5 Things to Know About the Drouin Collection

Drouin Collection facts

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Welcome to Tenacious Genealogy! Today I’m going to delve into one of my favorite collections to work with when researching my French Canadian ancestors – the Drouin Collection.

This is an amazing resource if you know that you have ancestors who lived in Francophone areas of Canada and the US. (Quebec, Ontario, Acadia, northeastern US, etc). It’s also a great way to work on your French reading abilities because the vast majority of the records are in French.

Anyway, for those of you who have French Canadian ancestors, but don’t know where to start when researching them, think of this as a primer for one of the better French Canadian genealogy collections you’ll find online.

5 Things You Need to Know About the Drouin Collection

Below are 5 basic facts about the Drouin collection the can help you to understand it as you begin using it or are looking for records in general for your French Canadian ancestors.

#1 – The Drouin Collection is a massive collection of vital records ranging from the 1600s to the 1900s.

The Drouin Collection is a massive collection of vital and church records (birth, marriage, death, and notarial records, etc) covering Quebec, Ontario, Acadia (now Nova Scotia), and northeastern areas of the US. Primarily places that were settled by French-speaking settlers. (National borders were a lot more fluid in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries than they are today, so many times settlers moved back and forth between New England and the eastern Canadian provinces as fortunes dictated.)

Most of these record collections started in the 1600s as French settlers came to Quebec and the surrounding areas and ended between the 1940s and the 1960s (depending on the province) when other (governmental) agencies took over collecting and keeping vital records. The records in the Drouin collection were also scanned primarily between the 1940s and the 1960s.

As a note to how many records are in this collection, I (and my mother) have been doing research using records from it for nearly 20 years now and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

An example of what records from the Drouin collection might look like (my 3x great grandmother’s death record)

#2 – Most of the records are in French

Because most of the original settlers in the areas that the Drouin collection covers were French-speaking, those who could write (illiteracy was high among many French-Canadians even into the 19th century), often wrote in French. However, because these records aren’t always dealing with French settlers (especially in places like Ontario and with US records), you’ll sometimes find records written in English, Latin, or even Italian.

#3 – The records found in the Drouin Collection are considered ‘primary sources’ 

In genealogical circles, records are generally organized into primary, secondary, or tertiary sources. (They are organized in other ways as well, but for the sake of this post, I’ll just focus on the primary, secondary, and tertiary notations.)

Primary sources are records that were created at the time of the event and contain information written (or given) by the people that the record is about. Ex. A marriage record where the bride and groom note their names, personal information, and signatures.

Secondary sources are records that were created at the time of the event by people other than those who the record is about OR records created by the individual after an event happened. Ex. A death certificate, birth index, or censuses.

Tertiary sources are records that were created after the event happened and by people who weren’t part of the event. Tertiary sources also may be summaries of primary and secondary sources. Ex. Biographies, family stories, summaries & indexes of other collections.

Genealogists and family historians LOVE primary sources because they are (usually) the most accurate sources of information on our ancestors. The Drouin Collection is for the most part primary sources created at the time of the event. This adds credibility to the information found in said records.

#4 – The Drouin Collection is curated by the Drouin Genealogical Institute and their website ‘Genealogy Quebec’

Why is the Drouin Collection called what it is? Because the records are preserved and curated by the Drouin Genealogical Institute in Quebec. (The Drouin Collection isn’t the only collection that the Drouin Institute takes care of, but it is one of the largest collections and most well known.) The Drouin Institute was started in 1899 by Joseph Drouin to preserve French Canadian genealogical records (and sell family histories). Currently, the institute has a website that people wishing to check out their collections can visit. Genealogy Quebec is a subscription-based website that allows people to access all of the research tools and databases that the Institute has access to. Costs range from $5 for 75 images or 24 hours to $100 for a year or 1050 images per week.

#5 – Most of the church records are for Catholic parishes, however, there are records for over two dozen other religions.

Because Quebec and the surrounding areas were primarily settled by French Catholics and politics in France during the 17th and 18th century prohibited non-Catholic French subjects from settling in French Canada, most of the church records in the Drouin collection are for Catholic parishes. However, as time went on and the British took over what had been French Canada, settlers from other faiths came to live there. Thus their religious records are also part of the Drouin collection, albeit a minor part. These religions range from the records of a variety of Protestant sects to some Russian Orthodox records, some Jewish records, and beyond.

This is valuable to note because, even if your ancestors weren’t Catholic, if they lived in the areas covered by the Drouin collection, you could possibly find their records within the collection.

Where to Find the Drouin Collection?

There are a few places where you can go to search the Drouin Collection. As noted above, the Drouin Institute’s website is a good place to search and has the complete collection plus more. Ancestry.com also has the Drouin Collection on its website, which you can access depending on your subscription to them. The collection is also accessible through NEHGS (New England Historic Genealogical Society) and the American-Canadian Genealogical Society. Though these last two places are less likely to have them online and more likely to require an in-person visit. They are also subscription/membership groups.

Questions? Comments?

Questions or comments about the Drouin Collection? Let me know in the comments below! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!

16 thoughts on “5 Things to Know About the Drouin Collection

  1. John Elliott says:

    Thank you that was very informative. I have primarily accessed the Drouin Collection on Ancestry and I find the records sometimes very challenging to decipher and not just because they are in French. Are there copies of these records that are more legible than those on Ancestry? I’d love to be able to do some sort of computer enhancement but I haven’t found any way to do that.
    Thanks, John

    • Laura Nelson says:

      I’m glad the post was informative! I mostly go to Ancestry when I need to access the Drouin Collection myself so I know what you mean with them being really hard to decipher. The original records (or copies of records) for the Drouin Collection are held by the Drouin Genealogical Institute and so there is a chance that the record images on their website are of a higher quality. I don’t know if the actual institute is open to researchers, but if so, that is another option. Depending on where you live, both the American-Canadian Genealogical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Society have digitized and microfilmed versions of the Drouin Collection, respectively. Visiting one of those two libraries or their websites could be of value in finding better quality records.
      As for computer enhancement, one trick that I’ve done with digitized handwritten documents is to flip the contrast (so the white parts of the paper turn black and the writing turns white) on the document. On occasion, that has helped me decipher a word or phrase that I hadn’t been able to earlier.

  2. Thomas M. Jackson says:

    Are Drouin Collection records substitutes for governmental records? Here is my issue:

    I amtrying to secure a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship. My mother was born in Montreal in 1928. I have a certificate of Baptism certtified by the Cour Superiuer of Quebec. It is essentially an extract from the Drouin Collection. Would this suffice as a Certificate of Birth for the citizenship authorities in Ottawa?

    If not, where do I turn?

    • Laura Nelson says:

      As far as I’m aware, Drouin Collection records aren’t substitutes for governmental records in Canada. I’m not well versed in Canadian law, so I couldn’t say one way or the other with any certainty.
      As for where else to look, check to see if Montreal was giving out birth certificates in the 1920s. (I know in the US, different states started issuing official BCs at different times.) Otherwise, I don’t know.

  3. kim says:

    once you have found an ancestor in the drouin collection is there any way of knowing what anglican church the marriage took place in?

    • Laura Nelson says:

      It depends. Most of the records are organized by parish or congregation, so that information should already be available if you’ve found them in the collection.

  4. Carol L Jensen says:

    I have searched the Drouin collections and have had very good success. However, one Thivierge/Gadoury marriage fromQuebec, Canada about 1848 or baptisms of their children have not been found. Marriages for their children are available. Any help with a clue of where to go ?

  5. Kerri Ann Senecal says:

    How do I search for a person by birthdate only in Quebec. She was my now deceased mother’s twin! We didn’t know she had a twin

    • Laura Nelson says:

      It depends on the time period and what set of records you are looking at. The Drouin Collection has Vital and Church records from 1621 to 1967 for Quebec. Depending on the parish that your mother and her twin were born in (and what year) you may be able to find records for them there. If you have access to Ancestry, you can look at the Drouin Collection there and search by birth date (If you know the general area where your mother was born, that could narrow it as well). The other place to look would be Genealogy Quebec. They have a variety of records from 1621 onward, so they’ll likely have more recent birth records available as well.

  6. carol says:

    Hi There,
    Can you elaborate on how the register’s copy for the Church’s civil responsibility was prepared; did the Priest make two original copies or maybe transferred all the information in the register at the end of the year? Sometimes the registers look like originals, sometimes they look like someone transferred all the information at a later date in more modern handwriting. I haven’t been able to find anything on this.
    As far as the Drouin Collection being “primary sources” for baptismal, marriage and burial records, I think you mean they are original sources?
    Best Regards
    Hope to hear from you.

    • Laura Nelson says:

      In regards to the register’s copy was prepared, I believe it depended on the parish and the year. So sometimes you’ll find two copies done at the same time and other times it was a copy done at a later time. When I refer to ‘primary sources’ I mean that in the academic sense – that they are the original sources, often written by a person who was at the baptism, marriage ceremony, or burial. (As opposed to secondary sources such as censuses or tertiary sources such as books/articles written after the event by people not at the event itself.)

      • Sirpa says:

        I saw your posts first time today : delayed comments.
        Maybe first a small correction to what you wrote: The parishes kept records of baptisms, marriages and burials and were obliged to provide a copy of the records at the end of each year to the government. In some cases, the original parish copy may have been burnt, damaged or lost but mostly one of the two coopies survived.
        When Drouin Institute proceeded to microfilm the records in early 1940s, some parishes did not allow them to do that and they filmed the government copy at the local administrative office/court (greffe).
        Their new site – Genealogy Quebec – has indexed the records from the microfilms and organized the data so that one can find a marriage of a couple, the births /deaths / marriages of their children, death of a spouse/s and a marriage of either of the spouses as one list. Baptisms and deaths are indexed up to 1861 and marriages up to 1919. Unless you really want to see the original church record, it is not necessary to look at the images. Therefore, the limit of 1000+ images in one week is more than plenty.
        The site also has the Quebec government index of marriages and deaths from 1926 to 1997. The marriage section includes images of the original documents. Marriage forms change and do not always have the same information, such as the parents of the spouses.
        Recent additions have been from parishes in Ontario and New England, plus what was called Acadia – present-day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
        Of course, you have to take a subscription but annual $100 Canadian is not a huge amount, if you have a lot of research to do. Plus, you avoid the problems at Ancestry where the names transcriptions are at times so incomprehensible that you cannot find the person, even if you know where he/she lived. Being done by French-speaking persons, they know how to standardize the searches.
        Some funny examples of names from Ancestry: Joseph Mirthand, Jular Ledain, Francois No Macbeth, Ziphwin Onchette, Chcation Detraiban and Mia Decotte Pavoine Dantrpart (male!).

  7. Melanie says:

    Thanks very much for this post. Do you know if the Drouin Collection at Ancestry is complete? Or are records missing for many years and locations? I am interested in Presybterian Records for Restigouche and Ancestry has digital images for 1811, then nothing until 1833. Then another gap from 1845-1848. Are there a lot of missing records? I am just wondering if I should subscribe to Genealogy Quebec, in case their Drouin Collection would be more complete? Hope to hear from you.

    • Laura Nelson says:

      As far as I know, Ancestry has the full collection. I know in my own personal research, I’ve found missing years from certain parishes because either the records didn’t exist or the originals were too badly degraded. The Drouin Collection is technically six databases, so it’s possible that the information is there but in a different database. More information on the Drouin collection and it’s various databases can be found here: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/The_Drouin_Collection:_Six_Databases

  8. Marsha Wolfe Jacobs says:

    Want and need to see birth of my father – August 1 1916 – in Montreal, Quebec
    Mother Metta Wolfe and Father Sam Wolfe. Sister- Lillian Wolfe
    Moved to USA in 1918 to California
    My father was Jewishc

    • Laura Nelson says:

      I’m not a professional genealogist (just someone who enjoys genealogy), but that information is likely accessible on a site like Ancestry or FamilySearch (if it has been digitized) or a historical society in Quebec might be able to help.

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