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In Québec, notaires (notaries) have registered contracts since 1626. These include deeds, wills, marriage contracts, and other records that are important in family history research. The persons involved in the contracts received the originals. The notaries kept copies. The copies are called "minutes."
Each document in a notary's minutes gives at least the name of the notary, the date and place the document was prepared, the names and addresses of the persons involved, and the names and addresses of the witnesses. The ages and relationships of the witnesses and the persons involved are sometimes included.
Notarial records are usually listed by the name of the notary and the dates he functioned. They are not normally indexed by the names of the persons involved in the contract.
Notarial records are first sent to the judicial archives, but they are eventually deposited in the branches of the Archives Nationales du Québec.
Types of Notarial Record
There are many types of notarial records. They include property deeds and related documents. In early Québec, wills and marriage contracts were the most common notarial records. After the mid-1800s, marriage contracts were much less common. The most useful notarial records for family history research are:
Contrats de mariage (marriage contracts). These may describe the bride's dowry and the division of property if the marriage is dissolved. They often include names and places of residence of the spouses' parents. This information is important if church records are missing or incomplete.
Inventaires après décès (inventories of the estates of deceased persons). These are similar to English probate records.
Partage (settlement or share-out papers). Partage records list family members who will receive a share of the estate.
Tutelle et curatelle (guardianship papers). These are records about orphans and the conservation of their property.
Donations entre vifs (donation records). Some elderly parents make "early wills." While living, they divide their property among their children. Donations entre vifs are records of these donations. Some donations are to unrelated persons. The conditions to be fulfilled by those receiving the property are listed.
Engagements (indenture records). These are labor contracts. French men contracted to labor in Canada for a specific length of time in exchange for compensation. Notaries in French ports such as La Rochelle drew up the earliest engagements.
A description of the indenture of fifty-one men is:
Perron, Guy. Les engagés levés par François Peron pour le Canada en 1655 [et] 1656 (Indentured Workers Enlisted by François Peron to Go to Canada in 1655 and 1656). L'Ancêtre 18, number 2 (October 1991): 43–50; and number 4 (December 1991): 132–42. (FHL book 971.4 D25a v. 18.) Text in French.
Notaries in Québec also prepared engagements for French Canadian men involved in the fur trade. See the "Business Records and Commerce" section of this outline for information about fur trade records.
When a person stops being a notary, they send their minutes to the protonotaire (prothonotary) of the local judicial district.
Notarial records before 1900 have been collected at branches of the Archives nationales du Québec. Many are on film at the Family History Library. Two ways to find the records in the Family History Library Catalog are:
Look for the notary's name in the Author/Title Search of the microfiche version of the catalog.
Look in the Locality Search under QUEBEC, [COUNTY] - NOTARIAL RECORDS. To find the records, you will need to know which counties were in the notary's judicial district (see below under "Finding Aids").
An important early notary was Léon Lalanne. He was a notary for the entire Eastern Townships area between 1799 and 1815. This included the Bedford Judicial District and the St. Francis Judicial District. The counties in the Bedford district are Brome, Missisquoi, and Shefford. The counties in the St. Francis district are Compton, Richmond, Sherbrooke, Stanstead, and Wolfe.
There are few church records for the Eastern Townships in that time period. Lalanne's records are critical sources of information about early Protestants in the Eastern Townships. His records are in English. Because they were deposited in the Bedford Judicial District, the notarial records of Léon Lalanne are found under:
QUEBEC, BROME - NOTARIAL RECORDS
QUEBEC, MISSISQUOI - NOTARIAL RECORDS
QUEBEC, SHEFFORD - NOTARIAL RECORDS
They are also available under Lalanne, Léon in the Author/Title Search of the catalog on microfiche.
Notarial records after 1900 are only available to the person involved or the person's legal representative, who may request copies from the judicial district office that has the records. Addresses of the judicial district offices are given in Marthe Faribault-Beauregard, La Généalogie: Retrouver ses ancêtres (see the "For Further Reading" section near the end of this outline). Current addresses of the district offices are listed in annual editions of the Canadian Almanac and Directory. See the "Directories" section of the Canada Research Outline (34545).
Notaries and Their Localities. Names of deceased notaries and the localities they served are included in both of the following:
Laliberté, J. M. Index des greffes des notaires décédés, 1645–1948 (Index of Deceased Notaries). Québec, Canada: B. Pontbriand, 1967. (FHL book 971.4 N3L; fiche 6046554.) Text in French. Many notaries' records are no longer at the repositories indicated in this book.
Quintin, Robert J. The Notaries of French Canada, 1626–1900: Alphabetical, Chronologically, by Area Served. Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA.: R. J. Quintin, 1994. (FHL book 971.4 N3n; film 1750788 item 120.)
The Family History Library does not have any maps showing the judicial districts and the counties they cover.
Indexes to Notarial Records. A few indexes for notarial records are available, especially for notaries for the city of Québec.
Drouin Collection Internet index of French Canadian records 1621-1967. This collection has over 15 million entries for French Canadian genealogical and vital records. It includes Quebec notarial records.
An index to marriage contracts is:
Index des contrats de mariage, 1780–1930 (Marriage Contract Index, 1780–1930). [Sainte-Foy, Qué.]: Archives nationales du Québec, 1986. (On 90 FHL fiche 6334283.) Text in French.
Indexes or inventories of some notaries' records are in:
Instruments de recherche des registres notariaux (Finding Aids for Notarial Records). [Sainte-Foy, Qué.]: Archives nationales du Québec, [1981–1984]. (On 2,548 FHL fiche beginning with fiche 6333604.) Most of the inventories are in French.
Abstracts and partial indexes of some notarial records before 1760 are in:
Archives nationales du Québec. Inventaire des greffes des notaires du Régime Français. (Inventory of Notarial Records of the French Régime.) 27 Volumes. Québec, Canada: Éditeur officiel du Québec, 1943–1976. (FHL book 971.4 N3q.) Text in French. Includes the records of 81 notaries in the province before 1760.
Compact Disc Index. Complete indexes to all notarial records before 1765 are available on compact disc (CD-ROM). The indexes are at a few archives and libraries in the province of Québec and at the Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal.
PARCHEMIN created the indexes as part of a project called Nouvel accès aux archives notariales du Québec ancien 1635–1885 (New Access to Notarial Archives for Old Québec 1635–1885). The project plans to index every notarial record to 1885. It is based at the national archives branch in Montréal. (For the address, see Centre d'archives de Montréal in the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline.) Information about the project is in:
Lafortune, Hélène. Parchemin s'explique: guide du dépouillement des actes notariés du Québec ancien. (PARCHEMIN Explained: Guide to the Extraction Project for the Notarial Records of Old Québec.) Montréal, Québec, Canada: Société de recherche historique Archiv-Histo, 1989. (FHL book 971.4 N32L.) Text in French.
Other aids. Legal terms used in notarial records are defined on pages 81–96 of Parchemin s'explique (see above).
A discussion of handwriting and abbreviations is:
Lafortune, Marcel. Initiation à la paléographie franco-canadienne: les écritures des notaires aux XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles (Introduction to French-Canadian Paleography: The Handwriting of the Notaries in the 17th and 18th Centuries). Three Volumes. Montréal, Québec, Canada: Société de recherche historique Archiv-Histo, 1982–88. (FHL book 971.4 G3L.) Text in French.
See the "Notarial Records" section of the Canada Research Outline (34545) for further information.