Browsing the 1666 Quebec Census


If you, as I, have sprung from the earliest of French-Canadian roots you may be overwhelmed by the vast expanse of records.  While it is always heartening to see that research sources abound it can also be daunting wading through the piles of paper, the websites, the book stacks, to piece together the stories of our ancestors and decipher the validity of sources.

French-Canadian genealogical research can be hampered also by one’s lack of French language knowledge and the fear of accessing records and documents one cannot comprehend.  I would like to encourage researchers to move beyond this fear and discover a world of exciting documents brimming with rich genealogical details.

fah_canadianIn genealogy, as in many disciplines, it is important to be systematic, bearing this in mind I have decided to produce a series of blog posts introducing novice genealogists to specific French-Canadian document-sets, databases, and resources available online.  The hobbiest must understand that genealogical research should venture beyond sites such as Ancestry and Family Search.  Seasoned researchers, especially those who began their research prior to the onslaught of the internet, focus much of their research deep within the stacks of the archives.  Visiting an archive in person is always preferable but today we are lucky to find more and more archives are updating their websites with digital databases, many including images of original documents.

I am planning a series of blog posts regarding specific French-Canadian records and collections available online for those who are newly venturing into French-Canadian research.  Today I will focus on the early Quebec census records which should represent a wonderful starting point for those struggling with the other language-rich French-Canadian sources we will later explore.

The Library and Archives of Canada website is just one place you can access some wonderful online digital databases.  A particular favourite of mine is that of the 1666 Quebec Census which is not indexed but is a collection of browse-able images.  While they may be rather difficult at times to decipher there are some decent online transcriptions which can be used to help you as you work through the originals.  One of these transcriptions can be found on Hugh Armstrong’s Genealogy Site.  The transcriptions are divided by region so you must be sure to match up the correct region to the correct portion of the original census.


Sample page from the 1666 Quebec Census

You will also find the 1667  and 1681 Quebec Census record images.  All these early census records include the names of all household members and ages.  The 1666 census also includes occupations or descriptors.  These records as you should expect are in French however the nature of the census as a listing of names and ages makes them easily comprehensible to even those with little experience of the French language.  They are a fabulous starting point for those breaking into the realm of French-Canadian research.

Some helpful vocabulary you may encounter in the 1666 Census:

travaillant ~ labourer                         Cordonnier ~ shoemaker   macon ~ builder                           charpentier  ~ carpenter                   menuisier ~ carpenter        fils ~ son                                      Sa femme ~ wife                                  habittant ~ settler                boulanger ~ baker       chapellier ~ bricklayer                      fille ~ daughter                      briquetier ~ bricklayer           Domestique Engaigé ~ Domestic    notaire ~ notary

These are just a few words you may encounter.  Use Google translate or go “old school” as I often do and invest in a French-English dictionary.

I look forward to delving further into the topic of French-Canadian online resources, including collections from Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (BANQ), in future blog posts!



Exploring the lives of First Nations’ Ancestors Through Investigations of Social History!


If, like me, you have been lucky enough to discover you have First Nations’ ancestry you may soon after feel somewhat unlucky when you find that the records we rely on as Genealogists quickly dry up!  As we start to wall up that family line one brick at a time we should step back and rethink.  Is there no way to combat this scarcity of documentation?  How do we as Genealogists and Family Historians handle cultures which thrived on oral tradition rather than written records?

As an archaeologist and history researcher I can assure you that the scarcity of records proving the life events of your individual ancestors does not have to represent a research wall but rather a unique research opportunity.  Once the usual records dry up remove that first brick by discovering what other post-contact documents may exist.

huron-missionsMy 8th Great Grandmother was Huron or Wendat (Wyandot).  The Wendat people no longer exist as a nation.  They were drastically reduced as a result of European introduced disease, and Iroquoian attacks.  Those who survived were often assimilated into the other Iroquoian nations.  I encountered my 8th Great Grandmother through the Roman Catholic Church parish records (Drouin collection).  She had married my French Canadian 8th Great Grandfather and was described as a “Huron”.  Her parents were named as was her birth place in a Huron mission in the “land of the Huron” now part of Ontario.  While these parish records would seemingly represent the end of the research road they were not.

The Huron missions were the purview of the Jesuits who were prolific writers, journaling and writing letters detailing their experiences.  The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents provide an amazing source of documentation and social history.  Though written from a European perspective a picture of life can be painted.  An interesting aside to always consider is regarding the perspective and worldview of documents created during colonization and their pitfalls.  Dr. Sarah Nickel has touched on this problem in an interesting presentation entitled, Revealing Indigenous Histories Through Oral Interviews.

le_grand_voyage_du_pays_des_hurons_1632_gabriel_sagard Can one turn to Indigenous oral history interviews to discover the social histories of our ancestors?  It is possible, though the value of these oral histories may fade the further you venture into the past.  If ones researching First Nations ancestors in more recent generations the options are more varied and available.

In the case of my Huron ancestors few records exist beyond those involving my 8th Great Grandmother.  While she can be found in parish and notary records her parents were only names appearing on her marriage record.  It was through the Jesuit Relations that I found one mention of her father.  A stroke of luck!  To fill in any further gaps I was reliant upon sources of social history to understand the Huron world of the 1600s and before, the world of my ancestors–context!

History books, ethnographies, dictionaries/linguistic studies, archaeological reports are all examples of pre and post contact sources of helpful contextual information.  Having worked on a pre-contact Huron archaeological site in Ontario I was already a step ahead in my understanding but here is a list of reading I discovered:

“From Mother to Son: The Selected Letters of Marie de l’Incarnation to Claude Martin” or “Word from New France: The Selected Letters of Marie de L’Incarnation to Claude Martin”Words of the Huron by John Steckley
The Children of Aataentsic by Bruce Trigger
An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649 by Elisabeth Tooker
The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs by Emma Anderson
Huronia by Conrad Heidenreich
Huron Wendat: The Heritage of the Circle by Georges Sioui

Many of you who were previously unaware of your First Nations heritage will likely have Metis ancestors.  Compilations particularly of French-Canadian and First Nations marriages exist and can also prove useful.  If they have been sourced, all the better!

  • First Metis Families of Quebec Series by Gail Morin

Metis documentation is perhaps easier to find, most specifically in the prairies.  Metis are of mixed Aboriginal and European heritage.  The government wishing to expand in the west used scrip to extinguish the aboriginal land title of Metis peoples.  Métis Scrip Records can be found in the Library and Archives of Canada collection.  Other excellent prairie Metis record databases and collections can be found at Glenbow Library and Archives, The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, and Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan.

perles_christi_belcourtWe must remember that First Nations is meant to indicate a multitude of indigenous nations.  As a first step attempt to determine which nation to which your ancestor belongs.  It is this knowledge which will provide a starting point when determining available sources.  What region of Canada might your ancestor have lived in? In what treaty area?  Consider the time frame.  Then begin!  Research the particular First Nation through history books and ethnographies to determine what was happening during the period of interest and perhaps what documentation might be relevant.

Library and Archives Canada has several collections which could be useful and provides a Guide to Researching your Aboriginal Genealogy at LAC.  Of particular interest to those researching more recent generations might be the registers which start around 1951, Treaty Annuity Pay Lists 1850-1982, and Residential school records.

Other wonderful sites which may provide you with valuable resources:

  • Our Legacy
  • Canadiana (which is unfortunately a subscription site but one can browse the collection titles before subscribing)

2_huron-villageLook to archaeology reports to gain a greater understanding of the life of your ancestors pre-contact.  Archaeological societies exist for most provinces and publish regular journals.   Here are two examples of archaeological reports from a Huron site I once worked on:

Finally, think outside the box by reading well researched fiction for a broad feel of the period and the culture.  Keep in mind it is fiction!  A wonderful example would be The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Explore historic sites, cultural centres, and museums dedicated to First Nations history.

Remember, the end of the “usual” records we as Genealogists tend to rely on does not necessarily signal a brick wall.  If a wall exists perhaps we can, at the very least, build a window through which we can view the possibilities of the more distant past!


Sympathy Saturday ~ Uncle Jean-Marie

Jean-Marie Loranger 1947-1963

Jean-Marie Loranger 1947-1963

My father was one of twelve children.  A typical French Canadian family of Northern Ontario, prolific and poor!  What I always found humorous was the symmetry of the family’s composition: a tidy six boys and six girls.  My dad would tell stories of his childhood home.  A room for the boys and one for the girls, children sleeping like match sticks tightly packed in a bed with one or two sleeping perpendicular at their feet.  But that perfect symmetry was disrupted in January of 1963!

It is not enough to say with a dozen who misses just one?  Each child has unique value and as parents it is the greatest of losses losing a child regardless of how many there are “to spare”.  I would venture to say the loss of her son, Jean-Marie, was probably the most difficult trial of my grandmere’s life.

The Loranger Family before the birth of their youngest child.

The Loranger Family before the birth of their youngest child. Jean-Marie appears to the far left (my dad just behind him peeking over his head).

Jean-Marie Loranger, born 31 May 1947, was walking home when he was hit by a car and killed 19 January 1963 in Larder Lake, Ontario.  He was 15 years old! Only two years younger than my father, I think my dad felt the loss in a very real way for it was through him that I learned of Jean-Marie as I was growing up.  Dad had a photo of his brother and had told us of the accident. Similar in age and the eldest of the boys, I imagine they were not just brothers but friends!   My son will be 15 this summer and the thought of such a family tragedy is truly unbearable!

Though I was born over a decade after my uncle’s death and I did not know him I feel a connection.  Perhaps it is  through the stories of my father, perhaps it is the effect of a photograph on an impressionable mind, but I remember Jean-Marie in my soul.  I picture him in my mind’s eye–traipsing through the bush with my dad, skipping rocks in the water, teasing and taunting his sisters.  There is possibly a chemical or biological connection to our ancestors that allows us to know and sense things about them regardless of having never met them!

Jean-Marie's Headstone, Kirkland Lake, Ontario

Jean-Marie’s Headstone, Kirkland Lake, Ontario

Jean-Marie is buried in the cemetery in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.  I am hoping to find a newspaper article detailing the accident from the Temiskaming newspapers in the future.
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Monday Madness ~ Little Bouts of Insanity

A photo of the devastation from the Hailybury fire of 1922 "Haileybury 1922" by Russell Photo - Haileybury Heritage Museum (Virtual Museum Canada (online source)).

A photo of the devastation from the Hailybury fire of 1922
“Haileybury 1922” by Russell Photo – Haileybury Heritage Museum (Virtual Museum Canada (online source)).

I think we all have a little story of madness…either we have experienced our own bouts of temporary “insanity”, or we have had encounters with others experiencing their own madness.  While reading a local history book article written by my father’s cousin regarding my Grandmother’s family I had to chuckle about a horrible story of madness.  Yes, I did chuckle but only because the outcome of the story was a happy ending and the story seemed so unbelievable.

Having lost everything in a great fire which had engulfed their community, my Grandmother’s family went to stay with a neighbour.  It was there that the neighbour lady who was suffering a mental illness took my Great-uncle Anicet and tried to stuff him into the wood stove! I have included the quote of this tale  which I have translated from the original French:

Joseph Beland and Dorilda Boulay, my grandparents, left their home town (village of birth) Ste-Ursule in the county of Maskinonge, in 1917. They came to establish themselves with their four children in the promised land of Nedelec, in the Temiskaming. Their children: Dorilda age 5, Francoise age 4, Arthur age 3, and Paul-Emile age 1. They were not rich and they settled the land and, as most of us know, the farm land of Nedelec is rich in stones (full of stones). But grandpa had the heart to overcome this challenge and give his offspring a good life in this rather wild area called Temiscaming. The 22nd of August 1918 Gerald was born, followed by Bernadette in 1920. The 8th of August 1922 Anicet was born; this was the year of the great fire in Hailybury. The family lived peaceful days in their humble dwelling, when a neighbour arrived running to tell them to get out of the house quickly as the fire was heading their way and was close. It must be said that literally the fire ran the fields and, as it was a very dry autumn, it burned everything in its path. Grandma picked up her small children and ran to the neighbours who gave them a place to stay. The neighbour lady (the lady that lived there) suffered from a mental illness and at one point she seized baby Anicet, to put him in the wood stove. But because of her watchful eye and maternal instinct, grandma saved her youngest. The great fire proved to be a terrible ordeal for the Beland family. They lost everything but the clothes on their backs. The neighbours were generous, but they too were suffering from the disaster. In 1934 they moved onto a farm in Belle-Vallee, To situate you it was the land of Phillipe Goudreault.

An excerpt from an article written by Diane Beland printed in “Raconte-moi ton histoire: Belle-Vallee et Judge 1909-2009”

Having read this vignette what touched me was that my dad’s cousin knew this story only through narrative tales told by her grandparents.  Her father Anicet had only been a baby at the time of the event.  I called my dad to talk about this story and he reiterated the tale.  He had heard this story too from his grandparents and from his mother, Bernadette (my grandmere).  It is often those little bouts of madness which live on in a family’s oral history!
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Church Record Sunday ~ Quebec Church Records a Great Start if you Have French-Canadian Heritage!

St. Anne 85One 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!

Sample page of baptisms.  My 5th Great Grandfather's baptism is listed at the top, Pierre Cote, Jan 1724

Sample page of baptisms. My 5th Great Grandfather’s baptism is listed at the top, Pierre Cote, Jan 1724

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, 1747-1967Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941 and even Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954, These are available with a paid subscription on Ancestry.

Marriage Record Sample Page (Marriage of my 5th Great Grandfather Pierre Cote and Barbe Riopel his second wife is on this page).

Marriage Record Sample Page (Marriage of my 5th Great Grandfather Pierre Cote and Barbe Riopel his second wife is on this page).

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.

Death and burial record Page . (Again Pierre Cote's entry is on this page from 1803 L'Ange Gardien, Montmorency, Quebec).

Death and burial record Page . (Again Pierre Cote’s entry is on this page from 1803 L’Ange Gardien, Montmorency, Quebec).

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!

An excerpt from a page in Tanguay.  Notice it is alphabetical and then by marriage date.  A few of my Beland ancestors appear in this excerpt.

An excerpt from a page in Tanguay. Notice it is alphabetical and then by marriage date. A few of my Beland ancestors appear in this excerpt.

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!

Sunday Surprises! A Brick Wall Demolished.

 Sketched by G. R. Dartnell, Esq., surgeon of the 1st Royal Regiment, Penetanguishene, Oct. 12th, 1836

Sketched by G. R. Dartnell, Esq.,
surgeon of the 1st Royal Regiment, Penetanguishene, Oct. 12th, 1836

I had every intention this evening of writing a 2nd installment to follow my Thriller Thursday story of My Great-Great Grandfather John Carter but I had a lovely evening with friends which went late into the evening so time forbids such an intricate tale.  Another reason for my change in subject however is a surprise tumbling of a genealogical brick wall today.

I had mentioned previously the brick wall I had been pondering — the Burgie family of Collingwood, Simcoe, Ontario.  I had inquired with the Collingwood library about some obituary notices to see if they would produce any leads.  These took me back one generation further but again the trail ran cold. I had once again stalled!

Breaking through one brick wall only to slam into another is something I do not accept!  I suspected the Burgie name was not the true surname but I had nothing to cling to regarding this suspicion. I decided to take my query about the family to the Ontario Genealogical Society Facebook page last night and by this morning I had a wealth of possibilities presented to me.  Some information I already possessed, some I was easily able to dismiss, but then there came a piece that fit precisely into the picture my research had formed!

The name Burgie was, as I had suspected, a changed surname, a variation  of the name Berger.  Joseph Burgie–the ancestor which had caused a stand still in my research was the son of Joseph Berger and Marie Beaudoin.  Ah ha! Territory I can understand, French-Canadian territory.  Joseph Berger, born in Montreal, it seems was a Voyageur in the fur trade venturing to Drummond Island.  The history of Drummond Island, its British Garrison, and the island’s change of hands from those of the  British to those of the Americans in the years after the war of 1812 are subjects I will be studying further.

The Voyageurs Migration from Drummond Island after the American take over.

The Voyageurs Migration from Drummond Island after the American take over.

I am now vigorously sifting through this new burst of information!  I believe I may now be able to trace the family back into Quebec, if not France.  Time will tell!  Forgive my mixed metaphors, but sometimes all it takes is one ray of light; One foot in the right direction and a stand still turns into a run!!

Sorry so short!  Hopefully this breakthrough will remind you that Facebook Genealogy Society pages can be a wonderful resource, as are libraries, and asking for a little help to steer your research in the right direction by presenting you with more obscure possibilities from local resources you may not have access to any other way!
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Surname Saturday ~ Rivard “dit” Loranger, “dit” Lavigne….”dit”…”dit”…

Tourouvre, Normandy, France

Tourouvre, Normandy, France

Studying genealogy crosses into uncharted cultural territory on occasion and it is extremely important that one understand nuances of that culture’s history in order to be effective in one’s research.  Though I am a smattering of this and that culturally climbing out on my maternal branches, on my paternal line I am always climbing out of a French-Canadian limb (well with a First Nations twig or two)!

I make the French-Canadian distinction based on my family’s long history in the new world.  Since the 1500s and 1600s my ancestors have been clearing and plowing, portaging and trapping, trading and building, and–let’s face facts–fraternizing and procreating in the land they called New France!  Prior to their lives here in Canada the majority of my paternal ancestors trace their origins back to Normandy, France.

One of the Rivard homes in Tourouvre, Normandy, France (Quite rundown in these more recent photos)

One of the Rivard homes in Tourouvre, Normandy, France (Quite rundown in these more recent photos)

French-Canadian genealogy can be both challenging but also extremely rewarding.  The records available to French-Canadian family historians abound thanks to the diligent record keeping of the Roman Catholic Church however if one is not familiar with the cultural anomaly of the “dit” name then all hope is lost!

When I began my research I knew that the surname Loranger had at some point in history been changed from the surname Rivard.  This was how it had been explained to me by family members.  It wasn’t until I encountered the transition between names that I was confronted with the “dit” name and the change in name became clear.

“Dit” is a form of the French verb “dire” which means “to say or tell”.  In this instance it means “said” as in “said individual”.  The “dit” name–as we have termed it–is in a loose sense a  sort of nickname or alias.  In actuality, it is more similar to the Scottish and their clan names, meant to make the distinction between various branches of a family line.  Truly there are many origins to the dit names used in French Canada and the explanations are almost as varied as the names themselves. Many were originally the “nom de guerre”, a troop name grouping military members, the origins of others truly did approach the origns of nicknames–names based on an aspect of appearance, or based on the place from which the family came.  In the case of the dit name Loranger it is said that perhaps it referred to a supporter of William the Orange but more likely a reference to red hair!  In later years the original surname was often dropped to be replaced by the “dit” name or the “dit” name was simply dropped by others.

Regardless of the origins and understanding of the “dit” name as long as one is aware of their existence there are now very helpful charts to decipher the puzzle of connecting one name to another!

Names of Canadiens baptized in St. Aubin, Tourouvre, France

Names of Canadiens baptized in St. Aubin, Tourouvre, France

My name Loranger was the dit name of my 8th Great-Grandfather, Robert Rivard dit Loranger, the youngest son of Pierre-Nicholas Rivard and Jeanne Mullard of Tourouvre, Orne, Basse-Normandie, France.  Robert Rivard dit Loranger arrived in New France/Canada in 1662 at the age of 24. He was granted land and he married Madeleine Guillet, the 14 year old daughter of a Filles-du-Roi, in 1663.  Madeleine also happened to be his brother’s niece. Robert and Madeleine had 13 children.

Robert had followed his older brother Nicholas Rivard dit LaVigne, already arrived in New France in 1648, and who–in a confusing web of family connections–is also my 8th Great-Grandfather. Robert and Nicholas were both landowners in New France but Robert was not one to sit still.  He cleared land in half to time of others and decided to venture into the fur trade. First signing with the “Company of the North” in 1689 at the age of 50 he decided to partner with friends and relations in 1695 to create their own fur trading business known as the “Compagnie Royale”.

Nicholas Rivard dit Lavigne had been a captain in the militia in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. Nicholas Rivard dit Lavigne`s dit name referred to his title “Sieur de La Vigne” after his mother’s property “Clos de La Vigne” in Tourouvre, France. A road sign marks the location of this property today.

Sign today marking the Tourouvre Property of Jeanne Mullard.

Sign today marking the Tourouvre Property of Jeanne Mullard.

I have to fight the urge to run off on a tangent here describing the exploits of these amazing men and their families but I am losing sight of the focus: Surnames!  While several descendants of Robert Rivard dit Loranger carried on the Loranger dit name and then eventually dropped Rivard, others introduced new dit names which were adopted as surnames, and–as though things weren’t confused enough– still others kept the original Rivard surname.  The descendants of Robert Rivard hold the names: Rivard, Loranger, Feuilleverte, Bellefeuille, Despres, Montendre, and Maisonville.  The descendants of Nicholas Rivard now may hold the surnames: Rivard, Lavigne, Lacoursiere, Lanouette, Preville, LaGlanderie, Dufresne, and Giasson.

If you are of French-Canadian origin and bear any of the above surnames then “Salut! Mes Cousins!”  It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance!
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