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I prefer 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.

Most 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. 

Most 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. 

Throughout 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.

Since 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.

In 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 family surname.

I 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.


There 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. 

I 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):
 

 
1850
1860
Addison
2,100
2,500
Franklin
3,700
4,700
Grand Isle
800
1,000
Orleans
700
1,000
Rutland
900
1,400
Washington
400
800
State of VT
12,100
17,000

Almost 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.

The 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.
 
 


Where 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

Aword 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.

French 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. 

Another 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.

If 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.

The 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. 

Vermont 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 http://dol.state.vt.us  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 employer.

Others 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 them.  http://www.genealogy.com/00000274.html  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 Courthouses.


In 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. 

Although the priests did not travel into VT, there are sacramental records of USA residents at the following Quebec parishes:

From 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.

From 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.

From 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. 

From 1826 to 1876 at St Patrice at Hinchinbrooke, also recorded in LFDS Reel 1,031,553.

From 1826 to 1834 and 1848 to 1860 at Sacre Coeur de Jesus at Stanstead.

From 1833 to 1852 at St. Georges in Henryville. 

From 1838 to 1853 at St. Jean Chrysotome, also recordd in LDS Reel 1.031,559. 

From 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.

From 1850 to 1876 at St. Romain in Hemmingford, also recorded in LDS Reel 1,031, 554.

The 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 & Abjurations”. 


This 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. 

In 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 Archivist.
 
 

1837-1854, 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.

The address of the Diocesan Archivist is:

Archivist
Diocese of Burlington
351 North Avenue
Burlington, VT 05401
 Addresses of most of the parishes can be found at:

http://home.att.net/~Local_Catholic/CatholicUS-BostonMA-NH-VT-ME.htm

Because 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. 
 

Addison did not have a particularly large Franco-American population until about 1840 when it became a magnet for the immigrating Quebecois. By 1850 it ranked behind only Franklin and Chittenden in the size of its Franco-American population. Father John B. DALY was a particularly active missionary there

In 1855, The Assumption Church was founded in Middlebury with Rev. Francis PICARD probably the first resident pastor. The town was visited by Rev. Paul McQUADE as early as 1822. Middlebury was VT’s most populous town when Rev. Jeremiah O’CALLAGHAN arrived in VT in 1830. In the 1830’s the town had visits by Fathers DALY, FITTON, WALSH and O’BEIRNE.

In 1886, St. Paul, a French parish, was founded in Orwell with Rev. Alfred E. LANGEVINE first resident pastor. The parish owes its origins to Canadians who came in 1840 to work along Lake Champlain. Rev. Pierre-Marie MIGNAULT of St. Joseph Church, Chambly Quebec said the first Mass here. The first mass at Leicester Junction was celebrated in 1869 by Rev. George Caissy who in 1872 became the first resident pastor of St. Albans’ Holy Angels parish.

In 1877, St. Genevieve, a predominantly French church, was founded in Shoreham; however, it wasn’t until 1901 that there was a resident pastor, Rev. L.A. VEZINA. There may have been a church serving the French community at the Chimney Point section of Bridport between 1730-1749.

In 1881, St. Peters, a predominantly French church, was founded at Vergennes with Rev. Joseph KERILOU first resident pastor. Tradition holds that a Montreal priest said Mass here about 1816. The first recorded Mass was said by Rev. Paul McQuade in 1822. Rev. Jeremiah O’CALLAGHAN visited here from 1830.

In 1893, St. Ambrose was founded in Bristol with Rev. Michael CARMODY first resident pastor. In 1854, the first Mass was celebrated in nearby Starksboro by Rev. Thomas RIORDAN of Burlington. The first church at Bristol was built in 1877 by Rev. Patrick CUNNINGHAM.


In 1854, St. Francis De Sales, predominantly French, was founded in Bennington with Rev. Z. DRUON first resident pastor. Local tradition indicates that Rev. SHANAHAN of Troy, NY first offered Mass here in 1830 and continued to 1834. Rev. Jeremiah O’CALLAGHAN of Burlington came regularly from October 1832 until Rev. John DALY arrived in 1837.

In 1868, St. Jerome was founded in East Dorset with Rev. Thomas J. GAFFNEY first resident pastor. First Mass here in 1839 by Rev. John B. Daly until 1854 when pastors from Rutland and Bennington provided services.

In 1875, St. Columban was founded in Arlington with Rev. Frederick PAQUET first resident pastor. Rev John DALY undoubtedly said the first Mass here.

In 1885, St. John the Baptist was founded in North Bennington with Rev. Charles E. PREVOST first resident pastor. First Mass said here possibly as early as 1839 by Rev. John B. Daly until 1854 when pastors from Bennington provided services.

In 1892, Sacred heart of Jesus, a French-language parish, was founded in Bennington with Rev. Philas PREVOST first pastor. Prior to 1800 this congregation attended the local St. Francis De Sales church, and from 1885 to 1891 the congregation was attached as a mission to the St. John the Baptist church.

In 1895, St. Joachim, a French & Italian parish, was founded in Readsboro with Rev. William PLAMONDON first resident pastor. One hundred Canadians and Italians attended the first Mass ion this town celebrated by Rev. LEDUC of MA. Rev. Frederick PAQUET of Arlington was active in the town from1891to 1893.

In 1896, St. Paul, an “English” parish, was founded in Manchester with Rev. John DWYER the first resident pastor. Rev. John B. Daly first offered Mass here sometime in the 1839-1854 period. The congregation attended Mass and received the sacraments at East Dorset before the church was founded.

In 1858, Notre Dame des Victoires, a French church, was founded in St. Johnsbury with Rev. Stanislaus DANIELOU first resident pastor.  From 1831 to 1854 occasional Masses were said in this town by Rev. Jeremiah O’CALLAGHAN from Burlington and Rev. HARPER from Canada.

In 1891, St. Elizabeth was founded in Lyndonville with Rev. Joseph PAQUET first resident pastor. The first Mass in this town was by Bishop De Goesbriand in 1854.

In 1892, St. Michael was founded in Greensboro Bend. Rev.William CROSBY of St. Norbert in nearby Hardwick said Masses here starting in 1911.

In 1896, St. Aloysius, an English-speaking church, was founded in St. Johnsbury with Michael J. CARMODY first resident pastor. 
 

On 15 Oct 1815, Rev. Francois A. MATIGNON of Boston baptized 18 children in Burlington.

In 1830, St. Mary’s of Burlington, now Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception,  was founded with Rev. Jeremiah O’CALLGHAN as first resident pastor The first Masses were said in Burlington in 1815 by Rev. Francis A. MATIGNON of Boston. He remained until the Diocese of Burlington was established in 1853 when Bishop De GOESBRIAND became pastor. Fr. O’CALLAGHAN also performed missionary work particularly in northern VT. In 1830 there were an estimated 1,000 Catholics in and around Burlington, probably half were French. Fr. O’CALLAGHAN did not speak French well. He was assisted in missionary work in outlying areas by Rev. Auguste PETITHOMME (Fr. AMABLE) in 1834 and 1835.

In 1850, St. Joseph, the first French National Church in New England, was founded in Burlington with Rev. Joseph QUEVILLON as first resident pastor. He also performed missionary work, particularly for the French communities, in northern VT. Masses in French were celebrated in Burlington as early as 1818.

In 1858, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was founded in East Charlotte. Masses were said in nearby Hinesburg earlier than 1858. 

In 1859, St. Anne, a predominantly French parish, was founded in Milton with Rev. Francis PICARD as first pastor.  Masses were said in Milton as by Burlington’s Fr. O’Callaghan as early as 1844.

In 1865,  Our lady of the Rosary was founded in Richmond with Rev. James QUINN as the first resident pastor.  Masses were said in this town as early as 1857 by Bishop De GOESBRIAND of Burlington.

In 1868, St. Francis Xavier, a French church, was founded in Winooski with Rev. Jean-Frederic AUDET as first pastor. He remained pastor until 1917. The French in Winooski were probably parishioners of the Burlington parishes before 1868.

In 1872, St. Thomas was founded in Underhill Center with Rev. Pierre SAVOIE as first pastor.  Masses were said in this town as early as 1833 by Rev. O’CALLAGHAN of Burlington. Bishop De GOESBRIAND visited this town in 1853.

In 1893, Holy Family, a French church, was founded in Essex Junction with  Rev. Ernest CAMPEAU as first pastor. The earliest record of a Mass in this town was one celebrated by Rev. Pierre SAVOIE of Underhill Center in 1874.
 

In 1871, St. James the Greater was founded in Island Pond with Rev. Amedee DUFRESNE first resident Pastor. Rev. John DALY of Canada said the first Mass here in 1856. Rev. J. GERMAIN was in this town 1859-1861.

In 1879, St. Stanislaus was founded in nearby Bloomfield. In 1887, St. Bernard was founded in Norton with Rev. J. B. POULIOT first resident pastor. He is believed to have said the first Mass in this town in 1887.
 
 

Part 2