The BALSAC database was created in 1972 at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) on the initiative of Professor Gérard Bouchard. The first major accomplishment was to recreate the population of the Saguenay-Lac St-Jean region from 1838 to 1971 from 660 000 vital event records, such as birth, marriage and death certificates.
The BALSAC database expanded progressively to include data covering the entire province, with the addition and linkage of all marriage certificates from the foundation of New France in the 17th century to recent years. The name “BALSAC” is derived from the first letters of the regions first included in the database. Today, the BALSAC database is comprised of 3 million vital event records, representing the lives of 5 million individuals over almost four centuries of history.
The BALSAC database is the joint property and responsibility of UQAC, Université Laval, McGill University and Université de Montréal. By common agreement, the database is managed by UQAC, which also takes responsibility for providing access to the data and protecting the privacy of the information. UQAC also assumes the bulk of operation and infrastructure costs.
The institutional structure of the BALSAC database has evolved over the years:
- In 1976, UQAC established the SOREP research group (Société de recherche sur les populations).
- In 1982, SOREP became an interuniversity research group through a collaborative arrangement between Université Laval and McGill University.
- In 1988, Université de Montréal joined SOREP via a collaborative arrangement with its Centre de recherche en droit public.
- In 1994, SOREP changed its name to IREP (Institut interuniversitaire de recherche sur les populations) and welcomed Université de Sherbrooke and Concordia University as integral partners, followed by Université du Québec à Montréal in 1996.
- In 1998, Gérard Bouchard retired as director of IREP. He will, however, continue as director of the BALSAC Project until 2010.
Since 2010, Hélène Vézina, professor in the Department of Human and Social sciences at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, has been managing the BALSAC Project.