burial files, the PRDH-IGD contains individual and family files.
Any individual mentioned in a BMD record from the database is given an individual file. Similarly, any married couple mentioned in a BMD record gets their own family file.
To better understand the importance and value of family reconstructions, we will explore the database by using the example of François Plouf, who lived in St-François-Xavier-de-Verchères in the 18th century.
To begin the search, the information is entered in the search template. In this case, we are searching for any mention of a Francois Plouf in the database, without limiting the search to a specific period or parish.
We obtain a list of results for our search.
The first column gives us the record number, which is used to identify the record in the database
The second column gives us the date of the event
The third column gives us the type of record (baptism, burial or marriage)
The fourth column gives us the parish in which the event was celebrated
The role column tells us what role the individual has in the record
The sex, standard name and standard first name columns are self explanatory
We will select the 14th result, which is the baptism of François Plouf, celebrated on the 27th of November 1718 in Contrecoeur.
This baptism file was created from the original record. It extracts all the relevant information from it and presents it in a convenient manner.
In a PRDH-IGD baptism, marriage or burial file, every name is a link to that person’s individual file. By clicking on François Plouf’s name, we are taken to the following file.
The individual file centralizes all of the mentions of an individual in the database, such as the person’s baptism, burial and marriage. The individual file also mentions the parents as well as the spouse(s).
Again, every name is also a link to that person’s individual file. Additionally, written dates can be clicked to be taken to that event’s certificate.
Finally, the “First marriage” and “Family” mentions link to the appropriate family file. Let’s explore François Plouf and Marie Ursule emery Codere’s family file.
A family file is created for any married couple mentioned in a record certificate in the database. This family file centralizes all the information available on the couple as well as all of their children, and provides links to the individual files and record certificates that pertain to the family.
The family file can be seen as the final result of the PRDH’s family reconstruction process.
Ultimately, the PRDH-IGD database can be described as a massive family tree of all Catholic individuals who lived in Quebec between 1621 and 1849.
The database is being corrected and added to on a monthly basis, and we hope to be able to extend the period it covers shortly.
Members who are subscribed to both GenealogyQuebec.com and the PRDH have access to the following exclusive features:
View the original document (parish register) on GenealogyQuebec.com from any PRDH-IGD.com certificate
View the PRDH-IGD.com individual file of any individual named in a GenealogyQuebec.com‘s LAFRANCE certificate
10% bonus PRDH-IGD.com hits free of charge on purchase for GenealogyQuebec.com subscribers
What are the differences between the PRDH-IGD.com and GenealogyQuebec.com?
A hit is charged each time a page is displayed, except for the list of references obtained from a query, which is not charged. A subscription thus corresponds to the right to view a certain quantity of one or the other of the following elements: a certificate from the Repertory of vital events (record certificates), an individual or family file from the Genealogical dictionary or a couples’ file with their married children from the Repertory of couples.