Before 1763, Quebec was known as New France, and from 1763 to 1791 as the colony of Quebec. Following the Constitutional Act of 1791, the colony of Quebec was divided to create Upper Canada (today Ontario) and Lower Canada (today Quebec). According to the Act of Union of 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united into the Province of Canada. Upper Canada was renamed Canada West and Lower Canada was renamed Canada East. The Province of Canada joined Confederation on July 1, 1867 and Canada East officially became Quebec.
The first European settlement goes back to 1608, when Champlain founded Quebec City. The population increased only slowly until 1760 because of the lack of interest in France in establishing a permanent colony.
In 1763, New France became a British possession under the Treaty of Paris.
By 1791, Quebec had a total population of 160,000, due largely to a high birth rate. About 20,000 of these people spoke English, mostly Loyalists who had come to Quebec after the American Revolutionary War. During the nineteenth century, they would be followed by a rising number of immigrants from Europe, especially Ireland, Scotland and England.
Researchers interested in ancestors who lived in Quebec use the main types of genealogical sources. They will find many research tools, including "marriage repertoires" that provide, in alphabetical order, the main pieces of information on marriage certificates (names of the husband and wife and their parents and date of the marriage).
For more information about the lives of their ancestors, researchers can also look in notarial records, particularly using the Parchemin database, where they might find information about property that belonged to their ancestors.
Civil Registration (Birth, Death, and Marriage Records
In Quebec, the civil registers of births (baptisms), marriages and deaths (burials), which date from 1621, were duplicate copies of the church registers. All of the pre-1900 records can be consulted at each of the nine regional offices of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
Those registers were microfilmed by FamilySearch and are available through that institution.
Records dating from 1900 are in the custody of the under-noted office:
Directeur de l'état civil
2535, boulevard Laurier
A general index for marriages and deaths that occurred in the province of Quebec between 1926 and 1994 was prepared by the Société de généalogie de Québec. It is available on CD-ROM and can be consulted in many genealogical societies and libraries.
From 1608 to 1663, private companies were governing New France. Those companies had to make laws and sentence people. However, no justice records for that period are known to exist.
After 1663, New France became a royal colony and justice courts were created.
Cours seigneuriales (seigniorial courts)
Seigniorial courts are courts of first instance, composed of the "seigneur," assisted by the local priest and the militia captain. Only the records of Notre-Dames-des-Anges and Beaupré exist. Those records were translated and published in full by André Lafontaine in Le Bailliage de Notre-Dames-des-Anges and Les Bailliages de Beaupré et de l'île d'Orléans.
A court, called "prévôté" or "juridiction royale," held hearings in Quebec City, in Trois-Rivières and in Montreal. Those courts judged civil and criminal proceedings of first instance and were an appeal court for the seigniorial courts. Records are held at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
Conseil souverain or supérieur
This was the highest justice court. It was an appeal court for other courts and the court for important proceedings. The 117 volumes are held at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. They are available on microfilm and are indexed by name in the following books:
- Index des jugements et délibérations du Conseil souverain de 1663 à 1716, by Pierre-Georges Roy, 1940.
- Jugements et déliberations du Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France, 1885-1891.
- Inventaire des jugements et délibérations du Conseil Supérieur de la Nouvelle-France de 1717 à 1760, by Pierre-Georges Roy, 1932-1935.
- Inventaire d'une collection de pièces judiciaires et notariales, by Pierre-Georges Roy, 1917 (collection of justice files and records, notarial records, inquests and petitions).
The "intendant" was in charge of the administration of justice, police and finances and issued "ordonnances." The "ordonnances" from 1666 to 1760 are held at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. They are available on microfilm and are indexed in the following book:
- Inventaire des Ordonnances des Intendants de la Nouvelle-France conservées aux Archives Provinciales de Québec, by Pierre-Georges Roy, 1919.
After 1760, common law is introduced in the province of Quebec but the French civil law is still in force. New justice courts are created. The Quebec justice records are held at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. In order to check the extent of the records, consult the Pistard database which describes the different fonds. Many indexes by name are available on microfiches.
Archiv-Histo (French only) has prepared many inventories and indexes for Quebec court records, which is available on CD-ROM, and grouped in the Thémis and Chronica Collections.
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec also holds the guardianship records and the coroners' reports. To see the extent of those two series of records, consult the Pistard database. Other databases for justice records are available on their Web site.
In the province of Quebec, land distribution was originally based on the seigneurial system, established in 1627 and used until 1854.
Seigneuries were granted by the King to members of the "bourgeoisie," members of important families or former military officers. As proprietor of a seigneurie, the "seigneur" had privileges and obligations towards the King or his representative. The "seigneur" granted parcels of land (concessions) on his seigneury to tenants called "censitaires."
The granting of land by the "seigneur" produced a notarial act. This contract gives:
- the names of the parties;
- the dimension and locality of the land; and
- the various obligations of the "censitaire."
A map (French only) drawn up in 1709 by Gédéon de Catalogne gives the location of the seigneuries and the names of the "censitaires."
Starting in 1763, new lands were granted according to the township system. Quebec was divided into counties that were divided into townships or "municipalités de paroisses."
The index and digitized images of the Lower Canada Land Petitions, 1764-1841 are available in a searchable database online.
A list of Crown grants, 1763-1890, arranged by townships within counties, and indexed by grantees, was published in 1891.
- Liste des terrains concédés par la Couronne dans la province de Québec, de 1763 au 31 décembre 1890.
Microfilm copies of the records listed in this book are available at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Requests for copies should be addressed to:
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
1012, avenue du Séminaire
In 1841, the government created registration offices, which today are called the Bureau de la publicité des droits. Records of land transactions subsequent to the original grant or purchase are in the custody of the Bureau de la publicité des droits for each county or district.
Many libraries hold reference books, local histories, family histories and other books on genealogy.
In Quebec, wills and estate records were made by notaries and are accessible through the same process as Notarial Records.
Those documents are also registered in the local Bureau de la publicité des droits.