Genealogy, Quebec

Quebec Guardianship Records can help resolve brick walls

Tutelle et Curatelle (guardianships) of the region de Montréal 1791-1807 and of Quebec City, 1639-1930

Life was often short in our ancestors’ times. Epidemics swept through communities, tuberculosis took many, and accidental injuries killed others at a young age. Not every parent lived to see children grow to adulthood.

In Quebec, there was a system to ensure that children who had lost one or both parents, as well as people who were unable to care for themselves, had guardians to look out for them. When a parent died, male family relatives and friends would meet together with a notary and decide who that guardian was to be. The notary would write a legal document known as a tutelle et curatelle to make the guardianship official.

These documents can be very helpful to family history researchers. They can help us understand how a family got through a crisis, and they can also shed light on family networks by identifying the uncles, family friends and so on who were present.

To actually read these documents, you may have to visit the archives. Meanwhile, in this article, I will explain how to find the tutelle et curatelle records that are online.

Tutelle et curatelle records are filed separately from other notarial documents at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). The BAnQ in Montreal alone has more than 300,000 linear meters of these documents, dating from 1658 to 1974, and other branches of the Quebec archives have many more such records.

Definitions

Today, people think of a tutor as a teacher, not a guardian. In this article, we have to understand that both tutors and curators are guardians: tutors are guardians of children, and curators are guardians of young adults.

There were two types of guardianships in Québec:

Tutelle testamentaire – Guardianship governed by a will (testament) issued by a notary in which the surviving parent (father or mother) of the children would assign the guardianship of his or her young children to an adult family member or close friend.

Tutelle légitime – Guardianship governed by the judicial courts, in which full legal tutorship is accorded to the closest adult relative (uncle, aunt, older brother, older sister.) It appears that the majority of guardianships decreed in Québec were this type.

The use of guardianships dates back to the mid-1600s and the first days of the French colony of New France, where the age of majority was 25. After 1783, under British rule, the adult age was 21.

Around 1791, British Laws were implemented in Quebec. The laws governing various judicial jurisdictions were grouped under the general heading of Laws of Canada and among those was one such law governing the tutorship (guardianship) of children and incapacitated adults. The latter dealt with those who could not take care of themselves and needed supervision by others. In 1865, the Civil Code of Lower Canada basically addressed the same issues with slight variations of content.

Searching for the records

If your ancestors lived in the Quebec City region, you are in luck. Familysearch.org has placed online tutelle et curatelle records from 1639 to 1930. Take a look at the wiki page, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Quebec,_Quebec_Judicial_District,_Guardianships_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records)

You can access the actual records at

https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1399459

There are more than 300,000 images and they have not been indexed, so you will need to browse them. They are separated into numbered files by year.

In another, separate database, the BAnQ in Montreal has placed online tutelle et curatelle notarial records from 1791 to 1807. Even within that short time frame, this database contains 22,879 searchable links. In the future, more such records will likely be made available online.

To access this database, go to http://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/genealogie_histoire_familiale/ressources/bd/instr_archives_civiles/tutelle_montreal/index.html

This is what you will see on that page:

Tutelle et curatelle (Tutorships and guardianships)

On this page, click on the blue box on the right side of the page that says Consultation de l’instrument de recherche (Access to the searchable online database.)

The next page will indicate: Nouvelle recherche (New Search), and one line below in the colour blue, Chercher par (research by):

Nom (family name)

Prénom (first name)

Titre (title) – Enter Tutelle

Acte (Tutorship Act) – Enter Tutelle

Date – Enter the date of the date of event.

If your family name was not a common one in Quebec, you can simplify your search. Go to the page https://applications.banq.qc.ca/apex/f?p=148:2::::::  Then, next to Nom, just enter the family name you are researching.

The database includes the following information:

Pupille (First name of child)

Date tutelle (Date of Tutorship decreed (judicial order))

Défunt (Deceased person) In most cases, the name of the father or mother

Tuteur (Tutor), the person described on line 1 and line 2

Autre (Other) – In rare cases in which limited information is available in regard to a particular act of Tutorship

The Next Step in Your Research

Unfortunately, the information obtained in this online database is basic at best. By clicking on Détails on the right hand side of each name, you will access another page indicating the family, first name of the child, and the date of the tutorship.

For example, I entered the name of Smith under Nom. This search resulted in 25 results from 1796 to 1807. I picked one, Enos Smith, and the results obtained online under Détails read as follows:

Nom: Smith

Prénom: Enos

Titre: Pupille

Acte: Tutelle

Date tutelle: 1804-02-07

At the bottom of the page, a box will appear:

> Seul le contenu sécurisé s’affiche (Only the secured information will be posted) >> Afficher tout le contenu (Access to content of file)

The results obtained are precisely the same as the previous page. This most likely indicates that you can only see the full content of the original document by visiting the BAnQ.

For the closest branch of the BAnQ, see

http://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/entrez_archives/centres_archives/index.html

There are 10 branches of the BAnQ across Québec. The repository in Montréal is listed on the website under Vieux Montréal; the archives in Quebec City under BAnQ Québec, the branch in Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships under BanQ Sherbrooke, and the branch in western Quebec near Ottawa is called BAnQ Gatineau.

Always contact by email the archives branch to confirm whether the record you wish to access is actually stored at that branch. Emails written in the English will be answered in the English language.

I recommend for the initial requests to be sent by email. Once you have obtained the name of the technician assigned to your dossier (file), telephone calls are in order. And once you reach the archives, you may need help locating the tutelle et curatelle files.

Compiled, adapted and researched by Jacques Gagnégagne.jacques@sympatico.ca