Introduction to French-Canadian Research (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: French Canadian Ancestors  by Louise St Denis. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In Canada, research into French-Canadian ancestors is probably considered the easiest of all, thanks to several factors including:

  • the meticulous record keeping, provided by the Catholic church
  • the concentration of immigrant settlements
  • the individuals and genealogical societies who took on indexing projects

Genealogical societies specializing in French-Canadian research are numerous. They serve the needs of researchers from so many areas of North America. The oldest and most well-known society is the Société généalogique canadienne-française founded in 1943.

Genealogical societies specializing in French-Canadian research, in both Canada and the United States, can be found online . It is recommended that you join a society even if you live far away. Many will help members by mail or will provide a question and answer section in their publication. A fair amount of resource materials can be borrowed through interlibrary loans.

One of the most extensive collections of genealogical resources in researching French-Canadians is the public library in Montréal. In addition to books of most parish registers and large genealogical dictionaries, the public library has over 5,000 microfilms/fiches, census records, passenger lists, parish registers, newspapers, etc.

If you are in the Montréal area, this library is certainly well worth a visit.

Bibliothèque de Montréal, Salle Gagnon
1210,rue Sherbrooke est
Telephone: 514-872-5923

If you are concerned about the language problem, you will find that for finding the factual information this should not be difficult. Usually Catholic records are in French, and non-Catholic records are in English.

Historical information may pose a more difficult problem since most historical information is in story or anecdote format. If you cannot read French, you may be unable to interpret the information.

Registers are easy to follow, even though you may not be able to read French. A simple French-English translation dictionary is probably a good tool to have.

Immigration Patterns[edit | edit source]

General knowledge about immigration patterns may help you. The number of immigrants from France was not very high. Today’s North Americans of French-Canadian descent are from no more than 10,000 immigrants who came to New France before 1763.

There was high emigration to the United States mainly from 1850 to 1930. This was predominantly to the New England states and the state of New York.

If you think certain ancestors may have lived in the United States, search the American census for Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont from 1850 to 1920. The first settlements arrived in the area around the St Lawrence River in the early 17th century:

Quèbec City 1608

By the end of the 18th century most people lived in the St Lawrence Valley. Settlements in the Laurentians and Ottawa Valley areas and the Appalachian region began in the 1820s and peaked at about 1860. A few good reference books regarding immigration and passenger lists are the following (titles in italic have been translated into English to help you understand what is discussed in these books):

  • Vaillancourt, Émile, and Archange Godbout, La conquête du Canada par les Normands / The conquest of Canada by the Normands (Montréal: G. Ducharme, 1930).
  • Auger, Roland, La grande recrue de 1653 / The large recruit of 1653 (Montreal: Société généalogique canadienne-française, 1955).
  • Dumas, Silvio, Les filles du Roi en Nouvelle-France / The King’s daughters in New France (Québec: Société Historique de Québec, 1972).
  • Montbarbut, Johnny, Les colons de l’Aunis et de la Saintonge au Canada Régime français 1608-1763 / The immigrants of the Aunis and Saintonge to the French regime in Canada 1608-1763 (France: s.n., 1985).
  • Godbout, Archange, Les passagers du Saint-André: La Recrue de 1659 (Montréal: Société généalogique canadienne-française, 2009). This book is in French only, but gives names, origin, trades, marriages, deaths and locations where these French settlers landed and lived in New-France. These settlers made the crossing in 1659.
  • Trudel, Marcel, Catalogue des immigrants 1632-1662 (Montreal: Hurtubise HMH, 1983). Another book in French only, but this is one of the “must have”. It lists French settlers from 1632 to 1662, their trades, where they settled, marriages and deaths.
  • Godbout, Archange, Emigration Rochelaise en Nouvelle-France (Québec: Archives Nationales du Québec, 1970). Lists hundreds of French settlers who left the port of La Rochelle in the 17th century. As with other publications, it provides names, trades, where they settled, marriages, and deaths. His book is in French only.
  • Projet Montcalm, Combattre pour la France en Amérique (Montréal: Société généalogique canadienne-française, 2009). A superb work which took several years to complete. This book lists thousands of soldiers who came to New-France between 1755 and 1760. France and England were involved in the Seven Years War and New-France would be the battlefield in North America. The War in New-France was effectively lost for France after the fall of Québec in 1759. Although the French made one last effort in 1760 to re-capture Québec, the War ended in 1763 and France lost New-France forever.

Acadian Research[edit | edit source]

Censuses that were taken in 1671, 1678, 1686, 1714 and 1752 are an important part of Acadian research.

Registers of birth, marriage and death records have been published. The following books are good resource materials for your Acadian research.

  • Gaudet, Placide, Généalogie des familles acadiennes avec documents (Ottawa: Imp. du Roi, 1906).
  •  Arsenault, Bona, Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens, 6 volumes (Montréal: Leméac, 1978).
  • Bergeron, Adrien, Le grand arrangement des Acadiens au Québec (Montréal: Editions Elysée, 1981).
  • White, Stephen A., Hector-J. Hébert, and Patrice Gallant, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes (Moncton, N.-B.: Centre d’études acadiennes, Université de Moncton, 1999).

Non-Catholic Research[edit | edit source]

Non-Catholic records are much more difficult to research.

Protestant church records were not as complete as Catholic records. Often the names of the parents of the bride and groom are not included.

Not as much effort has been made in transcribing and indexing the Protestant records. We are now starting to see many more research tools becoming available for research of non-Catholics.

Naturally, marriage contracts, land deeds and wills provide a lot of information.

Most Protestant churches have placed their records in the diocesan archives. You may want to search with the following appropriate archive for your particular research needs.


Anglican Diocese of Montreal
1444 Union Avenue
Montreal, Québec H3A 2B8
(514) 843-6577

Anglican Diocese of Québec
31 rue des Jardins
Québec, Québec G1R 4L6
(418) 692-3858


Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Québec
100-304 The East Mall
Etobicoke, Ontario M9B 6E2
(416) 622-8600


Lutheran Church Canada
3074 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3K 0Y2
(204) 895-3433


The Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives and Records Office
50 Wynford Drive
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1J7
(416) 441-1111 ext. 310 or 1-800-619-7301 (toll-free)

United Church of Canada

St-Luke’s United Church
3480 Décarie Boulevard
Montréal, Québec H4A 3J5


For Jewish information in Québec, contact the Jewish Genealogical Society in Montréal:

Jewish Genealogical Society of Montréal
c/o Stanley M. Diamond
5599 Edgemore Avenue
Montréal, Québec H4W 1V4

Jewish Public Library
Greenberg Conference Room (downstairs)
5151 Côte Ste. Catherine Rd.
Montreal, QuébecH3W1M6


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Research: French Canadian Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.