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.

Your ancestors and the War of 1812

During the War of 1812, many French Canadians fought under the command of Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry in the Canadian Voltigeurs, a light infantry unit. The Voltigeurs’ main battle exploit was the Battle of the Châteauguay, which was fought on October 26, 1813, when some 1,700 Canadians helped drive back more than 3,000 Americans, preventing a major attack on Montréal.

Here are a few avenues for research that will help you determine whether your ancestors were among the Voltigeurs:

Library and Archives Canada has many documents on military service, including documents related to the War of 1812. Drafted mainly in English, these include muster rolls and paylists, along with land claims and petitions scattered throughout the collection. However, there are no military service files for specific individuals, unlike what is available for the First World War.

The starting point for your research is to find a contract of service, which all Lower Canada militiamen had to sign before a notary. This was the case for Joseph Auclair (1794-1861), who took part in the Capture of Detroit and in the Battle of the Châteauguay. This document provides physical details and the name of the regiment and of the commanding officer. The Notarial Records blog article explains how to find this key document.

Certificate of enlistment of Joseph Auclair by Jean-Baptiste-René Hertel de Rouville, captain, Canadian Voltigeurs unit, drafted before the notary Charles Pratte, December 27, 1812, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Certificate of enlistment of Joseph Auclair by Jean-Baptiste-René Hertel de Rouville, captain, Canadian Voltigeurs unit, drafted before the notary Charles Pratte, December 27, 1812, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

You can also find references to medals awarded to veterans of the War of 1812 in our Medals, Honours and Awards database. With a bit of patience, you will be able to locate the name of your ancestor on paylists, also called Nominal Rolls and Paylists. Many militiamen were also granted land. These grants, announced in The Quebec Gazette, were confirmed by land patents, which can be found in our Lower Canada Land Petitions database.

Lastly, to save you time, it is very important to read the search help pages carefully to find out how documents are organized.