The Story of the Dionne's Dictionnary In the coming issues of the bulletin, I will inform you about the way I have chosen genealogy as my hobby and how I came to spend more than 15 years of my life to realize this work. I began alone in 1995; we are now a team of 3 experts. I will explain how we have proceeded to divide the work and the many sources we have seeked to find our cousins. Finally, I will share with you that dream I have for the future of this masterpiece.
My father's wish Henri, my father, retired in 1970 after two heart attacks. Between 1964 and 1970, he went twice in Kamouraska to find out the trail of members of his family he had known and those he heard about when he was young. My father was born in 1905, and hardly knew his grandfather, Sylvio Dionne, who passed away in 1909. Sylvio had 4 children: 2 of them, Henri and Damase, born from his first wife, Amanda Pelletier, and 2 others, Edmond and Laurette, born from his second wife, Marie Demers. The first three children were born in Kamouraska, but Laurette was born in Loretteville: we understand that the family moved in Loretteville in 1901.
Unfortunately, my father, who knew nothing about genealogy, did not find the trail of any people he wanted to meet but a grand-aunt, Éléonore Leclerc, wife of Alfred Dionne. She passed away in June 1967 in Kamouraska. After my father's death, I found in the basement where he used to put away his old souvenirs, the book KAMOURASKA, from Alexandre Paradis. My father had read that book many times, taking notes and underlining some Dionnes of his parenthood. That is the proof that, in the last years of his life, he was seeking the Dionnes of Kamouraska in order to trace his lineage. He died alone in his house, on July 26, 1976, during the Montreal Olympics Games, without knowing what he had worked for.
As I was the eldest boy of the family, I was named 4 times executor of last will and conservator of family archives and souvenirs. All my life long, I had to compensate for the weakness of my memory by a very methodic classification of papers. In the following years, after the selling of my parent's house, I kept as souvenirs a few old things and many family photos. On many of these photos, I was unable to recognize the individuals. As I was still working, I had no time to search to identify them all.
Urgent projects I had waited long for my retirement, which finally came on January 1st, 1994. Even if I had always loved my work, retirement came as a liberation. I was finally able to do all those things I had always put off for later. So, during the winter, I tidied up all the folders of my files; when summer came, I built a garden shed at the back of my house. The winter after, I built a furnace room and put order in my basement. When my first urgent work was done, I bought my first computer and began to learn how to operate it. A few weeks later, I bought my first genealogical CD program in order to identify the people in the family album.
My first steps in genealogy At the very beginning, Quebec was a French colony; so at that time, our Civil Statistic Code was the one of Napoléon Bonaparte. In this code, the clerical members of churches were responsible for the registration of baptisms, marriages, deceases and burials acts. Parish priests noted these acts in chronological order in large books called registers. This way of doing went on from the beginning of the colonies to January 1st, 1994, date of which the new Civil Statistic Code came in force. From that day, the registrar of the Civil State took upon himself that responsibility, prohibiting at the same time public access to these acts.
The registers in chronological order are of no use if we don't know the place and the precise date of the act. In order to search successfully in a register, you must know the name of the parish, determine the shortest period of time in which the act could be found and finally know the family name. It is nearly impossible to search that way in the majority of cases because families used to move according to their needs, and often very far away. As the registers are kept in eachparish, the searchers must therefore travel to the parishes concerned.
Volonteers have a foreground part to act in genealogy. They convert registers into repertories, grouping together baptisms, marriages and burials, putting them in alphabetic order of the family names and first names. When repertories are done, it usually can be found in a library or at a genelogical sociaty near your home. Thus it makes easier the researches for numerous people.
My discovery of genealogical libraries A friend of mine whose genealogical research was done informed me how to do mine. I only wanted to realize my own family tree. So he lent me his membership card of the « Société Généalogique Canadienne Française » (SGCF), hoping that a guided visit would be enough for me to reach my goal. During my first visit, I found the first Dionne's dictionnary, by Rodrigue Dionne, husband of Monique Bourget. With that book in hand, I was able to find my ancestors as far as nine generations back in less than 10 minuts. I also consulted other repertories to find a few more Dionnes. I was very surprised to find many of them and I began to check if they were all in the Rodrigue's dictionnary. Many of them were not there and I decided to complete it. At that time, I thought that a few months would be enough to finish the task. I was so fool...
The searchers room at the SGCF was quite small: five rows of tables arranged in such a way that it was nearly impossible to circulate when some people were sitting down. I evaluated by an overall picture that there were about 3000 repertories in the many shelves on the walls.As I thought it would be impossible to look at them all, I began by those including the large cities. The first one was Montreal; after all, this is the one where I was born.
The Rodrigue dictionnary had 277 pages, and in my mind, no matter to begin again that huge work. Then I noted the name of the editor and searched for a copy of the book. A few phone calls learned to me that very few copies were printed, all of them were sold and no trace of the editor. The week after, I came back to the SGCF and put 3 hours to copy the whole Rodrigue's dictionnary. May I specify that a copy is an image; a computer always consider it as an image and can't make head of it as a writing. So I needed to find out how I could include my copies in a computer writing. So I bought my first computer, a scanner and a program called ROC for « Recognition of Optical Caracters »; this program converts images in texts. I spent 3 months to succeed the apprenticceship of proceedings and execution of simple tasks, because my copies were fully spot. As ROC works to convert every sing of the copy in letters or numbers, each and every spot stopped the proceeding. Therefore, the computer needed my intervention each time. I was introducing myself into genealogy, that is to say to farthest patience. It was a difficult and monotonous task, but I then told to myself that it was the worst for sure and that later work would be much easier. We'll see...
I begin my research With my copy of the Rodrigue's dictionnary, I came back to the SGCF and bought a membership card. I decided to begin with Montreal repertories. At that time, I did not know that there were about 150 parishes in Montreal, and for many of them, repertories were not done yet. If I had been aware of that, I believe that I would probably have given up. It shows that sometime ignorance can be a good thing. So I glanced through all the Montreal repertories, followed by Quebec's ones, and Kamouraska's county. When I was back home, I typed my discoveries twice in my computer: in the dictionnary which is in a word processing, and in my genealogical program. From it's 277 pages at the beginning, the dictionnary passed very quickly to 300, and 400 pages. I was very surprised by my first results; so I decided to glance through each and every repertory of the library. The SGCF is open two days a week from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. I spent all my days there, 13 hours a week, from 1995 to 1997.
My cooperation with Alain Dionne At that full speed, I worked at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 3½ years.I glanced all Quebec repertories, Ontario's and other Canadian provinces's available at the SGCF. I was going to direct my researches in the American repertories which are so difficult to understand, because our French names were so many times altered. Then, on an April night of 1997, I had a phone call from a man named Alain Dionne. He was looking for someone able to write his own researches about the Dionnes in a computer word writing. As I am not a true genealogist, I thought that when my examination of repertories would be completed, it would put an end to my researches. So I answered Alain that I was quite glad for his help, but it was a bit late, as I was finishing my work at the SGCF. I had not expected Alain's arguments.
As I told it before, since the new Civil Code of 1994, religious registers were not available anymore for searchers. A long time before, Alain was aware of the coming of those change and he had made researches in many courthouses of the province before the coming in force of the new Civil Code. So I accepted to meet him and it was the beginning of a long cooperation which finally became a true friendship.
As I wanted to finish my own researches first, I began to compile the Dionnes he had found a few weeks later. Then the dictionnary grew up from 450 to 500, to 600 and to 700 pages. The next four years, from 1998 to 2001, I used to work 70 hours a week to note all the Dionnes I could find following his advice.
The transformation of the dictionnary The genealogy is based on marriages repertories which give us the names of husbands and wives, names of parents, exact date and place of marriages. These are the first sources of information. But we must not forget that we also have some births and deceases repertories. In the births repertories, parents are always named, but in the deceases'ones, we usually find the husband or wife, or parents if the dead was not married. The Rodrique's dictionnary is one of marriages only, what means that he presents only married Dionnes. While I was searching in the SGCF's repertories, I noted baptisms, marriages and burials. And slowly, the dictionnary became more and more complete, including all the Dionnes, likewise young children who passed away, unmarried persons and clerical people. When I ended my researches in the repertories, I turned myself toward a new tool: the Fonds Drouin.