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Roman Catholic parish registers are the most accurate and helpful of all the French Canadian genealogical sources. These registers contain christening, marriage, and burial records from 1621 to the present.
Church registers should be consulted for records of baptisms, marriages, and burials for all time periods in Québec history. Many records are available both in original church registers and in copies that were submitted to civil archives. The copies are called duplicate, second, or civil copies.
The largest religious group in Québec is the Roman Catholic Church. The first Catholic parish register was for Notre-Dame de Québec, founded in 1621. Although this register was burned, it was reconstructed in the 1640s. Most Catholic records have been carefully made and preserved from that time to the present.
From 1679 to 1993, most vital records for Québec were copies of church records. The province required churches to send copies to government archives. On 1 January 1994, the government began to keep separate vital records.
Vital records could be registered civilly without a church record as early as 1926. Beginning in the 1960s, many births and marriages were recorded only in civil registers.
You should consult church registers for records of baptisms, marriages, and burials for all periods in Québec history. Many records are available both in original church registers and in copies that were submitted to civil archives. The copies are called duplicate, second, or civil copies.
Because of rights-of-privacy laws, the public does not have access to civil copies of parish registers from 1900 to the present.
Some of the information missing from church records is available in notarial records. Léon Lalanne was a notary for the entire Eastern Townships area between 1799 and 1815. His records included wills and marriage contracts. To find out more about his records, see "Availability" in the "Notarial Records" section of this outline.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH RECORDS
Roman Catholic parish registers are the most accurate and helpful of all the French Canadian genealogical sources. These registers contain christening, marriage, and burial records from 1621 to the present. Between 1679 and 1993, all parishes in Québec were required to send duplicate copies to the civil archives. This duplication has ensured that a vast majority of vital records from Quebec survive to the present day.
THE FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY COLLECTION: The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the following: *All Catholic registers from 1621 to 1877, *Most of the civil copies of Catholic registers between 1878 and 1899, *Catholic registers to 1910 from Québec parishes in the Diocese of Pembroke, Ontario, in the Ottawa River Valley. To find these microfilms, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under QUEBEC, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHURCH RECORDS. Microfilms of these registers are also available at many archives and libraries in Canada and in the northeastern and midwestern United States. Canada, Quebec, Catholic Parish Registars--This collection is availble for free on FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site. For a description of this collection see wiki article Canada, Quebec Catholic Parish Registars
ORIGINAL COPIES OF CHURCH RECORDS
The original civil copies of most parish registers are held in the regional branches of the Archives Nationales du Québec. Extracts of the records before 1900 can be requested. Application forms are available at any regional branch. Send the completed form to the branch holding the records. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for more information and addresses of the regional branches. The civil copies of most parish records were microfilmed by the Institut Généalogique Drouin through about 1940. These microfilm have now been scanned and are available at www.ancestry.ca. They are arranged by parish, then by year or groups of years. Most records have an index at the end of each year or group of years. Ancestry has also indexed the records, but the indexes presently do not allow soundex searches or searches for parents' names. It is possible to access the records by parish, then by year or groups of years, without using the indexes.
For earlier records (1621 through 1799), the University of Montreal's Quebec and French Canadian Genealogy Database is a paid subscription service that allows users to instantly search all registers. The university (for research into demography) has each person numbered and all appearances of each individual (subject, witness, parent, child, etc.) are linked together. This is a database only. While it is based on parish and other original records, it does not have links to those original records. A number of burials for individuals dying after 1799 have been added to this database. Generally these are individuals born before about 1750.
RESTRICTED INFORMATION: Because of rights-of-privacy laws, the public does not have access to civil copies of parish registers from 1900 to the present. However, you may be able to get an extract from the original parish register. Send the request to the parish that created the record. Parish addresses are listed in: *Annuaire de l'Église Catholique au Canada = Canadian Catholic Church Directory. Montréal, Québec, Canada: Publicité B. M., annual. (Family History Library book 971 K24a.) Due to lack of staff and because of new policies, access to information from original church records may also be restricted.
When requesting information by mail from Roman Catholic parishes in Québec, you are more likely to be successful if your letter is brief and very specific. See the French Letter-Writing Guide for details.
Some of the parishes of Québec and the counties to which they belong are in Répertoire toponymique du Québec (see the "Gazetteers" section of this outline). Information about parishes, which includes dates they were founded and their locations, is in: Magnan, Hormisdas. Dictionnaire historique et géographique des paroisses, missions et municipalités de la Province de Québec (Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Parishes . . .). Arthabaska, Québec, Canada: Imprimerie d'Arthabaska, 1925. (Family History Library book 971.4 E5m; fiche 6016524–28.) Text in French. Indexes to civil copies of church records for the Island of Montréal and for the city of Québec are described in the "Vital Records" section of this outline. Genealogical dictionaries based on Catholic church records are described in the "Genealogy" section. If an ancestor disappears from the parish registers, he may have gone into the fur trade. For information about fur trade records, see the "Business Records and Commerce" section of this outline.
INDEXES TO CATHOLIC MARRIAGE RECORDS
Researchers studying French Canadian Catholic families normally use one of the following indexes to locate a marriage in church records.
- Drouin Collection 1621-1967 at Ancestry.ca. This collection is divided into six databases:
- Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967
- Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967
- Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954
- Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946
- Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942
- Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941.
- For details about this six databases, see The Drouin Collection: Six databases.
- Loiselle, Antonin. Index to Many Marriages of the Province of Québec and Adjacent Areas. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. (On 174 Family History Library films beginning with film # 543721. This Loiselle Index lists more than a million marriages. It covers about 70 percent of Québec Catholic marriages to 1900, with a few as late as the 1960s. It also includes a few parishes outside Québec where there were large settlements of French Canadians, such as Madawaska County, New Brunswick, and Manchester, Hillsboro County, New Hampshire.
- Loiselle, Antonin. Index alphabétique des mariages de certaines paroisses du Québec (Alphabetical Index to Marriages in Certain Parishes of Québec). Montréal, Québec, Canada: Ville de Montréal, 1988. (Family History Library film #s 1571024-74.) The text is in French. There is a supplement to the original Loiselle Index. It extends the original geographical coverage to the Montréal region, the Ottawa River Valley in both Québec and Ontario, and to a few parishes in western Canada.
- The Loiselle Index and its supplement have two cards for each marriage—one for the husband and one for the wife. Each card lists the date and place of the marriage, the names of both spouses, and the names of both spouses' parents, or the name of the previous spouse. See Appendix A for instructions for using the Loiselle index and the Loiselle supplement.
- A smaller index than the Loiselle Collection is: Rivest, Lucien. Index to Marriages of Québec and Adjacent Areas 1670–1964. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973. (On 41 Family History Library films beginning with film 933143. It lists 230,000 Catholic marriages in 13 counties northwest and northeast of Montréal, alphabetical by the bride's maiden surname.
- Other indexes of marriages are: Mariages de Québec (Marriages of Québec). Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1984. (On 30 Family History Library films beginning with film # 1381846.) The text is in French. It is a small but important index. It lists Catholic marriages to 1970 in the Eastern Townships region southeast of Montréal. It is alphabetical by the groom's name.
- The Collection Fabien, National Archives of Canada series MG 25, G 231, includes Catholic marriages from 1657 to 1974 in counties surrounding Montréal (54 films) and both the Québec and Ontario sides of the Ottawa River Valley (25 films). The text is in French.
- The Collection Fabien is not at the Family History Library. The microfilms can be borrowed from the National Archives of Canada through public and college libraries participating in the interlibrary loan system. A list of the film numbers can be obtained from the National Archives of Canada.
- Information for many French Canadian Catholic marriages in Québec before 1930 is transcribed in: Répertoire alphabétique des mariages canadiens-français, 1760–1935. (Longueuil, Québec, Canada: Service généalogique Claude Drouin, 1989–1991.) Also known as the Répertoire Drouin. Part One (49 volumes) lists marriages alphabetically by the husband's surname.
- Part Two (65 volumes) list marriages alphabetically by the bride's surname. It gives information similar to the information in the Loiselle Collection.
- The Family History Library has a microfiche edition of the Répertoire Drouin. Part One begins with fiche 6202704. Part two begins with fiche 6203266. Each part contains two alphabetical listings. Since there is some overlap in the years covered by each listing, both listings should be consulted.
- Copies are available at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, at the Salle Gagnon of the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal, and at a few other libraries. Marriage records of many parishes have been compiled and published. These compilations are available at branches of the Archives Nationales du Québec, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and at many major libraries in Canada and northeastern and midwestern states.
If a church marriage record cannot be found, look in the notarial records for a marriage contract. About two-thirds of the marriages before the mid-1800s had marriage contracts. See the "Notarial Records"
Several genealogical dictionaries also have marriage information (see the "Genealogy" section of this outline). One of the most important is Cyprien Tanguay's, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes (Genealogical Dictionary of French Canadian Families).
PROTESTANT CHURCH RECORDS
The earliest Protestant records are from 1766, when the Church of England (Anglican) parishes were founded in Montréal. Presbyterian records date from 1770 in the city of Québec and 1779 in Montréal. Other non-Catholic groups came later.
- An inventory of Catholic and Protestant church records is: Fortin, Francine. Guide des registres d'état civil du Québec = Guide to Quebec's Parishes and Civil Registers 1621–1993. [Lachine, Québec, Canada: F. Fortin], 1993. (Family History Library book 971.4 K22f; on 7 fiche 6075969.) Lists church records available on microfilm and in books.
Protestant church records are not as extensive as the Catholic records. Clergy of legally recognized Protestant groups were required to send duplicate copies of their church records to the civil archives. They did not always do it.
Also, baptisms and marriages performed by some non-Catholic clergy were not recognized by civil authorities until 1825 or later. Beginning in 1825, the registers of various denominations were "authenticated" (given legal authority) by the legislative assembly. Many Protestant registers contain less information than the Catholic records. For example, many marriage records do not list the parents of the bride or groom.
Information missing from church records may be found in censuses; in land records; or in marriage contracts, wills, and deeds included with notarial records. To find birth, marriage, and burial records of non-Catholic groups, look in:
- Broadhurst, R. Neil. A Checklist of Registers of Protestant and Jewish Congregations in Québec. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Kintracers, 1994. (Family History Library book 971.4 K23br.) It includes a brief history of non-Catholic groups in Québec. Civil copies of Protestant records before 1900 have been microfilmed. The microfilms are available at the Family History Library and at major archives and libraries in Canada and New England.
The civil copies of many Protestant records were microfilmed by the Institut généalogique Drouin through about 1940. These microfilm have now been scanned and are available at www.ancestry.ca. Ancestry has also indexed the records, but the indexes presently do not allow soundex searches or searches for parents' names. It is possible to access the records by parish, then by year or groups of years, without using the indexes.
The original civil copies are held in the regional branches of the Archives Nationales du Québec. Extracts of the records before 1900 can be requested. Application forms are available at any regional branch. Send the completed form to the branch holding the records.
Because of rights-of-privacy laws, the public does not have access to civil copies of church records from 1900 to the present. However, you may be able to get an extract from the original church record. A few of the large Protestant churches in Montréal, the city of Québec, and the Eastern Townships still retain some of their records, but most denominations have placed their records in the conventional, synodal, or diocesan archives. The following is a list of major record repositories or headquarters for the most prominent Protestant churches in Québec. To locate addresses of parishes, write to:
- Anglican Diocese of Montreal
- 1444 Union Avenue
- Montréal QC
- CANADA H3A 2B8
- Telephone: 514-843-6577
- Diocese of Québec
- 31 rue des Jardins
- Québec QC
- CANADA G1R 4L5
- Telephone: 418-692-3858
The Anglican Diocese of Québec has its archives at Bishop's University.
- Canadian Baptist Archives
- McMaster Divinity College
- Hamilton ON CANADA L8S 4K1
- Telephone: 416-525-9140 ext 3511
- Lutheran Council in Canada
- 1512 St. James Street
- Winnipeg MB CANADA R3H 0L2
- Telephone: 204-786-6707 Fax: 204-783-7548
- Archives of the Presbyterian Church of Canada
- 11 Soho Street, Suite 104
- Toronto ON CANADA M5T 1Z6
- Telephone: 416-595-1277 Fax: 416-595-5656
- The Eastern Townships Research Centre at Bishop's University has some original Presbyterian church registers for parishes near Sherbrooke. The Québec-Sherbrooke Presbytery of the Montréal-Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada also has its archives at Bishop's University.
- United Church of Canada Archives
- Montréal/Ottawa Conference
- c/o Centre d'archives de Montréal, de Laval, de Lanaudiere, des Laurentides et de la Montérégie
- 1945 rue Mullins
- Montréal QC CANADA H3K 1N9
INDEXES TO PROTESTANT RECORDS
Many English-speaking Protestant Canadians settled in the Eastern Townships section of Québec just north of the Vermont border. Major indexes include:
- Broadhurst, R. Neil. Protestant Marriages in the District of Bedford, Quebec, 1804–1879. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Kintracers, 1991. (Family History Library book 971.46 K2b.) For Brome, Missisquoi, and Shefford counties.
- Mariages, baptêmes et sépultures de Québec: district judiciaire de St-François (Index to Protestant Marriages, Baptisms, and Burials of the St. Francis Judicial District). Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1984. (On ten Family History Library films beginning with film # 1381899, Item 2) Text is in French and is for Compton, Richmond, Stanstead, Wolfe, and Sherbrooke counties up to 1879.
- A major index to Protestants in another part of the Eastern Townships is: Vachon, Paul. Repertory of Births, Marriages, and Burials: The Anglo-Protestants of Megantic County 1826–1991. Thetford Mines, Québec, Canada: Société généalogique de la région de l'Amiante, 1992. (Family History Library book 971.4575 K2r or fiche # 6125775.)
Additional indexes to church records are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under: QUEBEC, [COUNTY] - CHURCH RECORDS.
Step 1. Determine the town, city, or parish where your ancestor lived.
You may already know the place where your ancestor lived in Quebec. If not, learn more about your ancestor's family, which will lead you to your ancestor. For more information about this research concept, see Your Ancestor Had A FAN Club.
For more ideas on how to find where your ancestor lived, see How to Locate Your Ancestor in Canada.
Step 2. Determine if your ancestor was Catholic or Protestant
To determine whether your ancestor was Catholic or Protestant, do one or more of the following:
Determine whether your ancestor was French or British.
- If French, your ancestor was probably Catholic.
- If British, your ancestor was probably Protestant.
- Ask your living relatives if they know which church your ancestor belonged to.
- Look in family histories or papers for clues about his or her religion.
- Check which church most of the descendants belonged to. Most descendants probably belong to the same church.
To find where birth, marriage, and burial records of non-Catholic groups are located, look in:
- Broadhurst, R. Neil. A Checklist of Registers of Protestant and Jewish Congregations in Québec. Includes a brief history of non-Catholic groups in Québec.
Step 3. Search church records
- Search the marriage indexes for the marriage record of your ancestor. Catholic marriage records often tell when a person was born or at least give an age. They also give the parish where his or her parents were living.
- Start searching for birth information in the parishes learned from the marriages.
- Look for the Catholic church records for that place and date. Then search for your ancestor's name in those records.
- First search the applicable sources suggested in How to Locate Your Ancestor in Canada One of these sources may give you a clue about where your ancestor died.
- Then search the Catholic Church records of that place for the burial record.
If your ancestor did not die in Quebec, see Canada Vital Records and select the province of death.
If you were unable to find your ancestor's name in a church record, see Tips.
Step 4. Copy the information from the church records.
Make a photocopy of the page(s) with the information about your ancestor. It is often helpful later when you get more information to review what you found before.
Be sure to document the source of information by writing the title, author, call number, and page number on the photocopy.
Step 5. Analyze the information you found.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What were the names and ages of the people you found?
- What were the relationships of the family members?
- Where and when was the person baptized, married, or buried?
- What were the names of the witnesses?
- Were the witnesses relatives?
- Does this match with what you know about the family?
Tip 1. What if I did not find my ancestor's name in the parish records?
Your ancestor may be listed in the parish records but with a different spelling of his or her name. For suggestions on how the name might be spelled, see Name Variations in Canadian Indexes and Records.
If an ancestor or family were in the parish registers, yet seems to disappear, he may have gone into the fur trade. Consider searching the Internet for "Hudson's Bay Company Archives" and other searches.
Tip 2. What if I can not find records for my ancestor's parish?
If you cannot find a church marriage record, look in the notarial records for a marriage contract. About two-thirds of the marriages before the mid-1800s had marriage contracts.
For information about notarial records, see Quebec Notarial Records.
Several genealogical dictionaries also have marriage information. One of the most important is Cyprien Tanguay's, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes (Genealogical Dictionary of French Canadian Families).
For information about other genealogical dictionaries, see the Quebec Genealogy.
Tip 3. How can I find where a parish is and what diocese it is in?
Some of the parishes of Québec and the counties to which they belong are in Répertoire toponymique du Québec (Geographic Names of Québec). Text in French. Localities are listed alphabetically. For each locality, this book lists the canton (township), if applicable, and the division de recensement (the census division, which in this case is the county).
Information about parishes, which includes dates they were founded and their locations, is in:
- Magnan, Hormisdas. Dictionnaire historique et géographique des paroisses, missions et municipalités de la Province de Québec (Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Parishes . . .). Text in French.