If your ancestors lived in Quebec in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, you can discover a great deal about them from the records of their land transactions, wills, marriage contracts, apprenticeships and other documents that were prepared by notaries.
The key to researching these documents is to find the notary your ancestor hired — not an easy task since so many notaries practiced in Quebec over these three centuries. But if your ancestor’s first language was English or a language other than French, the search might be easier. Many notaries practiced in French only.
The PDF link at the bottom of this introduction will take you to a relatively short list of notaries who practiced between 1760 and 1848, roughly the period when Quebec was known as Lower Canada and was under British rule. These notaries prepared documents for residents who were of British, Scottish, Irish and American origin (both Loyalists and non-Loyalists), as well as people with Germanic, Dutch or Scandinavian roots. In addition, they served Huguenots who had lived in England before coming to Canada.
Notarial records are stored in the archives of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), and you can find them either online or on microfilm at the various branches of the archives.
The BAnQ has 10 repositories across the province, the largest being in Montreal and Quebec City. The others locations are in Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières and other smaller cities. The larger a BAnQ repository is, the smaller the online content of notarial acts because members of the public can more easily visit the big city archives in person. That means that, if your ancestor used the services of a notary in Gaspé, for example, his records are more likely to be online than if the notary was based in Quebec City.
At least 70% of the documents written and recorded by notaries in Quebec are available online. The main online repositories are:
Ancestry.com – Drouin Collection of notarial acts
Ancestry.com – BAnQ Collection of notarial acts
FamilySearch.org – BAnQ Collection of notarial acts (different years than the BAnQ online database of notarial acts)
http://www.genealogiequebec.com/en – Quebec Genealogy (Drouin Institute online)
There is a list of notaries on the BAnQ website at http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/index.html?a=v_z
You can search for a notary by place and browse his indexes by year. Starting with these indexes might be a good strategy, especially if the notary did not have a very busy practice, or if you know approximately what year your ancestor married, died or made a business agreement.
The URL http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/fichiers/portail/html/liste.html takes you to another list. If a notary on this list has an asterisk, clicking on the name will allow you to view his documents on the BAnQ website.
Posted by Jacques Gagné
Quebec’s Church Registers are a happy fact for anyone researching ancestors in that Canadian province.
From the early days of New France in the 17th century, a record was kept in a register for every Catholic birth, marriage and death. Priests kept a religious copy of the register at the parish and filed another state copy with the tribunal serving the relevant territory.
After the British Conquest in 1760, the right to keep registers of civil status was gradually extended – over the next century – to non-Catholics. At present, BAnQ’s Church Register collection contains the digitized records of births, marriages and deaths for Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical, Jewish and Lutheran churches.
Today, these records can be accessed from the Drouin Institute on Ancestry.com, as well as through the BAnQ (the National Library and Archives of Quebec) http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/ecivil/as
and familysearch.org: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1321742
The BAnQ website is available in French, but the above link will take you directly the Church Registry page. Records can be accessed in three ways: by the place where the act was established (parish, congregation, synagogue, etc); by the judicial district, according to the list established by the Territorial Division Act (L.R.Q., chapter D-11); or by region.
To consult the registers, select one of the headings on the left side of the screen. To display the pages in large format (PDF format, image mode) click on the headings for the desired pages.
What will you find at the BANQ Online Church Registers 1768-1912?
Protestant churches – English – 686 churches
Jewish Synagogues – 20 synagogues
Protestant churches – French – 28 churches
Catholic parishes – French & English – 1,027 churches
Catholic parishes – Italian & others – 15 churches
Catholic missions – French & English – 8 missions
Catholic Religious Communities – 18 convents
Hospitals (French & English) – 12 medical centers
Hospices – (French & English) – 5 institutions
Psychiatric hospitals (Asylums) –3 institutions
BAnQ and Family Search
Civil Registers (Parish Registers)
Catholic & Protestant Churches
Civil Registers (Parish Registers)
1621 to 1916
Births (baptisms), marriages, deaths: http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/ecivil/
BAnQ Catholic & Protestant Church Registers & Jewish Synagogue Registers: http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/ecivil/
Consult the following PDF document to see a list of all the churches (Catholic and Protestant) and synagogues in the BAnQ online collection.
Between the early 1600s and 1755, a community of French-speaking farmers known as the Acadians thrived in Nova Scotia.
In 1755, war between France and Britain spilled into North America. When the Acadians refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the king of England, the colony’s British governor ordered the Acadian people deported. By the fall of that year, some 1,100 Acadians had been forced to board ships and were being transported to the American colonies including Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. By 1758, most of the Acadians who lived on Île St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island) had also been deported. Some of the Acadians who escaped deportation died of starvation or disease.
Over the following years, the Acadians scattered. Some ended up in Louisiana and the Caribbean. Others sought refuge in New France, settling mainly in the Quebec City region, including Île d’Orléans and along the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Today, some of their descendants are still living in the province of Quebec while others have scattered across North America and around the world.
You can read an overview of the Acadian deportation, including a list of suggested books in English and French at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-deportation-of-the-acadians-feature/
The best place to research the Acadians who settled in Quebec is at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). You can make telephone or email inquiries in English to the BAnQ in Montreal and to regional branches. For contact information about the Montreal branch and other regional branches, see: http://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/entrez_archives/centres_archives/
You should get a reply in English within a week to 10 days. These are free services available to anyone anywhere, in Canada or elsewhere. Similarly, you can email or telephone your question in English to the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal (the main branch of Montreal’s public library) or to the Collection nationale within the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal.
Here are two lists of books available on the subject, mostly in French, some in print, others digital:
Here are some other resources available at the BAnQ:
Here are some other links to information about the Acadians:
For each of the towns and villages of Quebec in which Acadians settled between 1755 and 1775, you will find posted below the web address of the regional repository of BAnQ, the address of the local Catholic parish and a listing of local cemeteries.
The regional repositories of BAnQ contain documents about the Acadian families who settled nearby. Some of the content of files stored at various branches of BAnQ across the province are listed within the Pistard search engine at www.banq.qc.ca however, most family lineage researchers are intimidated by the complex research process involved.
>> Bastiscan – Champlain
>> Bécancour – Nicolet
>> Becquets (Saint-Pierre les-Becquets) – Nicolet
>> Berthier – Lanaudière
>> Cacouna – Lower St. Lawrence
>> Champlain – Champlain
>> Gentilly – Nicolet
>> Îles-de-la-Madelaine – Gaspé
>> Joliette – Lanaudière
>> Kamouraska – Lower St. Lawrence
>> L’Acadie – Upper Richelieu
>> L’Assomption – Lanaudière
>> Louiseville – Maskinongé
>> Maskinongé – Maskinongé
>> Montcalm – Lanaudière
>> Nicolet – Nicolet
>> Pointe-du-Lac – St-Maurice
>> Rivière-du-Loup-en-haut (Louiseville) – Maskinongé
>> Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu – Lower Richelieu
>> Saint-Esprit – Lanaudière
>> Saint-Jacques-de-Montcalm – Lanaudière
>> Saint-Ours – Lower Richelieu
>> Saint-Sulpice – Lanaudière
>> Trois-Rivières – Trois-Rivières
>> Yamachiche – Maskinongé
Many genealogists are aware that the Montreal’s McCord Museum has a large collection of digitized photographs taken in the 19th century studios of William Notman (1826-1891). Although it is best known for its photographs of Montreal’s English-speaking elite, the collection goes far beyond the studio, including pictures of Montreal’s Victoria Bridge, the Canadian Pacific Railway, First Nations people across the country and ordinary Montrealers at work and at leisure.
This is only one image collection of potential interest to genealogists researching Montreal. As you try to try to imagine the people and places that would have been familiar to your ancestors in what was once Canada’s largest city, here are some other resources that might inspire you.
The place to start exploring the McCord Museum’s images is http://www.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/keys/collections/. This page links to the museum’s online collection of more than 122,000 images, including paintings, prints, drawings and photos. There are documents such as diaries, letters and theatre programs, as well as costumes and archaeological objects. While the museum’s collections focus on Montreal, they include images and objects from the Arctic to Western Canada and the United States. You can search the McCord’s online collection for an individual name, or you can browse time periods, geographic regions and artists.
The McCord also has a flickr page, https://www.flickr.com/photos/museemccordmuseum/albums.The historically themed albums on the flickr page include old toys, Quebec’s Irish community and an homage to women.
The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is another excellent source of digital images, including photographs, illustrations, posters (affiches) and post cards (cartes postales) from the past. To start exploring these collections, go to http://www.banq.qc.ca/collections/images/index.html.
There are two collections of special interest to people with Montreal roots. The first is a collection of 22,000 photos taken by Conrad Poirier (1912-1968), a freelance photojournalist who worked in Montreal from the 1930s to 1960. He covered news (nouvelles), celebrities, sports and theatre, and he did family portraits, weddings, Rotary Club meetings and Boy Scout groups. I even found a photo of myself at a 1957 birthday party (fêtes d’enfants). You can search (chercher) the collection by subject or by family name.
The other collection of interest to people researching Montreal is the BAnQ’s Massicotte collection (http://www.banq.qc.ca/collections/collection_numerique/massicotte/index.html?keyword=*). Edouard-Zotique Massicotte (1867-1947) was a journalist, historian and archivist. The online collection mainly consists of photos and drawings of Montreal street scenes and buildings between 1870 and 1920. Some illustrations come from postcards, while others are clippings from periodicals. There are also a few blueprints and designs. The accompanying text is in French. You can search this collection by subject, by location, date of publication or type of image, or you can put in your own search term.
Philippe du Berger’s flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/urbexplo/albums is a gold mine of Montreal images. He includes contemporary photos of the city, including neighbourhoods that have recently been changed by big construction projects such as the new CHUM hospital. There are old photos of neighbourhoods such as Griffintown, Côte des Neiges and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and he illustrates the transformation of the Hay Market area of the 1830s that eventually became today’s Victoria Square. Some albums include old maps to help the viewer put locations into geographic context.
The City of Montreal Archives has uploaded thousands of photos to its flickr page, https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesmontreal/albums/. They are arranged in albums on various topics, ranging from city workers on the job to lost neighbourhoods, newspaper vendors, sporting activities and cultural events.
James Duncan. Montreal from the Mountain, 1830-31. M966.61, McCord Museum. http://collection.mccord.mcgill.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M966.61?Lang=1&accessnumber=M966.61
This article is also posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca
The Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal on Viger Avenue are the repository of a wonderful and unique collection of books of marriages, baptisms, deaths of French Canadian families who left the Province of Québec between 1840 and 1930 for destinations in Western Canada, especially in Alberta and Manitoba.
Monsieur Daniel Olivier, former archivist at the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal on Sherbrooke Street East, the latter no longer in operation, referred to for years as Salle Gagnon was responsible with the assistance of his associates for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide.
Madame Estelle Brisson, former archivist at the Archives nationales du Québec on Viger Avenue East in Montréal with the assistance of her associates was also responsible for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide compiled by Jacques Gagné.
Click on the link The French Canadians in Western Canada