France, Genealogy, Research tips

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.

french-canadian, Genealogy, New France, Quebec

Bulletin des Recherches Historiques

If your ancestors lived in Quebec between 1640 and 1940, you may find them mentioned in a periodical called Bulletin des Recherches Historiques, published by one of the province’s senior archivists and his sons. Searching this publication takes a little effort, and it helps if you can read some French, but your time may be well spent.

Archivist Pierre-George Roy and two of his sons did their research over several decades and published the Bulletin between about 1920 and 1943. In 1920, Roy was the first archivist at the Archives de la Province du Québec, the precursor of the Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), and he later became senior archivist at the Archives nationales du Québec in Quebec City. His two sons were also archivists.

Roy obtained the majority of his material from notarial documents. His father, Joseph-Edmond Roy, was a notary in Québec City from 1880 to 1911, and other Roy family members were also notaries.

The Bulletin includes a variety of articles including family genealogies, profiles of individuals, amusing anecdotes and accounts of historical interest. Some articles focus on high-profile people such as land owners and civil servants in the days of colonial New France. Others look at Catholic religious orders, laws and the courts, but there do not seem to be many women mentioned.

The articles are not exclusively about French Canadians; they also include Acadian, British, Scottish, Irish, Germanic, American, Jewish, Loyalist and Huguenot families and individuals. Ancestors of at least four members of Genealogy Ensemble are covered in the pages of the Bulletin.

When the BAnQ copied these periodicals, it named the database Le Bulletin des Recherches Historiques 1895-1968, however, it appears that the articles cover the period 1642 to 1942, not 1895 to 1968.

To find out whether any of your ancestors is mentioned in the Bulletin, start by scrolling through the 818-page PDF of the index. The volume number is underlined and the second number is the page number. Here is a link to the index: http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2656928

Once you have found your family’s name in the index, the next step is to go to the database that includes the actual volumes of the Bulletin. Open http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/ and, on the right hand side, put in your search terms: Bulletin des Recherches Historiques, as well as the volume number in roman numerals and the name of the month the issue appeared in French.

For example, according to the index, the name Bagg appeared in volume 49, page 59, so the search term is “Bulletin des Recherches Historiques XLIX Fevrier” You may have to guess the month, depending on the page number. Then scroll down to find your ancestor. You can also find hard copies of this publication at la Societé généalogique canadienne-française (https://www.sgcf.com/) in Montreal.

The language level of the magazine is not difficult, and you can use Google Translate or a similar online tool to help with the translation.

Here are links to a few samples of the Bulletin that I found interesting:

http://collections.banq.qc.ca/jrn03/dn2087/src/1935/02/164865_1935-02.pdf

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2656928

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2656964

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657360

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2656957

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657519

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657338

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657158

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657205

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657158

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657534?docsearchtext=Braillard%20de%20la%20Madeleine

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2657523?docsearchtext=Braillard%20de%20la%20Madeleine

France, Genealogy, 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.