The Ste Luce Church Registers
The Fr. Henri Dionne years, 1843-1860

Searchable online database of abstracts of births, marriages and burials of the Ste Luce church, Frenchville, Aroostook County, Maine
1858 parish census, and other documents from the parish records of Ste Luce parish

Includes acts of the mission parish of St-François-Xavier de Madawaska, 1846-1858



The parish

A Photo of Ste-Luce church (the new building):

Photo by Steve Young, One World Artisans Photography

The origins of the parish of Ste.Luce go back to 1826, when a chapel was built on the location of today's church building (on the southwestern corner of Route 1 and Church St. in Upper Frenchville). At that time, the entire Madawaska area on both sides of the St. John (from today's Allagash to today's Van Buren and St. Leonard) was in the parish of St.Basile.

Given the distances, as well as the growing number of families moving into the western part of the parish at that time, St.Basile decided to establish a new chapel for priests coming from St.Basile to celebrate masses. Prior to about 1830 the chapel was named Ste.Émélie; its name was changed to Ste.Luce about 1830 or so.

Following his ordination in June 1840, Father Henri Dionne of Ste Anne de la Pocatière in Quebec was assigned to St. Basile parish. Fr. Dionne served those parishioners who were covered by the chapel at Ste Luce.

In 1843 Father Dionne established the new independent parish of Ste. Luce and was its first pastor. He also oversaw the construction of the original church structure, built that same year.

Fr. Dionne served at Ste.Luce until February 1860, when he resigned due to poor health brought on in large part by political intrigues against him. For the details of his life, go to my page on the biography of Fr. Dionne (Henri Dionne was the brother of my great-great grandmother Hortense Dionne).

Ste.Luce parish served a very large population, covering all of what was then Madawaska Plantation and Hancock Plantation in the US (pretty much everything from today's Madawaska westward), as well as populations on the other side of the St.John, in what is today New Brunswick, west of Harford's Brook, as Three Mile Brook was then called. In 1859 Saint-François, set up in 1846 as a mission-parish of Ste.Luce, with its own chapel, separated to become an independent parish. (See the St-François-Xavier de Madawaska page). St.Joseph du Portage was established as a mission parish of Ste Luce in January 1859, covering what is today Wallagrass, Eagle Lake and Portage Lake; its records are all included here. In 1868 Saint-Hilaire, across the river in New Brunswick, also became its own parish.

(For more information see Ken Roy's page on the history of Ste Luce parish.)

The parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials


Image of the first page of the Ste Luce register, 1843.
For a pdf file of this page click on image

Fortunately for the descendants of his parishioners, Father Dionne kept a meticulously detailed parish register. Roman Catholic church law (canon law) requires parishes to keep records of all baptisms, marriages, and burials. It provides that the register include particular kinds of information for each of those events, and that the parish take all efforts to preserve these records.

The baptisms, marriages, and burials performed at Ste Luce in the period from 1843 to 1860 are recorded in three volumes of the church register. (The register also contains the records of several "abjurations", or conversions to Roman Catholicism, that took place at the church.) The first volume goes from January 1843 to December 1852; the second from January 1853 to December 1857; and the third from January 1858 to beyond the end of Fr. Dionne's tenure at Ste Luce (he left at the end of February 1860).

Father Dionne's register includes enormous amounts of information beyond just names and dates. He usually included the occupation of the adult men as well as where the families lived or were from. He also noted if individuals were Protestant; if they were members of native peoples or first nations; whether the parents of those baptized or married were still alive; as well as numerous other details.

We can appreciate Fr. Dionne's record keeping (and handwriting) by comparing it to that of his successor, Father Charles Swéron, who was not so thorough. Fr. Swéron (nicknamed "The Dutchman"), from Belgium, was assigned to help Fr. Dionne beginning in August 1858. He seems to have had responsibility especially for those parishioners served by the chapel at St François Xavier; indeed, in 1859 he became the first pastor of the newly established parish of that name.

For marriages, Fr. Swéron did not list the parents of the bride and groom, nor did he include much of the other kinds of information that Fr. Dionne had recorded. Fr. Swéron's handwriting is also much more difficult to read than Fr. Dionne's. A number of register entries in the period before Fr. Dionne's departure were done by Fr. Swéron; these records are not as complete as those of Fr. Dionne.

The acts are not in strictly chronological order. It seems from studying the register that Fr. Dionne would perform ceremonies and note down the relevant information somewhere else, and then later copy it into the register. So the acts are sometimes a bit out of chronological order in the register itself.

The registers on this website

In 1975 I was able to see the original registers at Ste Luce; as I mention in my "about" page, that was one of the things that led me to become interested in the history of my family and of the Madawaska region. More recently, Ste Luce has been closed as a parish, and its records moved to Ste Agathe. But the registers are no longer available for public viewing, because of the wear and tear and damage to these fragile historic documents. Clearly that is the correct decision, despite our desires to be able to actually look through the original records. The records are available on microfilm through the Institut Drouin, which microfilmed them in 1943. But these are not widely available films.

Given the importance of Ste Luce parish in the early years of the western reaches of the Madawaska settlement, and given how difficult it is for most people to access them, I have put information from the registers into a database accessible on this website.

I have abstracted the information from each act in this period and compiled them into the databases -- baptisms, marriages, burials -- and then proofread the data. The databases are searchable by a number of different factors. Baptisms, marriages and burials are all included in separate databases (for links and descriptions of each separate database see below). Thus all of the information from the parish records during the years of Fr. Dionne's time as pastor of Ste Luce is included on this website, and is accessible through the online database search engines.

For the purposes of this website, I have extracted information from the microfilm copies of the original register. The copies are overall very readable; only occasionally did the microfilmer cut off the side of a page. In the case where a name is illegible because of that I have noted it in the "Parish Register Notes" column of the results.

Given that each kind of record includes different kinds of information, details about baptismal, marriage and burial records are included on the introduction pages to each of those databases (see links below).

Here is some general information on the registers and how to understand the data in the databases:

Reference numbers and page numbers

There are two kinds of references which locate each act.

Reference numbers

First, each act was numbered consecutively by sacrament and by year. Thus the first baptism of each year was numbered B1, the second B2, etc; likewise the first burial was S1 and the first marriage was M1. At the start of each year the numbering started anew. Unfortunately the numbering is not always consecutive. At times the same numbers are repeated, sometimes numbers are skipped. Because of this, it is preferable to use page numbering as a reference. But as explained below, the page numbering varies and is sometimes lacking.

Page numbers

The pages in the first volume are numbered 1 through 370.

From the first page in January 1843 until the end of 1847, page numbers were given only on the front of each page. For these pages, in this database the front of a page is numbered with an "a", the back with a "b" (in the register itself, the back of the page was sometimes labeled "verso"). Thus page 1a is the front of the page numbered "1", and 1b is the back of that page.

Beginning in January 1847 Fr. Dionne began numbering each side of each page. From then until the end of the first volume, each side of each page has its own number.

The second volume, starting in January 1853, begins with page numbering for each side of each page. But in February 1854 Fr. Dionne reverted to numbering only the fronts of pages, so I have again used the a and b convention for numbering, described above.

This continued until the end of January 1855, when Fr. Dionne stopped numbering pages altogether. Until the end of the second volume, in December 1857, there are no page numbers. For this period, specific acts are identifiable through the reference number. (See explanation above.) Unfortunately sometimes these numbers were skipped or repeated.

The third volume begins with January 1858. From then until the end of 1859, each side of each page is numbered. But beginning in January 1860, there are no page numbers, so again you need to look at the reference number.

 

Other parish documents

In addition to the parish register of baptisms, marriages and burials, there are also a number of other kinds of documents from Ste Luce parish. Among the documents in the Fond Henri Dionne at the archives are parish censuses; lists of tithing; lists of donations of time, money and crops to the building of the churches at Ste Luce, St. François de Madawaska, and St. Joseph; lists of the parish council and its minutes; lists of parishioners confirmed in 1844 and 1850; the list of parishioners who signed the petition, described on the Henri Dionne page of this website, in support of Fr. Dionne; as well as correspondence between Father Dionne and the Bishops of St.John, New Brunswick; Boston; and Quebec; along with other correspondence.

These other documents were taken by Father Dionne from the parish when he left in 1860. It seems that the took them for safe-keeping because of accusations of financial improprieties levelled against him, and that he planned to return them when those accusations were settled. He died in 1861 and apparently the documents were never returned.

They are now located in the "Fond Henri Dionne" (Henri Dionne Collection) in the Archives de la Côte-du-Sud et du Collège de Sainte-Anne in La Pocatière, Québec, Henri Dionne's hometown and his alma mater. The Director of the Archives, François Taillon, has graciously given permission to reproduce these documents on the upperstjohn.com website. I'll be adding them as time permits. Special thanks to archivist Pierrette Maurais, who was extremely helpful to me during my time at the archives.

For now I have added the following documents:

See also my page on the parish of St-François-Xavier de Madawaska, which includes documents related to that parish when it was still part of Ste Luce parish.

 

Using the databases

Because each kind of record includes very different kinds of information, each has its own search form. The search forms all work the same.

The online databases

The following links describe the databases and transcriptions extracted from the Ste Luce registers:

You can begin with a simple search (only by family name) of all the databases, baptisms, marriages, burials, and the 1858 parish censuses:

 

Also be sure to check out Ken Roy's Ste Luce Cemetery Plot pages, which lists all existing headstones and has a searchable database of the information on the stones, and his history of Ste Luce parish.


Return to the Upper St.John Valley main page

Last revised 24 J1n 2012
©2006-2012 C.Gagnon