Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whence the Drouin Collection?

Dear Ancestry Insider,

One of our patrons noticed that the Drouin Collection is no longer on AncestryLibraryEdition.  Do you have any information as to what has happened to this useful Canadian database?

Thank you,

Annewhite T. Fuller
Manager, Heritage Room
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library

Dear Annewhite,

What a pretty name! (You probably get that a lot.)

Ancestry.com has removed the Drouin collection because of a legal dispute with the collection’s owner. The Drouin Collection page can be found at www.ancestry.com/drouin , but clicking on any collection button goes to a page stating the collection is not currently available.

Dick Eastman broke the story last Sunday, reporting that on 12 August 2009 a judge found Ancestry.com in breach of contract with the L'Institut généalogique Drouin. The Drouin Genealogy Institute asserted that under the contract between them, Ancestry.com had no right to post images of the Drouin Collection without an index. Ancestry.com posted just the images in March 2007. Over a year later, in April 2008, Ancestry.com added a partial index.

The Institute further asserted that Ancestry.com’s indexing methodology was flawed. I’m not completely certain what their complaint was, and I’m trying to remember what the records looked like. I’m guessing from the Google translation of the Institute’s statement that Ancestry.com made the task of indexing cheaper by relying on information in the margins, rather than trying to extract the information from the unstructured text of the record.

I’m guessing from Susan Malone’s interpretation of the original French, that the contract specified that for each event—baptism, marriage, or death—the index was supposed to include the event date; type; parish; names of the subject, parents, and spouse; and subject’s age, occupation, ethnic group and place of origin.

An old Ancestry.ca announcement gives a good summation of the history of the collection.

In 1899 a lawyer named Joseph Drouin founded The Drouin Genealogical Institute, using Quebec’s vital records to research and sell family genealogies. His son Gabriel assumed stewardship in 1938, dedicating himself to microfilming and indexing Quebec’s vital records; this important work formed what became the Institute’s principal reference collection.

The collection remained the property of the Institute until Gabriel’s death in 1980, after which it was sold to the genealogist Jean-Pierre Pepin who created The Drouin Institute, which was dedicated to preserving the collection intact and in Quebec.

Recognising its historical significance, Ancestry.ca secured the right to host the collection online.  It launched the original images – more than 12 million in total – in [March] 2007, and in partnership with The University of Montreal has now indexed the collection to make it searchable online for the first time.

At launch the [incomplete] indexes will contain 29 million searchable names. The remaining eight million names will be live on Ancestry.ca by mid-2008.

In the Institute’s statement, Jean Pierre Pépin asked that Ancestry.com remove the Drouin Collection from its websites until a compliant index is prepared and posted.

Ancestry.com has 60 days from 12 August 2009 to come into compliance with the contract or the contract will be cancelled and Ancestry.com will be forced to permanently remove the collection.


-- The Ancestry Insider


  1. Ancestry did a horrible job at indexing and also of photographing the pictures . The pictures at Familysearch are many times better . Many pages at Ancestry are virtually unreadable . Regarding the Index many of the names were guessed at while any attempt to read the act itself would easily have given the suitable name .

  2. Thank you for this overview, AI. Ancestry.com's customer relations staff has not seen fit to explain the situation to its many disappointed (frustrated, furious, etc.) Drouin Collection users.

  3. For bvanasse: Each parish maintained 2 parish registers, one which was sent to the archives, one held in the parish. Ancestry films are from the archival copies held by the Drouin Institute. For the most part FamilySearch has filmed the parish copies, so they are different films and different versions of the registers to begin with. But the indexes still need improvement in any event.

  4. Dear Readers,

    I wanted to share with you the following viewpoint sent directly to me.

    -- The Insider

    Dear Ancestry Insider,

    As a French Canadian researcher, I must admit I miss being able to work at home rather than at our local library which owns the digitized version of the Drouin collection. However, the index is virtually useless, I find it implausible that the University of Montreal ever saw this index, it is actually a source of humor. No one who speaks, or even reads French would have come up with this sad excuse for an index. Add to that the fact that many of us sent in corrections (they took that little box away quickly) and they were never made.

    You are correct that they used the marginal information rather than actually looking into the document, for example is Mre which is often the shortcut for Marie which was always completely written out in the document. A humorous example is a marriage where one of the partiesis given the last name of Vermont; there was a marginal note indicating the parents of one couple lived in Vermont. The index is also not soundexed so if the last name is Breault, you won't see the names with the spellings of Brault, Bro or Braud unless you know they exist and plug them in.

    What was their priority? Quickly and cheaply or finding someone who truly understood the customs. I can think of many not-for-profit societies who would have gladly taken a donation for doing the work correctly, both in the States and in Canada


  5. On Sept. 1, acknowledgment of the Drouin Collection's being missing was posted in an Ancestry.com blog. That is, 'acknowledgment' other than the "Database Unavailable" pages that would-be users have been encountering for several days.

    The post is by Chad Milliner, a staff genealogist. It says, in full:

    "The Drouin Collection is temporarily unavailable. No other collections are affected, however please do not hesitate to contact Member Services if you have any questions. Further updates will be provided in due course."

    It is posted in the category "Uncategorized," rather than in the "Site Features," "Content" or "Searching for Records" category.

  6. The information I had been given prior to ancestry putting the Drouin database online is that they had decided to send it to China instead of the PRDH people at U of Montreal for indexing. If so, no wonder the index is useless as is.

  7. I am livid. I have all these pages online with nothing attached anymore. I am paying for service that is completely of no use to me anymore over politics.
    As for Family Search, I have YET to find ANYTHING on there. I have not found ONE record of anyone in my database using their search engine.
    I send in corrections to Ancestry.ca all the time, and they were always quick to fix it.
    In any case, I now need to find another source for my Drouin Collection.

  8. I used this important collection before it was indexed. Although the index is not perfect, it helped in my search.

    I strongly urge Ancestry.com to resolve its problems with the Droiun Collection--and get this back online!

  9. I am also livid over Ancestry.com's inability to reconcile this lawsuit over the Drouin Collection. If the records are not posted again, my subscription to Ancestry.com will be cancelled.


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