Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Historical French-Canadian Names Online: Drouin Collection

Maine Genealogical Society does not endorse paid subscription sites, but thought many of our members having French-Canadian ancestry might be interested in this news.

346 Years of Quebec Vital Records Searchable Online for the First Time – Largest Collection

MONTREAL, QC, Canada’s leading family history website, today announced the online launch of the fully searchable indexes for the historic Drouin Collection, which contains Quebec records spanning 346 years from 1621 to 1967. Starting with 29 million names for the years 1850 to 1967, the indexes will include 37 million names in baptism, marriage and burial records, and also a compilation of church records from Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and various New England states, when complete in mid-2008.

Included in The Drouin Collection are the ancestors of some of Canada’s most famous French-Canadians and Quebeckers such as Pierre Trudeau, William Shatner, John Labatt and Henri and Maurice Richard. (original images available)

Family history enthusiasts can also trace their lineage back to the founding families of Quebec and Acadia, which includes that of Zacharie Cloutier, a common ancestor of distant cousins Celine Dion, Madonna and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. (Cloutier family tree / original images available)

From the early 1600s, the Catholic parishes of Quebec kept meticulous records of their members’ baptisms, marriages and burials. The Quebec Government soon required the Catholic Church to provide it with copies of all its records and in doing so became the central holder for Quebec’s vital records.

In 1899 a lawyer named Joseph Drouin founded The Drouin Genealogical Institute, using Quebec’s vital records to research and sell family genealogies. His son Gabriel assumed stewardship in 1938, dedicating himself to microfilming and indexing Quebec’s vital records; this important work formed what became the Institute’s principal reference collection.

The collection remained the property of the Institute until Gabriel’s death in 1980, after which it was sold to the genealogist Jean-Pierre Pepin who created The Drouin Institute, which was dedicated to preserving the collection intact and in Quebec. Recognising its historical significance, secured the right to host the collection online. It launched the original images – more than 12 million in total – in 2007, and in partnership with The University of Montreal has now indexed the collection to make it searchable online for the first time.
The Drouin Collection can be searched in French or English language by name, date, place, church or institution, and religion. senior vice president Josh Hanna comments: “As an estimated five million Canadians have French ancestry, The Drouin Collection is of huge national relevance, and especially to French-Canadian family history researchers.”

“It is important that the exceptional work of Joseph and Gabriel Drouin be made widely available for all to use and enjoy, whether they be French-Canadian family history enthusiasts or those from the U.S. and elsewhere in the world with French-Canadian cousins.” user Gail Mamers comments: “One piece of critical information that I discovered through The Drouin Collection on is that my grandparents were married, something that was not confirmed before this.”

“My aunt was so happy to hear this information that she cried. Having the Collection indexed will allow more people to make interesting discoveries about their own past because it will take a fraction of the time and effort.” user Desmond Ireland comments: “I have studied genealogy for more than a decade and by indexing this incredible collection of records, has enabled me to search more easily and effectively for my family history. They’ve taken genealogical research out of the library and brought it to my personal computer.”

* At launch the indexes will contain 29 million searchable names. The remaining eight million names will be live on by mid-2008.

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