Judging FamilyTree Accuracy: French Canadian Immigrants

August 23, 2013  - by 

Frenchmen into Peasants (Harvard, 1997) tells the story of Frenchmen, who had worked primarily as artisans in French towns, migrating to frontier Canada in the 1600s and 1700s. Once in America, these immigrants adapted to rural life as farmers – a generalization of the entire French migration to Canada. Do you have French Canadian ancestors?

Most people with French Canadian roots end up being related to one another, as the pool of immigrant ancestors is relatively small in comparison to the number of English immigrants to America.

As I’ve reviewed the information in FamilyTree about my own French Canadian ancestors, I’ve come to realize that some of my ancestors are literally in the database 100s of times. This is not surprising, as these folks have such large numbers of descendants all interested in the same lineages. Not all of the information agrees, again not surprising, as it has been entered into the system by hundreds of different people of all genealogical skill levels.

For those of you who have conducted immigration research, you know to be immediately suspicious of any information reported about the birthplace of an immigrant — it is often wrong.

Once you reach the immigrant generation in French Canadian families, I’ve discovered a very useful resource for determining if that ancestor’s immigrant origin is accurate – Fichier Origine. You’ll need to understand basic French to use the site. Plug in your ancestor’s Nom de famille (last name) and see what you find:

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This scholarly database contains up-to-date information about French Canadian immigrants. It is a joint project between la Fédération québécoise des sociétés de généalogie (Federation of Quebec Genealogical Societies) and la Fédération française de généalogie (Federation of French Genealogical Societies) to document birthplaces of the immigrants. If there is a hyperlink after Copie d’acte , then you can actually view the image of the immigrant’s infant baptismal record for free on the website.

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A current problem with correcting information about French Canadian immigrants in FamilyTree is that many of these people are IOUS (individuals of unusual size). This doesn’t refer to the ancestor’s waistline. It means they are in the database hundreds of times and it is currently not possible to merge all of the duplicates into one “canonical profile,” as the folks at GENI call it (a “canonical profile” is a version of the ancestor’s profile that is deemed accurate). This is expected to change once New.FamilySearch is shut off, which we are told will happen soon.

So, enjoy Fichier Origine, which will help you get your French Canadian ancestry sorted out, and update FamilyTree with the correct information as soon as that is possible.

I applaud Fichier Origine’s efforts. I’ve discovered several new ancestors in France using this amazing resource.

Nathan Murphy

Nathan W. Murphy, MA, AG is a United States and Canada Research Consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in Southern United States and English family trees.

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