Genealogy, Quebec, Research tips

Using the BAnQ’s Pistard to Research Your Ancestor’s Life

Some family history researchers complain that Pistard, (pistard.banq.qc.ca), the online search tool for documents stored at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), is too complicated difficult to use because it is only in French. I beg to disagree.

The site offers its own online translation tool, users can buy their own French/English dictionaries or they can use online translation tools such as Google Translate. As for the complaint that Pistard is too complicated, I think that is a myth. Pistard by BAnQ is easy to navigate in both the normal search option and the advance search option.

Remember, Pistard is not an online database of marriages, baptisms and deaths. At the BAnQ, there is an online search engine addressing such events, and it is a good one. See http://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/genealogie_histoire_familiale/ressources/bd/

Nor does Pistard address notarial acts including marriage contracts, land purchases and sales, after-death inventories or guardianship of minors after the death of both parents. BAnQ has a superb online search engine addressing notaries. See http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/ You can search each notary’s index of acts and, when there is an asterisk beside the notary’s name, the acts have been digitized. (Ancestry.ca also has a collection of Quebec notarial records. For hints on using it, see the blog Genealogy a la carte, Oct. 6, 2016, http://genealogyalacarte.ca/?p=16520)

Pistard does include archival resources including letters and other text documents, diagrams, land surveys, photographs, drawings and items on microfilm. It includes an online database addressing issues that were dealt with by judicial courts, judicial appointees by Governors or Lieutenant-Governors of New France or by Intendants of New France and appointees of the latter who acted on behalf of the King of France on subjects such as fraud, breach of contracts, unpaid debts, illegal transactions such as the sales of liquor to first nation people, or simply the removal of a fence.

Let me give a couple of examples using, with her permission, several ancestors of my friend and fellow genealogist Claire Lindell. Two of her pioneer ancestors were Claude Jodoin and Julien Fortin. I searched for each name in Pistard.

Jodoin was a neighbour of two farmers in the Seigneurie de La Chevrotière. When these two farmers argued about the location of a fence between two farms, the regional Justice of the Peace had to settle the issue.

Jodoin in Pistard EN
This is a screen shot of the search result for Claude Jodoin, translated by the BAnQ

The second case I have selected deals with the children of Julien Fortin and Suzanne Quenneville. It appears that, after the death of both parents, their daughter Marie was placed under the care of a Jean-Baptiste Lachaise and/or a Pierre Charbonneau. This one is not clear: only the actual document could clarify the reason the judicial system had to solve the issue.

Fortin Pistard
A search in Pistard for Julien Fortin brought up this result, and I then applied the BAnQ’s online translation tool. 

 

The online description of each document posted on Pistard is only a recap of the real document, which is stored in one of the 12 branches of the BAnQ across Quebec. In some cases, Pistard will link you to an image of the original document and a brief description of the case. If not, you can obtain the complete file through an email request.

For each query on Pistard, search results indicate the Cote (Shelf)  #, the Judicial District or Region and the Dossier (file) #. Then, through an email to the repository where the document is kept, you can obtain a download within a few days, for free.

A few months back, I had a telephone conversation with a clerk at BAnQ Vieux-Montréal. I asked her, if you receive an email in the English language, will you reply in English? She replied yes, adding that she was then working on a query from Australia. The person said his ancestor, who had been a Quebec Patriot during the Rebellions of 1837-1838, had been deported to Australia. The BAnQ clerk sent this researcher numerous documents about his ancestor at no charge.

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