Accessing the original parish records are a true delight because these records often provide you with information that is not available from other sources. While the handwriting may be a challenge and the language may be overwhelming at first for those who do not speak French, once you understand that each type of sacramental record follows a basic format, it is relatively easy to extract the necessary information from the records. Following are guides and articles that can help you with your research:
Dit and Dite Names found in Parish Records:
Surnames and dit or dite Names: The preservation of French-Canadian Catholic parish records allows those with French-Canadian ancestry to research most, if not all, of their ancestry back to the original ancestors who immigrated to New France. This is especially true if your ancestors settled in areas where Catholic parish records have been digitized or transcribed by Genealogical or Historical Societies, as well as Genealogical Dictionaries. While researching in these records, some people encounter what they perceive as a “brick wall” because they cannot easily find a particular record. These “brick walls” can often be broken down if they understand three facts and consult the links that follow: 1. The spelling of surnames were not standardized in parish or civil records; 2. Many French-Canadians used dit or dite (the feminine form) names or nicknames in addition to a surname or in place of a surname; 3. After they moved to a community where the residents predominantly spoke English, some surnames were translated into English.
See the explanation of Names and dit or dite names offered by Programme de recherche en démographie historique de l’Université de Montréal (PRDH) online: https://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/noms-et-prenoms. On PRDH’s page you find links to two databases. After you have entered a surname into one database, PRDH will produce a list of the spellings found in their database through 1799. The second link allows you to enter a dit or dite name into the database, PRDH will then produce a list of the surnames associated with that dit or dite name. If you prefer consulting a list that can be printed, you can consult the excellent resources provided by the American-French Genealogical Society. Link for Surnames and dit/dite names: http://www.afgs.org/ditnames/index1.html. Links for French given names and the English and Latin forms of the names: http://www.afgs.org/ditnames/givenname.html
Examples of French and French-Canadian Parish Records:
Gail Moreau-DesHarnais' three-part series of articles about French and French-Canadian Parish Records should be read by all! In the articles, Gail provides the reader with numerous examples of parish records. For each record, Gail presents you with an image, a transcription, and a translation of the act.
Sandra Goodwin's Podcasts: Sandra Goodwin’s Podcasts provide excellent background information and examples.
The Drouin Collection:
Dissecting a French-Canadian Burial Record:
Canon Law and Latin Records:
Links to Researching Parish Records:
Family Search: Digitized Microfilms of Parish Records in Québec, Ontario, and the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. You can access these records from your computer at no charge. For the most part, they are not indexed.
Ontario – these records are organized by County, then City, then Parish:
Diocese of Belleville, Illinois – these records are organized by County, then City, then Parish:
The Drouin Collection from GenealogyQuebec - in addition to the images of the Drouin Collection, a subscription to GenealogyQuebec provides numerous other genealogy resources, including Jetté’s Genealogical Dictionary. The individuals who indexed and transcribed the records are fluent in French, and are far superior to those offered from Ancestry. For records from the Province of Québec through 1850, you can search for a couple and receive a list of all records relating to the couple, including their marriage and burial records (if available) as well the baptism, marriage, and burial records for their children (if available). When you click on a link to those records, you will receive a transcription of the parties named (parents, and names of the individual baptized, married, or buried) in the record as well as to a direct link to the image from the parish records. Subscriptions are available on a daily, monthly, and annual basis ($100 per year for the annual subscription).
PRDH-IGD – the Drouin Collection now administers and indexes the Québec and other Parish Records. A transcription of the parish record, an individual record, and reconstruction of families is available from PRDH. Images of the parish records are not available. Individuals who want to access these records purchase hits which do not expire.
Ancestry.com – the Drouin Collections of Québec, Ontario, Acadia, French Parish Records, including Ste. Anne de Detroit. Individuals can access Ancestry’s records for free from most public libraries and from Family Search / LDS centers. Ancestry’s indexing of these records is terrible and many of the Ste. Anne’s records are not indexed. Subscription rates vary, but for Americans who want access to the Quebec Parish records, the annual rate is $300.
Articles and Research Guides:
The Nameless, by Suzanne Boivin Sommerville – This article explains the meaning of the French words ondoyement and ondoyé (lay baptism).
Articles published in Michigan’s Habitant Heritage: FCHSM Members, please log in to view the following series of articles.
Burials: Gail Moreau-DesHarnais’ articles which translate the key information regarding all of those buried from Ste. Anne’s, Assumption, St. Jean-Baptiste (Amherstburg), and St. Pierre (Tilbury). These articles were published in MHH from April 2010-January 2013.
Confirmations: Gail Moreau-DesHarnais has been transcribing and annotating the confirmations in the St. Lawrence Settlements since January 2006. The confirmations from 2007 can be accessed through the Members-Only Section of our website. Additional confirmations from the Detroit River Region can also be accessed through the Members-Only Section of our website.
Dioceses in Michigan – Use this guide to help you locate the parish where your ancestors were baptized, married, or buried.
Archdiocese of Detroit: Microfilms for the parish registers for the Archdiocese of Detroit are available at the Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library.
Ste. Anne’s de Detroit: The parish records for Ste. Anne’s are available from Ancestry.com. Individuals who do not subscribe to Ancestry can access these records at the local public library or at Family History Centers / LDS.
Ste. Anne’s, Mackinac Island: the gift shop sells a CD which contains the images of the original records from 1695 – 1888. The gift shop is only open on a seasonal basis: http://www.steanneschurch.org/giftshop.htm
Local libraries: Call the reference librarian for the town or county where your ancestors lived to see whether the library or a local genealogical group may have transcribed all or parts of the parish records.
MichiganGenWeb: Check the county where your ancestors lived and then the genealogical and historical information that may be available online from the countygenweb site: http://www.migenweb.org/county_list.htm
Dibean Marriage Index: They have indexed some of the early marriage records in Michigan’s Counties. Your ancestors’ marriage may appear in this index. See: http://files.usgwarchives.net/mi/
Research Guides from FamilySearch.Org:
Latin Genealogical Word List: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Latin_Genealogical_Word_List
Loraine DiCerbo's Photograph of the Interior of Ste. Anne's, Detroit, Michigan. In 2017, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron declared that Ste. Anne's was an Archdiocesan Shrine. On 26 July 2018, he announced that the Archdiocese has submitted an application to Pope Francis to designate Ste. Anne de Detroit as a minor basilica.
Loraine DiCerbo's Photograph of the Interior of Assumption, Windsor, Ontario