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Article Updated 22 October 2008
Little Victoria and Gigantic Drouin Finally Spell Success
By: Xenia Stanford Biography & Archived Articles
If you remember my column regarding the mystery of Victoria Stanford, Lost and Found: 103-Year-Old Baby Laid to Rest; 154-Year-Old Still Missing, you will recall the only record of her that I could find was on the 1851 Canada Census in St. Roch Ward, Quebec City. Listed as Victoria born in Quebec City and age five, she then disappeared. She was not listed in the 1861 census with her family or anywhere else as far as I could find.
You may have also read my article on L'institut Drouin/Drouin Institute Assets Move South and Rick Roberts more recent article on 37 million historical French-Canadian names launch online: Drouin Collection.
Yes, the worlds of past and present collide and bring Victoria, now 161 years old, to life. I spent about 20 years trying to find this child of Joseph Stanford (born 1808 in London, England) and his wife, Adelaide (Adele) Marticotte (dite Ayette) (born 1814 in Montmagny, Quebec). In all the couple had 11 children and, of those, nine married and produced descendants. One child, a twin brother to the only male to carry on the name, died at birth or was stillborn. All these were found from birth to death. Victoria remained a mystery.
I spent days in the Quebec Archives and at the local Family History Centre bringing in films to review and even seeking her among the records in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I posted questions in online forums and in genealogy magazines. As a last resort, I hired someone to comb through parish records from 1845 to 1861 at the Quebec Archives again, in case I had missed something. Nada! Nothing!
The Drouin Collection was online at Ancestry before the indexing was complete. I even took a stab at looking through the St. Roch parish registers for that time period, which is where the records for all the other daughters' marriages were found. Still nothing!
As soon as the announcement was made that the indexing was now online and linked to the microfilm of the records, I logged on looking for the mystery baby. At last she came out of the shadows and was there on the screen in front of me. Well at least the evidence of her birth was there.
Her name on her baptism record was Florence Victoria (she'll always be Victoria for me because that is what her family called her for the 1851 census taker). She was born May 23, 1847 in Quebec City and baptized June 20, 1847 in Notre-Dame-de-Quebec Church in that city. It is rather unusual that it was a month after birth before she was baptized. So that is a bit of a mystery.
However through her birth and baptism, she finally came alive once again. Her godparents were Magliore Marticotte (her uncle from her mother's side) and Adelaide Stanford (her eldest sister). The parents are "of this parish" - i.e. Notre-Dame. Her father's occupation was "charpentier". She joined six elder siblings, all girls.
One more sister was born before the family was recorded on the 1851 census. One more sister and the twins were born before the 1861 census, but that's where Victoria disappears. By this time five older sisters are married and living with their husbands. I even searched their homes on the census to see if Victoria lived with them.
I still needed to lay her to rest. Where did she go after the 1851 census? No marriage and no death records were found in my exhaustive search. Did she enter a convent and change her name? That would explain how she could be buried and not show up in the records under her worldly name.
This was proving a little more elusive. I searched for Victoria Stanford and I searched for Florence Stanford and no death/burial record was found. A few days passed before I sat down and once again looked for a death record. Remembering how one daughter in the family had been mistakenly indexed in Loiselle under Stanfold, I tried that. Nope. Not there. What other variation could I try? Oh, what about Standford? For some reason many people try to spell it that way even after I spell my name out for them.
Yes! There she was again. This time as Victoria Florence! Unfortunately, she never lived to see her twin brothers born in 1856 or at least meet the one that survived. She died on March 30, 1854 and was buried on April 01, 1854 (death avant-veille - 2 days before) in the St. Roch Cemetery, Quebec city at age six years and ten months. She had eluded me in all my other searches through the St. Roch parish registers. Unfortunately there is no explanation of what caused her death.
Thanks though to the gigantic Drouin Collection, I can at last lay little Victoria to rest. After 161 years she came alive on the screen and then faded back to her restful repose.
I do want you to know though that this is not the Rouge or Petite Drouin or even the Bleu Drouin. Those are indexes only. This is why I am calling this collection the gigantic Drouin! It is not just the number of names indexed. It is more than an index. The index links to the actual microfilmed parish register page. There you can see what was actually recorded on the day it happened. In other words it is a primary source. It is not just 37 million indexed records. It is hundreds of thousands of parish registers right there at your fingertips and computer screen.
This doesn't mean it does everything for you either. You still have to do your homework and you still have to face the problems of accessing the records through the indexes. Like all indexes there are problems. I wonder if the indexers were familiar with French names. Josephte is written in shorthand in the left margin of records as Jos with te in superscript. The common nickname is Josette. If the indexer would have read the entire entry he or she would have seen that. However, it is indexed as Juste/Joste. Of course, with the massive undertaking of indexing these records it makes sense the margin entries are used instead of the entire record, but everyone familiar with French Canadian names and nicknames would know what this entry means.
Another similar error is the index entry Joseph Flormidas Elizabeth Amede. The actual name is Josephte Hormidas Elisabeth Amedee. All this means is we must look for every possible spelling variations and errors, just as we do in any other index. Take the name Marie at the beginning of almost every girl's baptismal name and Joseph for boys. This reflects the need for "grace" names for Catholic baptisms. They may or may not use the grace name when they marry or are buried. Certainly it is almost never used as part of their name when the person is the parent, godparent or witness on a baptism, marriage or burial record. (The Drouin Collection does not index the parents, godparents or witnesses on a record.)
This means we still have to know French naming traditions, nicknames, spelling variations and spelling errors. Then we would know that Elisabeth is spelled with an s not a z. We would know that Isabelle is a nickname for Elisabeth. We would know that Amede is the masculine form and Amedee is usually the feminine form. It would also be understood that Josephte or Josette is the usual feminine form of Joseph. For Hormidas or Hormisdas, variant spellings of the same name, we would also recognize that this is what the Flormidas should be. Although Hormidas is usually a masculine name and doesn't really have a feminine version, it is sometimes used for females. On the whole though, the English have many more transgender names than the one or two the French use for either sex. Yes, there are boys with the grace name Marie and girls with Joseph, but on the whole it is not usually their only name and so we can determine the gender of the person by their name.
Still if you look at the entry in the index, there is not one name in the four given names that are spelled correctly. Joseph Flormidas Elizabeth Amede vs Josephte Hormidas Elisabeth Amedee! I did find her record by spelling Elizabeth the English way and typing in her surname. Luckily there were not too many with the same name combination in the list and the four given names jumped out at me. So be creative in your searching if you don't find it under the way it should be spelled.
There is a much more perturbing problem. The microfilm display shows the two facing pages at once. This is fine for the records that end on either page, The problem occurs where the right hand page ends with the indexed names in the margin, but the text for that record extends to the next set of facing pages. Before the indexing was done and you could search by parish and date, you could continue on to the next set of pages, but not so now.
The convenience of indexing far outweighs this problem because we can always order the microfilm from the Family History Library once we know the correct parish and date. However, I sent a message to Ancestry outlining this problem in the hopes they will soon have a solution.
All in all the collection means we still have to know our source, not everything is indexed, not every register was collected and some records are illegible. Still aren't you glad you have French Canadian ancestors? Don't you wish every province, state or country had this fantastic a resource?
Also the records are not simply either French or Catholic. I found Joseph Stanford's burial in Grace Anglican church records. I knew it was there but I wanted to see if I could find it. Similarly I found the christening and adoption of one member of the family in a Protestant record.
Neither is it all Quebec. Some of the records I discovered were from Carleton County where the next generation of the Stanford family resided for a decade. I understand that the database will extend to additional Ontario and Maritime records.
It is an immense and empowering collection. Yes, my children are related to Hillary Clinton and Camilla in addition to Madonna, Celine Dion and Alanis Morrisette, which I already knew. Of all, Madonna is the closest relative and is closer than Madonna is to Hillary, Celine or Alanis. I can prove it all through accessing the Drouin Collection.
If you have only a few look-ups, you probably can access the Drouin Collection through your local Family History Centre or large public library. If you have many, it is well worth the investment to obtain a subscription to Ancestry.ca
More Quebec/French Research Resources