Maximize Your Searching with the New France Archives

A great many of us can trace our Canadian ancestry back to when we were a part of France. The French starting coming to North America in the 1500s, and the first permanent settlements started in 1604. The eastern part of what is now called Canada was called New France. The territory came to include part of  Newfoundland, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. It also included the Great Lakes region on both sides of the present Canada/US border, and Louisiana. In 1763 New France switched to British control, and the Canada we know now began to take shape.

Back in 2004, a giant collaboration between Canada and France was undertaken to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of New France. This collaboration resulted in the New France Archives website.

There are two versions of the website, one in English and one in French, so don\’t fret if your French isn\’t that great. However, you are going to still need some sort of translating website open if your knowledge of  French is very small or non existent. Even those with intermediate French skills are probably going to want a French/English dictionary. For obvious reasons, the digitized images are in French, and there are no translated transcriptions.

This incredible \”one-stop shop\” website has over 1 million digitized images that form collections from

  • Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer (Aix-en-Provence)
  • Archives nationales (Paris)
  • Archives départementales de la Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle)
  • Archives départementales de la Gironde (Bordeaux)
  • Archives départementales des Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Pau)
  • Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa)
  • Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (Québec)
The documents in this collection date from the 16th century (1500\’s) to 1763. The website says there are a few post 1763 documents as well. There are several search options. I\’ll give a brief outline on each method, then explain what to do with your results. 
Basic Search
This option allows you to enter simple keywords to conduct your search. I entered fur trade and got 7 results. The result titles will be in French, but Google will translate for you automatically. I used fishing and got 0 results. But then a flash of inspiration came and I searched using the French verb pecher (to fish). I yielded 34 results. So keep this in mind when doing your searches.
Advanced Search
This section will come in handy if you\’re looking for a specific record, or if you are looking for a record from a specific archive
As you can see above, you can put your keyword in, then narrow the results by several options. If you have something very specific you are looking for, then the advanced search might be the better option.
Your Results
So here are some of the results from using pecher in the basic search
Now, in these results, both the document title and the Fond names are hyperlinks. If you click on the document title, then it will take you straight to the digital images. If you click on Fonds, it will take you a page listing all the documents in that fond. Each document is hyper linked to the digital image. My 8x great grandfather was Jean Bastnarache dit Le Basque. If you\’re not familiar with \”dit names\”, these were a sort of nickname commonly used in New France. I use the term nickname loosely. Not only were they \”Pierre Blanc the Carpenter\” in general conversation, but in legal documents too. The unique thing about dit names is that they may have started just to identify which of two men was being written about, but it became a way to refer to their descendants as well. So to use my Jean Bastarache as an example, his children also became \”Bastarache dit Le Basque\”. The grandchildren from Jean\’s sons also had the name \”Bastarache dit Le Basque\”. My 7x great grandfather is his son Jean, and then my 6x great grandfather is Jean the younger\’s son Michael. My Bastarache dit Le Basque line daughters out at my 5x great grandmother Felicite. She married into the Saulnier family. Over the years, some lines descending from Jean ended up dropping the Bastarache part of the name and became Le Basque, then simply Basque. Now my older Jean Bastarache came from the Basque area of France, hence the nickname. The Basque fishermen fished the waters in the Maritimes for generations. So I decided to look at document 7828, which is titled in English Document relating to the treaty which allows the Basques to go fishing in the Saint-Pierre Islands. It dates to 1694. here is the 2 images of the document
The image viewer on the site is fantastic. You can easily zoom in and out, and even go full screen with it. There is no lag time with the zooming in and out. You also have the option to download it the images to your computer, and/or print them. 
Thematic List
This section allows you to explore the fonds themselves. In English they are:

  • General Control of Finances Fond 
  • State Secretariat for the Navy and the Colonies fonds
  • Marine
  • Colonies
  • Settlement Fortifications Deposit Fond
  • Colonies\’ public papers deposit fond
  • Bayonne Admiralty Fond
  • Admiralty Fund of Brouage en Saintonge
  • Admiralty of Guyenne Fond
  • Admiralty of La Rochelle Fond
  • Quebec Sovereign Council fonds
  • Stewards\’ Fonds
  • Grands Voyers Fond
  • Fonds of the notaries  Rivière and Pierre and François Soullard (La Rochelle)
  •  Antoine Bagard Notary Fond (La Rochelle)
  • Fond of the notary  François Desbarres (La Rochelle)
  • Fond of notaries  Pierre and Léonard Guillemot (La Rochelle)
  • Fond of notary  Jacques Bréard (Rochefort)
  • Fond of notaries  of Saint-Jean de Luz
  •  Chartier de Lotbinière family fonds
  •  Beauharnois family fonds
  •  Ramezay family fonds
  • Duhamel du Monceau, Duhamel de Denainvillers, Fougeroux de Bondaroy and Fougeroux de Secval fonds
  • Engraved and handwritten cards
  • Plans, drawings and graphic documents of all kinds
  • Collection known as \”Historical Monuments\”
  • Collection of documents from the reserve of the Minutier central des notaires de Paris
  • Collection known as the iron cupboard and the museum

                                              You first click on a fond title. This will take you to a new page giving you the following general information

                                              • Database Item Number
                                              • Title
                                              • Date Range
                                              • Language
                                              • Reference Number
                                              • Scope and Content
                                              • Physical Description (how many containers, linear length of the collection)
                                              • Access and Use Restrictions
                                              • Repository the Collection is Held at
                                              Below that is the individual sub sections. For example, the fond Minutes from notaries René Rivière, Pierre Soullard and François Soullard contain the following sub sections
                                              Clicking on one of these will then allow you to \”drill down\” through subsequent subsections, until you find a particular document to look at. Then it will take you to the image viewer.
                                              Exhibition: New France, New Horizons
                                              This section takes you to Library and Canada\’s vitual exhibition of New France. It covers many topics:
                                              • Departure: The circumstances upon leaving
                                              • Navigation: The crossing
                                              • Discovery: The exploration of new territories
                                              • Encounter: Contact with Aboriginal peoples
                                              • Settlement: The seigneurial system
                                              • Foundation: The establishment of towns and forts
                                              • Daily Life: Everyday life in the colony
                                              • Administration: The institutions
                                              • Trade: The economy
                                              • Worship: The role of the Church
                                              • Warfare: Armed conflict
                                              • Survival: The changeover of European control, the deportation of the Acadians, and the English conquest
                                              Each section gives some historical overview, as well as images and downloadable documents.
                                              We can thank the Direction des Archives de France, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and the Canadian Embassy in Paris for this great website.

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