Notarial Records

Would you like to know more about the daily lives of your New France and Quebec ancestors? Then you might be interested in looking at notarial records, where you can find a wealth of information about your ancestors’ goods and properties, and any transactions they may have entered into with others. The oldest known notarial record dates back to 1635.

A notarial record is a private agreement written by a notary in the form of a contract. Some of the most common ones are marriage contracts, wills, estate inventories, leases, and sales contracts.

Notarial records are held by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), but Library and Archives Canada holds copies of some records in the collection, Fonds des greffes de notaires du Québec. You can also use the advanced archives search to look up the name of an individual or a notary.

Sale made by Nicolas Réaume and Charles-Noël Réaume to their brother Alexis. Notary F. Le Guay, May 9, 1781. Library and Archives Canada, MG18, H-44, vol. 8, 4 pages.

Sale made by Nicolas Réaume and Charles-Noël Réaume to their brother Alexis. Notary F. Le Guay, May 9, 1781. Library and Archives Canada, MG18, H-44, vol. 8, 4 pages. (MIKAN 2313614)

How to search for notarial records

You can use a variety of tools to search for notarial records. For the oldest records from 1635 to 1784, consult the Parchemin database, developed by the Archiv-Histo historical research society (French only), which provides an abstract of each notarial record (date of the record, name of the notary, names of the parties, etc.). Parchemin is available at BAnQ, and in some public libraries, and archives.

You can also consult several name indexes (French only) for various regions in Quebec. Through a large-scale digitization project, you also have access to online directories and indexes of notaries from all regions of Quebec up to 1933 through BAnQ’s Archives des notaires du Québec (French only).

Once you have found a reference, you can consult the original record on paper or on microfilm. You may even be able to consult it online as BAnQ, in collaboration with FamilySearch, will eventually have all the records available online.

A paradise for genealogists: Quebec’s civil registers

As any genealogist will tell you, researchers whose ancestors lived in Quebec are fortunate. The sheer volume of surviving civil registers and the manner in which both Catholic and Protestant registers were kept make them a valuable resource. In fact, Quebec has been called “a genealogist’s paradise!”

The careful recording of vital statistics in Quebec is largely due to a series of religious and civil ordinances and regulations originating under French rule.

The historical influence of France

The year 2014 marks the 475th anniversary of the Ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts [Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts] (in French only), signed in August 1539 by the King of France, Francis I, in what is now the department of Aisne. Under this edict, priests were required to register baptisms and burials. In 1579, another ordinance signed at Blois required that marriages be registered.

With the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and the publication of the Rituale Romanum de 1614, [Roman Ritual of 1614], the Roman Catholic Church further emphasized the importance of civil registration, specifying how to record the names of the godfather and godmother, witnesses, parents, etc.

Finally, in 1667, the Ordonnance de Saint-Germain-en-Laye [Ordinance of Saint-Germain-en-Laye] introduced the practice of keeping duplicate copies; one copy was kept by the priest and the second was filed with civil authorities at the end of the year. This ensured the preservation of innumerable registers that could have been destroyed or lost forever had only one copy existed.

Applications in New France and modern Quebec

These regulations took effect in New France in 1621 and were enforced by local authorities. Following the Conquest of 1760, the British authorities chose to retain it, recognizing the value of this system.

In Quebec, civil status registers have the following characteristics:

  • There are three types of acts: baptism, marriage and burial.
  • The acts are drawn up by parish priests.
  • They are presented chronologically, usually within a single register.
  • They are subject to two separate regulations: ecclesiastical and civil.

See Vital Statistics: Births, Marriages and Deaths to learn more about these documents and how to consult them.

Happy searching!

Major Update to the 1861 Census of Canada Database

Following the release of the 1861 Census of Canada database in 2013, a number of missing records and misplaced images were reported by Library and Archives Canada clients and staff. We corrected over 133,000 entries! Following is a list of improvements to the database.

Canada West and Canada East Issues

In Canada West, the records for the cities of Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa and Toronto were previously reported missing but the records did exist. The five cities, although enumerated separately in 1861, were tucked away amongst their neighbouring rural districts. For example, the city of Ottawa was listed under the district of Carleton and the city of Kingston was listed under Frontenac. The five cities are now correctly identified as districts and their respective wards are identified as sub-districts.

Additionally in Canada West, the rural districts of Renfrew and Russell were also reported as missing. The records for those two districts and their sub-districts can now be searched. In the rural district of Kent, the sub-districts of Camden and Gore, the town of Chatham, and the district of Chatham have been correctly identified. The images in the districts of Brant and Dundas are now correctly linked.

In Canada East, several image linking errors were corrected, particularly in the districts of Argenteuil, Montcalm and St-Jean.

Census Databases Online

Library and Archives Canada’s website currently contains 15 census databases. While conducting your family research, perhaps you have found an entry for an ancestor whose name was transcribed incorrectly or his/her age was misread by the transcriber. We can fix that!

To request a correction, click on the link, “Suggest a Correction” on the item page and provide your email address and an explanation. Once we have confirmed that the suggestion reflects the content of the original census record, the revised transcription will appear on our website. Remember that spelling variations are common and that a surname may have changed over time. Therefore, playing around with different spellings of a surname increases your chances of finding your ancestor. Using Soundex — a way to find phonetic variations of your name — can also be helpful.

Enjoy your time travels in the last census before Canada’s Confederation!

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

 

Are we related? Discover your French-Canadian roots through a family association

A family association is an organization formed of people who share one or more ancestors with the same surname. In most cases, these are French-Canadian families. The main goal of a family association is to perpetuate the memory of these ancestors and preserve the cultural heritage associated with them, such as the land that was granted to them in New France, or the ancestral house, if it still exists.

The association members organize meetings and reunions, small or large, and publish newsletters; many also have a website. A grouping such as this of people sharing the same surname can be very helpful when doing genealogical research. Many associations have published the findings of their searches in their newsletters or in the form of a “genealogical dictionary.” If you are having trouble tracing one of your ancestors, we strongly recommend that you contact an association.

The first family associations

The Trudel-Trudelle family appears to have been one of the first to create a family association, in 1909. In the early 1940s, numerous family associations were created to mark the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the ancestors of the Poulin, Gravel, Bellemare and Gagnon families, among others. On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Île d’Orléans in 1979, 19 family associations were created and the phenomenon really began to spread. In February 1983, the Asselin, Cloutier, Dion, Langlois and Lemieux family associations founded the Fédération des familles souches du Québec, now known as the Fédération des associations de familles du Québec, a service co-operative with over 200 member associations. Certain family associations have not joined the Fédération.

To find out more

To find out whether a family association exists for your surname, visit Centre de généalogie francophone d’Amérique or do an internet search using keywords like your surname combined with the words “association” and/or “family.” For Acadian families, visit Fédération des Associations de familles acadiennes.

New Books in the Genealogy Services Collection at 395 Wellington

In our previous article, we discussed what you can do at 395 Wellington before your appointment. One of the suggestions was to head to the third floor where the Genealogy and Family History Room is located. There you will find reference works, finding aids, atlases, family histories, and ethnic and local histories—sources that are only the beginning in your exciting search for ancestors.

In this article, we are pleased to share a list of our recently acquired publications. The AMICUS link gives the call number where you will find the book in the stacks.

And if you’re just starting out in genealogy, you should check out our Genealogy and Family History pages.

Happy exploring!

Family Histories

L’ancêtre des familles Kirouac en Amérique, son épouse et leurs fils : synthèse d’une recherche généalogique effectuée de 1978 à 2013, by François Kirouac (AMICUS 42037458)

Barthélemy Verreau, premier Verreau en Nouvelle-France, by Jean-Marie Verreault (AMICUS 42159688)

Les 100 ans de Taschereau, by the Comité du 100e anniversaire de Taschereau (AMICUS 41969714)

Dictionnaire généalogique des familles Audet et Lapointe, 1663-2013, by the Association des descendants de Nicolas Audet dit Lapointe (AMICUS 42155162)

Généalogie de la famille Bournival, by Gilbert Bournival for the Regroupement des Bournival d’Amérique (AMICUS 42214888)

George Goodson Knowlton: His Ancestors and Descendants, by Doreen A. Smillie (AMICUS 42001478)

Hanrick / Handrick / Hendrick Family of County Wicklow, Ireland and West Québec, Canada, by Della Hendrick Dupuis (AMICUS 42445077)

Labossière : descendant, 1878-2006, by the Labossière Family Association (AMICUS 42095787)

Les mariages Dumas du Québec et des régions avoisinantes, by Michèle Dumas (AMICUS 42178843)

Munchinsky Family History, by George Muchinsky (AMICUS 40824981)

Ethnic and Local Histories

Aneroid and District, 100 Years, 1913-2013, by the Aneroid History Book Committee (AMICUS 42001472)

Beaver Tales from Castor & District, by the Castor and District History Book Committee (AMICUS 41170264)

Les filles du Roy (1663-1673) : Champlain, Batiscan, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, edited by Jean-Pierre Chartier (AMICUS 42039279)

Irish Palatine Pioneers in Upper Canada: Commemorating 300 Years, 1709-2009, by the Ontario Genealogical Society (AMICUS 40681965)

Municipal Records in Ontario: History and Guide, by Fraser Dunford (AMICUS 40681952)

Neubergthal: A Mennonite Street Village: A Sense of Place with Deep Roots, edited by Rose Hildebrand and Joyce Friesen (AMICUS 42247304)

Répertoire des mariages (1895-1986), baptêmes (1895-1986), sépultures (1895-2012), St-Jean-Baptiste de Cap-aux-Os : avec notes marginales, edited by Donat Fournier, Serge Ouellet, Élaine Réhel (AMICUS 42202061)

Victory and Beyond, by the Beechy History Book Committee (AMICUS 39465589)

A Tragic Voyage: 100 Years after the Sinking of the Empress of Ireland

On May 28, 1914, under the command of Captain Henry George Kendall, the Empress of Ireland set sail under clear skies from Québec City with 1,477 passengers and crew on board heading to Liverpool, England. The ship picked up mail at Rimouski and then continued on to the pilot station, Pointe-au-Père, where the pilot disembarked saying, “I don’t think you’ll run into much fog,” as he climbed down the rope ladder. What followed was a perfect storm of tragic events that resulted in the loss of 1,012 lives.

The R.M.S. Empress of Ireland ca. 1906.

The R.M.S. Empress of Ireland ca. 1906 Source

The Fog

Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on May 29, Captain Kendall saw an approaching vessel, the Norwegian coal freighter Storstad. Almost immediately afterwards, a thick fog rolled in and Kendall ordered a full stop to allow the other ship to pass safely. The two ships communicated their sailing intentions. As the Storstad entered the fog bank, her First Officer later testified, there did not seem to be any possibility of a collision.

Just before 2:00 a.m., the fully loaded coal freighter emerged from the fog bearing down on them quickly. Captain Kendall franticly attempted to alert the Storstad, but it was too late—the Empress was violently struck mid-ship. The damage sustained was irreparable, the engine rooms quickly flooded leaving the ship powerless and unable to close the watertight doors of her bulkhead. As water continued to overwhelm the Empress, she lurched violently and alarms were sounded for the sleeping passengers to abandon ship.

SOS

A few hundred people reached the deck, but only four lifeboats were safely dropped before the ship capsized. Passengers and crew were thrown into the icy waters, and within minutes the Empress disappeared, finding her final resting place at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

The majority of the lives lost that night had been far below deck in third class. Of the 1,477 passengers and crew that had boarded the Empress of Ireland, a mere 473 survived.

The Storstad, following the collision with the Empress of Ireland.

The Storstad, following the collision with the Empress of Ireland Source

Tragedy and Blame

Heartbreak and finger-pointing followed the tragedy. Both ships’ crew members insisted they were not to blame for the accident. Editorials at the time claimed that if you believed either captains, both ships were at a standstill and miles apart. In the end, the inquiry found the Captain of the Storstad responsible for the collision.

The wreck of the Empress of Ireland rests on the floor of the St. Lawrence, 11 kilometres off Pointe-au-Père, Quebec, in 40 metres of water marked by a surface buoy. One hundred years later, the Empress of Ireland remains the largest Canadian maritime accident that occurred during peacetime.

For further research:

Discover also:

New finding aids available online

Library and Archives Canada has begun an initiative that will see the digitization and transcription of several significant finding aids. Adding these finding aids online will help users find material much more easily. We will continue to add other finding aids throughout the year, but so far, the following finding aids have been transcribed:

Finding Aid 15-25: Colonization Company Money Scrip

After the Hudson’s Bay Company transfer of Rupert’s Land and the North-West Territories to the Dominion of Canada, a few private companies were allowed to buy land to sell it through sponsored settlement schemes.

Finding Aid 15-33: Military Bounty Land Warrants, Riel Rebellion

Officers and men who served in Manitoba during the Riel Rebellion were offered free land grants in the newly opened lands of the North-West. Members could receive scrip (money certificates) equal in value to and in lieu of the land grant.

Finding Aid 9-8: Department of Militia and Defence Pre-Confederation Records – Adjutant General’s Office, United Canada Correspondence

Letters received in the Office of the Adjutant General of Upper Canada. The correspondence relates to the appointment, promotion and retirement of officers, as well as the organization of units.

Finding Aid 9-4: Department of Militia and Defence – Adjutant General’s Office, United Canada Correspondence

Letters received by the Deputy Adjutant Generals of Canada West, Canada East and United Canada, between 1846 and 1869. The letters relate to the Active and Service Militia as well as the Sedentary (Non-Service) Militia. Some of the letters were received by the Premier of the Province of Canada from 1854 to 1856, Sir Allan MacNab.

How to find references

  1. Go to the search screen for Archives Search—Advanced.
  2. In the drop-down menu, select “Finding aid number” and then in the box, enter 15-24.
  3. In the next line, select “Any Keyword” and enter a surname, a place name, or a topic.
  4. Click on the “Submit” button.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

New version of the Naturalization Records, 1915-1951 database

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the online database Naturalization Records, 1915-1951. The nominal index has been extended with the addition of more than 93,000 names and now covers the years from 1915 to 1939, inclusively. Work is ongoing to extend the nominal index to 1951, and volunteers are welcome to help. Those interested should write to Cdn-Nat-Coord@jgs-montreal.org.
This database is one of the few Canadian genealogical resources specifically designed to benefit researchers having roots other than British. The reference numbers indicated in the database can be used to request copies of the original naturalization records, which are held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Library and Archives Canada would like to thank the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal and its volunteers, without whom this project would not have happened.

The 1940 National Registration File

Are you looking for a Canadian ancestor or someone who was living in Canada during the Second World War?

Since most sources for that time period are still subject to access or privacy restrictions under Canadian legislation, Statistics Canada’s National Registration File of 1940 is an alternative to census records that can provide you with some answers. This very valuable source for genealogists and family historians is the result of the compulsory registration of all persons, 16 years of age or older, between 1940 and 1946.

If the person has been dead for more than 20 years, and you can provide proof of death, you can order a search of these Statistics Canada records. Please note that research fees, based on an hourly rate, apply.

If you cannot provide a copy of a death certificate, other types of documents indicating the date of death are accepted, such as obituary notices published in newspapers.

The registration included all persons who were 16 years of age or older, except for members of the armed forces and religious orders, or those confined to an institution. If a person died between 1940 and 1946, their questionnaire might have been destroyed. A different form was used for men than was used for women.

The questionnaires provide particulars such as address, age, date and place of birth, general health, and occupation. For immigrants, key details such as the year of arrival in Canada and their parents’ country of birth are given.

A similar national registration was undertaken during the First World War, in June 1918; however, those records have not survived.

What if the person is not listed in the 1940 registration?

As mentioned above, perhaps he or she served in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Canadian Army. Our previous article, From Enlistment to Burial Records Part II: the Canadian Forces in the Second World War, describes how to search for individuals who served in the Canadian Forces.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!