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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors by Althea Douglas M.A., CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
The Civil Code of Québec differs in many respects from English Common Law, so things are done differently in Québec, as you have already learned.
Because of the involvement of Notaries in so many marriage contracts, land transfers and estates, wills and probate are of less importance in Québec genealogical research. Only the holograph wills and those signed before witnesses (called “English Form”) require “probate” by the Superior Court of the Judicial District in which the deceased person was domiciled. Probate documents should include the original will, certificate of death (Act of Civil Status), an “affidavit” attesting to the authenticity of the document’s writing or signatures, and proof that notice of probate has been sent to all heirs and successors.
In the mid-1990s the Québec Ministère de la justice issued a number of small brochures and booklets, “Your Rights at a Glance”/“Justice en bref”, of which “Successions” explains the process of Succession with a will and without a will, the role of the “Liquidator” or “testamentary executor”, and how, after 1961, to establish a will does, or does not exist:
- It is preferable to contact the Chambre des notaires and the Barreau [Québec Bar Association] by telephone to obtain the form entitled Request for a search of will and to find out how to access the register of wills and how much the search will cost. Proof of death must be supplied.
As in other provinces, some older wills are found with land transfer documents.
Other Legal Records
Most legal records are notarial and are found in the individual notary’s greffe, which, after 80 to 100 years, is usually in the appropriate regional branch of the ANQ. Here you should also find local court records, and in the computerized or microfiched complete inventory of ANQ holdings, be able to locate other Provincial court records.
Court records date from about 1651 and will give the names and residence of persons who engaged in litigation in the courts: Registres du baillage (Bailiff’s Court),Plaidoyers communs (Court of Common Pleas), and Conseil Supérieur (Superior Court).
The ANQ at Montréal has published two guides: Guide des archives judiciaires, District de Montréal, Vol. 1, Cour du banc du roi 1795-1849 et Cour superieur 1850 - 1932, and Guide des archives judiciaires, District de Montréal, Vol. 2, Cour de circuit 1849-1953. Cour superieur records should include probates.
In The Eastern Townships, the ANQ in Sherbrooke holds the archives judiciaires for the districts of St. Francis, Bedford and Megantic. Presumably the early records for the Judicial Districts of Three Rivers and Québec are in the ANQ in those cities. Geography matters, and it is even more important when looking for land records.
Poll Books, and older tax and assessment rolls should, by now, be on deposit with the appropriate branch of the ANQ. Voters Lists (Federal) are at the Archives of Canada.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.