DROUIN, JOSEPH (baptized Joseph‑Firmin), lawyer and genealogist; b. 15 Nov. 1875 in Sainte‑Scholastique (Mirabel), Que., son of Firmin Drouin, a farmer, and Mathilde Lafrance; m. 22 Nov. 1904 Orpha Leduc in the parish of Saint‑Jacques in Montreal, and they had three sons and three daughters; d. 6 Oct. 1937 in Montreal and was buried there three days later at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.
Joseph Drouin pursued his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Sainte‑Thérèse. His outstanding results enabled him to attend the faculty of law at McGill University, where he twice won the Prince of Wales Medal. He was called to the bar of the province of Quebec in 1904. In the course of his career he was associated with various lawyers and would form the firm of Drouin et Chaussé during the late 1920s, for instance. He also devoted himself to genealogy, which would become for him a commercial activity. He produced his earliest genealogies around 1913 at his summer home in Pointe-au-Père (Rimouski); in about 1920 he started drawing them up at his Montreal law office, which would change location over the years.
When he began putting together his first genealogies, for friends, Drouin had scarcely any reliable resources. Abbé Cyprien Tanguay*’s Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours, published in seven volumes between 1871 and 1890, certainly constituted a prodigious and significant work, but it was incomplete and contained many errors. Consequently, Drouin’s research was time-consuming and costly, involving frequent travel to consult church and village records. He persisted, however, and devised an efficient working method. In 1917 he published, at the printing house of the Montreal daily Le Devoir, his 15-page brochure titled Votre généalogie. At a time when genealogists examined the relationships of people bearing the same surname, Drouin was interested, rather, in direct ascending genealogy; he researched all of a person’s paternal and maternal ancestors. By the time Votre généalogie was issued, he had already compiled about a hundred family trees.
Drouin made several trips to France, where he acquired many reference works on history and heraldic research. He readily acknowledged, in conversation and in writing, that he belonged to the Société Historique de Montréal. He shared his passion for genealogy with the Franciscan Archange Godbout*, another member of the society who also travelled to France, both to teach and to gather information. Though he was much better known than Drouin, Godbout pursued genealogy just for his own pleasure.
The pioneer of genealogy as a commercial enterprise, Drouin used two corporate names: Les Généalogies Drouin Enregistré and Joseph Drouin Généalogies et Armoiries. Over the years he compiled approximately 1,200 genealogies and created more than 500,000 index cards. The methodology of this workhorse was rigorous, his findings being verified and supported by references to sources. Each genealogy was typed up as a single copy and bound in hardcovers. Drouin prefaced the works with a brief history concerning some of the client’s ancestors, and left a few blank pages at the end so that the client could add the names of collateral descendants. He also provided a splendid complementary large-format family tree with magnificent colour and calligraphy. As he explained in Votre généalogie, this tree enabled one “to see at a single glance and without any cross references the 511 ancestors from the first to the eighth generation.”
Drouin sought a well-to-do and well-known clientele. He drew up, notably, the genealogies of Arthur Berthiaume and Louis-Joseph Tarte, who respectively owned the Montreal dailies La Presse and La Patrie, as well as those of notary Victor Morin, political figures such as Sir Lomer Gouin*, Louis-Athanase David*, Ésioff-Léon Patenaude*, and many priests, lawyers, and industrialists.
He published his last known work on 19 Jan. 1937. The 31-page study, sold by the newspaper Le Devoir, was put together rapidly following the death of the famous Brother André [Alfred Bessette] on 6 January. Titled Le frère André: sa généalogie – ses plus frappants miracles, the booklet is elementary and does not do justice to Drouin’s work as a whole. Soon after Drouin died, his son Gabriel bought the company and renamed it the Institut Généalogique Drouin; it would still be in existence at the beginning of the 21st century. In its new premises at 4184 Rue Saint‑Denis, at the corner of Rue Rachel, the firm would grow rapidly thanks to the business acumen of its new owner.
Despite its limited commercial success, Joseph Drouin’s business gained credibility in the small world of genealogy. The founder, whose portrait was painted by Léo Ayotte, established a methodology and bequeathed a research archive that enabled the firm to thrive, and at the same time inspired many families to take an interest in their ancestors and family histories. The research tool that he created has become indispensable to genealogists.
BANQ-CAM, CE606-S22, 16 nov. 1875. FD, Saint‑Jacques-le-Majeur, cathédrale [Saint‑Jacques] (Montréal), 22 nov. 1904. Le Devoir, 7 oct. 1937. C.‑I. Caron, Se créer des ancêtres: un parcours généalogique nord-américain, xixe et xxe siècles (Sillery [Québec], 2006). Généalogies Drouin Enreg., Liste des généalogies faites par les Généalogies Drouin enreg. … ([Montréal?], n.d.). Instit. Généal. Drouin, Une œuvre nationale: son histoire, sa documentation, son caractère professionnel, son personnel, son avenir, ses œuvres, ce qu’on en dit ([Montréal], 1944). René Jetté, “Les pionniers de la généalogie au Québec,” Cap-aux-Diamants (Québec), no.34 (été 1993): 14–17.