One of the most amazing advantages of being French Canadian is the wealth of records available. The majority of these records are courtesy of the Roman Catholic Church. These are essential to my genealogical research, so much so that I use them daily and have links to the collections on my Ancestry home page. As a genealogist you know how trying it is to be confronted with a shortage of records but in French-Canadian research it is almost overwhelming, dates and names swirling endlessly in my head. It may take years to sift through each church record thoroughly!
The Droin Collection is a collection of French-Canadian vital records and genealogical information collected by the Institut Généalogique Drouin. There are six databases within the collection: Quebec, Vital and Church Records, 1921-1967, Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946, Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967, Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942, Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941 and even Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954, These are available with a paid subscription on Ancestry.
Though most of these records are church records two copies of each of these records were made at the time of the event one for the civil government and one for the parish. The Droin Collection is made up of the Civil government copies.
Another collection which stems from Quebec church records which I use daily is the Quebec, Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families (Tanguay Collection), 1608-1890 (Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes (Collection Tanguay), Québec, 1608 à 1890). Though this is a genealogical dictionary which lists early French-Canadian families it was written by a priest, and genealogist in his own right, Cyprien Tanguay based primarily on parochial records but also other archival records. His seven volume work contained several errors and some gaps or omissions but ultimately it is one of the greatest French genealogical publications and projects–I’d venture–ever produced by one individual! His life’s devotion to this genealogical work has continued to provide a fabulous foundation or starting point for French-Canadian genealogists such as myself! There are also many later supplements available which have made corrections to Tanguay’s original work and additions. I have found the majority of my work from Tanguay has been quite accurate as I back it up with other documents, so I do tend to find it a reliable and verifiable source but just as any “copied” work you must bear in mind the possibility of error!
Looking for the parishes in Quebec? I have recently stumbled upon a wonderful clickable map of Quebec’s Catholic parishes at Genealogie Quebec. This is free to use, though the site Genealogie Quebec is a subscription site.
You must also remember that the majority of these church records will be in French. As a Canadian I have a decent command of the language and as a French-Canadian I have relatives like my dad, aunts, uncles, and grandmother who can always aid in any difficult translations. If you are struggling with the French I would recommend using Google translate to find key terms and dates in French that may assist you or join a French genealogy group like a Facebook page for French-Canadian Genealogy or Quebec Genealogy and ask for assistance. Contact me, maybe I can help!
I am admittedly no expert in French-Canadian genealogy but I have however gained a great deal of experience during my years of research and I am always learning more. There are a wealth of record sources, but always consider the importance of church records for those vital facts: vital dates (births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials), names of parents, spouses, and sometimes family members as witnesses.
Dive into your French-Canadian gene-pool today!