Notaries of Nouvelle-France


An example of a notarial record from the late 1600’s in New France

The following link from BanQ is included as background information about notarial records.

The French Regime

The first clerk of New France, Jean Nicolas, was appointed by Samuel de Champlain in 1621. Since France would not send notaries to the colony, men who knew how to write and had an ”honourable” reputation were allowed to practice the profession . Only from 1647 onwards were colonial authorities, then referred to as the Council of New France (a body consisting of the Governor General, the Jesuit superior, and the Governor of Montreal), mandated by the King to appoint a secretary that could act as notary. Guillaume Audouart, also known as St-Germain, hence became the recipient of the first official commission granting the title of notary. It would take the establishment of royal justice in New France and the creation of the Conseil Souverain (Conseil supérieur de Québec) in 1663 for the notarial profession to be officially recognized. One of the main assignments of the Council was to appoint the bailiffs, clerks and notaries. And so it was that in 1663, the first royal notary of New France, Jean Gloria, was appointed in Quebec City.

 Characteristics of notarial records

A notarial record is a deed written by a public officer recognized by the State and commissioned to that effect within his territorial jurisdiction. Notarial archives are the most searched genealogy and family history source in Québec, after registers of civil status and censuses, because of:

  • the quality and accuracy of the information they contain;
  • the breadth of their content which relates to all aspects of life in society;
  • their nearly complete nature, since almost all registries have been preserved and relatively few records have been lost (e.g. several notarial records from the Outaouais region were destroyed in the Great Hull Fire of 1900);
  • their standardized content in accordance with templates drawn from manuals such as Le parfait notaire by Ferrière;
  • the fact that most records preserved by BAnQ have been microfilmed and digitized allowing for greater accessibility; only non-probated wills written after 1920 cannot be viewed;
  • the Parchemin database (developed by the Société Archiv-Histo) for the pre-1799 period;
  • the reassuring nature of the source for the reason that notaries bestow authenticity to the records they execute (regarding the date, content, signature, and so on).

For genealogists, notarial records can offset the loss or destruction of registers of civil status. In some cases, notarial records are the only documents that can confirm the kinship of an individual.

Notarial archives are very useful for non-genealogical research, including:

  • to present a property title or to defend a right;
  • for any research related to history, especially for any research related to local, regional, and family history.

The database below consists of the practices of the notaries of New France.

Click on the above link to open in a new window.

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