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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors by Althea Douglas M.A., CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Rouyn, Noranda, Val-d’Or, and Amos, the mining and pulp towns in the north of Québec opened up with the building of the National Transcontinental Railway (now CNR), which ran from Québec City to Winnipeg in a great arc, north of most settled areas, across the Laurentian shield. Look at Plate 16 in Vol. III of the Historical Atlas of Canada. This is not “English” Québec. Managers and engineers might speak English, but railroad labourers, miners and workmen were recruited from pockets of unemployment in North America, the UK, and across Europe. Do not expect people to stay put, follow the rail lines.
ANQ and Other Resources
There is a branch of the ANQ in Noranda, and you can expect to find regional records there. Note that the United Churches in Temiscaming, Noranda and Val d’Or are part of the Ontario Manitou Conference, though they would have had to supply copies of their registers to the Québec Prothonotary Court. This will apply to all denominations, but their archives for this region may, like those of the United Church, be located in a different province.
Detail from Québec City, 1815
Map 9: Detail from Québec City, 1815
Detail from Québec City, 1815 by Joseph Bouchette, author’s collection.
Along the St. Lawrence
Québec City, Three Rivers and Montréal are all on navigable water and English-speaking immigrants, soldiers and sailors all arrived at the three locations by ship. During the 19th century, many arrivals wanted land to farm. Others were skilled tradesmen, well-connected merchants, “officers and gentlemen”, but some were too poor and unskilled to have any hopes for acquiring land so settled for manual labour and a “daily wage” paid when there was work to be done. All of these social classes tended to stay in the growing towns and cities along the Saint Lawrence.
Québec City and Montréal began as walkable, walled cities, like those in medieval Europe. Housing was densely built, though richer men who could afford horses and carriages, might choose to live in an estate outside the walls. Three Rivers was a fairly large town as was Sorel, this last, a creation of British Army engineers.
When the Judicial District of St. Francis was formed, Sherbrooke became the main urban centre for the eastern portion of the Eastern Townships. St. Johns, on the Richelieu, was a military centre that also became an urban business centre, serving the western parts of the Eastern Townships as well as the townships to the west of the Richelieu. County seats and railroad centres grew into towns.
Remember what Senator Forsey said: “…in 1867 Montréal was more than half ‘English,’ Québec City about 45 percent”. The Montréal percentages may even have grown as immigrants from both the British Isles and Europe poured into the St. Lawrence ports between Confederation and the First World War. Québec City, Sorel and Three Rivers, however, slowly lost their “English” to the financial, industrial and transportation capital of Canada—Montréal.
As the capital of the colony, Québec City is where you would find British military and government officials, and those supplying and serving the government. The microfiche index to non-Catholic Baptisms, Marriages and Burials from the Québec City area, c. 1790-1875, available at branches of the ANQ, is probably the best place to begin a search. The Archives in Ottawa has a card index to theQuébec Gazette, 1764-1823, available on twenty-four microfilms (C-7071/ C-7095). In addition, the Québec Family History Society has published two indexes compiled by Ernest J. Smith, Québec City gazette marriage notices, 1846-1855 and Death Notices, 1846-1855, from the Québec gazette . “The first city directory in Canada was published in 1790: Directory of the City and Suburbs of Québec. A second edition came out in 1791, but nothing further until 1822, and even after that publication was sporadic so the runs appear incomplete”. Though closed in the winter months, for half the year Québec City was the first port of arrival, and so a distribution and shipping center. A major export was the timber that was rafted down the rivers throughout the 19th century. Québec City, however, was not a railroad centre, though the Government of Canada did it’s best by building the National Transcontinental Line which ran from Winnipeg to Québec City, largely through unsettled and undeveloped wilderness.
Québec City still has a small “English” community, but as journalist George Boulanger pointed out in the Globe and Mail, Québec City’s English-speaking Jewish and Irish ethnic communities:
- … had followed business up-river to Montréal many decades ago and no new Jewish or Irish immigrants ever came to strengthen the dwindling communities of those who stayed behind. Now, most new immigrants to Canada settle in either Vancouver, Toronto or Montréal. Those who do venture to the old walled city come from Chile, San Salvador, Haiti and Lebanon, not the British Isles or Eastern Europe.
This is even more true of the other smaller urban centres in Québec. The Francophone population has grown, but as the English leave they are not replaced, their institutions decline and may eventually disappear. The “English” population is also ageing, so the volunteers who run the historical society museums, the libraries, the churches and who maintain the graveyards, may be slow to respond to your enquiries.
Special urban research tools include the indexes, then city directories used in conjunction with census returns, cemetery and burial records, and newspapers. Even if your family was Protestant, have a look at local marriage indexes—they might include a cousin who married a Catholic or they might include the Protestant churches.
To check whether members of a family are still living in a city, try Canada 411 on the Internet. If you are sure a family once lived in a city, check the historic telephone directories, which exist on microfiche.
In the last decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the Provincial Government has forced small communities to amalgamate into larger municipalities. Lac Brome, in Brome County was among the first. In western Quebec, Hull and its surrounding suburbs have become Gatineau, and the entire Island of Montréal is now one city.
- Smith, Ernest J. Québec City gazette marriage notices, 1846-1855; Death Notices, 1846-1855, from the Québec gazette (Pointe-Claire, Québec: Québec Family History Society, 1997)
- Douglas, Althea, Tools of the Trade for Canadian Genealogy (Toronto: OGS, 2000) page 40
- Legget, Robert F.,Railroads of Canada (Vancover: Douglas, David and Charles, 1973) Chapter 9.
- Globe and Mail (12 April 2000) page R3.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
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