MSS-014-The American-French Genealogical Society

Episode 014-June 17, 2014

Baptism records provide us with a reliable document that carries our ancestry back another generation. Today we continue from where we left off in episode #13, and we explore French-Canadian baptism records in depth. We will translate and explain some of the less widely used terms.

Then we are treated to an inside look at the American-French Genealogical Society of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, by its president, Norm Deragon.

Listener Feedback

Michel from Canada asked a question about terms used for birth days. His question: When you speak about the date of birth (après veille – [which means] two days ago) would not it be avant veille?

Part of the answer is YES, avant veille does mean two days ago. Avant = before; aprés = after; veille means the previous day or evening. So aprés veille literally means after the previous day, which is today. Not the intended meaning. So could it mean after the day before, because our reference point is the day of the baptism and we are counting days backwards? We are not coming upon the date in a forward manner. Perhaps our native French-speaking listeners have an explanation.

Language Tip #14-Terms and Phrases Found in Baptism Records

Below we are going to look at each part of a baptism record and list the variations and translations for each section.

Baptism record 01

  • Le dix-neuf Avril mil huit cent trente trois = the 19th April 1833
  • Ce dix-neuf Avril mil huit cent trente trois = this 19th April 1833
  • Aujourd’hui le dix-huit septembre mil huit cent trente trois = Today the 18 September 1833
  • L’an mil sept cent treize le dix-huit septembre = the year 1713 the 18 September
  • Cejourd’hui le dix-huit septembre mil huit cent trente trois = this day the 18 September 1833 Baptism record 02
  • Nous Prêtre curé soussigné avons baptisé = we the undersigned parish priest have baptised
  • Nous prêtre vicaire soussigné avons baptisé = we the undersigned curate have baptised
  • Je prêtre soussigné ai baptisé = I the undersigned priest have baptised
  • Par nous prêtre curé soussigné a été baptisé [name of child] = by we the undersigned parish priest was [lit. has been] baptised [name of child-WILL agree with gender]

Baptism record 03

  • Sous condition = conditionally [the priest baptized the child conditionally, usually because someone at home, possibly the sage-femme (midwife) or the father already baptized the child because of concerns that the child was weak or ill and may not survive long enough to make it to a priest.]
  • Ondoyé(e) = when the baby WAS baptised by someone present at the birth


Baptism record 04

Given name of child followed by birth date:

  • Sophie, née = Sophie, born
  • le seize du courant = the 16 of the current month [April]
  • aujourd’hui = today
  • le même jour = the same day
  • hier = yesterday
  • la veille = the day before, or specifically the evening before
  • avant hier = the day before yesterday
  • après veille = two days ago
  • le neuf du courant mois = the ninth of the current month
  • avant-veille = two days ago
  • depuis trois jours = since three days, or three days ago
  • ce jour = this day
  • le vingt-trois Juillet = the 23 July


Baptism record 05

  • Du légitime mariage de = from the legitimate marriage of
  • Fils légitime de = legitimate son of
  • Fille légitime de = legitimate daughter of
  • Du mariage légitime de = from the legitimate marriage of


Baptism record 06

Father’s name followed by occupation:

  • cultivateur = farmer or husbandman
  • journalier = day laborer or farm hand
  • meunier = miller
  • forgeron = blacksmith

For a list of occupations and translations, see Lucie Leblanc Consentino’s list on her Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Home website at

Baptism record 07

The name of the mother

et de Geneviève Lemmery  =  and of Geneviève Lemmery

Baptism record 08

The parish of residence can appear after either parent’s name.

  • Du susdit Township* = of the aforesaid township  *see below
  • De cette paroisse = of this parish
  • Du lieu = of this place
  • Dans le township d’Upton = in the township of Upton
  • De [followed by name of parish] = of [name of parish]


Baptism record 09

*’Du susdit Township’ means from the aforesaid township, but there IS no aforesaid township because the priest forgot to write it in. So he put a # in the spot where the words belonged and then wrote the missing words in the margin, initialing them to make it official.

# dans le Township d’Upton = in the township of Upton

Baptism record 10

  • Le parrain a été Pierre Terrieau et la marrain Angélique Lemmery = The godfather was [lit. has been] Pierre Terrieau and the godmother Angélique Lemmery
  • Le parrain Pierre Terrieau la marrain Angélique Lemmery = The godfather Pierre Terrieau the godmother Angélique Lemmery
  • Et la marrain Angélique Lemmery, son épouse = and the godmother Angélique Lemmery, his wife [fictitious]
  • Et la marrain Angélique Lemmery femme de Paul Terrieau = and the godmother Angélique Lemmery, wife of Paul Terrieau [fictitious]
  • Et la marrain Angélique Lemmery veuve de Paul Terrieau = and the godmother Angélique Lemmery, widow of Paul Terrieau [fictitious]


Baptism record 11

  • qui n’ont su signer, le père était absent = who didn’t know how to sign, the father was absent
  • qui n’ont su signer, la père absent = who didn’t know how to sign [his name], the father [was] absent
  • qui a indique le père présent n’ont su signer = who has indicated that the father was present but didn’t know how to sign [his name]
  • qui ainsi que le père présent n’ont su signer = who, although the father was present, didn’t know how to sign [his name]
  • qui avec le père, n’ont su signer = who with [along with] the father, didn’t know how to sign [his name or their names]
  • lesquels n’ont su signer. Le père absent = those of which did not know how to sign [their names], the father [was] absent
  • [name of the godmother] qui ont signé avec nous. Le père a déclaré ne le savoir [???]. Lecture faite = [the godmother] who has signed with us. The father has declared he doesn’t know how to sign [his name]. The reading [of the entry] done.
  • [name of godmother] qui ainsi que le père ont déclaré ne pouvoir signer = [name of godmother] who as well as the father has declared not knowing how to sign [their names]
  • [name of godparents] qui le père absent ont déclaré ne savoir signer après lecture faite = [name of godparents] who, the father being absent, have declared not knowing how to sign [their names] after the reading [was] done
  • [name of godparents] qui ont déclaré ne savoir signer, le père a signé = [name of godparents] who have declared not knowing how to sign [their names], the father has signed [his name]
  • Qui ont déclaré ne savoir signer = who have declared not knowing how to sign [their names]
  • qui ainsi que le père ont déclaré ne savoir signer = who along with the father have declared not knowing how to sign [their names]
  • [name of godmother] qui a signé, le parrain et le père n’ont su signer = [name of godmother] who has signed [her name], the godfather and father don’t know how to sign [their names]
  • [name of godparents] qui le père présent n’ont su signer = [name of godparents] who, the father [being] present, do not  know how to sign [their  names]
  • [name of godparents] qui le père absent n’ont su signer = [name of godparents] who, the father [being] absent, don’t know how to sign [their names]

Finally comes the signature of the priest.

Some other words that may show up on a baptism record:

  • Jumeaux = twin boys, or one boy and one girl
  • Jumelles = twin girls
  • Naturel = illegitimate

Now try your hand at reading a baptism record.


Surveille = two days ago; the day before “la veille;” the eve of the eve. (Thanks, Christine!)

The American-French Genealogical Society

Current president Norm Deragon highlighted the American-French Genealogical Society for us. The society was formed in 1978 as an offshoot of Le Foyer Club, a French-Canadian social club located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The society library soon ran out of space in the Le Foyer hall, so they were invited to move into the basement of the Universalist Church at 78 Earle St. in Woonsocket, RI, which they did in 1990. Ten years later, they had grown so much that their 3,000 square feet of space was feeling a bit tight. In 2000, the society began a building campaign.

Then the Universalist Church closed, and the society bought the 19,000 square foot building. They now have the wonderful dilemma of figuring out how best to use all that space. So they decided to make the space into a Franco-American heritage center and to expand beyond just the genealogy library. Plans are to bring in guest lecturers speaking on French-Canadian topics.

The library is expanding, and more computers will be added. The AFGS library has one of the largest collections of French-Canadian genealogical research materials in North America outside of Canada. There are two online catalogs of the library’s holdings in a downloadable pdf format. One is Library Holdings: USA and Countries, and the other is Library Holdings containing biographies, families, and references.

The society has compiled many databases on its own: obituaries, cemeteries, funeral cards, and parish repertoires. These are located at the library, and many of these databases are now going online in a members’ only section. The repertoires compiled by members and published by the AFGS are for sale on their website.

Membership information can also be found on the website. A non-member may research at the library for a nominal fee of $5.00 per day, which is applied to membership if he or she decides to join that day.

The society hosts a French-Canadian Hall of Fame, now in its twelfth year, that honors men and women who have promoted their French-Canadian heritage. Past inductees include congressmen, business people, and clerics, among others.

Members conduct free classes at the society on a regular basis. Topics include how to use the library and how to begin French-Canadian research. Be sure to check the calendar for events and classes.

AFGS is also an associate library of FamilySearch.

Their many projects include the Filles du Roi program as described in episode 7 and the AFGS Heritage Ornaments, beautiful depictions of life in Nouvelle France

Je Me Souviens, the society’s journal, is published twice a year. Anyone is welcome to submit a well-researched, foot-noted article.

In past episodes I have included many links to useful tools found on the AFGS website at They can also be found on Facebook and Google+.

Volunteers are always needed. Help is needed in many different areas, from desktop publishing to carpentry skills. You have the opportunity to help the society remodel their building.

In the future, the society is looking forward to expanding into the new wing, increasing the collections (including their new acquisition, books of the actual Woonsocket Call from the 1920s to 1950), and developing a true heritage center.

How to Contact Maple Stars and Stripes


Thanks to Margie Beldin for translation assistance.

9 comments on “MSS-014-The American-French Genealogical Society

  1. Michael Lafreniere

    Very informative episode. I learned so much! Thank you Sandra. And the AFGS profile was quite interesting; I’ve been a member for many years, as was my mother who contributed several articles to their quarterly magazine ( Haven’t finished listening to the interview but I hope he mentions that the AFGS has a really outstanding cookbook for sale, filled with great French-American and French-Canadian recipes. THAT topic alone might well be worth discussion during a future episode, i.e. the family traditions around tourtiere, etc.

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Michael, I’m glad you brought up the cookbook because we did not mention it in the interview. Information can be found here. Stay tuned for an episode on that topic closer to the holidays!

  2. Peter Marcaurelle

    I am so glad that I found your podcast. Your explanations of the French language has been very helpful in helping me through some difficult to read documents. It is also bringing back some long lost French that I learned in high school.
    I was wondering why you added [fictitious] to the comments on godfathers and godmothers? In my case the document indicates son epouse, so I assumed they were husband and wife.

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Hi Peter-I’m so glad you’re finding the Language Tips beneficial.
      The reason I wrote ‘fictitious’ in my last three examples for that section was because there is nothing in the actual record above to indicate they were a married couple. I used both their names as subjects in sentences that were examples of other sentences you might find in the ‘godparent’ section, but I didn’t want someone to assume these people were a married couple when it was not stated. I hope I explained that clearly enough.

      1. Peter marcaurelle

        Thank you Sandra for the quick response and yes I understand your thought process. My reason for the question was that in my case, the godmother (who is enetered with a different last name than the godfather) is wriiten as ….

        Le parrain Pascal Garneau, menuisier, marraine, Esther Desroche, son épouse, de cette paroisse ,qui n’ont su signer, de a requis le père signé avec nous Lecture faite.

        I’m assuming that they were married and that the maiden name was being noted in the record.

        Again thank you for the great podcast.

        1. Sandra Goodwin

          Yes, Peter, your assumption is correct. Women’s maiden names are used throughout their lives, so yes, this couple is married.

  3. Christine Thiffault

    Hello Sandra,
    In the language tip section, you were asking why the priest refers to himself as “we”. I believe it is not the collective “nous” he is using, but the “nous de majesté” or “royal we” normally used by a sovereign. But in French, it can also be used by a person in a position of authority, especially in the church, such as a priest.

  4. thefoundfacesproject

    This is very helpful! I’m wondering if you can clarify the ‘absent’ father statement. On an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, a genealogist on the show said that ‘absent’ meant the father had left the family. I’ve seen ‘absent’ before and assumed it simply meant the father was absent at the signing or not able to attend the birth for whatever reason. Do you know if it indeed means the father has abandoned the family? Thank you.

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      It is my understanding that “absent” could mean many things. It could mean that the father was a soldier away on a military campaign. Or he could be a voyageur or businessman away for business purposes. He just couldn’t be present for the baptism as was the usual custom. If any listeners know otherwise, please let us know.

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