October 7, 2015

Here’s Why Quebec Church Records are a Great Place to Look for Ancestors

If you have ancestors who lived in the earlier days of Quebec, Catholic church records may prove some of your most consistently helpful resources. 

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Basse-Ville (Lower Town). Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Basse-Ville (Lower Town). Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Those tracing their ancestors in Quebec can encounter serious frustrations! The same 50 given names appear for 70% of the people before 1800 (and many share the same surnames, too). Almost all passenger lists are missing before 1865. Several early censuses are not easily searchable online.

Thankfully, in Quebec church records are often available back to the 1600s. There are LOTS of them online, and they often contain the distinguishing details–those exact dates, names, relationships and locations–that can help identify an ancestor with greater certainty.

The Catholic church was the dominant religion in Quebec. “Between 1679 and 1993, priests were required to make two copies of all baptisms, marriages, and burials,” explains FamilySearch. “The second copy was sent to civil authorities, and these are found in civil archives. In 1796, churches were required to index their registers.” Records duplication means more chances to find an ancestor. And “while the form and content of the entries vary somewhat, the general quality of the records is excellent.”

Catholic baptisms were performed for newborn babies, often within a day or a few days of birth. It’s often possible to glean the birth date from the baptismal date. This one, for example, states the child was born the day before:

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Baptism of William James Beard, 9 Feb 1856, St. Patrick’s Church parish register, Quebec. Image from “Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979.” Online at FamilySearch; click to view.

As you can see, in this baptismal record, the parents are identified as lawfully married. The father’s military regiment is named. Two witnesses are named, one who signed the register himself and the other who declared herself illiterate. Catholic marriage and death records can also be rich in genealogical data. Though most Quebec church records are in French, this one happened to be in English.

I learned recently about an interactive map of Quebec’s Catholic parishes (and other churches) up to 1912. Click below to check it out:

Quebec catholic parishes

Once you’ve identified the nearest parish, you will more confidently identify your ancestors in databases of church records, or pursue their listings in offline resources. Start looking in databases like these:

I also recommend exploring this excellent website for Quebec genealogy:
Quebec Records: The Genealogical Website of French America

More Canadian Genealogy Gems Right Here on Genealogy Gems

Canadiana: Digital Archive and Portal to the Past

Amazing Family History Find in a Basement: Canadian Navy WWI Memories

Google Earth for Canada and Genealogy



We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: Delaware land records, French censuses, British directories, Irish newspapers, Spanish municipal records (to the 1300s!), and U.S. passport applications. With whom should you share the great news?

We dig these gems

DELAWARE LAND RECORDS. Ancestry has added a new database of Delaware land records, 1677-1947. According to the database description, “Delaware is a state-land state, meaning that following the Revolutionary War, it continued to grant property within its boundaries, as it had in its Colonial days. This collection includes the recorded transfers of property by grant or by deed. Most Delaware land had been granted by the time of statehood, so in the years following the Revolutionary War, you will find deeds recording the transfer of lands between private parties as they were transcribed into the registers of the county recorder of deeds.”

FRANCE CENSUSES. Find half a million indexed entries and associated images for the Dordogne Census of 1876 and about 30,000 names from the Haute-Garonne Toulouse Censuses (1830-31) in new free collections at FamilySearch.org. Records may include names, age, occupation, nationality, household position and, in the second, address.

GREAT BRITAIN DIRECTORIES. Findmypast has added 122 British almanacs and directories that include “trade directories, county guides, almanacs and general directories. Inside you will find the names of prominent people, tradesmen, people who held office, business owners and local civil servants.”

IRISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 724,000 new, fully searchable newspaper articles have been added to Findmypast. According to the site, new additions span 1836-172 and include a national publication, The Evening Freeman. “Five newspapers have also been added to with supplementary articles. They include substantial updates to Belfast Commerical Chronicle (135,813 new articles), Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser (61,194 new articles) and The Pilot (17,721 new articles).”

SPAIN MUNICIPAL RECORDS. Over 400,000 indexed records and digital images have been added to a free database of Barcelona civil registrations, censuses, military records, and other miscellaneous records (1387-1950) at FamilySearch. Additional browse-only records are also available.

US PASSPORTS. Over a million indexed names have been added to a free image collection of 200 years’ worth of U.S. passport applications (1795-1925) at FamilySearch.org. This dataset is still being indexed; browsable images are available at that link, too. This collection overlaps with content already available (by subscription) at Ancestry.com.

New Videos Can Help You Find African-American Family History in Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch has posted a series of new videos aimed at helping people trace their African-American family history with Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens' Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens’ Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

FamilySearch’s YouTube channel has published several new videos to help researchers better understand how to trace African-American ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau records. As we explain more fully in this article, the Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed and posted online for free at FamilySearch and at DiscoverFreedmen.org. (Read the article we refer to above to see how you can help.) Now it’s time to teach everyone how to USE these records and to begin to share success stories. That’s the purpose behind these videos:

Telling a Story with the Freedmen’s Bureau with the Reverend Dr. Cecil L. Murray:

Research the Records of African-American Ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau with Kimberly Freeman:

Uncover Information about your African American Heritage wih the Freedmen’s Bureau with Judy Matthews:

Discover Stories from Your Ancestry with Insights from the Freedmen’s Bureau Project with John Huffman:

Use Freedmen’s Bureau Records to Demystify Your Family History with George O. Davis

Enrich Your Family History with Information from the Freedmen’s Bureau with Ambassador Diane Watson

Additional Resources

Free Database on Civil War Soldiers and Sailors  (African-American sailors)

Missing Birth Record? Here’s How to Track It Down (Special tip for African-American births)

DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

New! Map for Freedmen’s Bureau Resources

thank you for sharingWho do you know that will want to learn more about the Freedmen’s Bureau and African-American family history resources? Thank you for sharing this article with them.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: more Italian civil registrations, Ohio and Pennsylvania marriage records, thousands of New York genealogical resources, Illinois state censuses and school records for England, Wales, Ireland and Australia.

We dig these gems

SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 2.9 million School Admission Register records from England and Wales, Ireland and NSW, Australia are now searchable on Findmypast. Record content varies, but according to Findmypast, “These fascinating new records can allow you a glimpse into your ancestors’ early life, pinpoint the area they grew up in, reveal if they had a perfect attendance or occasionally played truant and can even determine whether they worked in a school as an adult.”

ILLINOIS STATE CENSUSES. Ancestry has updated its collection of Illinois state censuses, which now include 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855 and 1865, along with 1865 agricultural schedules for several counties and nonpopulation schedules of the federal censuses for 1850-1880. (Learn more about U.S. state censuses here.)

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch continues to upload Italy’s civil registration records. This week, they added browse-only records (not yet indexed) for Potenza, Rieti and Trapani.

NEW YORK GENEALOGY MATERIAL. Thousands of pages of materials from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society are now searchable on Findmypast. Among these are all back issues of the NYG&B Record, the second-oldest genealogical journal in the U.S. (in print since 1870). Findmypast’s Joshua Taylor calls it “the single most important scholarly resource that exists for people researching New York families.” Other collections include unique census fragments, vital records abstracts, baptismal registers and old diaries. Click here to see and search the full list.

OHIO MARRIAGES. More than a quarter million indexed records and thousands of images have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of Ohio marriage records for 1789-2013.

PENNSYLVANIA MARRIAGES. Over a million digitized images of Pennsylvania civil marriage records (1677-1950) are now free to browse at FamilySearch. The collection description says it’s an “index and images of various city and county marriage records, many from Philadelphia.”

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We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones could be the key to busting your genealogy brick walls? New this week? Vital records for Delaware, South Dakota, Illinois and Texas. Italy civil registrations. Newspapers from Indianapolis, Louisville KY and San Bernadino CA. Immigrant passenger lists for Mississippi ports.

We dig these gems

DELAWARE VITAL RECORDS. Over a million images of vital records from Delaware (1650-1974!) have been added to a 3-million strong collection you can browse at FamilySearch. Images of birth, marriage and death records for the city of Wilmington, Delaware are also newly browsable on FamilySearch. These date mostly to 1881. Birth records end in 1919; marriages and deaths in 1954.

ILLINOIS BIRTH CERTIFICATES. Over 370,000 births from Cook County, Illinois (home to Chicago) are now indexed at FamilySearch. These span 1878-1938; more records will be added on an ongoing basis.

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. FamilySearch continues to churn out  newly-digitized Italy civil registrations to its free site. They’re not indexed yet, but these are newly browsable: Arezzo (back to the 1300s!), Bergamo, CremonaEnna, Imperia (San Remo) and nearly a million images for Pescara. Birth, marriage and death records may all contain important genealogical information.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Newspaper.com subscribers now have access to over 200,000 pages (1868-1922) from The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), over 107,000 pages (1907-1922) from The Indianapolis  Star (IN) and 1.3 million pages (1894-1998) from The San Bernadino County Sun (CA)

U.S. IMMIGRATION–MISSISSIPPI PORTS. Indexed images of passenger arrival records at the ports of Gulfport (1904-1964) and Pascagoula (1903-1935, 1955-1964) are now available to Ancestry subscribers. According to the database description, “they typically include the name of the vessel and arrival date, ports of departure and arrival (as well as future destinations on a ship’s itinerary), dates of departure and arrival, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence. For military transports, you may find the next of kin, relationships, and address listed as well. Later manifests may include visa or passport numbers.”

SOUTH DAKOTA BIRTHS AND MARRIAGES. Nearly 700,000 indexed records comprise this new FamilySearch collection. The collection spans 1843-2014.

TEXAS MARRIAGES. About 1.3 million indexed records and related images have been added to a Texas county marriage records collection at FamilySearch.


thank you for sharingPlease help us spread the word about these new genealogy records online! Thank you! You are a gem!

U.S. Passport Applications for Genealogy: Find Immigrant and Traveling Ancestors

passport applicationsHave you ever thought to use passport applications for genealogy–to search for your immigrant or traveling ancestors?

Passports were issued in the U.S. beginning in the late 1700s, but weren’t required except during times of war until 1941. These records can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival, the arrival ship and date of naturalization (if naturalized).

Two Quick Tips for Researching U.S. Passports for Genealogy

  • Passports expired every few years, so people reapplied. You may find multiple applications for those who traveled abroad more than once. Subsequent applications will refer back to a prior one.
  • In earlier years, look for married women and minor children in group passports issued under the name of the head of household.

Where to Find Passport Applications

Passports Genealogy


A Page of History: Passport Applications  by Phil Golfarb

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124 interview with author Phil Goldfarb on the history of passport applications and celebrity passport stories. Available to Genealogy Gems Premium members.

Family History Made Easy podcast for free, step-by-step beginner and back-to-basics genealogy education

Share BoldThanks for sharing this post with your genealogy buddies and on your local society social media channels.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

AUSTRALIA WWI WOMEN. New media resources, including a television series, Facebook page and Twitter feed have been created to share more information about Australians and New Zealanders who participated in World War I, particularly women. Click here for a related blog post from The National Archives (Australia).

COLOMBIA CHURCH RECORDS. More than a million browsable records have been added to an existing database at FamilySearch, Colombia Catholic Church Records 1600-2012. “These records include: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, pre-marriage investigations, marriage dispensations, deaths, and indexes.” Some of the collection is already indexed.

ENGLAND ELECTORAL REGISTERS. Electoral registers for Manchester, England (1832-1900) are now browsable on Findmypast. Details about an ancestor’s residence and property ownership may appear.

NEW JERSEY STATE CENSUS. FamilySearch just added more than 2.7 million records from the 1915 New Jersey Census  to its free online collections. These records include “the names of each member of the household, location, gender, birth date (month and year) and birthplace.” Click here learn more about this and other state censuses.

TEXAS MARRIAGE RECORDS. More than half a million indexed records have been added to an existing free database, Texas County Marriage Records 1837-1977, at FamilySearch. Covering 140 years, the records include “various types of marriage records (registers, licenses, intentions to marry, etc.) from 183 of the 254 counties in Texas.”

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3 Sparkling Ohio Genealogy Research Gems

Ohio genealogy resourcesA listener sent in her favorite resources for Ohio genealogy research. Could any of these help you find your Buckeye State ancestors?

Recently we heard from Genealogy Gems Premium member Kate, after she listened to Premium podcast episode 125 with Cheryl McClellan (available to Premium members). “That [episode] was perfect for my situation. I am looking at our budget and thinking of letting my 12 year subscription to Ancestry drop. Cheryl’s comments helped me make that decision….Lisa, you always have answers when I most need them.”

“Wanted to share a few sources that have I have found very helpful in Ohio genealogy research. We live in Michigan but have used the Toledo Public Library for research for years as many ancestors have lived there.

  1. Toledo Public Library: The Blade obituary index, 1837 to present. Through an online search from your home, you can request an obit and there is no fee. You may request up to 3 at a time. They will look them up when they have time and email you an image of the obit. It has taken up to a couple of weeks. They are very helpful. They also gave me a link to Google News so I can look myself on the Toledo Blade images. As you know there are gaps and not all images are legible. The Library has the paper on microfilm to fill in where needed.
  2. FamilySearch has an index and images for Ohio Deaths 1908 – 1953. This has the full image of death certificates. You have to create a user account to see the images. Wow, what a great help to understand how all these people are related. Just one example in my tree: there are 11 Mary Lehaneys. Some never married, some did. They all died as Mary Lehaney and if their husband died, they are listed as Mrs Tom Lehaney etc.
  3. FamilySearch has the Toledo Catholic Diocese record images. My paternal line is mostly Catholic and lived in Toledo area for many years. Again, not indexed, but when you know about the time [can you can find] not only birth and marriages, [but] the complete burial records from the Catholic Cemeteries.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastAnyone who researches in Ohio may find these [resources] invaluable….Lisa, keep your beautiful smile and thanks for all your help!”

Thank YOU, Kate! We hope her suggestions prove helpful to many of you doing Ohio genealogy! Anyone can become a Genealogy Gems Premium member like Kate. Members get 12 months of access to monthly Premium podcast episodes and the full Premium podcast archive–all packed with genealogy news, tips and interviews like the one that helped Kate. We also have more than 2 dozen in depth video classes for Premium members only, with more added regularly. These include our entire series on Evernote for genealogy! Click here to see the current list of Premium videos.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. Over a million total indexed Italian civil registrations have been added to FamilySearch for Bario, Caltanissetta, Genova, Mantova, Pesaro e Urbino and Pescara. See and search (for free) all available records here.

MEXICO CHURCH RECORDS. FamilySearch also just updated their Mexican church records by the millions, from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas. The biggest updates are for the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) and Pueblas. Search these here for free.

SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 3 million indexed names have been added to this free collection at FamilySearch. According to the database description, “School records, including teacher’s term reports, school census and attendance records located at the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre. Records are generally arranged by county, year and school district number.” It looks like this is a work-in-progress and more indexed records will be added.

US ALIEN CASE FILES. Nearly half a million In 1940, immigrants in the U.S. who had not naturalized had to register and be finger printed. Case files resulted! Nearly a half million indexed records from all over the U.S. are part of this new FamilySearch collection. (Residents of Guam; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and San Francisco, California are not part of this collection.)

US CENSUS RECORDS. Updates, corrections and additions to their U.S. federal census collections have been posted recently by both FamilySearch (1790 and 1800) and Ancestry (1880 and 1920 as well as the 1850-1885 mortality schedules). No additional detail was provided about specific changes to the collections. We blogged a few months ago about why FamilySearch was re-indexing part of the 1910 census; read it here.

sign up newsletterSign up for our weekly newsletter, and this weekly round-up of major new record collections will be among the “gems” you find in it! With your sign-up, you’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy. Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone else who will want to know about these records (and this weekly blog post.)

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

ALABAMA MARRIAGES. Over 700,000 indexed records and accompanying images were added to FamilySearch’s free collection of Alabama county marriage records, 1809-1950. Click here for coverage and a description of the records.

DENMARK PROPERTY RECORDS. Nearly 1.4 million digitized images of deeds and mortgages for South Jutland, Denmark (1572-1928) are newly browsable for free at FamilySearch. Property owner and resident, land transfer dates, and other details of land transactions may be noted. The records are in Danish; the collection description links to tips on reading them.

ENGLAND (STAFFORDSHIRE) PARISH RECORDS. Over 1.2 million records were added to Findmypast’s collection of Staffordshire, England parish registers, an ongoing project to put 6 million records online. Among these records are baptismsmarriagesmarriage banns (announcements of intentions to marry) and burials.

OKLAHOMA MAPS AND NEWSPAPERS. The Oklahoma Historical Society has scanned and placed online nearly 2000 maps from among its collection of more than 15,000 maps dating since 1820. Search their full catalog of maps (including Sanborn and other genealogically-helpful maps) here. Additionally, the Gateway to Oklahoma History provides free browsable access to a growing number of digitized newspaper pages from the 1840s to the 1920s.

sign up newsletterKeep up on new genealogy records available online by subscribing to our free weekly e-newsletter! You’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy when you subscribe. Just enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this page with anyone who will want to know about these records!