MSS-026-The PRDH

Episode 026-January 6, 2015

Most French-Canadian researchers have heard of the PRDH. Have you used all three formats? Did you even know that there were three formats? Today we take a look at the pros and cons of each.

In our Language Tip, we’ll learn how to tell if someone is writing or speaking about Québec the city or Québec the province.

French-Canadian News

The French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan


The American-Canadian Genealogical Society of Manchester, New Hampshire


New England Regional Genealogical Conference

  • From April 15-18 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, RI: There will be a Librarians’ and Teachers’ day as well as Tech Day on Wednesday followed by classes and workshops from Thursday through Saturday. You will be able to speak to various French-Canadian genealogy societies either in the exhibit hall or during the Society Fair, and a French-Canadian special interest group will be meeting on Thursday night.
Classes of interest:
  • George Findlan will be conducting a class called ‘Using Canon Law to Understand Catholic Parish Registers.’ According to the schedule, “This talk uses a heretofore unused resource-1917 Code of Canon Law Description to explain odd entries in Catholic parish registers. Four examples illustrate the value of this resource for understanding unusual entries.”
  • David Ouimette will be speaking about “Overcoming Spelling Problems and Unlocking the Power of Names. Names are the most powerful means of identifying ancestors. This presentation shows how to overcome spelling problems and discover the hidden potential of family names.” Surely there will be some French-Canadian names in there.
  • Pauline Cusson of the American Canadian Genealogical Society will present a talk called “Navigating Brick Wall Research in French-Canadian Records” where she will show tips and tricks to navigate through or around a potential brick wall and what to do if a marriage cannot be found.
  • Representing the American French Genealogical Society, Michael LeClerc will talk on Researching French-Canadian Ancestors Online. Michael will explore a number of online resources for researching your French-Canadian ancestors, discussing the benefits and pitfalls of each.


With tracks such as genealogy on the web, DNA, advanced methodology, and military research, just to name a few, there is definitely something for everyone. Be sure to check out the schedule and registration on their website at

Big Apology

Because of a technology glitch that I explain in the podcast, many listener emails never made it to me. So over the next couple of weeks, you may see emails from last year showing up in the comments as I catch up with all of them. Big, big apologies to all of you who took the time to write in and then never heard a word from me.

Language Tip #026- Québec – the City or the Province?

Did research on one of your ancestors uncover that he was from Québec or moved to Québec? Were you confused? Did it mean the city of Québec or the province of Québec? There’s a clue in the French.

Nouns in French have a gender assigned to them, even nouns that we consider gender-neutral in English, like ‘house.’ For a review, see episode #2. In French, the word ‘maison,’ the word for ‘house,’ is feminine, and all adjectives describing it must also be in the feminine form. ‘La’ is the feminine form for the word ‘the,’ so ‘the house’ would be ‘la maison.’

The word for dog, ‘chien,’ is masculine, so ‘the dog’ would be ‘le chien.’

Now let’s combine those with two of the most common French prepositions, à and de. À is the word for ‘at’ or ‘to.’ ‘De’ means ‘of’ or ‘from.’ So ‘to the house’ would be ‘à la maison.’ ‘From the house’ or ‘of the house’ would be ‘de la maison.’

However, when the noun is masculine, there’s a slight change. Instead of saying ‘de le chien,’ in French we change the ‘de le’ to ‘du.’ Du chien. Instead of ‘à le chien’ for ‘to the dog’ we say ‘au chien.’

ScreenHunter_301 Jan. 04 11.37



So what does this have to do with the place name Québec? Well, basically, the city is a feminine noun, and the province is a masculine noun. If you see ‘de Québec’ or ‘à Québec,’ then the writer is referring to the city. If you see ‘du Québec’ or ‘au Québec,’ then the writer is referring to the province.

ScreenHunter_302 Jan. 04 11.37


So now you’ll know if your search should take you to the city of Québec, or if it encompasses the entire province.


There are three iterations of the PRDH (the Programme de recherche en démographie historique):

The following chart compares the three formats.

PRDH Comparisons










The Printed PRDH

The printed PRDH consists of 47 volumes covering Québec records from the beginning through 1765. It includes 2 million names from the records of the three governmental jurisdictions of Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal.

The records are arranged first by location,then by record type, and finally in chronological order.

Non-French-speaking researchers tend to find these volumes difficult to use. Instructions are printed at the front of the volumes, but they are in French, of course. A translation was printed with the title “Key to the Repertory.” Bertrand Desjardins from PRDH has graciously given me permission to offer this booklet to you. If you join the Maple Stars and Stripes email list at, you will receive the link to a PDF copy of the Key. After that you will receive a Maple Stars and Stripes newsletter perhaps once or twice a month. You may, of course, opt out at any time.

Even if you don’t plan to use the printed PRDH anytime soon, these instructions include information that can be used no matter what format you’re using, such as explanations of abbreviations and a list of occupations and their translations.

If you learn best by seeing instead of reading, I have put together a series of four videos that explain how to use the printed PRDH. If you have a tablet or smart phone, you can watch these videos while at the library, or librarians have permission to use them as the focus of a class on using the printed PRDH. You can view all four videos by going to or by searching for ‘Using the Printed PRDH’ on YouTube.


If the videos are blurry, make sure to check the directions below the video which tell you how to upgrade the resolution to make it clearer. There is quite a bit of print on the slides in the videos, so even if they are clear when I upload them, after two bouts of compression, the clarity degenerates to the point that you have to upgrade the quality in order to make out some words. But that increase in quality may mean you have problems with the buffering of the video, and depending on your system’s download speeds, it may be choppy. So you’ll have to play around with it a bit to see what works best for you. [No matter how much checking you do, there are always errors that make it through. After the videos were uploaded I found a couple minor ones. Can you find them?]


In 1997, a new version of the PRDH was published in CD-ROM format known as the R.A.B. du PRDH. It’s extended title is “Repertory of the Baptism, Marriage and Burial Certificates of 17th- and 18th- Century Québec, 1621 to 1799.”

Some libraries such as those of the American French Genealogical Society in Woonsocket and the American Canadian Genealogical Society in Manchester have installed the CD-ROM onto their computers at the library for you to use as part of your membership or with the price of admission. Please let us know if there is a library near you with the RAB du PRDH available for patrons.

815 certificates come from Tanguay’s research. Although his records are not a first choice of today’s genealogists due to some errors that have since been corrected, he had access to records from the parishes of Sorel, At-Augustin, and Petite-Rivière-St-François which no longer exist. Of course, this means there’s no way to check the information for accuracy.

Included Records

Various censuses from 1666 to the post-conquest era

Marriage contracts (important if marriage records were missing or incomplete)

Immigrant lists:

  • Passenger lists from the St-Andrè in 1659
  • Lists of people engaged, or hired, to work in the colony from La Rochelle for the 17th and 18th centuries
  • Those who were part of the Grande Recrue of 1653 from St-Nazaire
  • Those from Nantes between 1725 and 1732
  • Those who left from Bordeaux
  • Members of the Carignan-Salière Regiment who came to the colony in 1668
  • The faux-sauniers, or unlicensed salt merchants, from 1730, 1731, 1733-1737, and 1739-1743

Naturalizations from the French regime

Proofs of freedom to marry

Pre-1700 sick lists from the hospitals in Québec and Montreal

A few abjurations, or renunciations usually of the Protestant faith


Marriage rehabilitations

Marriage annulments


These are, of course, the same records used in the printed PRDH and to compile the online version.

I’d suggest taking the time to read through the built-in instructions for using the CD-Rom version. You will find a Name/Surname Association Dictionary to help you search for alternate names. You will not find compound given or surnames. Names were entered without accent marks, hyphens, spaces, apostrophes, or the word dit.

You will find a list and map of parishes in existence during the time frame of these records.

You can search by name (individual or couple), occupation, origin, date, parish, or record number. A search by occupation will bring up anyone who was ever listed by the occupation in any record. A search by origin gives a picture of possible acquaintances back in the homeland.

A search for a particular name will bring up everyone with that name in any record in any role. For a baptism record, the person could be the subject, the parent, or the godparent. You can filter for a particular role. Filter for the role of parent and you can find the baptisms for all the children and easily build a complete family.

Online PRDH

You can find the PRDH online at There is information on the site for free, but you’ll have to pay for the best of the best. But keep in mind that none of these searches will produce an original record. These are all abstracts, and everyone is encouraged to search further for the actual document. But your search is made so much easier because the online PRDH is linked from generation to generation.

This online version includes baptisms, marriages and burials from 1621 to 1799, including some burials from 1800 to 1850 for people born in the first half of the 18th century.

For Free


By Subscription

When you subscribe, you purchase a certain number of hits. You can always see how many hits you have left by clicking on your user name in the upper right corner.

When you bring up a family record from the search results, that counts as a hit. The family record will include information about the parents with links to their children’s pre-1800 marriage records. Every time you click on a child’s record, that constitutes a hit. If you click back to the family record to link to a different child, that backtracking to the family record counts as a hit also, so be careful or you’ll use up your hits twice as fast as you’re expecting. But it’s an easy and convenient way to reconstruct entire families throughout the generations.


If a library near you has the 47-volume printed PRDH, please let us know in the comments for this episode at The library near me is missing a couple of volumes and has duplicates of a couple. If you add to the comments the duplicate or missing volumes from your library, perhaps we can match up libraries so they can help each other complete their sets.

Also, don’t forget to check out the 4-part video series called ‘Using the Printed PRDH’ and let me know if you’d like more instructional videos on topics a bit more timely, shall we say?And sign up for the Maple Stars and Stripes newsletter and I’ll send you the link to download the ‘Key to the Repertory.’

Besides the ACGS and the AFGS libraries as mentioned earlier, you can purchase the 2-CD-rom set of the RAB du PRDH, but I haven’t been able to find it online under $1000. Assuming that’s too steep for your pocketbook, please add to the comments for episode 26 the names and addresses of any other libraries that you know of where you can use this database.

Where to Find the PRDH

Of course, the online PRDH can be found at But with your help, we can compile a list of repositories that provide the printed and CD-Rom versions.

R.A.B. du PRDH (CD-Rom version)


Printed PRDH


How to Contact Maple Stars and Stripes

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9 comments on “MSS-026-The PRDH

  1. Suzanne Sommerville

    As always, it is important to indicate which of these three versions is the source of any data cited. Both the book version and the RAB have been updated periodically by the online version of PRDH, although they remain useful tools, as you indicate. Even the online PRDH citations should include reference to the date on which the “certificate(s)” were accessed.
    Also, in connection with the language tip, another important point is that before the British takeover in 1760, there was only one Québec: la ville de Québec: the city of Québec. Thank you, Sandra.

  2. Sandra Goodwin

    The Worcester Public Library in Worcester, Massachusetts, has the printed PRDH. They have duplicates of volumes 1, 13, and 46 and are missing volumes 11, 19, 21, and 25.

    Do your libraries have complete sets or duplicates?

  3. Diane Sheppard

    Sandra, the Mount Clemens Public Library and the Detroit Public Library in Michigan have the printed version of PRDH. Thanks for another great podcast.

  4. Bill Curran

    Sandra, the New Orleans public library has the printed PRDH (1987), as well as Tanguay and complement, Jette, and Godbout. I haven’t gotten down there yet to check them out in person.

  5. Julie Mangin

    The Library of Congress also has the printed PRDH. The call number is CS88.Q4 R46 1980. They keep only the index volumes in the Main Reading Room, but the good news is that they are open shelves. Once you identify the volume you want, you can ask to have it pulled from the stacks for you to use, which may take sometime, perhaps an hour (I haven’t tried it lately). If you plan to use the Library of Congress for research, you will need to get a researcher’s card. There are also restrictions on what you can bring into the reading room. Before you go, check out this page:

  6. Therese

    The Wisconsin State Historical Society located on the UW-Madison Campus has the complete printed PRDH.

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