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, 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.