If your ancestors date back to Nouvelle France, as Quebec was known in its early days as a colony of France, you will be happy to hear about this wonderful New France research portal created by Library and Archives Canada. The New France Archives site can be found at http://nouvelle-france.org
The project brings together results from four archives in France and Canada: LAC – Library Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, A.N.O.N – Archives nationales d’outre-mer (France), Archives nationales (France) and BAnQ – Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. It also accesses digitized documents in several other governmental and private archives centres.
Researchers with French Canadian, Acadian, Franco-American, Franco-Manitoban, Cajun, and Huguenot heritage will be able to use this one search engine, and voilà. The collection may not help with genealogy questions, but it will give access to a vast array of documents dating from New France.
First, spend some time on the home page learning how to search. Then explore the list of themes and LAC’s online exhibition, New France, New Horizons.
You can use the basic or advanced search and you can search in English or French, but a search in French brings much better results.
For example, I searched for the words “traiteurs+en+fourrures+France” (fur traders France, although the word traiteur now generally means caterer,) and found links to some 2000 documents stored in Canadian and French archives. A search for “commerçants en fourrures” or “commerçants de fourrures” also brought hundreds of results, but a search for “fur traders” only brought a handful. Try using Google translate before you put in your search term.
The results were in French, but a box appeared in the upper right hand corner, offering to translate into English. The page then looked like this:
Hundreds of special events are taking place in 2017 to mark the City of Montreal’s 375th birthday, but the one that means the most to me is the publication last month of a history of the Mile End district of Montreal. Some 200 years ago, that was where my three- and four-times great-grandparents lived.
There, at the intersection of the only two roads for miles around, Stanley Bagg and his father Phineas ran an establishment called the Mile End Tavern. Their landlord and future in-law, an English-born butcher named John Clark, probably came up with the name Mile End. The tavern was at the corner of what is now Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Mont-Royal Avenue, and the whole area eventually acquired the same name.
Mile End has no formal boundaries, but it is essentially just to the northeast of Mount Royal, as far as the railroad tracks. Some of the area’s streets are known far beyond Montreal: Saint-Urbain, for example, was made famous by author Mordecai Richler, and both Saint-Viateur and Fairmount streets have bagels named after them. Other well-known streets include Laurier, Parc, Saint-Joseph and Jeanne-Mance.
It is a vibrant neighbourhood, home to musicians, teachers and software developers, trendy restaurants, second-hand shops and rows of triplex and duplex dwellings, often featuring Montreal’s iconic outdoor staircases.
Histoire du Mile End, the first book to focus on the area’s history, was written by former journalist Yves Desjardins. His journalism background shows: he has researched his subject thoroughly in newspaper accounts, archival sources and academic articles, and pulled it all together in clear, concise language. I can attest to how readable it is because, although the book is in French, I have had no trouble reading it. It helps that the book is generously illustrated with historic photos and maps.
Over the decades, Mile End has been home to waves of immigrants, starting with French Canadian job-seekers who moved to the city from the Laurentians, and including Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italians, Portuguese and Greeks. Many of the area’s residents worked in the nearby Peck Building, labouring in low-paying jobs in the garment industry; today, the Peck Building is home to Ubisoft, a major player in the video game industry.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, sometimes it takes a community to write a book. Yves had help from friends and neighbours — many of them members of the local history group Mile End Memories — who gave him access to their own research and expertise. I provided him with information about my ancestors the Baggs and the Clarks, and the collaboration paid off for both of us: I was able to fill in family information he didn’t have, and he helped me understand the historical context of my ancestors’ lives.
I learned that Saint-Laurent Boulevard, the traditional dividing line between the western part of the city, where the majority of English-speaking Montrealers live, and the eastern part, which is overwhelmingly French-speaking, was the only road leading north out of the city in the early 1800s. The Baggs owned much of the land on the western side of Saint-Laurent, and it remained primarily rural until the 1890s. Much of the land on the east side was owned by the Beaubien family, and early residents worked in local tanneries and quarries.
At the end of the 19th century, a group of real estate promoters from Toronto tried to develop a “strictly high class suburb” in Mile End called the Montreal Annex. While they did manage to attract a few professionals and their families, the scheme eventually failed. For decades, most of Mile End’s residents were strictly working class, or worked at skilled trades such as shoe-making and carriage-making.
Meanwhile the area experienced many growing pains as politicians argued over taxes and infrastructure, and promoters battled to provide the public transportation (by electric tram and rail) that was key to the area’s growth.
Today, as the city of Montreal rebuilds its infrastructure and controversy surrounds plans for future residential projects and transportation corridors, it seems that some things haven’t changed much.
Yves Desjardins. Histoire du Mile End, Québec: Éditions du Septentrion, 2017.
Mile End Memories, http://memoire.mile-end.qc.ca/en/ This site includes articles in English and in French, photos, an interactive map that indicates the location of many historic buildings, including the Auberge du Mile End (Mile End Tavern), and a link to summer walking tours of the area.
The Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, Canada’s first learned society, was founded by the Earl of Dalhousie, Governor of Lower Canada, in 1824 in Quebec City. Today, the society has evolved into the Morrin Cultural Centre and includes Quebec City’s English-language library.
The original aims of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec were diverse. It gathered historical documents about Canada, republished many rare manuscripts and encouraged research in all fields of knowledge. Over the years, the society played a part in creating new institutions that would eventually take over some of its traditional roles. For example, the society helped to save what was left of the historic battlefield on the Plains of Abraham, and it participated in the creation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
In the late 1800s, the Morrin Centre’s library incorporated the collection of the Quebec Library, the oldest subscription library in Canada, founded in 1779. The current collection includes a number of old volumes, some of which date to the 16th century, rare historical books and manuscripts and many articles published by the society between 1824 and 1924.
Iron Bars and Bookshelves: A History of the Morrin Centre, tells the story of the former prison in which the cultural centre is housed, and the history of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Published in 2016, it was written by Louisa Blair, Patrick Donovan and Donald Fyson. Louisa Blair is author of The Anglos: The Hidden Face of Quebec City 1608-1850, Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in history at Université Laval and Donald Fyson, a professor at Université Laval, has published extensively on the history of crime, justice, and the law in Canada and Quebec.
The Morrin Centre does not have any research tools designed specifically for genealogists, but staff are willing to help genealogists find other historical resources. Upon request, members can access the centre’s historical collection for on-site consultation. The documents in this collection are listed in the library’s online catalogue, http://www.morrin.org/en/explore-the-library/library-catalogue/. For further details, contact the library manager (see above).
“The Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal on Viger Avenue are the repository of a wonderful and unique collection of books of marriages, baptisms, deaths of French Canadian families who left the Province of Québec between 1840 to 1930 for destinations south of the border. For it is estimated that during that 90 year period, 900,000 French Canadians left the regions along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River, the Chaudière River for the U.S. ”
As part of this research guide, Jacques Gagné has also included the exodus of Acadians to the same New England States, New York State and other points within the United States of America including the Acadian families who were deported to Louisiana.
Among the Germanic people who emigrated to Québec, we find those who fought with the Imperial Army during the British Conquest of 1759 plus those who fought for the British during the wars of the American Revolution and of 1812. An appreciable number of these Germanic soldiers settled into Québec once their tours of duty were concluded. Other German immigrants who spoke some forms of the German language originated from various principalities, dukedoms, electorates, counties, landgraviates, margraviates of Germany, but also from surrounding kingdoms such as Prussia, Silesia, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, United Netherlands, Austrian Netherlands, Switzerland, Palatinate, Strasbourg and Luxembourg.
Readers always loved those stories, but…they would rather not admit it.
Vicky Lapointe, graduate historian from Sherbrooke University, signs a special newspaper blog. She combs through Quebec old newspapers to present us with crimes and catastrophies, francophones from outside Quebec and some pictures, medicine, history and patrimonial buildings.
It is suprising to see what kind of news would make the paper a century or two ago, how people responded, and yes…what strange crimes were being commited. I also enjoy reading about events that are now part of history, as they happened.