Looking for Quebec vital records for your ancestors?
Up until January 1, 1994, Quebec vital records were recorded in churches. All clergymen in charge of a flock, no matter what religion, were required to keep records of births, marriages and deaths, and at the end of the year, they were to send a copy of their records to the provincial government. These copies were known as the Registres d’état civile. Records from the churches are available from 1679 to 1993.
On January 1, 1994, civil registration began. Quebec vital records now are the sole responsibility of the government of Quebec.
However, it was not a clear-cut transition. It was possible, as early as 1926, for Quebec vital records of births to be recorded civilly – that is, with the government, without any church record. By the 1960s, it was common for people to register marriages solely with the government, with no church involvement.
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As with many jurisdictions today, Quebec has privacy policies in place which prevent unauthorized access to private records. This may have been part of the reason for implementation of civil registration, as it provides government control over access to records. Under the old system, churches had one copy of the registers, and the government had the other, and it was not possible to control who had access to the information in the churches.
Prior to civil registration, members of genealogical societies had access to more recent Quebec vital records than the general public did. Although Quebec law states that information can be released to the public 100 years after its occurrence, for family history purposes, the current cut-off point is the year 1900.
Quebec vital records prior to that year are available to the public from the Quebec Archives (known as the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, or the Quebec Library and Archives).
Records after that date are kept by the Registrar d'Etat Civile, and can only be accessed by the individuals mentioned in them.
Some branches of the Quebec National Archives do have indexes to marriages and deaths from 1925 to approximately 1975, but no birth indexes are available after 1900, and no marriage or death indexes from 1900 to 1924.
The information recorded in the Quebec vital records varies considerably, depending on the clergyman recording it, and what he thought it was necessary to write down. Some marriage records, for example, contain only the names of the spouses, the clergyman’s name, the name of the church, and the date of the marriage. Others contain much more detailed information, including names of parents, witnesses, occupations, and so on.
A few things to keep in mind regarding Quebec vital records:
Churches kept records of a number of other events in a person’s life, depending on their particular rites and practices. Roman Catholics may have documented First Communions or Confirmation dates, which could well be clues to the person’s age, as these tended to occur around age 7 or 8 (first communion) and 12 or 13 (confirmation), respectively. Other documentation from churches, such as dates of joining or leaving, may indicate when your ancestors moved on from one area to another.
For general information about divorce records in Canada, see my page Divorce Records in Canada.
Prior to 1968, divorce was not available in Quebec under the Civil Code. A private Act of Parliament was required.
However, it was possible to obtain a legal separation. These would be written up by notaries, and can be found as follows:
Starting in 1867, a judgement in "Separation from bed and board" could be obtained from the Cour supérieure du Québec. The procedure appears somewhat similar to that required to obtain a private Act of Divorce from Parliament, in that the parties were required to publish a notice of action in the Gazette officielle du Québec. This notice included the names of petitioner and spouse, the name of the court and district, and the cause number (which is the court`s file number).
Divorce records created after 1968 are located in the offices of the greffe des divorces in each district of the Cour supérieure du Québec (Quebec Superior Court), located in the local Palais de Justice / courthouse. It therefore is necessary to know where the divorce was granted, in order to find the records.
There are a number of different locations listed which house Quebec vital records, the largest one for genealogy purposes being located in Quebec City. For information on locations and genealogy-related documents, consult the website of Quebec National Library and Archives (Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec). The website is available in either English or French.
What documents are available online?
Ancestry’s Canadian website, www.ancestry.ca, contains the Drouin Collection, which spans the years 1621 to 1967.
With respect to Quebec, it includes Quebec vital and church records, which the Drouin Genealogical Institute filmed in the 1940s, covering the period from 1621 to 1947 in its entirety (ie, everything that existed at that time). The Society also filmed some additional records in the 1960s. The records from 1947 through 1967, then, are not complete. Some additional types of records were also included, such as confirmations, lists of members, and statements of readmission to the church.
The database also includes notarial records. This category includes documents of a legal nature, such as marriage contracts, deeds, donations, wills, transfers of property and/or money, legal separations, and other types of legal documents. The records on file date from 1647 to 1942. The database does not include the actual documents, but it has indexes to them.
For free resources, see the Quebec GenWeb site for links to the various counties within Quebec, and what is available within each county.
Another possibility is the Family History Center (Mormon) website, which lists its resources for Quebec at the above link. Click on Canada, and then Quebec.
You might also take a look at the Quebec Eastern Townships Genealogy website, which appears to concentrate on English-speaking Protestants in the Eastern Townships. Searching is free, but there is a small fee for transcribing any records which you would like copies of.
Know any great online resources for Quebec family history research?
What resources do you use for Quebec family history research? Care to share your secrets?
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