THE DROUIN COLLECTION
A VALUABLE RESEARCH SOURCE
In uncovering their family history, genealogical researchers strive to use primary sources as birth and baptismal records, marriage records, death and funeral records, successions and other records created at the time of the actual life event. During the past decade with the recent dramatic improvements of computers in storage capacity, speed and software development and the rapid growth on the internet of both free and subscription genealogical websites as FamilySearch.com and Ancestry.com, increasing numbers of these records are becoming available to researchers on their home computers.
In 1899 a Canadian attorney Joseph Drouin founded Les Généalogies Drouin enr. In 1913 he renamed the business L’Institut Généalogique Drouin (The Drouin Genealogical Institute.) With a passion for genealogy Joseph Drouin researched Québec’s vital records and sold family genealogies through the Institute. Between 1899 and 1937 he produced over 1500 genealogies of Québec families and compiled over 500,000 reference sheets for French-Canadian genealogical research.
With the death of Joseph Drouin in October 1937, his son Gabriel assumed leadership of The Drouin Genealogical Institute and continued his father’s work. After completing his law degree, Gabriel Drouin opened a headquarters for the Institute in Montréal. Immediately Gabriel set a goal for the Institute to microfilm Québec’s Vital Records –both civil and religious.
Québec had a unique document preservation procedure that greatly facilitated the work of the Institute. Until the late 1900’s Québec church registers served as both the civil and vital records of the province. For all religious denominations a second copy of all church records was made and sent annually to the appropriate courthouse. During the 1940’s researchers from the Institute filmed the entire set of records in the various courthouses. Limited filming of records continued into the mid-1960’s.
Realizing the vast extent of his vision, Gabriel formed a team of contributors. After the records were microfilmed, these contributors accumulated genealogical data from the microfilms onto thousands of index cards. Today researchers can access these data in several formats including the Kardex, the series of 2366 microfilms, the Dictionnaire nationale des canadiens-français (also called the Red Drouin or the National Dictionary of French Canadians) and the Feminine (also called the Women Series or the Blue Drouin).
The Drouin microfilm collection contains approximately sixty-one million records on 2366 microfilm reels. To obtain these records, researchers microfilmed the vital records of more than three thousand parishes in Québec, Ontario, Acadia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, New York and Michigan. The records span the timeframe from 1621 to 1967 – almost 350 years of French Canadian history. Most of the microfilming was done in the 1940’s; therefore, records beyond 1947 are scattered and few in number. Baptisms, marriages and burials from both Catholic and Protestant churches were researched and microfilmed as well as notarial records and other select documents of genealogical value. As with all original records of that time period, these records are handwritten and sometimes difficult to read.
Without any public funding Joseph and Gabriel Drouin invested their time, money and effort into creating an important genealogical resource for French Canadians. It is the largest and most valuable French-Canadian family history resource available – spanning almost 350 years and 37 million names. Understandably, the Drouin’s never placed their vast collections in public librairies, archives or locations available without charge to researchers. They limited access to their collections to paying customers as this was the livelihood of the family.
With the death of Gabriel Drouin in 1980 the Drouin Genealogical Institute almost closed its doors. The heirs of Gabriel Drouin had to sell a part of their assets to Americans. Then genealogist Jean-Pierre Pepin became involved and created the Drouin Institute in a successful attempt to keep most of the Drouin collection in Québec.
Because of the genealogical significance of the Drouin Collection, Ancestry.ca negotiated with the Drouin Institute and secured the rights to host the Drouin Collection online. In 2007 it placed over 12 million of the original images online and in a partnership with the University of Montréal indexed the Collection making searching in French and English by name, date, place, church (institution) and religion an easy task. All of the Collection is now online through Ancestry.ca and the World Subscription of Ancestry.com.
On Ancestry the Drouin Collection is divided into six sub-collections. Additional information about the contents of each sub-collection can be found at the link below the sub-collection name. The sub-collection are:
Québec Vital and Church Records (Drouin
Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin
Acadia French Catholic Church Records (Drouin
Collection), 1670- 946
Québec Notarial Records (Drouin Collection),
Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records
(Drouin Collection), 1695-1954
Miscellaneous French Records (Drouin
Although most of the records in the collection are specific to French-Canadians that initially settled the Québec and Montréal areas during the 1600’s and early 1700’s, there are a large number of records about Acadians. These records originate from three sources.
The “Acadia French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1670-1946” subcollection has birth, marriage and burial records of Acadians as well as confirmations, dispensations, censuses, statements of readmission to the church and various other records.
During the Acadian deportations from 1755-1763 approximately 2000 Acadians escaped deportation by fleeing to Québec. Many died during their travel to Québec; others died after reaching Québec. Their life in Québec was difficult initially; however, many of their descendants continued to live in the Québec region after the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Also, after 1763, when the Treaty of Paris allowed the Acadians along the Eastern seaboard of today’s United States to resettle in other areas, groups of Acadians from Massachusetts, Pennyslvania, Connecticut and other colonies immigrated to Québec. Many of the Acadians reaching Québec have remained in the province while others ventured westward into Ontario.
Later in the 1820’s an Acadian living in the St. Mary’s Bay region of Nova Scotia immigrated to the Restigouche region of northern New Brunswick and southeastern Québec. The Gaspé region of Québec just across the New Brunswick border had a Catholic church parish – St-Joseph-de-Carleton Catholic Church - in the early 1800’s. Baptisms, marriages and deaths of this family for the next 100 years were recorded in the registers of St. Joseph’s and other Catholic churches of the Gaspé region of Québec. The records of this family are even more important when one considers that in 1893 a fire destroyed almost all the extant religious records for the entire St. Mary’s Bay region in Nova Scotia. The only records remaining are a set of censuses taken by Father Jean- Mandé Sigogne of the St. Mary’s Bay residents in 1818-1829 and in 1840-1844.
Is the Drouin Collection of value to Guédry, Labine and Petitpas researchers? Absolutely. One of the families that immigrated to Québec from Massachusetts in 1766 was Jean-Baptiste Augustin Guédry - often called Labrador and Jean Guidry in the Massachusetts records. Jean-Baptiste Augustin Guédry was the third child of Pierre Guédry dit Labine and Marguerite Brasseau and was the grandson of Claude Guédry and Marguerite Petitpas. During the early 1800’s the Guédry name evolved into Guildry and in the latter part of the 1800’s several descendants of Jean-Baptiste Augustin Guédry changed their name from Guildry to Labine. Today the Labine and Guildry families continue to reside in Québec and Ontario and are very numerous. Entries for this family are numerous in the Drouin Collection.
The Acadian that left the St. Mary’s Bay region of Nova Scotia in the 1820’s and resettled in the Restigouche region was Hilaire Guidry, son of Romain Guidry and Marie Comeau. The Drouin Collection contains a large number of birth, marriage and burial records for the family of Hilaire Guidry and Cécile Bourg. For today’s Guidry, Geddry and Jeddry families of St. Mary’s Bay these are the only religious records remaining of the family prior to 1893. Granted it is only one of many branches of Guidry’s, Geddry’s and Jeddry’s from St. Mary’s Bay, but it still remains a valuable resource for descendants of this couple.
Below are the number of records in each of the Drouin sub-collections for the Guédry, Labine and Petitpas families.
If you have ancestors from the Québec and Ontario provinces, consider using the Drouin Collection as part of your genealogical research. With over 37 million records online the Drouin Collection is the largest dababase of French Canadian genealogical records available to the public.
Below are three examples of records from the Drouin Collection - the 12 October 1832 baptismal record of Marie Justine Guildry dit Labine, the 20 November 1829 marriage record of Hilaire Guidry and Cecile Bourg and the 13 September 1640 burial record of Marguerite Petitpas. When viewing “Generations” online, increase the magnification level (percentage) at the top of the page to enlarge the original records for easier reading.
Baptismal record for Marie Justine Guildry dit Labine – right side of page, 5th entry from top
Marriage record of Hilaire Guildry & Cecile Bourg – last entry on right side of page
Burial record for Marguerite Petitpas – Third entry on left side of page