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Article Published September 6, 2002

A Productive French Genealogy-Research Day
By: Marielle A. Bourgeois, M.A., C.F.A. Biography & Archived Articles

More than twenty-five years ago I set out to find the roots of my paternal ancestors in the Richelieu River Valley in the province of Québec, Canada.

A friend and I visited cemeteries, surrounding the oldest churches of the province of Québec. I knew that my grand parents, by the surname Bourgeois, (which is an Acadian name) had been born, lived, and were buried in the cemetery of the parish of St-Mathias sur le Richelieu, one of the oldest parishes in Québec, today an unexpectedly beautiful historical monument.

Aerial view of façade
St-Mathias sur le Richelieu.
Click for larger image.
Photo : François Brault

We first walked in the cemetery of the parish of St-Mathias, on the Chemin des Patriotes, near the Richelieu River, Québec. We did not find stones marked Bourgeois, other than my grandparents'. To my surprise, we found stones that were marked Cournoyer, which was the surname of my maternal grandmother. Interesting fact to me since I did not believe that the Cournoyer side of my family was from the Richelieu River Valley area.

We visited the cemeteries of surrounding parishes, St-Denis and St-Charles sur le Richelieu, on the Chemin des Patriotes, Québec, and found more of the same thing, no Bourgeois name and several stones marked Cournoyer. The priest at St-Charles said "I suggest you take the ferry, go across the river to the parish of St-Roch, where the priest there is a professional genealogist". We thanked him.

We managed to catch the very last ferry crossing the Richelieu that day and there was just enough place on it to take the two of us and our car. After a rather pleasant ferry ride, as we approached the St-Roch church, a man, dressed in plain clothes, with a nice smile, came towards us. When I looked at him, I thought "This man has the same facial expression as my brother".

He asked us for our names, smiled when I responded. To our great surprise and pleasure the man, who was the local priest, invited us for dinner. "After all," he said, "we are family." He was a third cousin of mine on my mother's side. His name was father Georges-Henri Cournoyer, a curé and a professional genealogist employed by the Quebec Government Health Department, Genetic Research section.

He gave me a kiss and a file that contained my Cournoyer genealogy from my mother's name all the way back to Montigny, Rouen, France, in 1620. Finding over 350 years of French ancestors in one evening is not bad, wouldn't you say?

By: Marielle A. Bourgeois, M.A., C.F.A. Biography

    CONTRIBUTOR: Marielle Bourgeois is a published genealogy author, lecturer and professional researcher based in Santa Barbara, California who specialises in Quebec, and French research. If you require professional assistance, please contact her by email or visit her biography page for additional information.

More Quebec/French Research Resources

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)

The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)