the narrow definition of “genealogy” which is the account of the
ascent of a person to an ancestor. Conversely an “ancestor” is a person
from whom one is descended. Some suggest that ancestors are those that
came before grandparents. I guess that their thinking is that grandparents
are considered “family” as opposed to ancestors. I am interested in all
of my ancestors, for instance the mother of my mother’s mother’s, mother.
In fact I trace my matrilineal lines as far back as I can. However, except
for aunts, uncles, siblings of grandparents and anecdotes concerning interesting
siblings of an ancestor, I do not research the siblings of ancestors unless
it is necessary to locate an ancestor. Neither do I collect names. I could
care less that there is a Lesperance in Arizona to whom I am not related.
of the French migration to Quebec occurred in the 17th century, much of
it in the first half of that century. Compared to most countries, New France
(Quebec) did an outstanding job of recording baptisms, marriages and burials.
Typically the parents of the bridal couple were included in marriage records.
Often the parish of the parents was also included. Thus if you find a French-Canadian
marriage record you’ll usually have an excellent start on the preceding
generation. The marriage record included at least two witnesses,
typically they were male and either related to, or friends of, one of the
bridal couple. Also many of the early Quebec marriages were preceded by
a marriage contract which included the bridal couples’ parents and usually
their origins. In addition to the parents and their parish, baptismal records
included the Godparents. Godparents were often the grandparents or other
close relatives of the infant. It is excellent practice to record the Godparents
at baptisms and the witnesses at weddings.
researchers will find that it is easier to proceed from what you know in
the near present towards what you don’t know in the past. The easiest way
to trace ancestors is to proceed marriage by marriage.
the 17th, 18th and most of the 19th Centuries, married French-Canadian
women kept their maiden name throughout their life. This eases the task
of finding the correct marriage. For instance it is easier to match a John
Doe with a Mary Jones than it is a John and Mary Doe.
the beginning of the English regime in Canada starting about 1760, the
Quebecois have been fiercely protective and proud of their culture, religion
and language. Genealogy is a part of their culture. They have gone to extreme
lengths to make it easier for people to trace their ancestry. Marriages
and often the baptisms and burials of all parish registers have been indexed
in repertoires that are readily available. Further a number of excellent
French-Canadian genealogical dictionaries and province-wide marriage indexes
have been published. Practically all of the Quebec marriages in the 17th,
18th and 19th centuries have been indexed in the blue Drouin series and
the Loiselle Index, both of which can be entered with the bride’s surname
as well as the groom’s. In addition to the full names of the bridal couple,
the names of their parents and the date and place of the marriage are given
in Drouin and Loiselle. These indexes can be accessed for a small
fee through the Research Services of the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical
Society of Burlington, VT http://www.vt-fcgs.org/;
the American-French Canadian Genealogical Society of RI http://www.afgs.org;
or the American-Canadian Genealogical Society of Manchester, NH http://www.acgs.org.
both Quebec and the U.S. probably the most difficult century for tracing
French-Canadian ancestry is the 19th Century. The Quebecois became more
mobile with a shift from rural to urban areas. Emigration to the western
provinces of Canada and to the United States especially New England accelerated
in the 19th century. Further complicating research is that the Catholic
hierarchy banned dual surnames about 1860 with many Quebecois electing
to retain their “dit” or “also known as” name and dropping the original
have found that the typical research problem is to locate the marriage
of the parents of a child baptized in Vermont or the parents of one or
both of the principals in a Vermont wedding. I hope with the guidance given
here that this task will be made easier.
were very few French-Canadians in VT before 1820. When a Quebec Bishop
passed through Burlington in 1815 his group estimated 100 Catholics in
the area. Probably more than half were French, so we can estimate 60 people
or about 10 families and 10 singles. In 1832 there were about 1,000
Catholics in the Burlington area, half of whom were French-Canadians, so
we can estimate less than 100 families. In 1840 over 20% of the population
of Burlington were of Quebec origin. Chittenden County had about 2,900
French-Canadians in 1850 and about 4,300 in 1860.
have not seen early population figures for other counties but following
is an approximate count in VT Counties having more than 400 French-Canadians
(all figures rounded to the closest 100):
80% of the State’s French-Canadians were in Grand Isle, Franklin, Chittenden
and Addison Counties, which all border Lake Champlain. Over half of the
State’s increase of 4,900 between 1850 and 1860, probably about 2,700 were
from natural increase. Some of the 2,200 gained from migration were
from other States, especially NY, but most of the gain was from Quebec.
various U.S censuses reveal that many of the French-Canadians were transients.
I had one of my ancestral families who were in St. Albans, then Cambridge,
then Georgia and then back to St. Albans between 1840 and 1870.
to look for 19th C. Franco-American vital records is an extremely difficult
task. One general rule can be gleaned from the population data provided
in the preceding section. That rule is that the earlier an event occurred
in the century the more likely it is that the event occurred in Quebec.
If I were to look for the marriage of a French couple who had a child born
in VT before 1840, I would search first in Quebec records. Not only is
it likely that the marriage occurred in Quebec but, as noted earlier, the
search in Quebec is much easier than in the USA because of two catalogs
of Quebec marriages----the blue Drouin and the Loiselle Index. Once the
parents are known it is usually possible to go into the repertoires or
microfilmed vital records of the appropriate Quebec parish and learn considerably
more about the family. The only place I know where to do this in the U.S.
is the RI society http://www.afgs.org
of caution before looking for an event in Quebec records. Many of the French
names were significantly changed in the U.S. It was relatively common before
the mid-1800s for Quebecois to add a second or “dit” name to their original
family name. Then when the Quebecker migrated to the U.S. the first (usually
the original) surname was dropped. In my case the family name was LANDIE
in France until a soldier took the nom de guerre, LESPERANCE, when he enlisted
in France in the 1740’s. For several generations in Quebec the name was
LANDIE (or variations thereof) dit LESPERANCE. When the first of my line
entered the U.S. in the mid-1800’s the family name was dropped so that
all descendants in the U.S. carried the LESPERANCE name. In fact the name
LANDIE has disappeared in favor of LESPERANCE in both Quebec and the U.S.
names were often Anglicized. One that I’ve seen in VT was a bit weird.
The Irish name LAUGHLIN was shortened to LAFLIN by Yankee officials. Then
along came a Frenchman named LAFLAMME and he also got dubbed LAFLIN. Most
of the French in the early 19th C couldn’t read or write. When the Yankee
census taker or the Yankee town clerk heard the name, for instance, BLONDIN,
from a French family it might have been written down as BLODAH or BLOWDAH
or BLONDO and the Frenchman wouldn’t be able to tell that it was misspelled.
cause of name variations was the attempt by some of the Quebec immigrants
to Americanize themselves. Another set of my VT ancestors were Louis LEBRUN
and Angele WEISS (a German name) who wanted to be known as Lewis BROWN
and Angele WEST in Burlington in the mid-1800’s. There are a number of
books that are of help with these name changes. One is “French-Canadian
Names: Vermont Variants” by Veronique Gassette available from the Vermont
Historical Society http://www.state.vt.us/vhs
and another is “The ‘Dit’ Name: French-Canadian Surnames, Aliases, Adulterations
and Anglicizations” by Quintin Publications, Inc. http://www.quintinpublications.com.
the record of an event isn’t found in Quebec records then a search in VT
vital records ---births, marriages, deaths (BMD)---is indicated. The first
place to look is in the Vermont Vital Records Office http://www.vitalrec.com/vt.html
will tell you how to do this. The microfilms are divided into two sets:
1760-1870 and 1870 to 1905. This web site also leads you to the addresses
and other information for obtaining vial records from VT counties, cities
and towns. The State files do not contain all of the vital records of all
of the cities and towns. So it may be necessary to turn to the city or
town clerk for information. The civil vital records are weak in the 18th
and first part of the 19th C. The American Canadian Genealogical
Society of NH also has microfilms of the VT vital records.
U.S. Censuses are excellent resources for trying to construct a family.
The first census, 1790, gave: the name of the head of the family; number
of free white males 16 years and older; number of free white males under
16; number of other persons; and sometimes town or district of residence.
The 1800, 1810, 1820, and 1830 censuses gave the name of the head of the
head of the family; number of free males and females in various age categories;
numbers of non-whites; and the town and county of residence. The 1850 census
was the first to give the name, age, sex, color, state or country of birth
of all members of the household. One has to be quite liberal when
using censuses. It is likely that the early census-takers were Yankees
with no knowledge of French. So surnames were badly spelled. In fact given
names were often misleading. For some reason, our ancestors often changed
given names. It is not unusual to identify a Quebec family fully through
baptismal records in Quebec then find little resemblance to the baptismal
names in later U.S. census records. Several times in my research, the given
names were so different from the baptismal names that I seriously questioned
if I had the correct family.
City Directories in Vermont Repositories” published by the Vermont Historical
Society of Montpelier http://www.state.vt.us/vhs
lists a few cities that had directories before 1900: Barre starting 1890;
Bellows Falls 1894; Bennington 1891; Brattleboro 1871; Burlington 1865;
Montpelier 1887; Rutland 1867; St. Albans 1886; St. Johnsbury 1875; and
Springfield 1894. The most complete repository for these directories is
at the Bailey-Howe Library, University of Vermont in Burlington. Other
good repositories are at the Vermont Department of Libraries, Montpelier
and the Vermont Historical Society. The city libraries at some of the larger
cities---Barre, Bellows Falls, Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, and
St. Johnsbury ---have local city directories. City directories give
the name of each head of household and each adult who has a surname different
than the head-of-household, the street address, the occupation and the
have suggested searching land and notary records for genealogical information.
Newspaper announcements of births, engagements, marriages and deaths as
well as funeral home records might be productive. I have never obtained
any useful information from of these sources. But when you’re stuck try
gives the addresses and phone numbers of the VT County Courthouses and
a sense of the archival material kept at courthouses. As mentioned the
registers of Justices of the peace ar supposed to be kept at the County
the next section I will discuss the sacramental record-keeping of the Catholic
Church in VT. However there were only two Catholic Churches . . . in Burlington
and St. Albans . . . in VT before 1850, and both initially served a predominantly
Irish congregation. Some French Catholics avoided “Irish” churches. I am
reliably informed that as many as half of the VT Franco-American marriages
before Catholic Churches were established, were performed by a Protestant
minister or a Justice of the Peace. Further some sacraments, particularly
baptisms, of VT Franco-Americans were performed in Quebec. At the ACGS
Library in Manchester, NH there is a partial, indexed list of these missionaries,
both from the U.S and Quebec, who regularly visited VT French settlements
in the first half of the 19th C for the purpose of saying Mass and administering
sacraments. Unfortunately not all of the sacramental records of some of
these missionaries have survived. A case in point is the fabled father
Pierre-Marie MIGNAULT of St. Joseph parish in Chambly, Quebec who made
regular missionary trips to both sides of Lake Champlain from 1815 to about
1852 yet no record can be found of the sacraments that he administered.
the priests did not travel into VT, there are sacramental records of USA
residents at the following Quebec parishes:
1785 to 1845 at Ste. Marguerite de Blairfindie in L’Acadie, also recorded
in LDS Reels 1,031,782 through 1,031, 787. The U.S residents went to L’Acadie
to have the sacraments performed.
1801 to 1844 at St. Luc, Quebec, also recorded in LDS Reels 1,290,049 and
1,290,050. The priest made missionary trips in Quebec as far south as Lacolle.
Some U.S. residents went to either St. Luc or met the priest in Lacolle.
1826 to 1876, at St. Malachie Church in Ormstown, Quebec, also recorded
in LDS Reel 1,031,575. Sacraments, mainly baptisms, performed by Revs.
Terence KIERNAN, J.H BIENVENUE and Edmond DOYLE as missionary priests.
These records are apparently the originals of the 1857 to 1859 records
are at the Valleyfield Courthouse; and for the 1838 to 1845 they are at
St John Chrysotome parish, both in Quebec.
1826 to 1876 at St Patrice at Hinchinbrooke, also recorded in LFDS Reel
1826 to 1834 and 1848 to 1860 at Sacre Coeur de Jesus at Stanstead.
1833 to 1852 at St. Georges in Henryville.
1838 to 1853 at St. Jean Chrysotome, also recordd in LDS Reel 1.031,559.
1846 to 1853 at Notre Dame des Anges in Stanbridge, also recorded in LDS
Reel 1,294,751. Rev. B.J. LECLAIRE, missionary to the Cantons de L’Est
(eastern Townships), performed most of the sacraments.
1850 to 1876 at St. Romain in Hemmingford, also recorded in LDS Reel 1,031,
sacraments administered to U.S residents in the above records were extracted
by Virginia E. DEMARS. They appeared in a series of the no-longer-published
periodical “Lost in Canada”, Joy Reisinger publisher and later indexed
by Roger W. Lawrence in an unpublished document, “Quebec Parish & Missionary
Records of Northern New York & Vermont: Baptisms, Marriages, Burials
section was designed primarily to assist those who need to have an idea
where to look for sacramental (baptism, marriage and burial) records in
the 19th century in VT.
1801, Bishop CARROLL of Baltimore (VT was under the Baltimore Diocese at
the time) accepted the offer of Bishop DENAULT of Quebec to care for French-speaking
Catholics in VT. 1830-1847, Rev. Jeremiah O’CALLAGHAN of Burlington
was the first full-time missionary of VT. Baptisms for the period 1830-1858
and marriages for the period 1830 to 1870 are held by the Burlington Diocesan
Rev. John B. DALY performed missionary work in southern VT. The records
of his baptisms for the period 1845-1848 and marriages from 1843 to 1847
are kept at the Diocesan Archives.
1853, The Diocese
of Burlington, which covers all of the State of Vermont, was established
with Louis DeGOESBRIAND serving as Bishop until 1899.
address of the Diocesan Archivist is:
of most of the parishes can be found at:
some of the Catholic French-Canadians may have been married at Protestant
Churches I offer a means of obtaining the addresses of these churches.
Go to www.yahoo.com and to the yellow page link. Then for a specific city
search for “Religion” then “Organizations” which will give the address
and phone number of the churches. Many addresses will lack zip codes. They
can be obtained at the United States Postal Service.