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.
In 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.
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!