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Most materials used in French Canadian research are written in French. However, you do not need to speak or read French to do research. You just need to know some key numbers, words, and phrases to understand the French Canadian records.
You may find other languages in the records of Québec. These include English and Latin. Latin is sometimes found in very early Roman Catholic parish registers. English was often used in the eastern townships and the Ottawa River valley. In 1850 about a quarter of the population of Québec spoke English.
French grammar and customs may affect the way names appear in genealogical records. For example, the names of your ancestor may vary from record to record in French. For help in understanding name variations, see Quebec Names, Personal.
Language Aids[edit | edit source]
The Family History Library has published a French Word List (34060) and a Latin Word List (34077). The lists contain words often found in genealogical research with their English translation.
The Family History Library also has a guide for researchers who do not speak French but must write to Québec or France to request genealogical records:
French Letter-Writing Guide. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1994. (FHL book 929.1 F21Lw; fiche 6117799].) It includes a list of sentences you would use in a letter about genealogical records and a French translation of sentences.
The following books and English-French dictionaries can also help you in your research. You can find these and similar materials at many research libraries.
French Records Extraction. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, [198-?]. (Family History Library book 944 D27f; fiche 6068523.) Text in English. Shows examples of French civil records, parish records, and handwriting. Has list of personal names and translations of common words used in the records.
New Cassell's French Dictionary: French-English, English-French. New York, NY, USA: Funk & Wagnalls, 1970. (Family History Library book 443.21 C272.)
Boudreau, Dennis M. Beginning Franco-American Genealogy. Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA: American-French Genealogical Society, 1986. (Family History Library book 973 D27bo.) See Quebec For Further Reading for a description.
Additional language aids are listed in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under FRANCE - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES or in the Subject Search under FRENCH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES.
Key Words[edit | edit source]
With a knowledge of the basic words, most English-speaking persons can read many of the French Canadian records used for genealogical research. These are some of the most common words and abbreviations in French Canadian church records, vital records, and genealogical collections:
|à||in, at, to|
|à Québec||in, to the city of Québec|
|au Québec||in, to the province of Québec|
|baptisé||baptized, christened (masculine)|
|baptisée||baptized, christened (feminine)|
|de Québec||of the city of Québec|
|du Québec||of the province of Québec|
|inconnu(e)||unknown, surname not known|