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Le Programme de recherche en démographie historique
(The Research Program in Historical Demography)


UdeM

Genealogy serving science…
Science serving genealogy
Jacques Légaré, Bertrand Desjardins and Hubert Charbonneau
Jacques Légaré, Bertrand Desjardins
and Hubert Charbonneau

In 1966, the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH, Research Programme in Historical Demography) at the Université de Montréal undertook the exhaustive reconstruction of the population of Quebec from the beginnings of French colonization in the seventeenth century. This objective has been realized in the form of a computerized population register, composed of biographical files on all individuals of European ancestry who lived in the St. Lawrence Valley. The file for each individual gives the date and place of birth, marriage(s), and death, as well as family and conjugal ties with other individuals. This basic information is complemented by various socio-demographic characteristics drawn from documents: socio-professional status and occupation, ability to sign his or her name, place of residence, and, for immigrants, place of origin.

Over the years, the PRDH register has become an evolutionary and multi-purpose data base, available for queries regarding various human populations in general and that of Quebec in particular. It is a truly interdisciplinary information system. Created for to provide demographic data, this remarkable tool has been used for a wide variety of research projects involving scholars from many disciplines – history, medicine, linguistics, anthropology, biology, genetics, and genealogy – as can be seen in the more than 200 titles in the PRDH’s  bibliography.

The project relies basically on exhaustive gathering of data from the parish registers of old Quebec. By systematic attribution of baptism, marriage, and burial certificates to the respective individuals – a "family reconstitution" made on the basis of names and family ties – people are identified and their biographies established. PRDH’s data base, covering the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, thus contains the personal history of the Quebec ancestors of all French- Canadians.

In this regard, the genealogical information in the PRDH has long been of interest to a broad public. Sales of various products spun off from its activities have, over the years, provided the PRDH with revenues that have always been reinvested in the project. In fact, the project probably could not have been maintained without these contributions, given the difficulties of funding university research. Now, the project is culminating with the opening of a Web site offering exhaustive and unprecedented information; the fee charged is very reasonable and should enable the PRDH to continue with its scholarly research. We therefore truly have "Genealogy serving science, and science serving genealogy"!

Created by professors Hubert Charbonneau and Jacques Légaré, now retired, the PRDH is housed at the Demography Department of the Université de Montréal. The project is currently under the official responsibility of Professor Lisa Dillon, in collaboration with Professor Alain Gagnon. Bertrand Desjardins, who had taken over from Professors Charbonneau and Légaré, is now himself retired. However, he continues to be implicated in the development of the PRDH data bases and he helps his colleagues in assuring relations with the public.He can be contacted in any of the following ways:

Mail: Fax: Email:
PRDH
a/s Bertrand Desjardins
Département de démographie
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, succ. Centre-ville
Montréal (Qc)
Canada H3C 3J7
(514) 343-2309 Bertrand.Desjardins@umontreal.ca

The PRDH, a university research programme, has benefited from generous and constant support from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Quebec government’s Department of Education, and the Université de Montréal.