Tanguay’s Dictionary

Since my father’s family is French-Canadian, I’ve been looking into resources that target this genealogy area. My most recent purchase as been a digital copy of the Dictionnaire genealogique des familles canadiennes, complied by Rev. Cyprian Tanguay. In English, the title of this collection is The Genealogical dictionary of Canadian families. It’s really better known just as Tanguay’s Dictionary (or dictionnaire Tanguay).

It’s a 7-volume work filled with vital record information (including dates and names for births, deaths and marriages) spanning the time between 1608 and 1760. It’s limited to the Quebec region of Canada, though that shouldn’t be much of a limitation since that is where most French-Canadian families lived at that time.

There are some places where you can search Tanguay’s Dictionary for free but I prefer to have a copy of my own in case a website goes down. I got mine CD from globalgenealogy.com.

After using so many online databases with great searching capabilities, I was a little disappointed in the CD. There was nothing wrong with it, but it is just a big collection of scanned documents directed from the book. You have to read through the index and find the page you want (just like if you were reading from the original. All the text is in French, in case you hadn’t guessed.

Everything is alphabetical, and then arranged by date. The dates are marriage dates, not birth dates. The book is oriented around when people were married which is a little different than most genealogy resources.

It is not an easy book to navigate. Tanguay’s Dictionary uses some odd formatting that can be very confusing until you have a chance to read through it for a while.

Each page reads in two columns, like a dictionary. Each entry is based on marriage dates, as I mentioned. Then the man’s name is given first on the left side of the column, and his father’s name is tucked off to the right after a square bracket. The man’s wife is next and father also on the right. After that is all their children’s names, along with their birth/death dates and birth locations. Take a look:

Tanguay's Dictionary

Tanguay’s Dictionary for historical French-Canadian genealogy and ancestry

So in the above example, Joseph Adam is shown in the left column. He was married in 1747 to Marie-Joseph Maillot in St-Pierre les Desquets.. Joseph’s father was Jean-Baptiste Adam, and Marie-Joseph’s father was Pierre Maillot. They had children Joseph, Angelique, Francois-Xavier, Marguerite and Marie-Joseph. Joseph was married a second time to Marie-Charlotte Tipeaux, whose father was Damien Tipeaux.  Does that make it clearer?

If you have any French-Canadian ancestry, Tanguay’s Dictionary is one resource you really should have on hand.