Step-by-Step Quebec, Canada Research

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Quebec, Canada Gotoarrow.png Step-by-step research

A suggested approach to genealogy research in Quebec, Canada family history records.


Step-by-step Quebec, Canada Research

Table of Contents

1. Contact living relatives.
2. Online census records.
3. Church records online.
4. Death, obituary and cemetery records online.
5. Study clues.


See also, How to use "record hints".

Reading French Records

Most of the records you will use for Quebec genealogy will be in French. It's easier than you think! You do not have to be fluent in French to use these records, as there is only a limited vocabulary used in them. By learning a few key phrases, you will be able to read them adequately. Here are some resources for learning to read French records.

There is a three-lesson course in reading handwriting in old French records:

Step 1. Find out everything you can from living relatives and their family records.

Every good genealogy project starts with finding all the clues you can gather from living relatives — both from their memories and from documents or memorabilia in their homes.

What should you ask?

In order to extend your research on your ancestors, you are looking for names, dates, and places. Everything you learn that tells you about when and where a relative lived is a clue to a new record search. Be sure to ask questions that lead to that information, including about their occupations, military service, or associations with others, such as fraternal organizations. See also:

What documents should you look for and ask to copy?

  • Announcements of births, weddings,
    and anniversaries
  • Baby and wedding books
  • Certificates
  • Deeds, and property records
  • Family Bibles
  • Family reunion notices and records
  • Fraternal or society records
  • Insurance policies
  • Journals and diaries
  • Letters and cards
  • Licenses (business, marriage,
    fishing, driving)
  • Naturalization documents
  • Newspaper clippings and obituaries
  • Medical records
  • Military service and pension documents
  • Occupational awards
  • Passports
  • Personal histories and biographies
  • Photograph albums
  • Printed Notices and Announcements
  • Programs (graduation, award ceremonies, funerals)
  • School records
  • Scrapbooks
  • Wills and trusts

Step 2. Find your ancestors in every possible census record, 1841-1921, online.

A census is a list of all the inhabitants of Quebec in a certain year. Organized by town and county, it shows entire families as they existed in that year. Censuses are vital records in collecting information about family members.

Case Study:

You find the death certificate of your grandfather, Henri Spénard, who died in 1967 in Quebec. It states that he was born in August 1897, in Quebec, and that his parents were Victor and Aurise Spénard. Since the 1921 census of Quebec is the most recent census available, you begin to search for Henri Spénard, about 23-24 years old, hopefully living in the home of Victor and Aurise Spénard, his parents.

Here we find Henri, as expected, living in the home of his parents. We now know birth dates of them and the names and birth dates of several of his siblings. We next work to find the family of Victor and Aurise Spénard in each successive earlier census record.

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We find the family in 1911 and 1901, The 1901 census is over-exposed and difficult to read. But Ancestry.com has provided a transcript. Whenever someone transcribes a record, you have a chance of error. If we could see the original record, we would see that "Archie" is Aurise and "Homone" is Henrie. Since Victor and Aurise are fairly recently married in the 1901 census, as we move back in time to 1891, we would look for them living in their parents' homes.

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In 1891, we find Victor listed with his parents, Maximin and Zoe Spénard. Again, we find the name of several of his siblings. We then again move 10 years earlier, where we find the family in 1881. We have a discrepancy ti the reported age of Maximin. Nevertheless, he is quite a bit older than Zoe. She is probably his second wife.

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We were unable to find Maximin Spénard in the 1871 and 1861 census, but here he is in 1851 with his first wife, Enupine Perrault, and several of their children. QU census 7.png

Quick Outline of Information You Can Find in Quebec Census Records

Here you will find typed census forms showing the information that can be found in each Canadian census:

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1891 Canada Census example.jpg

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Now Use These Links to Find Your Own Ancestors in Census Records

Step 3: Search available church records for baptisms, marriages, and burials.

Quebec has comprehensive collection of church records for all religions, contained in the Drouin Cellection. Religions who baptized infants and recorded the date provide substitute birth information for children. Most marriages were performed by ministers and recorded in church records. Ministers presiding over funerals provide burial records, which affirm death dates. Any such records may, in addition to the event recorded, mention other details such as parents' names, birthplace or residence, etc.

Case Study:

The census records we have found give us a framework of the Spénard families. We should find each of the marriages and the birth and death of every person in the Drouin Collection of church records. We are also watching for family members who are not listed in the census--children who were born and died in between the census years. Also, the church records will follow the family into a much earlier time period, long before census records were kept.
Notice how easy it will be to read the records in the Drouin Collection, even though they are in French. First, they are indexed in English. Second, most of what you have to read are the names of the parties involved, and names do not need to be translated. Third, you will need to translate the dates. Numbers and names of the month can be found in the French Word List. Fourth, you will only need to translate a few more words, such as fils (son), fille (daughter) époux, épouse (spouse) de (of), et (and), and occupations such as cultivateur (farmer).. Fifth, the last half of the entry lists godparents. While the names and relationships of the godparents can provide clues, it is not essential for the basic details of the event.

Birth Record Examples

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Blue box: Date 9 September 1872

Red box: Child's name Joseph Victor

Yellow: box Parents Maximin Spénard, journalier (day laborer) and Zoé Brousseau


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Blue box: Date 31 October1819

Red box: Child's name Maximin

Yellow box: Parents Jean Baptiste Spénard, cultivateur (farmer) and Genevieve Payan also known as St. Onge

Marriage Record Examples

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Violet box: Name of the bride and groom Victor Spénard and Orise Lesage

Blue box: Date of the wedding 29 September 1896

Red box: Groom and his parents Victor Spénard, son of Maximin Spénard, farmer, and Zoé Brousseau

Yellow box: Bride and her parents Orise Lesage, daughter of Michel Lesage, farmer, and Elsmise Roux

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Violet box: Name of the bride and groom Maximin Spénard and Zoé Brousseau

Blue box: Date of the wedding 2 June 1863

Red box: Groom and former wife Maximin Spénard widower of Exupine Perrault

Yellow box: Bride and her parents Zoé Brousseau daughter of Joseph Brousseau {Mother's name was cut of by my screen shot)

Death Record Examples

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Blue box: Date of death 20 March 1901

Red box: Name of the deceased Maximin Spénard

Yellow box: Spouse of the deceased Zoé Brousseau

Green box: Age at death 82 years

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Blue box: Date of death 11 April 1825

Red box: Name of the deceased Antoine Spénard

Yellow box: Spouse of the deceased Marie Verzina

Green box: Age at death 82 years

Online Church Records

You should find the birth, marriage, and death records of all the people you have identified in the census records. Although this is a subscription website, you can use it without cost at a Family History Center.



Here are some other church records collections to consult:

Writing for Church Records

For more recent church records, since 1967, you will need to write for records.

  • For help writing letters to these churches, see Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy. This guide will help you phrase requests, organize payment arrangements, and ask how to locate help to search the archives.

Step 4: Try to find additional details about your ancestors in obituaries and cemetery records online.

Cemetery and obituaries are an important source because deaths took place usually when records were more detailed than at the time of the person's birth 60-80 years earlier.
Tip Tip1.jpg It is important to look for records of siblings, because they may be more detailed that records for your direct ancestor.

Case Study:

Several FindAGrave records cover many generations of the Spénard family. In this case, the creators have attached genealogical information that they have researched and compiled. Most names are linked to additional graves. Links show years of birth and death, but following those links you will come to individual records that will give full dates and places, and probably spouses and children.

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Here is a wonderful old obituary notice.

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Quebec Cemetery Links

Now, search these collections for records of your Quebecancestors:

Quebec Obituary Links

Step 5: Study each new record for other possible searches.

Cycle icon.jpg As you gather clues about new generations of your family, realize that they would also have been listed in the census records, birth marriage, and death records, church records, and cemetery and obituary records you have already searched. You will need to go back to the earlier steps in this article, applying them to the new names you have discovered.

Case Study:

There are many more possible searches branching off from the pedigree we have discovered so far. We have found in the marriage records, the maiden names of the wives and their parents names:

  • Annette Mailhot
  • Aurise Lesage
  • Zoe Brousseau
  • Genevieve St. Onge
  • Marie Eupirosine Vezina
  • Marie Elizabeth Courtois
  • Marie Charlotte Arnault



So now we can go back to the census records, this time looking for new families, and then go back to the church records to document them better. Also, by clicking on the wives' names in the FindAGrave records, we might be able to locate detailed records for the Mailhot, Lesage, Brousseau, St. Onge, Vezina, Courtois, and Arnault lines.