A 350-year-old presence in America

Over the last four centuries, various Dumases have come to the American continent. Whereas some of them either remained only briefly or passed away almost immediately upon their arrival, others did settle in the New World.

This web site aims to gather all the available information on the Dumases who have come to this continent and on some of their descendants. For the time being, our main focus will be put on those who settled in New France. We are aware however that some Dumas ancestors (or their descendants) have settled in other parts of the continent, and we also know that some Dumases didn't originate from France, but from other European countries. This is why, as we get more information documenting their presence on the American continent, it will also be included on this web site.

Why did we choose to begin our research with the Dumases who settled in New France? The simple answer is, information about these Dumases is abundant and easily accessible. Furthermore, it is possible to track, though only to a certain extent, the American descent of these first ancestors. However, as some of the information is fragmentary, it gets complicated to track down some Dumas posterity when extending the research beyond the boundaries of New France (or the province of Québec).

A wealth of documentation

Think about it! Four centuries of uninterrupted keeping of exceptionally detailed registers of births, marriages and deaths constitute a mine of information for genealogists. Whether they be marriage agreements, wills, inventories after death or deeds of partition, all these legal documents, notarial acts and deeds inform us of the daily lives of those who lived before us, just as do censuses data, judicial archives, deeds of apprenticeship, soldiers lists, passenger lists and lists of patients – even deeds for the hiring of a cow!

A vast amount of this documentation has been thoroughly studied, especially that covering the period prior to 1800. The results of this study are easily accessible, either on the Internet or in archives centres.

Exceptionally detailed registers of births, marriages and deaths

As a French colony, New France was faithful to the French customs, and so the tradition was kept of keeping two copies of the registers of births, marriages and deaths. The original registers remained in the parishes, while an official copy was sent every year to the authorities. The existence of two copies of the registers is the reason why we now generally have access to at least one complete set of documents for each parish.

As a consequence of successive decisions taken by the French Catholic Church and by the kings of France, priests were expected to include a lot of information in the registers they had the obligation to keep. From as early as 1614, priests and missionaries were held under the obligation, when registering baptisms, of taking down the dates of birth and baptism, the name and sex of the baptised child, the names of his or her parents, as well as those of the godparents. When registering marriages, not only did they have to write down the date and names of the spouses, but also the names of the parents of the spouses, the name of an eventual former spouse, the existence of a dispensation, as well as the name of the marriage witnesses.

Unfortunately, such details are rarely to be found in non-Catholic registers of the same period. In those registers, the complete name of the mother is sometimes omitted in the registering of baptisms, or is sometimes limited to a mere first name. The names of the parents of the spouses are not always found in marriage registers, and married women are never named by their maiden names. It is much more difficult to identify an individual when such information is lacking.

Establishing a person's identity

Knowing the name of a person doesn't suffice to know who that person is or was. Only with a collection of data is it possible to establish the identity of an individual.

Suppose, for example, that you come across the name of some François Dumas. Until you know that he was the son of another François (married himself to a Anne Rollin), that he lived during the 17th century, that he was a mason, and that he was married to Marguerite Foy, you can't possibly identify him positively as being the ancestor of most Dumases living today in the province of Québec.