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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in December 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Canadian Ancestors by Doris Bourrie, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Québec Provincial Records
Québec is the oldest settled province in Canada, having been settled as New France in 1608. Records are generally divided into Pre-Conquest records (those made under the jurisdiction of France prior to the British Conquest in 1763) and records made after 1763 under the jurisdiction of Great Britain. To further complicate the understanding of these records, Great Britain allowed the residents of New France to keep their French language and French civil law, and their Roman Catholic religion. In 1774, the Québec Act provided for the adoption of English criminal law while keeping French civil law. These jurisdictional changes affected the types of records now available to genealogists.
An understanding of the history of the Province, and at least a basic understanding of the French language, will be a great asset to researchers. Research strategy also varies greatly depending on whether the family being researched is Roman Catholic, or non-Catholic. Over the years a great deal of work has been done to provide indexes and guides to locating Catholic families, but there has not been as much done for non-Catholic families.
Bureau Québecois d’Attestation de Compétence en Généalogie
The Bureau Québecois d’Attestation de Compétence en Généalogie (B.Q.A.C.G.) has a mandate to determine and recognize competency in genealogical researchers. They provide three levels of certification:
- G.F.A. (généalogiste de filiation agréé) Approved Lineage Specialist
- G.R.A. (généalogiste de recherchiste agréé) Approved Genealogical Researcher
- M.G.A. (maître généalogiste agréé) Approved Master Genealogist
All accredited researchers must abide by the organization’s Code of Ethics.
Archives Nationales du Québec
Archives Nationales du Québec
475, boulevard De Maisonneuve Est
Montreal, Québec H2L 5C4
Telephone: (514) 873-1100
There is a list of services available, and a list of addresses and hours of operation for the various Archive Centres. Rather than one central archives for the Province, Québec has been organized into 9 Archive Centres, with smaller archives holding the records for their specific region. The two largest archives (Québec City and Montréal) do have copies of some records covering other areas.
Also on this website is a search engine where you may insert a subject line, and choose type of document and/or regional location. However, the subject line should be in French—a good start would be the word “genealogie.” The link button provides access to other sites.
General Notes on Québec Research
Although many of the same record groups are available for Québec research, such as the census records, there are some variations in these records. One variation that is of great assistance to genealogists is due to the fact that many official records made in Québec include the maiden name of a wife. For example, many records would indicate a reference to “Elizabeth Parent, wife of Henri Bouré.” Marriage records for Catholic marriages include the names of parents of both the bride and groom, including the maiden names of both mothers. This is of great assistance in tracing back one more generation.
Census records that have survived for New France were taken in 1666, 1667 and 1681. These were nominal census records, and these records have been published in various sources. Of these three records, the 1681 census is considered to be the most complete. Various other census-type records were made during the 18th and early 19th centuries, some of specific seigneuries, or specific parishes in Québec. Most of these records are available on microfilm through the LDS family history libraries, or in published form.
Nominal census records are available from 1851 to 1901, with the exception of a few records which did not survive, mainly in the 1851 records. These nominal census records, particularly in French-dominated areas, often include the maiden name of the wife listed with her husband. In largely English-populated areas, such as Montréal, this was not always the case.
For more information about these censuses and links to online censuses, see Quebec Census.
The recording of births, marriages and deaths in the province of Québec is entirely different from other provinces. From the beginning, New France required that all births, marriages and deaths be recorded in the local church register. From 1679 on, all churches were required to keep two copies of all baptisms, marriages and burials. Once a year each church sent a copy of the register to the local Prothonotary Court. These copied registers served as the vital records for the province. Most registers have some type of annual index included, but not all of them. This practice of maintaining two duplicate registers remained in force even after the start of the British Regime in 1763, which resulted in Québec province having the most complete set of early church records in the country.
Until 1992 each Prothonotary Court was responsible for indexing, maintaining and microfilming the parish registers deposited with the Court. Microfilms of pre-1900 registers are easily accessed, either through the appropriate regional archives, or through the copies available at the LDS libraries. It is necessary to know the location of your ancestors, and to determine the appropriate church they attended in order to access the proper register. In 1926 civil registration of births was allowed in city halls, and in 1960 the registration of marriages was also allowed in city halls.
Over the years Québec genealogists have created many published records known as Mariage Repertoires. These published records index Catholic marriages for a specific location and time period. Some are for all Catholic churches in a specific county, some [especially for a large center, such as Montréal] for an individual church. A few published records contain births and deaths as well as marriages, but the majority have concentrated on marriage information only. These published records are generally available through LDS libraries, and large genealogical libraries.
|Please remember that these publications are secondary sources, copied from the original, and as such are subject to human error, either in deciphering the original entry, or in transcribing the information.|
An excellent guide to these published records may be found in:
- Guide to Québec’s Parishes and Civil Registers: Catholic, Protestant and Other Denominations, by Francine Fortin and Micheline Da Prato, 1993
La Société généalogique canadienne-francaise has published an update to Fortin’s book in 2001 to include the holdings of the Bibliothèque Nationales du Québec, the Archives Nationales du Québec at Montréal, the Salle Gagnon of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Montréal and the Société généalogique canadienne-francaise up to November 1, 2000.
In addition to published marriage inventories, there are collections known as Fichier [which denotes a card index]. The best known of these is the Fichier Loiselle, often referred to as the Loiselle Marriage Index. This collection covers many reels of microfilm, and is an index of marriages collected from over 500 Catholic parishes in Québec from 1642 to 1963. It is indexed by surname of both the bride and groom. Also included are a few marriages from outside of Québec province. Another index known as the Fichier Rivest includes Catholic marriage records from Joliette, Saint-Jérôme, Mont-Laurier, Sorel and Québec from the 17th century to 1972. This index is sorted by surname of the bride and then alphabetically by the surname of the groom.
The Fichier Fabien is available from the Library and Archives Canada on microfilm [MG 25, G231], and covers mainly French Canadian Catholic marriages for the area of Eastern Ontario, Western Québec and the counties surrounding the island of Montréal. It is filmed in two series, alphabetically by surname for Ontario/Région de l’Outaouas and alphabetically by surname for Québec. A cautionary note indicates that when a surname was hyphenated such as Andre-St. Amant [this occured when there was a “dit” name, i.e. Andre dit St. Amant] only the first part of the name was considered in the alphabetical arrangement.
A third type of compiled record available for Catholic records is known as a Dictionnaire.
Most of these compilations cover very early records of the province only, and again are secondary sources. However, they are very helpful indexes to original records. Most are available at large genealogical libraries, and some larger libraries may have developed English guides to explain how to use a specific work.
- Tanguay: Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours. A 7-volume dictionary covering information up to 1760. Published originally in 1871-1890. A companion guide to this collection is Complément au Dictionnaire Tanguay, by J. Arthur Leboeuf, which includes additional records from churches not covered by Tanguay, as well as some corrections to the original work. Tanguay’s work also contains helpful information of a general nature. Volume 1 contains a list of parishes and missions having registers from 1621-1871. This list is provided in three ways: by date of origin, alphabetically by name of parish, and also by geographical location. Volume 7 includes a guide to surname variations, such as ‘dit’ names.
- Drouin: Dictionnaire National des Canadiens Français. A 2-volume work covering marriages from 1608 to 1760, compiled by L’Institut Drouin. A later work, not as widely available is the Répertoire alphabétique des mariages des Canadiens-français, which covers the period 1760 to 1935 and includes 49 volumes alphabetized by male surname, and 64 volumes alphabetized by female surnames.
- Jetté: Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec des origines à 1730. This covers the years 1608 to 1730.
- Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens, Bona Arsenault is a specialized 6-volume dictionary covering Acadien families. There is also a companion book for this series: Index and Key Words to Histoire et Généalogie des Acadiens, by Rev. Donald J. Hebert, which will be of help to anglophones.
- PRDH (Programme de recherche en démographie historique de l’université de Montréal) is a 47 volume set of church records, census records, lists of immigrants, and various other documents from 1608 to 1766. It was published in 3 sections, covering different time periods, with a surname index for each time period. Miscellaneous historic documents and additions are in volumes 46 and 47. This series is difficult to use at first glance, but well worth the effort. Ask if the library has the English language key to the collection. There is a website that allows some online access to the information in these volumes. It may be found at Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique.
There is a French and English version available. This site contains a great deal of helpful information, including a list of parishes that kept records prior to 1800, and a map to indicate the location of the parish. A basic search may be conducted online to allow you to determine if information may be located for your family. A very reasonable subscription fee will allow more detailed access to the records at a per-page rate. Details of the fees will be found in the information for subscribers.
Unfortunately the Québec genealogical community has not been so kind to those researching non-Catholic ancestors, as very little indexing has been done outside of Roman Catholic church records. Those researching non-Catholic records may find the following helpful:
- Protestant marriages in the District of Bedford, Québec 1804-1879, by R. Neil Broadhurst.
- Printed Sources for the Study of English-speaking Québec. Bishop’s University, Lennoxville, Québec. Eastern Township Research Centre, Series No. 2 (Works printed before 1980).
- Sources for the Study of English-speaking Québec. Bishop’s University, Lennoxville, Québec. Eastern Township Research Centre, Series No. 3 (Works printed 1980-1990).
Recent additions for later records are L’index consolidé des mariages du Québec and L’index consolidé des décès du Québec, covering the period 1926 to 1991. There is also a consolidated index for births for the same time period, but this is not open to public researchers.
A certificate for birth, marriage or death from 1900 on may be requested from Direction de l’etat civil. However these certificates are available only to the person who has a legal right to the certificate. Genealogical research is not considered a suitable reason for receiving a certificate. The civil registration office is online provides information on requesting certificates via the Internet, via mail or in person. There is also a French version of the site.
Directeur de l’état civil Québec
2535, boulevard Laurier
Québec (Québec) G1V 5C5
Service à la clientèle
205 rue Montmagny
Quebec, Quebec G1N 2Z9
As with other provinces, land records in Québec may be divided into two main areas: the first alienation of land from the Crown (either by French government or English government), and later land transfers either through sale, legacy, bequests or other transfers.
Alienation of land from the Crown during the French Regime involved a form of feudal land tenure known as the Seigneurial System, whereby large areas of property were awarded to certain Seigneurs, who then settled farmers on their property. These farmers were known as “Habitants,” and although they did not actually own the property, they had the right to dispose of their tenancy rights by sale or legacy. The Seigneurial System was in effect even after the beginning of the British Regime, and was not abolished until 1854.
The local Seigneur produced many records for his Seigneury, including census records, court records, fealty and homage records concerning the habitants residing on his property. A guide to some of these records that have survived may be found in the 6 volume set published by the National Archives of Québec Inventaire des concessions en fief et seigneurie, foi et hommages et aveux et dénombrements, conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec.
The areas included in the Seigneurial System were, naturally, those settled early in the history of the province, and therefore included land on both sides of the St. Lawrence. In 1791 land behind the seigneuries was surveyed and divided into townships. Townships were grouped together into Counties for administrative purposes, but they were assigned to Judicial Districts for legal matters.
Information regarding alienation of land from the Crown during the British Regime may be found in the Lower Canada Land Index, a nominal index to land petitions at the Library and Archives Canada, covering 1763 to 1841, and a List of Lands Granted by the Crown in the Province of Québec from 1763 to 31st December, 1890, by Chrysostome Langelier, published in 1891.
Land transfers after the first grant are the responsibility of the Ministère de la Justice and registered at the Legal Registry office of the appropriate Judicial District. You will need the exact street address or legal Range and lot number to access these documents. Many land transfer documents were drawn up by a local Notary, and notarial documents comprise another specialized source for Québec records that will be of interest to genealogists.
Wills and Estate Records
The search for wills and probate records in Québec again differs from other provinces. Only holographic wills [those written and signed completely by the testator’s own hand] or those signed before witnesses are required to be probated by the Superior Court of the Judicial District where the deceased lived. Early probated wills may have been deposited in the appropriate district branch of the BANQ (Archives Nationale des Québec), or may be held in the larger BANQ branches in Montréal and Québec City. Many wills were drawn up by notaries, and have now become part of the large collection of notarial records.
This large collection of records is unique to the province of Québec (although there are some notarial records for Acadia, Louisiana and some frontier settlements in the Midwest). The local notary was an important personage in the lives of most Québec residents. He was consulted when it was necessary to draw up a marriage contract, a will, or papers relating to the sale of a piece of property, or any type of legal document. A copy of these papers was kept by the notary for as long as the notary continued in practice. When the practice ceased, the notary’s files were deposited with the local Judicial Archives.
Most of the historic files (80-100 years old, or older) have been turned over to the appropriate branch of the BANQ. As notarial records contain much genealogical information they are important sources for genealogists. The difficulty is in determining which notary your family used, in order to search his Greffe for copies of family papers. There are a number of published aids to locate notarial records. Some are inventories of the files of a specific notary, usually one of the earlier notaries. Some are indexes of notaries who practiced during a certain time period, or in a certain area of Québec. While locating notarial records for your family may be difficult, the rewards would be great. The LDS library has microfilmed many of the early notarial files.
Some of the types of records you may find in notarial files are:
- Inventories (Inventaires aprés décès)
An inventory of the estates of a deceased person, which might include details regarding property, heirs, lists of important legal papers including the name of the notary, such as a marriage contract, and other personal information.
- Inheritance records (Portages de biens)
These would include the names and addresses of heirs of a deceased person, usually including information on family relationships.
- Orphan’s records (Tuteles et Curatelles)
Names and ages of orphans, the names of their parents or other relatives, the name of the person, and possibly their relatonship, who will take charge of the orphans.
- Land records
Many types of land records, including sales, leases, quit claims, transfers, etc.
- Marriage contracts (Contrats de Mariage)
A formal contract prior to marriage, outlining such things as a bride’s dowry, responsibility for debts incurred by either bride or groom, division of property should the union be dissolved, etc. It should be noted that this was a contract made prior to marriage, and does not prove that the marriage did take place.
- Donations (Donations entre vif)
These records are a type of early “will” usually made by elderly parents who wished to divide their property among their children prior to their deaths.
The earliest newspaper for Québec is the Québec Gazette, founded in 1764. Papers, particularly for the larger centers, may be French or English. The National Library, Ottawa, the local branch of the BANQ and larger libraries will have microfilmed copies available.
Genealogical Societies in Québec
As with the Archives, genealogical societies tend to cover specific regions of the Province. There are two main French societies in the province, and one main English society.
- La Société généalogique canadienne-française
3440 rue Davidson
Montréal, Québec H1W 2Z5
Telephone: (514) 527-1010
This site is availabe in French. There are a large number of research tools available to members at their library, and there is a query box to post queries. They also have many publications available for purchase. The Society has purchased the Drouin collection of records, covering 2,365 reels of various records of genealogical interest which include copies of parish registers, judiciary acts, religious vows and even early census material. The collection is indexed by alphabetical order of location, and then by parish.
- La Société de généalogie de Québec
C.P. 9066, Ste-Foy
Québec G1V 4A8
Telephone: (418) 651-9127
This site is available in French, with the most essential pages also available in an English version. The Research Services button will indicate what services are available. They have a large list of library holdings, and a number of reference books and research books available for purchase.
- Québec Family History Society
15 Donegani Avenue, P. O. Box 715
Pointe-Claire-Dorval Postal Station
Pointe Claire, Québec H95 4S8 Telephone: (514) 695-1502
This is the main English genealogical society for the Province. The Society will do a search of various records for a fee; see their library page for list of records searched. There is also a list of recommended Québec genealogical sites.
- Société de recherche historique Archiv-Histo
2320 rue des Carrières
Montréal, Québec H2G 3G9
This Société has a number of publications available for sale, and has produced some excellent CD research tools. Examples are provided on the website to indicate what type of information is included in the CD. The Parchemin data base is available to Institutions only, but the site provides a list of institutions where this database may be consulted.
- Fédération des familles-souches québécoises
C.P. 10090 Succ Sainte-Foy
Québec, Québec QV G1V 4C6
Telephone: (418) 653-2137
This organization is a federation of various family name associations. The site is in French and there are a number of useful links for researchers. Go to the Menu Principal button for an index to the site. They offer a downloadable .pdf version of the Catalogue des Archives nationales du Québec, and access to a miniweb of family associations. Under the Services offerts button you will find a large number of links to various other websites of interest to Québec researchers, and also an evaluation of a number of genealogical programs.
- ↑ Althea Douglas, Research: Québec English Ancestors.
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