Quebec is unique in several respects to the other provinces of Canada. It is an intriguing combination of French and English law. When it comes to civil matters, they follow the laws of France. As such, the Quebec notary had a much bigger role and presence in the everyday life of the average person than other provinces. Because of their unique role in Quebec society, the records of notaries contain the type of information genealogists get giddy for. Among their responsibilities were:
- Marriage contracts
- Agreements and settlements
- Transfers of property
- Donations (pre-wills)
- Legal documents
- Guardian records
- Indenture records
The records are for the most part in French. Those familiar with French Canadian records know that neat handwriting was NOT a prerequisite for becoming a scribe. It can be a real challenge sometimes, especially if your grasp of French is not the best. But Family Search provides some great guides in helping those not proficient
- French Genealogical Word List
- French Handwriting
- Reading French Handwritten Records (Video Turtorials)
There are almost 5 MILLION images in the collection. But don't worry, you can narrow things down fairly quickly for browsing. You are going to need a location and year range for your ancestor. First, you need to narrow by judicial district
Once you pick your district, then you pick by Notary Name/Record Type/Year Range/File Number Range. Then just start browsing. As always with Family Search, the images are nice and clean. The image viewer lets you zoom in and out. You can adjust the image by clicking on the tools icon. This will let you rotate the image, and adjust brightness and contrast. You can even invert the image so that the background is dark and writing is white. This can be a handy tool sometimes when dealing with faded handwriting. You can download and/or print as well.
So, what are the kinds of images you can see? Well, here's a sale contract from 1923 in Chicoutimi
Here's part of a will from Montreal in 1878. This one is in English.
Here's a Labour Contract, involving the Hudson's Bay Company, from 1837 in Terrebone
And here's a Marriage Contract from 1903 in Hull
Here are a couple of links that can also help in your research
- Ancestry made a blog post about Quebec notarial records. It includes a handy list of French terms for the types of records they have.
- If you're going to be doing a lot of research with notarial records, you'll want to bookmark the open access book The notaries of French-Canada, 1626-1900 : alphabetical, chronologically, by area served through Family Search.