Category Archives: France

The Protestants of Paris in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Protestantism in Paris

The first national Protestant synod was held in Paris in 1559.  See the following French language text by Christiane Guttinger; scroll down the page for the English translation.

http://www.huguenots.fr/2010/09/le-premier-synode-national-protestant-reuni-a-paris-en-1559/

The City of Paris is home to splendid archives, libraries and societies in the repositories of which you may find partial answers to your questions about an ancestor who might have been a member of the Église réformée de France or l’Église luthérienne en France from as early as 1555 in the Paris region.

Some of the leading societies or repositories addressing Huguenots in the Paris region are: Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français, Comité protestant des amitiés françaises à l’étranger (Paris), BnF – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), Archives nationales de France (Paris), Archives de Paris, Archives départementales de Paris, Archives départementales – Essonne, Archives départementales – Eure-et-Loir, Archives départementales – Hauts-de-Seine, Archives départementales – Loiret, Archives départementales – Seine-et-Marne, Archives départementales – Seine-Saint-Denis, Archives départementales – Val-de-Marne, Archives départementales – Val-d’Oise – Archives départementales – Yvelines, Archives départementales – Yonne – Archives municipales of the region of Paris

If you are researching French Protestant ancestors who came to North America, you may find the following site of special interest: The Huguenot Refuge in America is an online museum and website in French, English and German.  See https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/le-refuge-huguenot-en-amerique/

The following 45-page compilation in PDF format is designed to help you research Protestants in the Paris area in the 16th and 17th centuries. Click here:  The Protestants of Paris 16th, 17th centuries

This compilation includes various listings; a list of books and articles on the subject (many of these are in French; you can use an online tool such as Google Translate to help understand these texts); a list of historical societies concerned with Protestantism in France; a list of online archival resources including databases, libraries and museums; links to the national library of France, national archives of France, the archives of Paris and other departmental and municipal archives; links to historic Protestant newspapers; French genealogical links; a list of publishers.

See also the following related posts on Genealogy Ensemble:

Jacques Gagné, May 20, 2018, «How to Search for Huguenot Ancestors in Francehttps://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/20/how-to-search-for-huguenot-ancestors-in-france/

Jacques Gagné, June 3, 2018, «Huguenot Family Lineage Searches,»  https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/06/03/huguenot-family-lineage-searches/

Jacques Gagné, May 13, 2018, «Researching Your French Ancestors Online,» (the attached updated PDF describes how to research in the Archives départementales de France, the country’s 95 regional archives)  https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/13/researching-your-french-ancestors-online/

Jacques Gagné, Jan. 27, 2019, «The National Archives of France, » https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/01/27/the-national-archives-of-france/

Jacques Gagné, Dec. 16, 2018, «BNF Gallica» (Bibliothèque nationale de France) https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/12/16/bnf-gallica/

Jacques Gagné,  Sept. 23, 2018, «Finding Ancestors in French Municipal Archives» https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/09/23/finding-ancestors-in-french-municipal-archives/

Protestants in Quebec

Recently, the news media reported that Quebec Premier François Legault stated that “all” French Canadians are Catholic. While it is true that, historically, almost all francophone Quebecers were Catholic, today many are lapsed Catholics while others are atheists. There are also those who, for a variety of reasons, switched from the Catholic Church to a Protestant religion.

In my own case, I became a Protestant in my mid-forties. My father, Lionel Gagné, was also a Protestant. At a young age, he lost both his Catholic parents and was placed in a Catholic orphanage in east-end Montreal. At about the age of seven or eight, he was taken in by a Huguenot teacher and his wife, a Presbyterian from Massachusetts, who were teachers at a bilingual Protestant College in Pointe-aux-Trembles. This college was operated and financed at the time by McGill University and the Presbyterian Church of Canada.

Like many people, Premier Legault is probably not aware that a small minority of French Quebecers had Protestant ancestors, many of whom were forced to give up their religion when they settled here. Genealogist Michel Barbeau has estimated that about 320 Huguenots, or French-speaking Protestants, settled in New France between 1634 and 1763. See the database of names he identified as Huguenots: http://pages.infinit.net/barbeaum/fichier/index.htm). You can read more about the history of the Huguenots on Barbeau’s website Our Huguenot Ancestors, http://pages.infinit.net/barbeaum/huga/index.htm

Many of these people came to North America to escape from persecution in Europe, however, they did not find life much easier in New France. Many were forced to abjure, or renounce, their religion and others became Catholic after marrying in the Catholic Church. Those who remained Protestant were banned from certain trades, while some had their possessions confiscated.

Here are links to two of my research guides to the Huguenots of New France:

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

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

The following article describes the early Protestant churches of Quebec City:

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/02/03/the-protestant-churches-of-quebec-city-1629-1759/

In addition to being a list of French-language Protestant churches and their ministers, the research guide below includes an excellent article by Réne Péron about the lives of Protestants in New France, a list of books and authors who have written on the subject, and contact information for the archives of Protestant churches where you can find church registries:

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

The following research guide is a list of villages, towns and townships across Quebec where people from a variety of origins, including Huguenots, settled:

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

In 2020, I will be posting a series of articles about the Huguenots in Europe. The first will focus on the Protestants of Paris and surrounding region in the 16th and 17th centuries.

La Fermière Louise Mauger

Louise_Mauger_sculpture

Women are rarely commemorated with a statue. There is one, La Fermière, in front of Marche Maisonneuve in Montreal’s East End. It depicts a woman holding a basket of produce. It was sculpted by Alfred Laliberté and he dedicated it to Louise Mauger, as a glorification of traditional rural values. She was one of the early settlers of Montreal and not the only person celebrated with a monument. Louise was my eight times great grandmother.

1024px-Marché_Maisonneuve_3
La Fermiere statue in front of Marche Maisonneuve

Both Louise (1598) and her husband Pierre Gadoys (1594) were born in Saint Martin d’-Inge in Perche, France. They came to New France about 1636 as part of a settlement initiative by Robert Giffard de Moncel, the first Seigneur of colonial New France. Records have them living and farming on the Beauport Seigneurie in 1636 and Pierre employed by the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal pour la Conversion des Sauvages, at Sainte-Foy or Sillery from 1643 to 1645.

Tracing families back is quite easy in Quebec as the church records of births, marriages and deaths, kept from the beginning of the colonies have been well preserved. My maternal grandmother was a Bruneau and her direct male line goes back to Francois Bruneau, my seven-time great grandfather, who arrived in New France in 1659.

The Bruneau family tree is just part of my story. There are all the women back through the tree who were only a name, their families not mentioned. A seventh times great grandfather is one of 256 grandfathers which means there are also 256 grandmothers who have their own stories.

I started with Sophie Marie Prud’homme who married Barnabé Bruneau, my two times great grandparents. Tracing back the Prud’homme line I arrived at Louis Prud’homme who arrived in New France in the 1640s, where he met and married Roberte Gadoys. Roberte came from France in the 1630s with her father Pierre Gadoys, her mother Louise Mauger and her brother Pierre.

Pierre Gadoys (Gadois, Gadoua) my 8th time’s great grandfather moved his family to Montreal shortly after this because of the many attacks by the Huron and Algonquin on settlers around Quebec City. Montreal was fortified. In 1648, he was the first person to be granted land in Montreal (Ville-Marie) by the governor, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. He was known as the “Premier Habitant or first farmer”1. The 40 arpents grant was from the current St Paul Street north to the Petite Riviere between St. Pierre and Bleury. In 1666 he was granted another 60 arpents for helping Charles LeMoyne fight the Iroquois.

Just as important as the first farmer is the first farmer’s wife. Louise had a lot of work to do. The couple had six children, possibly seven. Roberte, Pierre and Etienne (is the question mark) were born in France, while Francois, Jeanne and Joseph on the Seigneurie of Beauport and Jean-Baptiste was born in Sainte-Foy when Louise was 43. Jeanne died at birth, Joseph died in his first month and there is no other information about Francois. According to the 1667 census they had 40 acres under cultivation, six cows and a hired servant.

While Pierre Gadoys died in 1667, Louise lived another 23 years and died in Montreal at the age of 92.

Pierre also has a monument but it is a small trapezoid stone marker in Place d’Youville installed in 1992 as part of Montreal’s 350th celebration. It looks more like a concrete form used to block off a road than a commemoration. It is not a lovely bronze statue in the middle of a fountain.

Bibliography:

1. Dollier de Casson, Francois. Histoire du Montreal 1640-1672. pg 88

Jean-Jacques Lefebvre, “GADOYS, PIERRE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 29, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gadoys_pierre_1E.html.

Fournier, Marcel. 1642-1643 Les Origins de Montréal Diffusion au Canada, 2013.

Le Bulletin Recherches Historique Vol XXXIII Levis – Mars 1927 Nos 3 Les Colons de Montreal de 1642-1667 pgs. 180,181.

PRDH-RAB; Origine des Familles Canadiennes; Parchemin Ancestry accessed January 2019.

Sulte, Benjamin: Histoire des Canadiens Français [1608-1880]: origine, histoire, religion, guerres, découvertes, colonisation, coutumes, vie domestique, sociale et politique, développement, avenir January 1, 1882 Wilson et Cie

Senécal, Jean-Guy(senecal@fmed.ulaval.ca); Sep 27, 1998, compilation OCR de trois documents Word disponible en ligne, ses documents se référant principalement au Tome IV & V, Chapitre IV du livreHistoire des Canadiens-Française de Benjamin Sulte, édition 1977.

Notes:

The statue La Fermière was made by Alfred Laliberte in 1915. It was part of a continent-wide city beautification project.

Pierre Gadoys’ sister Françoise was married to Nicholas Godé. They were present at the founding of Montreal.

It is possible but not proven that Pierre and Louise were in Montreal in May of 1642 for the founding ceremony. Their son Pierre, then 11, was said to have attended with his Aunt and Uncle, Francoise and Nicholas Godé. It was thought that Louise was not at the ceremony as she was attending to Jean Baptiste who was only a year old. Pierre first settled in Sillery with his family but had gone to Montreal in the early 1642 and then returned to Sillery as he was there in 1645.

After his death, Saint-Pierre street was named in his honour.

1666 Census – Pierre Gadois the eldest, 72, inhabitant; Louise Moger, 68, his wife; Jean-Baptiste, 25, gunsmith; Pierre Villeneuve, 25, hired servant. 

1667 Census – Pierre Gadoys, 65; Louise Mauger, his wife, 65; Pierre Villeneuve, domestic, 24; 6 cattle, 40 acres under cultivation.  She was buried March 18, 1690 in Montreal. 

Pierre Gadoys: 1594 – Oct 20 1667 Married 1627 de Igé, Saint-Martin, Orne, France.

Louise Mauger: 1598 – Mar 18 1690

Roberte Gadoys: Baptised Sept 15 1628 France – Sept 14, 1716 Montreal

Pierre Gadois: Nov 17, 1631 or 1632 France– May 18, 1714 Montreal

Etienne Gadois: Baptised Nov 17 1631 France – ? Are Pierre and Etienne the same person??

Francois Gadois: Dec 2 1632 Quebec – ?

Jeanne Gadois: June 26 1638 – June 26, 1638 Quebec

Joseph Godois: Sept 28 1639 – Oct 1639 Quebec

Jean-Baptiste Gadois: Mar 1, 1641 Quebec – April 15 1728 Montreal.

The inscriptions on Pierre Gadois Monument In Place d’Youville, Montreal reads, C’est d’ici que Le 4 Janvier 1648 Maisonneuve determina les bornes de la premiere concession accordee a Pierre Gadoys il fixait ainsi l’orientation des rues de la future Ville” and on another side, Stele erigee grace a L’Ordre des Arpenteurs- Geometres du Quebec, a L’Association des Detaillants de Monuments du Quebec, aux Archives Nationales du Quebec, aux Productions D’Amerique Francaise et Au Groupe de Recherche de Raymond Dumais Archivist.”

Books and Articles about the Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders of New France

Many books and articles have been written about the history of New France and the merchants who were involved in the fur trade there. If you discover one of your ancestors worked for a trading company, was a coureur de bois or owned ships that transported furs and goods across the Atlantic, these publications could be of interest to you.

To see the research guide to these publications, click here: The Authors

This is one of a series of posts on Genealogy Ensemble about the merchants, fur traders and ship owners of New France, the trading companies they were associated with and their ports of departure in France.

French Seaports and New France

During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the French competed with the British and Dutch for control of the fur trade in North America.

British merchants traded in Massachusetts and coastal New England from the 17th century until the American Revolution. The British also carried on trade in the Hudson River valley, and they controlled much of the trade out of Hudson’s Bay in the north.

Early on, Dutch merchants were in business in what is now the New York City area. Between about 1830 and 1842, the American Fur Company of New York City, owned by John Jacob Astor, monopolized the fur trade in the United States.

From the late 16th century until New France fell to the British in 1759, merchants from France, New France and Acadia (in today’s Maritime provinces) dominated the fur trade throughout a vast area. They were the leading fur trading merchants in the St. Lawrence River Valley, the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin), the Missouri River Delta, the Mississippi River Delta and the Great West regions in present-day Canada and the American States bordering Canada. French merchants were also present in the Hudson Bay and James Bay regions of northern Quebec in the 17th century and early 18th century.

The French also exploited other resources, such as fish, in North American waters, and they supplied household goods to the farmers who settled in New France as well as goods to trade with the First Nations people.

The merchants who carried on this busy trade had operations at the ports of Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Louisbourg in North America, and they were associated with fellow merchants at various port cities of France.

La Rochelle was one of the most important French ports for trade with New France, along with Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. Saint-Malo was the home port of explorer Jacques Cartier, while Samuel de Champlain, recognized as the father of New France, was based at the port of Honfleur in Northern France. Other French port cities with connections to the new world included Brest, Calais, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Dunkerque, Fécamp, Le Havre, Lorient, Rochefort, Royan and Vannes, while a few ships sailed from Marseille in southern France.

The research guide attached below provides more information about these French ports. Some of the articles are in French, so if you have trouble following them, use an online translation tool such as Google Translate.

To access this research guide, click here: Ports of Departure

This is the fourth in a series of weekly posts about the merchants, fur traders and ship owners who did business with New France, from the time Jacques Cartier planted a French flag on the shores of the Gaspé in 1534 until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 and New France became a British colony.

The series includes a pair of research guides focused on the individual fur traders, ship owners and private bankers involved in trade between France and New France. See https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/05/the-merchants-ship-owners-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-1-a-g/ and https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/10/the-merchants-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-2-h-to-z/

A research guide to the trading companies these merchants were associated with can be found at https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/26/the-trading-companies-of-new-france/

Next week I will post a list of authors and researchers who have written about this period, including links to some of their publications.

The Trading Companies of New France

The fur trade between the First Nations people of North America and the Europeans was central to the history of Canada and the United States. The commerce in furs made fortunes, it changed the lives of the First Nations people forever, it encouraged the French to explore deep into the interior of the continent, and it gave work to hundreds of people.

Cardinal Richelieu

The names of some of the companies that controlled the trade in beaver pelts are still remembered today. The early trading companies that operated as monopolies in the days of New France included the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of One Hundred Associates), 1627-1645, and the Compagnie francaise des Indes occidentales (French West India Company), 1664-1674. Later, the North West Company, 1789-1821, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1870s, competed for dominance.

The Company of One Hundred Associates was created in Paris in 1627 by Armand Jean Duplessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu. Among the leading members of this trading company were explorers, fur traders, merchants, ship owners, bankers, governors of New France and Acadia. They included Samuel de Champlain, Martin Anceaume, Thomas Bonneau, Jacques Bulteau, Henry Cavelier, Antoine Cheffault, Sébastien Cramoisy. Charles Daniel, Jean David, Jacques Duhamel, Arnault Dumas, Thibault Dumas, Jean Guenet, Charles Huault, Pierre de La Haye, Gabriel Lattaignant, Claude de Launay-Razilly, Jean de Lauzon, Simon Lemaistre, Raoul L’Huillier, François de Magny, Adam Mannessier, Georges Morin, François Mouet, Antoine Nozereau, Jean Papavoine, Claude Potel, Guillaume Prévost, Isaac de Razilly, Claude de Roquemont, Jean Rozé, Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, Jean Taffet and André Terru.

Perhaps your ancestor owned or helped to run one of these trading companies. Perhaps he was a coureur de bois who traveled by canoe into the interior of the continent to trade with the indigenous people, and perhaps he married an indigenous woman. Whatever your interest, the attached compilation can help you better understand the roles these companies may have played in your ancestor‘s life.

Click here: Trading Companies

Next week’s post will cover the ports of departure in France associated with the merchants who traded with New France. Following that, I will look at authors who have written about this period and archives where you can find more information.

See also:

“The Merchants, Fur Traders and Ship Owners of New France, part 1, A-G” https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/05/the-merchants-ship-owners-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-1-a-g/

“The Merchants, Fur Traders and Ship Owners of New France, part 2, H-Z” https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/10/the-merchants-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-2-h-to-z/

photo copyright Janice Hamilton

The Merchants and Fur Traders of New France, part 2, H to Z

In the days of New France and Acadia, a merchant, fur trader, private banker or ship owner was sometimes called a négociant, or dealer. Some négociants were based in Canada, but most had their headquarters in France, especially in La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. Other French port cities with connections to the new world included Brest, Calais, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Dunkerque, Fécamp, Le Havre, Lorient, Rochefort, Royan, Saint-Malo and Vannes, while a few ships sailed from Marseille in southern France.

Rich merchants from La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Caen and Rouen often sent young family members to the French colonies of New France, Acadia and Louisiana to manage their North American investments.

Most such dealers, especially those who settled in New France and Acadia, were Catholics. Some were Protestants (Huguenots or Calvinists) and a few from the city of Bordeaux were Jewish. Following the 1759 British conquest of New France, the number of Huguenot merchants increased slightly, at least in Montreal and Quebec City.

These négociants were the people who opened communications between Europe and ports located in the American colonies. Many of the French traders also dealt with associates in South America, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East.

Hundreds of dealers were in business over the approximately 250 years that New France existed. In the compilation attached below, I have only selected a fraction of them, addressing primarily the French traders who dealt directly with family members or associates in New France, Acadia or Louisiana. In regard to the fur traders, I have tried to identify those who had a place of business in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City or Louisbourg. I have also included a few well-known explorers who were associated with merchants in these four towns.

Many of the French traders who were associated with Quebec, Louisiana or the Great Lakes regions are profiled in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. If your ancestor was a fur trader, banker or ship owner, you may find a great deal about his life in this publication, available online or in many libraries. See http://www.biographi.ca/en/index.php or http://www.biographi.ca/fr/index.php for the French-language edition.

This post is the second in a series of compilations focused on these négociants during the period of colonial New France in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The series will include brief biographies of these merchants, background on the French port cities where they were based, information about the trading companies they were associated with, the names of historians and other researchers who have written about this people, and a list of archives where you can obtain further information.

To see last week’s post introducing the merchants, fur traders, private bankers and ship owners of New France with last names beginning A to G, go to https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/05/the-merchants-ship-owners-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-1-a-g/

To read this week’s compilation on the merchants, fur traders, private bankers and ship owners of New France and Acadia with last names beginning H to Z, click on this link: Merchants, Fur Traders and Ship Owners of New France, H-Z Merchants, Fur Traders and Ship Owners of New France, H-Z

The Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders of New France, Part 1, A – G

There are a couple of versions of this story: in 1539, someone told the King of France that explorer Jacques Cartier had found gold and silver along the shores of the Saguenay River. Another source says that Cartier had only suggested there might be gold and silver in the Saguenay region. (It turned out to be fool’s gold.)

According to both sources, however, Cartier suggested that trading beaver pelts and other wild animal furs could become a great source of income for the king. Needless to say, the fur trade turned out to be a lucrative business that lasted for almost 250 years.

Eventually, many types of traders established operations at the ports of Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Louisbourg. All these merchants were associated with fellow merchants at various port cities of France, including La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. And in the days of Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac and Governor of New France between 1672-1682 and 1689-1698, merchants in New France and its territories held a special place among the elite of the French colony.

Some of these traders married in North America, or brought their wives and children with them. They became the ancestors of many French Canadian or Acadian families, but, as of today, few family history researchers have searched for these early merchants, traders, private bankers, ship owners or tannery operators.

If you think you might have merchant ancestors, and you enjoy research online in France and Canada, try searching for the following term: Name of Ancestor (family name only, négociant du 17ème et 18ème siècles en France et Nouvelle-France. You can also try replacing Nouvelle-France with Acadie. This may bring you surprising search results.

First, however, you must determine on the spelling of the family name in France in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. For example, my Gagné brothers who settled Château-Richer near Quebec City in the 17th century were Gasnier in France – same pronunciation, different spelling.

This is the first in a series of weekly posts about these merchants, fur traders and ship owners during the period of Colonial New France (until around 1760.) It will include:

two compilations including very brief biographies of these merchants and usually including their wives’ names;

links to information about the port cities in France with which they traded;

links to information about the trading companies they were associated with;

a list of authors, historians and academic researchers who have studied this period, with links to some of their publications;

a list of the archives and other repositories where you can learn more about this subject.

Click on the link to read Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders A-G

 

The National Archives of France

The National Archives of France is not the most advanced institution in terms of its digitized holdings, however, if you are researching French culture and history, you should be aware of it, and it may be helpful if your French ancestors were among the upper classes.

The Archives nationales (France) is making efforts to facilitate its online research process. You can find an introduction to the catalogue online in French, English and Spanish, and access it from there. For English, see http://www.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr/en/web/guest/salle-des-inventaires-virtuelle. Also go to http://www.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr/en_GB/web/guest/faire-une-recherche

Examples of the archives’ holdings include maps, photographs, documentation from the two world wars, and the records of Paris notaries. In addition, the archives has research centres focusing on topics such as place names and heraldry.

For many years, people with French Canadian or Acadian family lineages who wanted to know more about the research process in France have asked me whether the Archives nationales (France) in Paris was the place to conduct a family search. I have always replied that, if your ancestors in France were considered as nobility (familles nobles), yes, the Archives nationales de France is an online address you should consider. To check out the archives’ holdings on the ”bourgeois families” of France prior to the French Revolution, see https://www.siv.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr/siv/rechercheconsultation/consultation/pog/consultationPog.action?pogId=FRAN_POG_05&existpog=true&preview=false

However, if your ancestor was from the working class, you should conduct your online searches in the 95 Archives départementales de France. See my article https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/09/23/finding-ancestors-in-french-municipal-archives/

At the bottom of the following Archives nationales page, you will find links to a number of sites related to genealogy in France: http://www.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr/web/guest/signets-sciences

For many years the navigation process on the Archives nationales site was burdensome, and results posted from an online search would only indicate the dossier numbers (“fonds”) and a brief description of the fonds, followed by the ”série” (category of fonds) and the ”cote” (shelf  number). If you one wanted additional information on the content of a dossier, you had to send an email to Paris.

As of September, 2018, even if you find your family name, in order to access the biographical material of that family, you must visit the Archives nationales (France) in Paris. To further complicate matters, the Archives nationales has more than one repository in Paris, and you must first determine in which repository the records you want to see are kept. You also need to determine the spelling of the family name in France at the time. For example, my name, Gagné, was spelled Gasnier.

BnF Gallica

As one of Europe’s most important countries, it is not surprising that France has a wonderful national library, and that this institution has a growing online presence. The website of the Bibliothèque nationale de France found at www.bnf.fr (or www.bnf.fr/en for the English version) leads you to the catalogue and tells you how to access the library’s many collections, including antiquities and works published in Paris in the 16th century.

Gallica https://gallica.bnf.fr is the BNF’s vast digital library, free to all through the Internet. Intended for use by all readers, including the casually curious, students and academics, this site includes medieval manuscripts, illustrations from the natural sciences, maps and photographs.

It might not seem obvious how Gallica could assist with your family history research, but you just need to stretch your imagination. The Patrimoine équestre collection, for example, focuses on horses, which were part of our ancestors’ everyday lives. (See https://gallica.bnf.fr/html/und/sciences/patrimoine-equestre)  And as France was once a colonial power with a presence from the Caribbean to Polynesia and Africa, the maps on this site could prove helpful if your ancestors were sailors or merchants. (See https://gallica.bnf.fr/html/und/cartes/les-ameriques-en-cartes)

Another aspect of Gallica is a bilingual site called la France en Amerique, or France in America, created in collaboration with the Library of Congress. (See https://gallica.bnf.fr/dossiers/html/dossiers/FranceAmerique/fr/default.htm) In addition, if you are looking for a biography of a French ancestor dating back to the 12th century, BNF Gallica is the place to go. I discovered this by chance.

I was searching online for Jean Allaire, a Quebec City merchant who arrived in New France in 1658. He was associated with François Perron (Péron), a leading merchant in La Rochelle and Québec City. Google took me to the Dictionnaire Allard, also known as the Dictionnaire de Dauphiné, on BnF Gallica. (See https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k39393d/f12.item.zoom)

A dictionnaire in France can be a source of biographies, at least in the more expensive versions. For most of the 44 ancient provinces of France prior to 1789-1799, Bnf Gallica has posted dictionaries of important residents.

This particular dictionary addresses the ancient province of the Dauphiné. At the time of the French Revolution, Dauphiné was divided into three modern-day Départements: Drôme, Hautes-Alpes and Isère. According to Fichier Origine (/www.fichierorigine.com), 26 pioneers from Drôme, 27 settlers from the Hautes-Alpes  and 70 pioneers from the Isère settled in Nouvelle-France.

Similar regional dictionaries covering other parts of France can be found on Gallica, and in them you may find information about your very distant French ancestors in France. For example, I discovered that my family name, which was Gagné in New France, was Gasnier in France in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it appears to have been Garnier in the 14th and 15th centuries. This is information I obtained through BnF Gallica and other free online research tools.