French Canadian Genealogy Searches- Quebec Research Tip #1

Finding “French Canadian” North American ‘relatives’ can be quite a challenge. My searches most often lead me to southernmost Quebec (Bas Canada, near La Prairie and Lacolle areas) as well as to Northern New York (specifically Clinton County, NY).  Genealogy-IdeasIt seems that is the general area where most of my French-speaking forebears lived (from 1780- 1925); on occasion they manage to spill into the Quebec or Montreal areas, but that is almost always in the years before 1780.  As you might know, the area I search is rather small geographically, as well as from a population perspective. But my observation has been, even though folks did not move around very much, they hid very well.

Over the years, I have learned a few hard fought lessons in doing my Francophone Quebec/ New York genealogy. I hope my series of tips & pointers will save some of you a few steps and maybe even some time in your searches.

Tricks? I use to uncover my French Canadian family data includes…
Data discovery
  1. I almost always start by performing a quick search for folks using Ancestry.com records, especially the Drouin records. You will need Ancestry’s mega world license in order to make this function work well for you.  Remember Canada is not part of the US and Ancestry licenses the use of these records with great pride and price. They are included in the WORLD license!
  2. If you are unable to afford the International license fees for Ancestry (and many people are not predisposed to that exorbitant license fee), then the next best thing is FamilySearch.org.  FamilySearch has almost all of the Drouin records indexed and, on top of that, they are very easy to read (page by page).  Just remember you will want to have a reliable and super fast Internet connection for this ‘reading effort’.  Otherwise, the reading will be pure torture, because of its slowness. You will find the FamilySearch Drouin records information filed under: Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1900  Obviously, as the title implies, this information has a rather strict time frame limit constraint associated with it. For more detailed searching and reading the following documents plus numerous additional tomes are now online
  3. “For best results” I recommend always performing steps 1 & 2.
  4. As with any genealogy search, I also rely on Mocavo.com queries.  I love to see what others may have found, about those people I search.  You never know where good information will appear.
  5. NosOrigines is one of the best online databases for French Canada. The data is almost always accurate and it is closely monitored for quality and accuracy, unlike the junk you find promoted on OneWorld or other Ancestry or FamilySearch supported family trees (all of which are extremely unreliable, in my experience…).
  6. Research Rootsweb looking for clues & hints.  I have found some very useful information on family members and their already published trees there!  I generally find this to be the second most helpful source of family members right after NosOrigines.
  7. For older materials there are two essential sources of data one is:

Cyprien Tanguay’s Dictionnaire Genealogique des Familles Canadiennes which may be found in two locations:

The other is PRDH:

Information refinement/ collateral information
  1. Once you find useful Census reports. I recommend you take the time to read every page of the relevant Census document – even when they are dozens of pages long.  I do this in both US and Canada Census documents in hopes of finding clues beyond those available for my original searched ‘person’.  I have had great success using this method to identify/ validate other related families, friends, and family stories.
  2. I recommend you conduct extensive research on siblings to find clues about parents.  This is also a useful method for finding name variations, relatives, etc.
  3. Much like with any Census data I find, when I find a grave I searched every online cemetery record in the surrounding area in hopes of finding additional information about family or family members and relationships.
  4. When I find a useful Church record, if I have access to the entire church record, I scan the document for additional siblings, events, etc. If I have ordered and received the Church microfilm for my use in the local LDS Family History Center, I place any productive Church film on permanent hold.  I like to keep my folks nearby for when I get another bright search idea.
  5. When I’m on the hunt, I use as many spellings of surnames and given names as I can invent to conduct queries.. never say never! Not only will you discover that Census takers took liberties with names; parish priests, newspapers, gravestone makers, etc. did as well.  Additionally, I have noted that there are regional preferences in terms of name use in documents.  For example, NY Catholic Church records seem to prefer Latinate variants where Canadian’s seem to stick with native French, but often use short hand.
  6. In both data discovery and refinement phases of your search, I recommend searching/posting messages to seek or share information.  The Message Boards I most often use are on Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com.
  7. When looking for burial information on this side of the border (US side), I make extensive use of the Northern New York Tombstone Project.  I have found quite a treasure trove of useful information in their online database.
  8. Montreal City directories (1842-1999).
  9. Archives des notaires du Québec des origines à 1930 (Quebec Notary Archives to 1930)

If you have additional ideas you would like me to share, please send them along and I’ll update this page. In another post I will be adding information regarding “where to find” and “how to get” non-online source materials.