Attention French-Canadian Descendants: You Are Undoubtedly Related to Almost All Other French-Canadians

If you are new to French-Canadian genealogy, you may be surprised by the number of famous relatives you have. My own ancestry is 50% French-Canadian (thanks, Mom!) but I researched my father’s Yankee ancestry first. Sometime later I started on my mother’s side of the family and was soon amazed by the number of interconnected families. I also found French-Canadian family trees to be rather easy to research when visiting a major library dedicated to French-Canadian genealogy.

I have often jested, “I never met a French-Canadian that I am not related to.” That’s a bit of a joke, but it also seems to be true!

Almost all French-Canadian descendants can find family relations to Madonna, Justin Bieber, Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton, Ryan Gosling, Angelina Jolie, Camilla Parker-Bowles, and about half the players and coaches in the National Hockey League!

The French-Canadians lived for many years in small communities, somewhat shut off from the outside world by the politics of the time. They all intermarried. The result is somewhat twisted family trees with lots of cousins, certain ancestors appearing multiple times in a family tree, and more than a few inherited medical conditions.

Here is but one example:

The Perche-Quebec.com web site has explored the ancestry and cousins of Madonna. Like me, her mother was French-Canadian. In her case, however, her father was of Italian descent.

Quoting from the web site at http://www.perche-quebec.com/files/madonna/individus/madonna-en.htm:

“Willard and Elsie Fortin, the maternal grandparents of Madonna, are direct descendants of Julien Fortin dit Bellefontaine, the first Fortin who settled in New France in 1650. He was from the parish Notre-Dame-de-Vair, today part of the village Saint-Cosme-en-Vairais (Sarthe, France). 90% of the American Fortin descend from Julien Fortin. The Fortins are today the ninth largest family in Quebec.”

However, the story doesn’t stop there. The web site displays ALL of Madonna’s maternal ancestors for five generations. That only goes back to the late 1700s/early 1800s in Quebec. If the web page could display a wider pedigree chart, I am sure the researchers could have traced most of those families back to France in the late 1500s/early 1600s!

Now for the fun statistics. According to thePerche-Quebec.com web site, Madonna is related to:

  • Justin Bieber via 345 different connections
  • Celine Dion via 309 different connections
  • Xavier Dolan via 268 different connections
  • Jack Kerouac via 188 different connections
  • Angelina Jolie via 153 different connections
  • Ryan Gosling via 144 different connections
  • Justin Trudeau via 76 different connections
  • Hillary Clinton via 45 different connections
  • Camilla Parker-Bowles via 32 different connections
  • Alanis Morissette via 20 different connections

And that’s not unusual! In fact, almost all French-Canadian descendants can find multiple connections to most all–probably all–of the above famous people. Your challenge is to prove your own connections!

I would suggest you plan a visit to one of the following excellent genealogy libraries in the U.S.

American-Canadian Genealogical Society and Library (I have spent many wonderful hours in this library!)
https://acgs.org/
7 Elm St
Manchester, NH 03103

American-French Genealogical Society
https://afgs.org
78 Earle Street
Woonsocket, RI 02895-3108

French-Canadian Genealogical Society of Connecticut, Inc.
https://www.fcgsc.org
P.O. Box 928
Tolland, CT 06084

Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society and the Vermont Genealogy Library
http://www.vt-fcgs.org/
Physical address: 377 Hegeman Ave. (Across from the State Police)
Fort Ethan Allen
Colchester, Vermont

Mail address: P.O. Box 65128
Burlington, VT 05406

La Maison de la Généalogie
http://sgcf.com
3440, rue Davidson
Montréal, QC, H1W 2Z5

Also, the Le Comité des Archives de la Louisiane, Inc. is a non-profit genealogical support group for the Louisiana State Archives. While this organization does not maintain a large library of its own, it has published numerous articles of original genealogical and historical articles dealing with topics from around Louisiana. This society can be a big help, especially with information about French-speaking Louisiana residents. For more information, go to: http://www.lecomite.org/.

NOTE: The Quebec Family History Society Library in Pointe-Claire, Québec, also has an extensive genealogy library but specializes in genealogy research for the Non-Catholic, English-speaking population of Quebec throughout the centuries. This is not the best library for French-speaking Canadian ancestors, but it is an excellent resource for English-speaking Canadian ancestry research. Details may be found at: https://qfhs.ca/.

38 Comments

I love this post! While I am mostly Irish American, I have what I have always called the French thread, which is French Canadian. I have just recently begun to research this part of my ancestry and love how much easier it is to do than American or god forbid Irish records.

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It may be easier to research the paper trail of your French Canadian ancestry but the DNA research is confounding. I get so many DNA matches to other French Canadians that I usually don’t even review them anymore. I get very few matches on my mother’s (English) side and that’s where I have the questions.

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Well, Dick, I would hope you understand that you are mistaken if you suggest that all French Canadians have their historical origins in Quebec. As a Nova Scotian, admittedly with no Acadian ancestry, I can assure you that there are several key distinctions, even today, between the two groups, including the history of the original French settlers of Quebec and the original French settlers of what was ‘Acadie’ and now includes the Canadian Maritimes and parts of north-eastern Maine. In fact in Nova Scotia there was in addition a totally separate French immigration, much later than the Acadians, that took place in the early 1750s with the arrival of the Montbéliard French, or French Protestants, who were of very different origin, both geographically and religiously, from the Acadian and Quebecois French.
Surely you also know that the Cajuns of southern Louisiana were in fact transplanted Acadians (not by their choice), not Quebecois French.

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    Correct. My mother’s French-Canadian ancestry was about 25% Acadian and 75% Québécois. It’s been fun researching all of them!

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    To clarify — in Louisiana we do have a very large population of Acadian descendants, cadiens (Cajuns); however, most of us — in addition to our Acadian lineage also have Québécois lineage too. Do realize the Lemoyne brothers Iberville & Bienville established the colony of Louisiana and along with them were many other men and women from Québec, who came as early as 60+ years before the Acadians. I myself have in fact 6 separate fille du roi in my lineage. These Québécois came to places such as Mobile, Biloxi & New Orleans and throughout South Louisiana. Also lots of Québécois went to places like Detroit, and “Haute-Louisiane” (i.e. Prairie du Rocher, IL, Cape Girardeau & St Louis in MO, etc) and with “American” encroachment in the 18th century came further down to Louisiana. When the Acadians arrive in Louisiana from the 1760s – 1780s, gradually they begin to intermarry with these already established Québécois families so much so that today many Louisianians do not know that their “Cajun” ancestors in some cases did not even come from Acadie but rather Québec.

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    Dianna K. Goneau Inkster February 8, 2019 at 5:04 am

    Some Acadians also ended up on the West Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and kept speaking French until the arrival of the Americans during the 2nd World War. All Acadians, thus, are not in the Maritimes. There are.of course, as well lots of people of French-Canadian ancestry in northern Ontario and Toronto as well as points west whether they speak French or not. .

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Excellent post. I have no Franco-Canadian blood, but lived most of my life in NH. I was able to get to know the French-Canadian community and their culture when I lived near the northern border. They are people who work hard and play hard–anyone who can eat pork pie after midnight mass has my respect.
I had to relearn how to pronounce people’s surnames when I moved north. It was only a little over 100 miles, but the Franco-American community in southern NH was one generation more assimilated than their northern peers. Anglicization was not flattering to the orginal French surnames. I was glad to learn how to pronounce them ala Quebecois.
Thank you for this interesting and informative post.

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You forgot the Centre de Genealogie des Archives et des Biens Culturels de Chateau-Richer (http://www3.telebecinternet.com/archives.chateau-richer/accueil_eng.html). I spent a week there last year and it is a fabulous resource.

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You’ve had this blog for so many years and you’re just now saying this? You did touch on the inheritable medical conditions some years ago. That virtually all people of French-Canadian descent are related is as obvious as the hat on your head. It is a helpful topic to discuss periodically though as we always have new people getting interested in their heritage.

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Correction, French-Canadian of Quebec descent…DFSpencer is spot on with his comment.

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Good Morning Dick: Residing in NY State for many years it was convenient to travel to Quebec so researching my father’s ancestry was relatively simple. He came from The Eastern Townships of Quebec as a teenager in the 1920s. I think I documented almost 400 years of his ancestry in months while I’ve spent 40 years doing the same for my mother’s line NY to The Mayflower to Old England. The last 20 years or so have been spent attempting to prove that the thesis 99% of those with the GAULIN surname residing in the USA & Canada today are descended from one couple who settled on the Ile d’Orleans in the mid-1650s. Ed Gaulin, Braden River, FL.

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Too often the original researchers are not cited and given credit where credit is due. Madonna’s ancestry was researched by French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan’s Gail Moreau-DesHarnais and René Jetté in 1994. For their work, complete with genealogy lists, see the first item, a pdf, at
https://habitantheritage.org/cpage.php?pt=33

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Thanks for this, Dick. Same here…As one with probably more than 90% Acadian / Cajun ancestry I know I’m likely related to any Cajun I meet. My database (incomplete, with 4,497 people) shows my parents related to each other a staggering 107 times–from 5th to 10th cousins, with lots of “halfs” and “removeds” along the way. Lots of intermarriages, obviously. And I agree that the DNA research is confounding!! Too many cousins to keep track of! But what fun researching in all those fabulous French records! Woo-hoo!

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Dick,
Thank you for mentioning Le Comité des Archives de la Louisiane. Here’s a shout out to the Riffel family—Judy, her mom Anne DeVillier Riffel, and her dad, the late Glynn “Buddy” Riffel—who have kept that great resource going over the years.

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The best thing about studying French Canadian genealogy is that a woman is known by her birth (maiden) name in all BMD church records from her birth to her death, including her children’s baptism and marriage records.

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Here’s a site that helps you connect with famous people as mentioned in the article and more. https://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/genealogie.aspx
You have two method, either enter your information on the site (Could take a while and get approvals, ect…) or simply find an ancestor you’re connected to. Do the comparison and it will show a diagram on how you’re connected. Ex. I’m 7th cousin to Madonna and Celine Dion.

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You will be always welcome, Dick! Effectively, Acadians and French Canadians are two different cultures and nations. But in Quebec, pretty all have Acadian ancestors by now. And we are not only interbred: I have German ancestors (so-called Hessians), Irish ancestors (1837), and American ancestors too (captured by Natives), and the Maclures from Albany (Scottish father, dutch mother) captured soon before Guerre de Sept-Ans.

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You might be interested to know that YourFolks.com can not only automatically add a lot of French-Canadian ancestors to family trees, but also tell you to what celebrittes, Daughters of the King, soldiers of Nouvelle-France you are related to and exactly how you are related to them.

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I am interested in any info on Bashan or Desourdy families

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Michelle Valade Woodham February 6, 2019 at 11:53 am

This is something I have known for years! Somewhere I read that there were only 3,000 original French settlers who actually remained in Quebec/Acadia and produced descendants. That is a very small gene pool! And yes, they did stay in their own communities, even when they migrated into the U.S. My Michigan Grandfather would tell how in the early 1900s on Sunday, they would have 3 on a bicycle and ride to the French Catholic Church, riding PAST the German Catholic Church and the Irish Catholic Church. So, it’s no wonder that anyone today with French Canadian – Quebec or Acadia is related some way to everyone else.

I am 50% French Canadian, with a small part of that in Acadia. I have Acadian ancestors who were sent back to Europe, and eventually returned to Quebec. I have a many times Great Grandfather in Quebec who, after his wife died and the children were married, traveled down the Mississippi River to Louisiana, remarried and had more children there.

Living in the South, I don’t have many occasions to meet other French Canadian descendants. However, I have had one high school Classmate, one friend, a newly found friend at a Family History Center AND my sister in law whose family was from Maine and moved to Miami. Researching all their lines, we found several different ways each of them was related to me! My own parents are related 70 different ways from 8th cousins to eleventh cousin once removed. My aunt is related to her husband 27 different ways from 3rd cousins to 10th cousins once removed.

Anytime I meet someone who says they have a French Canadian ancestor, I say “Hi Cousin!” It truly is fun to see how we connect.

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Thank you for metioning the Quebec Family History Society Library. My husband is descended from the Scots who settled Huntingdon County, Quebec in the 1820’s. Too many people assume that only French were in Quebec.

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Had no idea that I had any French Canadian ancestry until literally thousands of shared matches showed up on my Ancestry.com. My grandmother was fostered in Canada and was told she was an orphan (who knows – maybe illegitimate) and was of Irish descent. I have found her Irish parentage (one of several children but I haven’t identified which one nor whether the Irish parent was the mother or father). But haven’t a clue how to narrow down the French Canadian side. So far have a tree of a couple of thousand matches but no closer to a solution. Am about to throw in the towel on that side. :>{

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Great article! I’m Québécoise from my mother’s side and descendant of a Fille di Roi along with many settlers who arrived in the 1600’s. I currently have 14,629 DNA matches on my maternal side alone… it adds up quickly when each couple has over 12 kids who each have 12 kids… and keep remarrying after a spouse’s death (my 5th great-grandfather Antoine Nadeau married 4 times) ..my 3xgrandfather received a free lot of land for having more than 12 kids…Well, I better go back to my 14,639 DNA match to find more “cousins”…

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I share 7th great-grandparents with Justin Trudeau – Pierre Trudeau & Charlotte Marie Menard.

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    A cousin has been doing my ancestry. Mother’s side is French Canadian, Quebec, and he told me I was 4th cousin to Jason Trudeau. All very interesting.

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Also, the Springfield History Library and Archives (Springfield Mass.), has a large collection of French Canadian records.

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Please add this society to your list. French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, and check out our award-winning two-volume book on the Books page.

https://habitantheritage.org/

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    A cousin bought the two volume set and has found them to be a wealth of information for our line. So congrats on a job well done.

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Amie Guerin dit Lafontaine February 8, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Both of my grandfathers are of old Quebec stock. Having come to Quebec in the 1690’s and earlier. One with the Troupes des Marines, the other settling in Loretteville/L’Ancienne Lorette. I’ve already found my family connection to Madonna and Hillary Clinton. I just wonder if Alice Cooper (Alex Furnier) is somehow connected.

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If you live in Southern California and are researching French-Canadian Ancestors visit us at:
French Canadian Heritage Society of California
Contact Person: Suzy Goulet
fchsc@scgsgenealogy.com
located at the
Southern California Genealogical Society and Library
417 Irving Drive
Burbank, CA 91504-2408

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Susan Lemieux Marsolais February 10, 2019 at 10:25 pm

I’ve been a longtime member of the Association des Descendants des Lemieux d’Amérique. They made it possible to trace my husband’s and my lineage back to Normandy, France where they were both members of St-Elois parish in Rouen in the 1600s. They were also together in Quebec later in the 1600s. It was such a rewarding experience for both of us, our children and extended family to share this information and visit our ancestors’ places of origins. I’ll be forever grateful for this gift they have given us.

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Susan Lemieux Marsolais February 11, 2019 at 9:17 am

I was able to trace both the Lemieux and Marsolais families to Normandy. The Lemieux of America had already traced my ancestors back to a tax roll in the 1300’s in Cantaloup near Cherbourg and helped me link them to my paternal grandfather. They also helped me locate a professional researcher in Rouen to send me copies of medieval documents for the Marsolet lineage back to the 1500’s. Are you researching?

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    Hi Susan, yes i have worked on building my tree for 12 years. We descend from Pierre Lemieux 1594 Normandy on my father’s side and Aubuchon on my mother’s. A group of my Lemieux cousin’s from Quebec went to Normandy last fall.My Lemieux family left Canada in the early 1700s and traveled South West to Arkansas and married into the Janis family. We changed the spelling to LaMew in the early 1800s. Do you descend from Gabriel or Pierre?

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Susan Lemieux Marsolais February 11, 2019 at 6:45 pm

My family descends from Pierre also. My great-grandfather, Joseph Siffroy, came from L’Islet, Quebec and came down through Michigan with a lumber company in the l800s. He then opened a saloon in Cleveland and he and his sons continued the business until the end of his life. I spent over 20 years gathering documents and writing a book about both my husband’s family and mine to share with the extended family.

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