Genealogy, New France, Quebec

Seigneuries of the Trois-Rivières Region

I originally wrote this research guide to the seigneuries of the Trois-Riviè,res region, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City, several years ago, but it was not posted at that time. Recently I improved and expanded it.

The portion about the seigneurs has been expanded by about 80% and the content of notarial acts has increased by 30%. In addition, I expanded the research process to also include local history groups, including scholars associated with the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), and information from sources such as Persée, Érudit, Université Laval, University of Toronto, Ciéq, Scap and Séminaires de Nicolet.

When I began researching seigneuries of New France through Google, I usually confined the research process to Canadian-based organizations, archives and research groups. I ignored research results addressing seigneurs and seigneuries of New France which Google indicated could also be found among the 95 Archives départementales de France, the Archives nationales de France in Paris, the Archives de la Marine (France), Archives nationales d’outre-mer (France).

During the 155-year period from 1604 to 1759 when New France was a French colony, thousands of records were simply sent to France, including documents addressing the creation of a seigneury or the appointment of a bourgeois or military officer to the post of seigneur. These original documents are still in France.

Finally, by reading all of the biographies of the seigneurs listed within the attached compilation, I realized that many, if not most, of the explorers and military officers who were assigned seigneuries were also merchants, exporters, and sometimes ship owners. Most of them derived their incomes from the fur trade industry, and Trois-Rivières was a port of departure for destinations in France.

Following the British Conquest of 1759 and the arrival of Scottish immigrants, the fur industry moved from the Trois-Rivières region to Montréal and the creation of the Scottish Fur Barons of Montreal had its birth.

Click to view this PDF research guide: Seigneuries Region of Trois-Rivières 2018-09-13

The contents of this 97-page guide are as follows:

page 1,  The seigneurs, governors, explorers, military officers, fur traders and leaders of the Jesuit, Recollet and Ursuline religious orders in the area, from the beginning of the colony to the British conquest.

page 16, The seigneuries found in the following areas: on the north shore: Trois-Rivières, Maskinongé, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Saint-Maurice, Yamachiche; on the south shore: Nicolet, Saint-Francois-du-Lac, Yamaska, Gentilly, Bécancour, Baie-du-Febvre

page 44, Regional cemeteries.

page 45, Notaries who worked in the area from the beginning of settlement until 1953, and where to locate their acts.

page 93, Links to information about the Acadians and Loyalists who came to the region.

page 94, Repositories for archival material and other resources, such as books and genealogical databases.

 

 

 

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.

Genealogy, New France, Quebec, Research tips, Resources Outside of Montreal

Finding Ancestors in French Municipal Archives

The attached 43-page PDF addresses the Archives communales de France, also known as the Archives municipales de France. This is the second most important group of archives in France for tracing the families of New France and Acadia. The 95 Archives départementales de France are the number one source of information addressing French Canadians, Acadians, Franco Americans, Franco Ontarians and others. (See also, Researching Your French Ancestors Online, posted May 13, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/13/researching-your-french-ancestors-online/)

There are some 400 municipal archives. I have selected the 124 largest, including archives that offer online access to some files, or at least an online description of the contents.

In 1792, the Assemblée législative de France (The Legislative Assembly of France) took away the responsibility for issuing birth, marriage and death registers from the curés (priests) and gave these duties to local mairies (city halls). At about the same time, a new civil register of France was created addressing acts of birth, marriage, divorce and death. This register was named the Registre de l’état-civil, and the documents were issued by the city halls.

Subsequently, when many cities and towns created their own archives communales (municipal archives), these local municipal archives were assigned responsibility to safeguard the civil registers.

After the creation of the 95 Archives départementales de France, a great number of the local archives communales (municipal archives) turned over their actes de l’état-civil, or copies of these records, to the regional archives départementales. Other municipal archives did not do so. As a result, some of the files found in municipal archives of France can also be found in the regional archives départementales, while other dossiers cannot be found anywhere else.

The majority of genealogy societies in France work closely with their local archives communales. Many of these genealogy societies share the same building or adjacent building to the archives communales of their region.

Here is the link to the PDF: Archives communales de France – 2018-09-04 Rev

Genealogy, Quebec, Research tips

Searching the BAnQ for books and documents

The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), the Quebec provincial library and archives, is making some changes to its online search tool that will impact you if you are looking for some books about history.

Pistard pistard.banq.qc.ca will continue to be the primary search tool if you are searching for documents owned by BAnQ. For example, Pistard is the place to search for records of non-criminal offenses such as unpaid purchases of goods, as well as letters and various documents, maps, diagrams and photographs. You can also find documents that were issued by Judicial Districts of New France, Quebec under British Military Rule, Quebec under Lower Canada and Quebec under Confederation.

What the BAnQ has removed from the Pistard search tool is published books which are not owned by BAnQ. You must now look for such books through the Catalogue cap.banq.qc.ca

A search for the name Bagg through Pistard, for example, brings up a list of 24 documents, several of which are plans (diagrams) of property that belonged to a member of the Stanley Bagg family. You can view images of some documents returned by a Pistard search by clicking on the word Coll. on the far right-hand side of the list of results. You can also try researching this database directly from Google by searching, for example, the words Pistard and Bagg together.

One result from Pistard refers to the records of notary Stanley Clark Bagg, but it just describes the collection. To see the index of his notarial acts, you must search on http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/

A search for the name Bagg through the Catalogue brings up 123 results, only one of which is a book that refers to the family – an archaeological report on the house of Abner Bagg, built in 1821.

If you wish to borrow the excellent book by John Francis Bosher, Négociants et navires du commerce avec le Canada de 1660 à 1760, you would now (2018) conduct your online search through the BAnQ Catalogue.

If you want to borrow the English-language version of the same book by J.F. Bosher, Men and ships in the Canada Trade, 1660-1760A biographical dictionary by J.F. Bosher, the online search process is also done through the new BAnQ Catalogue.

The publisher of these two books, Canada Environment – Canadian Parks Services, has discontinued the sales of the English-language version of this superb book. According to the policy of BAnQ in regard to Canadian authors and Canadian publishers, once a book has been removed from the marketplace, BAnQ will digitize that book and the digitized version can be viewed at two of the 12 repositories of the BAnQ: the Collection nationale within the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal; and BAnQ Québec – Archives nationales du Québec at Université Laval in Quebec City.

You must reserve such digitized books by email. Only the person who has ordered a book by email can have access to these precious and discontinued books. I did so about a month ago, but I have yet to visit the Collection nationale. At my next visit, I will be reminded politely by one of the librarians or technicians that I have not yet reviewed that book on one of the four library computers reserved for such services.

I will explain other aspects of searching on Pistard in future posts.

Genealogy, New France, Resources Outside of Montreal, Social history

Seigniories of the Lower St. Lawrence and of the Côte-du-Sud

If some of your ancestors lived along the south shore of the Lower St. Lawrence River (the Bas Saint-Laurent, as it is often called today,) the attached PDF compilation is designed to help you learn more about their lives.

See PDF:  Seigniories of the Lower St. Lawrence – Revised Version 2018-09-03

The river is tidal here, and so broad that the far north shore is hardly visible. This beautiful area of rolling farmland and salt marshes has been settled for generations, with many residents making a living fishing, building boats and transporting goods and people on the river.

south shore egret
South shore of the Lower St. Lawrence River

Until the 1850s, almost all the land was owned by a few individuals, known as seigneurs, who rented it out to the censitaires, or tenant farmers. Most seigneurs were honest and caring individuals who took care of their tenants. They granted lands to the settlers and financed their first years with money, food, cattle and other animals, farm equipment, wood-cutting tools, building tools and rifles.

In return, the censitaires would repay on a yearly basis their seigneur with beaver furs and other types of fur. They also repaid them with hard-wood, a precious commodity in the 17th century in Europe, for most hard-wood forests no longer existed on the European continent. If the seigneur and his family resided on the seigneury, the censitaires would bring them eggs and meat, as well as fresh milk.

south shore famrland
Farmland along the south shore of the Lower St. Lawrence

Many of the seigneurs on the attached list were merchants or fur traders, and obtained most of their revenue from the sale of wild furs and hard-wood. Some were importers and exporters and dealt with merchants in French port cities such as La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Rouen and Le Havre.

The compilation on the PDF attached includes six main sections:

The Seigneurs: this section focuses on the historic landowners on the south shore of the Lower St. Lawrence, including links to biographies of these individuals.

Regions: the geographic regions described in this compilation are Montmagny, l’Islet, Kamouraska, Témiscouata, Rivière-du-Loup, Les Basques, Rimouski, Neigette, La Mitis (Métis), Matapedia and Matane in the Gaspé.

Cemeteries: a list of historic cemeteries in this area.

Notaries: this compilation includes the names of notaries who worked in this region, the places and years they practised, and the archives where their acts can be found today. The notaries handled important legal documents for people, including wills, marriage contracts, business agreements, land rental and sales agreements, and protests in cases of disagreement.

Bibiothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ): locations and contact information for the archives, and how to order documents online.

Genealogical and historical societies in the region: contact information

With regard to the notaries listed in the attached PDF, the majority of the notarial acts can be obtained through the BAnQ online (free, http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/ or http://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/genealogie_histoire_familiale/genealogie_banq/guide/archives-notariales/index.html), FamilySearch.org (free), or Ancestry.com (subscription). Ancestry has two distinct databases covering different time periods during the lifetime of a notary. Also listed are the notarial acts which can be obtained through Généalogie Québec (Drouin Institute online), (https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en/.

For each notary selected, if a URL address has been posted, this indicates that the genealogy provider’s online databases contains notarial acts. If a URL address has not been posted, this simply indicates that the provider does not own fonds of this particular notary.

Genealogy, New France, Quebec, Research tips, Resources Outside of Montreal

The Seigneuries and Townships of Beauce, Bellechasse, Dorchester and Lotbinière

(Note, this is my last post until September. I have many more compilations ready to post then. Meanwhile, happy summer! Jacques)

The region south of the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and the U.S. border is a tranquil area of forests and farmland. The main highway hugs the shore of the broad St. Lawrence, crossing tributaries such as the Chaudière River, and the land rises gently to the south into the Appalachian Mountains. Today, this area is known as the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec.

The region has a long history of human habitation. Before the 1600s, the people of the Abenaki First Nation lived here. The French founded Quebec City in 1608 and started to grant large tracts of land called seigneuries to aristocrats and military officers. Each seigneury was long and narrow so it could border the St. Lawrence River, the only transportation corridor. Most of the early Europeans were men, including soldiers and fur traders, and the population remained small. In 1663, women arrived in the colony, chose husbands and started families. The population of New France grew quickly.

In 1759, the British defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and a new era of British rule began. Chaudière-Appalaches saw many new settlers arrive from England, Scotland and Ireland, and for the most part they got along well with their French-speaking neighbours. Today, the area remains primariiy French-speaking.

This 59-page guide in PDF format is designed to help you find the records of people who lived in this region. Click on this link to access the PDF:

The_Seigneuries of Beauce Lotbiniere Dorchester and Bellechasse

Contents:

  1. 1 Information on the seigneurs who owned much of the land, including the Lotbinière and Taschereau families.
  2. 5 Descriptions and histories of the region’s seigneuries.
  3. 20 Descriptions of the area’s townships, which were established by the British and date from the 1790s and 1800s. This guide includes links to the churches and cemeteries in these townships.
  4. 27 Descriptions and history of the counties in the region, including when they were created and how they were named and settled.
  5. 30 Towns that changed names over the last 240 years. If the town where your ancestor lived had different names over the years, this will help you identify it.
  6. 44 A list of regional cemeteries in each county or municipality.
  7. 45 Notaries prepared a variety of legal documents for their clients, including land transfers, wills and business agreements. The list of notaries shows where each one worked, the years he practiced and the location of his records at the archives today.
  8. 59 Contact information for the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Quebec City.
Genealogy, Loyalists, Quebec, Research tips

The townships of the Eastern Townships and the seigneuries of the Upper Richelieu River Valley

Today, Quebec’s Eastern Townships and Richelieu Valley areas feature fertile farmland and forests, lakes and rivers, wineries, ski hills and cycling trails for tourists, but at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, these areas were being newly settled by former colonial soldiers, British families, new immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, and Loyalists from south of the border.

This extensive guide to the settlement of these areas includes a description of the counties and townships in southern Quebec where these people settled. It does not attempt to cover any of the First Nations people who lived here before the European settlers arrived.

Quebec’s Eastern Townships and the Upper Richelieu Valley

Here are the topics you will find in this 120-page PDF:

Page 1   Biographies of the governors, land surveyors, missionaries and seigneurs who were influential in this area. Also geographical information about the Eastern Townships and a map of the area in 1792.

Page 6   An alphabetical list of the townships and counties of southern Quebec, with a brief history of the settlement of each area. Places highlighted in the Eastern Townships include Acton, Barford, Brome County, Bury, Compton, Drummondville, Magog, Megantic County, Missisquoi County, Richmond, Sherbrooke, Sutton, Stanstead and Thetford Township. The list of places in the Upper Richelieu Valley begins on p. 68 and includes Lacolle, and Saint-Valentin.  Where place names or jurisdiction have changed, I have indicated the old and new information. I have included links to a variety of web pages including archival sites, cemetery lists, and information about area churches.

Page 72   A list of links to cemeteries in these areas.

Page 75   A list of judicial districts and information on some of the notaries who worked in these communities. This section includes links to the more detailed articles I have written and published on Genealogy Ensemble about important notaries in these areas such as Louis Chaboillez and Peter Lukin.

Page 109   A list of repositories, including branches of the BAnQ, Bishops University and Protestant church archives.

Page 114   Links to some of my own articles on topics such as the saddlebag preachers and the German presence in the Eastern Townships.

Page 115   A list of authors, historians, genealogists and archivists who have contributed to our understanding of the history and people of the Eastern Townships.

Most people do not combine the Eastern Townships (better known in Quebec as les Cantons de l’Est, or l’Estrie,) with the Upper Richelieu River Valley. The Richelieu River lies to the west of the Eastern Townships and connects Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River. I did so because, following the British Conquest of 1759 at the Plains of Abraham, British officers, British and Scottish soldiers, and Loyalist families fleeing the United States after the American Revolution began to emigrate to the shores of the Richelieu River.

They settled along the length of the Richelieu, from the fortified town of Sorel on the St. Lawrence River to the village of Lacolle at the U.S. border, populating towns such as Chambly, St. Johns (also referred to as Dorchester in the 1780s and later renamed Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the original name under French rule), Abbotsford, McMasterville, Otterburn Park, Mount Johnson (Mont-St-Grégoire), the Seigneury of Sir John Johnson, the Seigneury of Gabriel Christie, Henryville, Christieville, Odelltown, Clarenceville, Noyan, Fadden Corner and hamlets along the western sector of Missisquoi Bay.

One reason people chose to live in these areas was that much of the land in Quebec was owned by a few landowners called seigneurs. This system of land ownership, based on feudal principles borrowed from France, continued until the middle of the 19th century. The  Loyalists especially, who had owned their own land in the Thirteen Colonies, did not wish to settle on seigneurial lands and pay a rent yearly to a seigneur whom they had never met. So Governor Frederick Haldimand decided to create the Eastern Townships of Quebec and Governor Guy Carleton (Lord Dorchester) who replaced Haldimand (second term as governor) supported Haldimand’s decision.

 

 

France, Genealogy, Huguenot, Quebec, Research tips

Huguenot Family Lineage Searches

This week’s compilation, “France Huguenot Family Lineage Searches,” is designed to help you find your Protestant ancestors in 16th to 18th century France. It includes links to books and societies that can help you find your ancestral name in France prior to the French Revolution, and it focuses on Protestant aristocratic families. Click on the link to read the pdf document:

France Huguenots Family Lineage Searches

This guide complements the compilation published May 20, 2018 on Genealogy Ensemble on finding Huguenot families in France, “How to Search for Huguenot Ancestors in France”  https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/20/how-to-search-for-huguenot-ancestors-in-france/

In the past, a great deal of research was done on the Huguenots who came to Canada, however, many of the researchers who contributed to this field are now retired or have died. For example, Huguenot Trails (a periodical published by the Huguenot Society of Canada) addressed the Huguenot families who settled in Canada. This periodical stopped publishing in 2002, and the society closed its doors in 2006. The lead authors were Ken Annett and René Péron.  See my post, “Huguenots – Index of Names,” March 6, 2015  https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/03/06/848/  This article consists of a list of family names that appeared in “Huguenot Trails.”

Another fine piece of research is Fichiers Huguenots en Nouvelle France, by Michel Barbeau (http://pages.infinit.net/barbeaum/fichier/index.htm). This database includes only the Huguenot families who settled in New France prior to 1759.  See also, Huguenot Family Names in Nouvelle France, Québec under British rule, Lower Canada, Québec under Confederation – Various Authors. This and other reference works can be found at the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal or at the Collection nationale (same building, different collections.)

Here are some other compilations I have prepared in the past on the Huguenots:

“British, Irish, Scottish, Loyalist, American, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Huguenot Families in Lower Canada and Quebec 1760,” April 8, 2015

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/04/08/british-irish-scottish-loyalist-american-german-scandinavian-dutch-huguenot-families-in-lower-canada-and-quebec-1760/

This compilation is a list of villages, towns and townships in Quebec where various groups of people settled. Many of these places have changed names or disappeared over the years.

 

French Protestant Churches in Quebec,” Nov. 22, 2015

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/11/22/french-protestant-churches-in-quebec/

This compilation includes an article by Huguenot researcher René Péron, the names of Protestant ministers who served these French-speaking congregations and a bibliography for further reading. It includes brief histories of 187 churches, including Anglican, Baptist and other denominations, in which Protestant Quebecers have worshipped between 1600 and today. Finally, this extensive compilation tells you where to find the parish records of these churches.

 

The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the USA and Canada,” April 4, 2014

https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/04/04/the-trail-of-the-huguenots-in-europe-the-u-s-a-and-canada/

This short post is a quote from a book in the library of the Quebec Family History Society in Montreal, The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the USA and Canada, by G. Elmore Reaman, that points to the important role the Huguenots played in New France. According to worldcat.org, this book is available in more than 1000 libraries around the world. It is also available online, https://archive.org/details/trailofhuguenots00ream

 

Huguenot Refugees,” April 2, 2014

https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/04/02/huguenot-refugees/

This post links to several databases and websites.

 

Register of Abjurations,” Feb 3, 2014

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/02/03/register-of-abjurations/

This post covers records of renouncements of faith by Huguenots in New France.

 

France, Genealogy, Huguenot, Research tips

How to Search for Huguenot Ancestors in France

Many people know that the Huguenots were French Protestants who suffered persecution and left France around the 1600s to live in other countries where they felt more welcome. But not many genealogists know that it may be possible to trace their Huguenot ancestors in France. Doing this search online is possible but difficult, so the PDF document below is designed to help.

The Huguenots were members of the Église réformée de France (Reformed Church of France).  Some historians estimate that Protestants accounted for 10% of the population of France in the 16th century. That changed following the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris. Over the next 200 years, the Huguenots left France for England, Sweden, Switzerland, Prussia, Ireland, South Africa, Dutch East Indies, and other countries. A few families settled in New France (Quebec) and Russia. Today, the descendants of these Protestant families can be found around the world.

This research guide has been created in two sections:

1600-1685 – Protestant families in France: where they lived. This section is a general overview of the regions of France under the Old Regime, prior to the French Revolution of 1789-1799. It is only a reference tool since family lineage searches in France are not conducted by regions or provinces under the Old Regime, but under modern-day Départements

The 93 départements of France in which Protestant families resided during the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries (1565-1721) A département is like a state. Since the end of the French Revolution (1789-1799), France has been divided into 95 such states, and each département keeps its records in its own regional archives. There are no archives for Bretagne, Normandie, Aquitaine, Aunis or Bourgogne, nor for any of the more than 40 ancient provinces of France that existed prior to the French Revolution.

Before you search for your ancestor, you need to know where the family originated in France. All online family lineage searches in the 95 archives départementales of France (Regional Archives) are done by communes, meaning villages, towns, townships or cities.

From 92 of the 95 archives départementales of France (regional archives), you can look for your ancestor’s commune and then search church registers (registres des paroisses) from 1535 to 1789 or thereabout, civil registers after 1789, tables décennales (civil registers from 1789 onward by 10-year periods), notarial records. Notarial records are some of the oldest online documents you can access online.

Other online databases on the archives départementales de France will probably not help you in determining the places of origin of your Huguenot ancestors, because these date from after the French Revolution.

I have prepared a research guide to the archives départementales of France (See Jacques Gagne, “Researching French Ancestors Online,” Genealogy Ensemble, May 13, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/13/researching-your-french-ancestors-online/) In that PDF, I have described the documents which can be viewed online for free. If you are looking for Huguenots, concentrate on the Parish Registers (Church Registers, Registres paroissiaux or Registres de paroisses) from as early as 1535, and Notarial Acts (Actes des notaires.) A few of the notarial acts are from the 15th century, but most from the 16th or 17th centuries.

A third option deals with Protestant Church Registers (Registres protestants or Registre pastoral or Registres des Pasteurs), These are the few Protestant church registers that have survived.

Another option for searching the Archives départementales de France is, once you have determined the name of the ”commune” your ancestor resided in, go through the index of family names within the ”commune” section of the search engine and see if your family names are listed, even if the church registers are Catholic.

If you don’t know where your ancestors resided, for each of the 95 archives départementales of France, I have included websites indicating where certain families lived.

Don’t forget that not all members of a particular family became a Protestant. Some family members may have stayed with the Catholic Church.

Finally, just to add one more complication, your family name in France would have had a different spelling than the modern one. My family name in America is Gagné, but the same family in France is Gasnier or Gagnier: same pronunciation, different spelling. When I research online in France, I enter Gasnier or Gagnier as the family name, never Gagné.

Huguenot Families in France 1565-1721

A note about sources:

Much of the information I have compiled about the Huguenots of 16th, 17th and 18th-century France comes from old books that have been digitized. Over a 12-year period, whenever I came across a book dealing with the Huguenots of France, I would extract the names of the communes in which these families resided and add the names of those communes to my database.

I also discovered a database with the names of the Archives des consistoires de France, in which the communes are listed, as well as the Protestant Seigneurs, the Protestant pastors and the names of some of the Protestant families affected by court decisions.

In addition, to these books, I looked at Michelin maps and Larousse dictionaries. They helped me find out, for example, that the town of Bergerac is part of modern Dordogne, a département within the south-west region of France. This region was home to many Protestant families in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

You will find about 15 to 20 regional online databases of Protestant communes in 16th to 18th century France, but only for certain regions. A national listing of the modern départements of France in regard to the Huguenots of past centuries does not exist online.

France, Genealogy

Researching Your French Ancestors Online

The oldest family lineage documents in France were written and recorded by notaries in the 13th and 14th centuries. Marriage contracts, purchases and sales of properties, wills (testaments in France), after-death inventories, estate dossiers and other notarial records were stored in safe repositories in the communes (villages, towns, townships and cities) in they had been written and recorded.

In 1535, acts of baptisms were recorded in Catholic parishes for the first time, while acts of marriages began to be recorded ten years later. These church registers were also stored in safe repositories in which they had been written.

Many years later after the French Revolution (1789-1799), the ancient provinces of France during the Old Regime (the Kings of France) were abolished and replaced by new regional governments called Départements. In 2018, there are 95 such regional Départements in continental France.

Meanwhile, notarial acts and acts of births, marriages and deaths after the French Revolution continued to be recorded and stored for safe keeping in the communes where they had been written and recorded.

Many years later, when the Archives départementales were created in France, Parish Registers and Civil Registers in addition to Notarial Records were also grouped by communes. When these documents were digitized and made available online, the same system of organizing documents and archives was maintained.

Today, you can research your ancestors in France by first selecting the places where they lived. Some 92 of the 95 Archives départementales can be searched online this way. For 92 of the 95 Archives départementales of France, all online genealogical searches are free.

All communes are listed within a particular Département in alphabetical order. For each commune selected, you will find the oldest Parish Registers (1535 onward) and, under the heading of Notaires, you will find the records of the notaries who practiced in each community.

If your ancestors immigrated to Nouvelle France (New France) you can discover your ancestor’s home in France fairly easily on the website Fichier Origine, www.fichierorigine.com, a Quebec-based free search engine that describes the origins of hundreds of settlers in New France.

Whether you are a Franco-American or Franco-Ontarian, if your ancestor first came to New France, you should visit Fichier Origine. If your ancestors from France immigrated directly to the United States, Ontario or Western Canada, I have, for each département of France, listed within the attached research guide, tips on how to locate a family name in each and all Départements of France.

The research guide in the PDF below mostly addresses Catholic families of France. I have compiled a separate research guide addressing the Huguenots in France of the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries.

One great advantage of researching by commune in France within your ancestor’s time period is that you can see who their neighbours were of your ancestors and what other family members lived within a particular community.

I prepared a similar guide to the Archives départementales several years ago, and it was also posted on Genealogy Ensemble. Here are the main differences between the old version and this new one:

  • Content of online offerings
  • Notaries, every year most of these archives are digitizing notarial acts, some dating back to the 15th century and adding them to the online content
  • Free online searches to all, including family lineage researchers in America.
  • Newly found Parish Registers (Church Registers – Catholic) – Church Registers added online which five years back were not available
  • Protestant Church Registers – Les registres protestants – Practically not available a few years back
  • Private fonds – some families are turning over their private letters, family histories to archives
  • Land documents – Cadastre napoléonien 1807-1850 Practically all of the 95 archives of France today offer detailed description of lands online.

Archives départementales de France – Revision – 2018-04-16