We regularly receive requests, even demands, some of them quite forceful, from people who wish to trace the early French immigrants to Quebec. We point out that this group has been pretty heavily researched and that reinventing the wheel is dull, dull, dull. As a matter of fact, the whole purpose of this blog is to guide our Dear Readers, firstly, to where those previously invented wheels may roll on the Internet and, only secondarily, to where, if not, said Readers may have to (get to?) do research that has never been done before.
Today's revelation is an online database that has been around for a while and is no longer updated but that is, except for the misguided use of red type on light blue ground, a wondrous find for the fortunate descendants of the immigrants listed therein. PREFEN stands for the Programme de Recherche sur l'Emigration des Français en Nouvelle-France. Hosted by the University of Caen Basse-Normandie, it is the access point to data gathered over a long period and only recently made available on the Internet. The impetus for the grant that enabled the work was the establishment of a new museum, La Maison de l'Emigration française au Canada in the small town of Tourouvre, in Orne, whence came quite a few immigrants. (The exodus of more than 230 people must have left quite a dent since, for the past 220 years, the population of Tourouvre only once topped 2000 and probably was much less than that 400 years ago.)
What is quite unusual is that the database brings together information from Canadian records, French parish registers and French notarial records. It can be searched via two avenues, the Banque Migrants and the Banque Percheronne. The Banque Migrants can be searched initially on the surname of a pioneer. The resulting, almost unreadable (that red and blue combination), page gives the names of all those whose surname even comes close to the one typed, the variations of that person's name, his or her title, and date and place of birth. Clicking on a name gives quite a lot:
- parents' names
- date and place of birth
- a map showing the region of origin
- a genealogy chart of all known ancestors
- the date and place of departure from France
- the name of the ship
- the date and place of arrival in Canada
- further details concerning the ship, its passengers, cargo, etc.
- facts known about the pioneer's life in Canada
- sources for the above
The Banque Migrants can also be searched by various other criteria, such as the place or date of birth, or general category of pioneer (military, fille du roi, priest or nun, etc.) enabling all those family stories about the ancestor who was a wayward priest or the ancestress who was a fille du roi to be checked.
The Banque Percheronne is another matter altogether. It contains the extracts of some 166,000 parish registrations and 33,000 notarial records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from archives of the old Norman area known as Perche, where Tourouvre is located.
To make a search, you must first give your country of residence (from a drop-down list) and the reason for your research. The next page asks what type of research, e.g. are you looking for a specific person, a specific record or "Générale". Below that is a more detailed form to complete, though it actually works just fine with very little information. Results keep being added to the bottom of the page so scroll ALL the way down each time the page refreshes.
A sample search on the important name of Juchereau brings a long list of over 400 results containing baptisms, marriages, burials, marriage banns, deeds of sale, rental agreements, marriage contracts, agreements, loans and repayments, division of estates, and more. Each document is extracted in detail, with a printable version. The Banque Percheronne is not only for those researching immigrant ancestors to Canada, but for anyone whose ancestors were in the villages of the cantons of Tourouvre, Mortagne-au-Perche and Bellême, and who may have gone to the notaires of Tourouvre, Réveillon or Montagne.
To carry on your research, the Centre Généalogique de l'Orne et du Perche has an excellent website with a form for searching their database of names (access is via Bigenet or Geneabank). They also maintain the Perche-Quebec.com website, all about famous descendants of those Perche immigrants, revealing some very peculiar cousin relationships.
With all of this beautiful work done and available, why would anyone want to reject it and insist on reinventing the wheel? Just be grateful.
©2013 Anne Morddel