The Drouin Collection contains over 15 million French-Canadian genealogical records that were microfilmed by the Drouin Genealogical Institute. The Canada genealogy collection is accessible on Ancestry and Généalogie Québec, which are both subscription websites. The subscription options appear in the table below.
This post will focus on the collection as it appears on Ancestry, but Genealogy Quebec’s “Getting Started Guide” can be accessed here.
The Drouin collection is divided into six databases. One commonality is that most records are written in French, but English, Latin, and Italian are occasionally used. Any FamilySearch counterparts for each database are covered in this post.[i]
The Québec database is the largest at 14.5 million records. Most of the records are Catholic baptisms, marriages, and burials, but other denominations have some records in this database. The Canada, Québec Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979 database on FamilySearch overlaps with this database and sometimes has better image quality.
The Ontario database has 1.3 million records and contains Catholic records for that province. The FamilySearch database Canada, Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923 contains some records included in the Drouin collection, some that are not, and vice versa. As a result, if you do not find your parish, time period, or ancestor of interest in one database, you should search the other.
The United States database contains about 228,000 Catholic records for parishes in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. Nothing comparable exists on FamilySearch.
The Acadia database contains about 922,000 Catholic parish records in areas located in present day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and part of Québec. A few parishes’ records can be located on FamilySearch by reviewing the church records under New Brunswick in the FamilySearch Catalog as pictured below.
FamilySearch’s Canada, Nova Scotia Church Records, 1720-2001 database contains some French Catholic records. Some of them are also in the Drouin collection and some are not. As a result, if your ancestor lived in the part of Acadia that is now Nova Scotia, you should search both databases. One parish on Prince Edward Island has the database Registres paroissiaux, 1721-1758 de l’Ile-St-Jean on FamilySearch. This parish is also in the Drouin collection and can be searched in both databases.
The Québec notarial records database contains 1,055 records. Notarial records were created for private transactions such as sales of property, wills, death inventories, and marriage contracts. This database does not contain the original acts, but rather the repertoires and indexes that can help locate the acts. These repertoires and indexes are organized by the name of the notary and contain the names of the parties involved, the date and type of transaction, and sometimes a brief description. On FamilySearch you can locate some original notarial acts as well as repertoires and indexes by reviewing the notarial records under Québec in the FamilySearch Catalog as pictured below. You can find more in the FamilySearch database Canada, Quebec Notarial Records, 1800-1920.
This small miscellaneous database has 180 records, mostly from Québec, that include things like topographic dictionaries, family histories, letters, journals, manuscripts, and notary registers. Nothing comparable exists on FamilySearch.
Now that you understand the components of the Drouin Collection, here as an example of using it to conduct a search and locate a record. It is important to understand that when you are searching these databases, you should be creative with your search terms because your ancestors may have their names spelled in various ways and/or there may be indexing errors. If you do not locate your ancestor with the index, but you have an exact date and location, you should browse that parish and period page by page.
I started with this information obtained on FamilySearch: Jean Duranceau was born 27 April 1740 in Saint-Joachim-de-Châteauguay, Châteauguay, Québec. Since he was born in Québec in 1740, I conducted a search in the “Québec, Canada, Vital and Church Records, 1621-1968” database using the following search terms: Jean Duranceau born in 1740 in Chateaguay, Roussillon, Quebec, Canada. I successfully located this entry:
It is important to note that the indexer got the date wrong. The only reason my search worked was because someone else added the correct year. This emphasizes the importance of not overly relying on the index. The original record, pictured below, was very difficult to read.
I looked for the record on FamilySearch and found it easier to read there.
This baptism record indicated that Jean Duranceau was baptized 27 April 1740 and confirmed that he was born the same day in Saint-Joachim-de-Châteauguay, Châteauguay, Québec.
This is part two of a four-part series on French-Canadian genealogy research, covering several tools that can assist you in seeking your ancestors. Part three explores how to use the Drouin Collection and Tanguay dictionary together as well as how to read these records even if you do not understand French.
Our professional genealogy researchers at Price Genealogy are available to assist you with your French-Canadian research. We would love to verify or extend your Québécois lines.
[i] “The Drouin Collection: Six Databases,” FamilySearch Wiki, accessed July 21, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/The_Drouin_Collection:_Six_Databases.
Have you done any Canada genealogy work recently? Let us know in a comment below!