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# Monday, August 31, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Tom Bergeron's French Canadian Ancestry
Posted by Diane

Today, our “Who Do You Think You Are?” guest blogger Shannon Combs Bennett shares highlights and tips from the final episode of the summer season (sniff).

In TLC's season finale of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, comedian and TV host Tom Bergeron discovered the origins for his father’s French Canadian roots. I found it a powerful show filled with history, adventure and more than one emotional discovery.

Bergeron started near his home in New England, where genealogist Kyle Betit showed Bergeron a family tree he’d already researched (wouldn’t it be great if all ancestral journeys started that way?). I had to rewind to make sure I heard correctly—those names and dates were all from Quebec church records. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. I wish my family had church records going back nine generations.

To me, this show helped prove why just collecting names and dates shouldn’t be all we do with genealogy resources. Mining them for history can really help you fill out your ancestral story. The search focused on Marguerite Ardion, born in La Rochelle, France, in 1636, and why she migrated to Quebec. The number of original records used was phenomenal.

For example, the account of the siege of La Rochelle was an example of using period sources to understand a family’s experiences at a point in time. Bergeron’s 10th-great-grandparents were in La Rochelle when French forces held the city. Bergeron viewed a firsthand account of the siege in A Journal of the Last Siege of the City of Rochel: Begun the 20 of July 1627 by Pierre Mervault. This moving and graphic account of the circumstances inside the city gave Bergeron a glimpse into what his ancestors would’ve experienced.

Learning where to look to discover more on your ancestor’s family history can be hard, but so very rewarding. There's a great video in, Top Ten Tools for Social History, that will help you get started.

In Quebec, Bergeron learns about Marguerite’s important status as a Filles du Roi, literally, “daughter of the King.” These unmarried women, about 800 in total, came to New France from 1663 to 1673 to start families in the new colony. Marguerite was among the first to arrive. These women are held in high regard today; Bergeron learned that being a Filles du Roi descendant is similar to having a Mayflower ancestor in the United States.

This episode made me a little jealous. I don’t have French Canadian ancestors that I know of. If you do, Family Tree Magazine’s French Canadian genealogy guide can help you find the right resources. 

Now the waiting game starts for next season. I DVRed the summer episodes, and I’ll be spending the fall reliving my favorite moments waiting impatiently for “WDYTYA?” to return.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | French Canadian roots
Monday, August 31, 2015 3:02:32 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, April 27, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Melissa Etheridge Discovers Her French Canadian Roots
Posted by Diane

We don’t often hear family histories involving 18th-century French fur trappers living along the Mississsippi River. But that’s what singer Melissa Etheridge discovered in last night’s season-concluding episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Etheridge’s mother had already researched a family tree back to Quebec in the early 1700s. So Etheridge headed to Quebec City to find out more about her sixth-great-grandfather Francois Janis. In the episode, we're told that the French were “pre-eminent takers of censuses.” I believe it, after seeing a published version of a 1716 census that named everyone in the household, their ages and relationships, the man’s occupation and the street they lived on:

This census data appears in volume 8 of Répertoire des actes de baptême, mariage, sépulture et des recensements du Québec ancient (click here to see library holdings in WorldCat for the original French publication and here to see an English-language guide to using it at the Family History Library).

At the Quebec National Archives, Etheridge digs through court documents about her fifth-great-grandfather’s sister Charlotte, who became pregnant as a teenager. Her father pressed charges against the baby’s father in both ecclesiastical and civil court. The couple eventually wed, although we learned the baby died.

You can find French Catholic church records for both Quebec and the early United States, both from the Drouin collection, at subscription site has Family Tree Magazine's guide to French Canadian genealogy research, which covers church and other essential records. We also have the Genealogy at a Glance cheat sheet to French Canadian research.

Etheridge’s fifth-great grandfather, Francois’ son Nicolas, migrated by water routes to the heart of the Midwest, where her own father grew up several generations later. He first traveled to Kaskaskia, a French fur trading town on the Mississippi River, now in Illinois. Nicolas made a good living but had to move his family across the Mississippi into Spanish territory after the Americans gained claim to lands east of the river.

Need help tracking ancestral migration routes? Check out our on-demand video class, Hints for Solving Migration Mysteries.

» Guest post by Sunny Jane Morton, Family Tree Magazine contributing editor

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | French Canadian roots | Research Tips
Monday, April 27, 2015 10:03:18 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What's in a Name?
Posted by Beth

Bonne année, Gutes Neues Jahr, Xin nian yu kuai, Feliz Año Nuevo and Kali hronia … Whether you say it in French, German, Mandarin, Spanish or Greek, they all translate to "Happy New Year!" Hope yours is off to a great start!

Speaking of languages, genealogists understand and appreciate the value of names and all the family history information that they can provide. Naming patterns and traditions; spellings; pronunciations; and meanings can impact your search for ancestors from a given locale.

To provide added insight to your ancestral search, we've created 15 PDF downloadable reference guides featuring first names from around the world. Each comprehensive guide is presented in dictionary-style format, making it easy to search for names, spellings and their meanings. For example, A Genealogist's Guide to British Names reveals that the name Harry means "ruler of an estate." Rather prophetic for Prince Harry!

Get more information from your genealogical research this year with a better understanding of your ancestral names!

A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Given Names
A Genealogist's Guide to African Names
A Genealogist's Guide to British Names
A Genealogist's Guide  to Chinese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Eastern European Names
A Genealogist's Guide  to French Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names
A Genealogist's Guide to German Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Indian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Jewish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Native American Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Russian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Spanish Names

African-American roots | American Indian roots | Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | French Canadian roots | German roots | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots | Jewish roots | Sales | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 12:04:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Finding Females and Cramming Canadian Genealogy
Posted by Tyler

In this guest post, Presenter Lisa A. Alzo breaks down her sessions on Canadian immigration records and tracking down evasive female ancestors at the Family Tree University’s Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference:

Secrets to Tracing Female Ancestors

When I started my genealogy research over 22 years ago, I began with a female ancestor: my maternal grandmother. This was before the Internet and without the luxury of FamilySearch, the Ellis Island Database or Nothing like starting out with a challenge! But I used the information available to me—family documents, interviews, church records, court documents and microfilm—as well as made trips to the library and visited the places she had lived. I was thus able to learn the details of her life, which I chronicled in my book Three Slovak Women. In my Virtual Conference session, “Secrets for Tracing Female Ancestors”, I will reveal my secrets for locating and using online and offline resources, and will share other tips and tricks you’ll need to find the elusive women in your family tree!

Canadian Immigration Records

As a child, my family would visit my father’s cousin in Ontario, Canada. At the time I fleetingly wondered why he lived so far away, but never questioned it until I became a genealogist and began tracking down clues about my Alzo ancestors. Curiosity led me to investigate sources in Canada, with some very interesting and surprising results! If you have ancestors who immigrated to Canada (or even think it’s a possibility), then join me for the session Canadian Immigration Records, where I’ll walk you through the basics of searching in the Great White North. You’ll learn about websites, databases and printed resources to help you locate passenger lists, border crossings and other immigration records, as well as search secrets to draw your ancestors out of hiding!

Learn more about the Fall Virtual Conference.

Canadian roots | Family Tree University | Female ancestors | French Canadian roots
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 3:45:13 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Canadian Genealogy for Americans
Posted by Diane

Has your genealogy research led you to ancestors in Canada? That's not surprising—folks have been crossing the US-Canadian border for a loooong time. Consider:
  • After the American Revolution, around 35,000 Loyalists headed for Canada's Maritime Provinces.
  • By 1812, about 80 percent of the estimated 100,000 settlers in southern Ontario province were of American origin.
  • Approximately 900,000 French-Canadians emigrated to the United States from 1840 to 1930.
  • As available US land diminished in the late 1880s, Canada's Prairie Provinces saw a massive influx of Americans.
  • Around 1895, when US border-crossing records begin, as many as 40 percent of immigrants to Canada planned to end up in the United States.
  • In 1897, the Klondike Gold Rush spurred a stampede of Americans to the Yukon.

Fortunately for US residents tracing Canadian ancestors, an abundance of resources is available—but where do you start?

Why, with our next webinar, Canadian Genealogy for Americans

Author and lecturer Lisa A. Alzo will introduce you to major Canadian genealogy resources and websites, key record groups and essential history. You'll also receive our digital Canadian Genealogy Guide when you register. 

Here are the Canadian Genealogy for Americans webinar details:

  • Tuesday, June 5, 2012
  • 8 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. Pacific) 
  • Duration: 60 minutes 
  • $49.99 (but register now to save $10!)
  • Registration includes: participation in the live event, access to the recording to watch again as often as you like, a PDF of the presentation slides, our Canadian Genealogy Guide

Our Canadian Genealogy for Americans webinar will enable you to formulate a solid research plan for discovering your Canadian kin. Register at

Canadian roots | French Canadian roots | Sales | Webinars
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 1:28:05 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, October 28, 2010
French Records Free This Weekend at
Posted by Diane

Subscription site, the Canadian sister site to, is celebrating All Saints Day by making many of its historic records from France—roughly 50 million names—free to search from this Saturday, Oct. 30, to Nov. 1. 

This weekend's free records include:

  • Paris, France records, featuring more than 200 years of birth, marriage and death records
  • Marne, and Saone-et-Loire, France, birth, marriage and death collections, which feature vital records spanning nearly 400 years 
  • Upper Brittany, France, records collection, including rare immigration and military records, as well as vital records dating back to the early 1500s
  • Marseilles, France Marriages, 1810-1915, with nearly half a million records

You can see the French records collection and access the free databases (starting Saturday, Oct. 30) at <>. (You’ll need to set up a free registration with the site to view your search results.)

All Saints Day, Nov. 1 in Western Christianity, is a celebration of all the saints. It’s sometimes called All Hallows or Hallowmas. The night before, or “All Hallows Even,” is believed to provide the origin for the word Halloween.

You'll find a French-Canadian genealogy research guide in the June 2006 Family Tree Magazine, available as a digital download from | French Canadian roots | Vital Records
Thursday, October 28, 2010 4:57:02 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, June 23, 2010
French Canadian Roots? Search the Drouin Collection Free June 24-26
Posted by Diane

Got French Candian ancestors? You’ll be thrilled to know that subscription genealogy site (the Canadian sister to is making its Drouin Collection—best available French Canadian genealogy resource—free for three days from June 24-26.

See the full announcement on Dick Eastman’s Genealogy blog. The freebie celebrates Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a national holiday of Quebec on June 24. You’ll need a free registration to access the records.

(Note that the Drouin collection also is on, but isn’t being made free there.)

The Drouin Collection has millions of names from family books of the Drouin Genealogical Institute, founded in 1899. Information comes from Quebec vital and notarial records, Acadian Catholic church records, Ontario Catholic church records and early US French Catholic church records. The collection dates from the beginning of European settlement to the 1940s, documenting many Quebec families over three centuries.

Want more information on researching your French  Canadian ancestors? See the French Canadian research guide in the June 2006 Family Tree Magazine, available as a digital download from (Family Tree Magazine Plus members can access the guide on | Free Databases | French Canadian roots
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 1:10:44 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]