Quebec Wanderings: Montreal & The Grande Bibliotheque

When I plan a trip I make an itinerary based on the hours of an archive and then I usually follow it but I decided because of the weather to change things around.  I would go to the Grand Bibliotheque in the morning and then if weather was good go to Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal) an explore.

The Grande Bibliotheque (GB) is part of the National Archives of Quebec.  This is my understanding of how it works.  Here is the link to their website.  I have it translated into English automatically for me.  To get to the GB I headed north on St. Denis, then right on St. Catherine and over to Rue Berri and up two blocks. and here is a little more information at:

The Grande Bibliotheque

The Grande Bibliotheque in the distance.

Getting closer

Getting closer

The entrance to the GB

The entrance to the GB

Information board

Information board

The main hallway GB

The main hallway GB

It was about this time the security guard told me to not take pictures of the people. I promised so this is the only one and they are of the security guards. HA!

There are several floors to this library and you turn left into the main area.  In the center are the stairs and the elevator in glass.

Elevator shaft

Elevator area

I wandered this main floor and it is very nicely laid out with stacks and areas to study.  Each floor has a reference desk.  I took the elevator to the 3rd floor which housed the history section.  There was a very nice book reference area with some books relevant to genealogy and of course maps. Most libraries spread things out so you do have to hunt for it in the reference areas, stacks and more.

Reference stacks 3rd floor

Reference stacks 3rd floor

I wandered some more among the book stacks and decided to see what would happen if I used the reference desk.  I asked the librarian about the genealogy section. He of course, greeted me in French and I said “English” please. He said they had small selection at 929…but the main one was the Collection Nationale on the first floor and at the Archives of Quebec which is a totally different building on Viger Street.  I knew this but was curious as to his response.  He was very pleasant and I did not have a problem speaking with or understanding him.

Finding 929 in the stacks was not that hard and they did have a small collection under 929…probably 929.107….or 929.207…The more and more I play with the catalogue the more and more I start to get see how they structure things.  I can then determine where they house things and in which repository is it in.   This is GB’s catalogue not Pistard another search tool.

Genealogy section at GB

Genealogy section at GB

My curiosity satisfied I headed to the first floor using the librarian’s directions. The Collection Nationale was on the first floor at the very end of the building from where I had entered earlier.

I took a moment trying to decide if I should go in.  There was a book many years ago titled “Feel the Fear…do it anyway!” I took a deep breath thought about the 2200 miles I had come and walked through the doors.

Please notice the walls and the slat design for it is prevalent throughout the library. There was a various curious structure to the left.  It was like a tiered study area filled with students.

Entrance to the Collection Nationale at GB.

Entrance to the Collection Nationale at GB.

Looking back

Looking back from toward where I came in…

The seated security guard in the Collection was on the right.  He wanted my identification to keep and he gave me a locker key.  I was told that I could not take my computer case in but I could take my computer and research.  I could not take my coat in to the collection so it was a good thing I had my sweater on.  I found my locker in the locker room to his left and gathered my stuff as I usually do for an archive like this.  I also reluctantly put my Sony digital camera away…it was not allowed. So sorry no pictures,

I walked through the scanners and headed into the library area.  I found lots of tables with library lamps on them and faced toward the reference desk and entrance. I then walked around and looked at the stacks,  and saw the microfilm cabinets to the left.  The reference desk was at the front by the entrance door to the right of the security desk.  The room was lovely and nicely laid out.  There was a staircase along the one wall as I faced the reference desk. It was on my left.  There was a rope closing it off.  Exploring some more I found the copiers, the bathrooms and an elevator.

Returning to my desk area, I found a card placed on it about personal property being stolen and it had been put there by the same security guard who had told me about not taking pictures of people.

I sat down.  This was one of the strictest archives I had ever been in.

I sat there looking around an observing the structure of the collection room and began to realize that there were three floors.  If you looked above you the ceiling was very high and there were these slated walls on all four sides but you could see book stacks in between. HA!

The catalog computers were along the side by the big staircase and I consulted them to determine were 929…would be in this collection. I needed to go to the third floor for the genealogy section.  I tried the elevator but no luck.  I asked at the desk if I could go upstairs and was escorted to the elevator by the librarian.  He entered the elevator with me and used his pass to activate it.  Did I mention they are very strict?

At this link that explains the Collection Nationale is a picture of the room.  It is truly beautiful.

Remember the stairs, well on the third floor is the genealogy collection again using 929….and I counted about 4 rows of stacks with Drouin, church record books, and more.

The collection is at the top end of the staircase in the corner.  Now I do not believe this is all they have.  On this top floor they had photocopiers, and microfilm readers and more as well. As I was studying these stacks for their content that same security guard walked by. He sure gets around.

When I used the catalog online at their website it would bring up my choice and then tell me in which building I could find a copy.  It could be in the GB or another one of the branches of the Archives of Quebec.  or

My curiously somewhat satisfied I asked to go back down and the librarian had to take me to the first floor of the Collection Nationale.  I was planning to visit the Bibliotheque Archives du nationale du Quebec (BAnQ) the next day.

It was now 11 am and I had gotten far more involved with trying to discover the secrets of the Grand Bibliotheque of Quebec.  I needed to head back to my hotel for the next adventure.

I found this article about doing genealogy in Montreal and I am sharing it with you at this time.  It is a little old but it is a good starting place:

Another possibility is “Planning a Genealogical Trip to Montreal,” by Paul Leclerc, BA, BSc.  It was helpful in identifying the sources to use but not real helpful in explaining where to find them and how to access them but it was done in 2003 so it is old. It was through Heritage Productions.

The Quebec Family History Society also has helpful articles about the records at their website:

It is my understanding that since the GB was built Quebec has done a lot of consolidating of their holdings.  So the articles I have listed above might not reflect that change.

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here:
This entry was posted in Montreal, Trip to Ontario & Canada 2014 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Quebec Wanderings: Montreal & The Grande Bibliotheque

  1. Byrna Klavano says:

    My goodness they were strict! You are lucky they didn’t rap your knuckles with a ruler! I think the security guard was following you because you are a suspicious looking character. OR he didn’t have anything else to do. Byrna


    • bonmac says:

      Yeah, he did get around and I saw him a lot. Well I was walking around and studying things and I have had others in other repositories get uncomfortable with that. Anyway it was beautiful and I didn’t have any trouble with the French they were very gracious when I asked for English.


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