Using Cyprien Tanguay’s texts…

Over the past few weeks, I have received numerous requests for guidance on how to use Tanguay’s texts for genealogy research (and where to get them).  I have to admit that it does seem a bit odd to me that these genealogy texts are not well understood.  But after having received the requests, I did some searching on the web only to note that there are no real guides readily available for novices, so here’s my feeble attempt at creating one.

By way of a bit of background, the texts discussed here are called: Dictionnaire généalogique des Familles Canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours (Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families from the Founding of the Colony to Our Time). This body of genealogical work is generally recognized as the seminal work for all French-Canadian genealogy.  It is “printed” in seven (7) volumes. This huge and historically significant textual documentation is most amazingly the work of but one single person, Father (Abbé/ Abbott) Cyprien Tanguay. To quote Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online:

To compile this genealogy of Canadian families Tanguay systematically examined the parish records of the country, indeed, of the whole of French-speaking North America, copying entries of baptisms, marriages, and burials. During his lengthy journeys through continental Europe he was able to examine in detail the holdings of strategic archives, such as the Dépôt des Archives de la Marine in Paris and collections in Belgium, Prussia and other German states, and Italy.

To begin with, every user of Tanguay’s texts needs to be clear on what these documents are and what they are not…

They are:

  • In the Public Domain and have been since 1952. As such, free electronic versions of the Tanguay texts are available on-line.  The best version is currently resident in BANQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec- National Library and Archives of Quebec).  These are now Freely downloadable in pdf form. (Note: ManyRoads will be replacing our downloads with those from BANQ)
  • Volume 1 covers families 1608 to 1700. This includes all family surnames.
  • Volumes 2 to 7 cover families until ‘about’ 1765 although a very few lines reach as far as 1880.
  • Volume 2 covers family surnames Abel à Chapuy
  • Volume 3 covers family surnames Charbonneau à Eziéro
  • Volume 4 covers family surnames Fabas à Jinines
  • Volume 5 covers family surnames Joachim à Mercier
  • Volume 6 covers family surnames Mercin à Robidoux (and yes, that is my family surname…)
  • Volume 7 covers family surnames Robillard à Ziseuse
  • The original set of texts are released under ISBN 0-88545-009-4 (Ed. Elysee)

The texts are not:

  • Perfect; there are errors in the texts.  Most seem to me to involve missing information rather than mis-information. And yes, there are texts providing corrections to Tanguay’s work.  The errata text I am most familiar with was written by Joseph-Arthur Leboeuf; Complement a Tanguay (A compliment to Tanguay) a volume of 600 pages –  which reports the errors and omissions of Tanguay.


When using Tanguay’s texts it is important to note that every entry includes: date and place of wedding of the married pair/couple, the husband and his father (located in the right hand margin), the wife and her father, and finally their children (note the children’s names are in italics.)

Events included in the records most frequently are baptisms (b), marriages (m) and burials (s).

Additional texts published by Tanguay include (they may be purchased at this link):

  • Gleanings from the Registers (1 vol, 300 pages) – “À travers les registres” by Cyprien Tanguay, is a work of about 300 pages which contains hundreds of facts that are historically related to ancestors. This information was collected by Tanguay at the time of records perusal for the seven original volumes. (Available Free here.)
  • Directory of Canadian Clergy (1 vol, 600 pages) – “Répertoire général du clergé Canadien” by Tanguay. This work of Tanguay enumerates Roman Catholic clergy members from the beginning of New France to to 1880. This book gives historical and genealogical information of all clerical individuals and parishes where they worked. (Available Free here.)