MSS-067-French-Canadian Notary Records

Episode #67-November 1, 2017

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If your goal is to add interesting details to your ancestors’ stories, you will need to eventually tackle notarial records. Today’s guest, Michael Leclerc, walks us through this record group. We cover topics such as the job of a notary, types of notarial records most important to genealogists, and finding aids.

French-Canadian Notary Records

During this interview, Michael and I discussed the following:

Notary records can help solve problems such as illegitimate births and multiple people with the same name.


Quebec civil law is based on the coutume de Paris. Notaries were basically contract lawyers.Coutume de Paris

Four types of early notaries

  • Greffier-assistant to the judges; recorded court proceedings
    Tabellion-public scribe
    Notaire seigneurial (seigneurial notary)-a notary attached to a particular seigneurie
    Notaire royal (royal notary)-attached to royal jurisdictions, such as Quebec, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal.

To be a notary, you needed to have connections. Very often, sons took over the business from their fathers.

Notary records useful to genealogists

  • Contrat de mariage (marriage contract)-determined such things as the dowry, groom’s share, how the estate would be distributed among the children, and what happens if there are no children. It included penalties if either the bride or groom didn’t follow through with the wedding.
  • Testament (will)-There are not many of these because distribution was often handled in the marriage contract.
  • Donation entre vif (gifts of the living)-As parents got older, they would distribute their estate among their children in exchange for being taken care of for the rest of their lives. In this case, there would be no will.
  • Partage d’une succession (distribution of the estate after death)-If there is no will, there will usually be a partage. It tells who’s getting what.
  • Tutelle (guardianship)
  • Curatelle (guardianship)
  • Engagement (employment contract)- an agreement to work for someone for a particular length of time
  • Vente (sale of property)
  • Achat (purchase of property)

Missing records

  • These are private records. Early on, they were held by the notary or his family. When a notary died, his collection was passed on, sometimes to a son. When he moved, his collection moved with him. He initially did not need to turn a copy into the provincial authorities.
  • In the late 19th century, notaries were ordered to turn over their records. This is when the authorities discovered how many were missing.

Finding aids

Each notary was required to produce two different methods of accessing their records.

  • Index- done year by year, grouped alphabetically by name
  • Repertoire– a chronological list of records, organized by date, number of act, and a brief description

For each notary, a different combination of indexes, repertoires, and records survive.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, archivist Pierre-Georges Roy published various indexes. Examples:


There is no global online index right now. Although Ancestry is working on one, it is a long way off.

To discover which notary practiced in the area in which your ancestor lived, check out Index des lieux de résidence et de pratique: des commis– des garde-notes– des greffiers– des tabellions– autres– et des notaires, 1621-1991 ainsi que les lieux de dépôt de leurs minutiers avec leurs cotes aux A.N.Q. by Jean-Marie Laliberté. Check WorldCat for locations of this book nearest you. In the US, this book is found at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston; Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana; the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison; and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Notaries of French Canada 1626-1900 by Quintin Publications’s Quebec, Canada, Notarial Records, 1637-1935– As Ancestry digitizes the notary indexes, copies are given to BAnQ. Gradually they are putting these indexes online. If you know the name of the notary, you can go to BAnQ and see if they have the index or repertoire online.

Parchemin database-an index of early notarial records. It is not available online. It is available at many repositories in Canada. The only place it can be found in the US is at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. According to the Parchemin website, the database covers the years 1635-1784.

Quebec Records– a small collection with a very good index. Look for Notarized documents under Search Tools.


BAnQ- You can get a copy of the record you need from the BAnQ. Check online indexes first. The important information you need:

The name of the notary
The act number
The date
Ancestor’s name

With this information, you can order a copy of the record online from BAnQ for a small fee. Some original records are online, but it’s not an active program. If you are visiting a branch of the archives, check first and see if they have the microfilm you want. Quebec, Canada, Notarial Records, 1637-1935

FamilySearch-notary records from 1800-1920; browsable; you need to know the name of the notary

Suggestions for tackling the French in notary records

  • Learn to read French. It’s easier than learning to converse in French.
  • Online translation software does not work well with older Canadian French documents.
  • Hire a transcriber/translator familiar with Canadian French. A genealogist would be familiar with the important terms.
  • Learn to read the old handwriting
  • Start with 19th-century documents and work your way back.
  • Learn how letters were formed. Refer to the 3-volume set of books titled Initiation à la paléographie franco-canadienne published in the 1980s by the Société de recherche historique Archiv-Histo Inc., the organization responsible for the Parchemin database. They present handwriting samples for 17th- and 18th-century notaries. Volume three also presents various ways of writing dates, numbers, terms and phrases found in these records. The notaries covered are:

Volume 1: Antoine Adhémar, Bénigne Basset, Romain Becquet, and Jean-Baptiste Daguilhe.
Volume 2: Guillaume Audouart dit St-Germain, Cyr Monmerqué, Daniel Normandin, and Gilles Rageot
Volume 3: Guillaume Baret

Michael LeclercGenealogy Professor

  • You can reach Michael through his personal website at (temporarily down).
  • To see what online classes Michael offers, go to Michael will be presenting a course on reading French documents after the holidays. He has generously offered a $25.00 discount on any course to Maple Stars and Stripes listeners. Just enter the coupon code mssp2017 when checking out. Thanks, Michael!

Handwriting challenges

As you begin to read narrative documents written in French, there are several things you can do to streamline the process and save time and effort.

  • Create a paleography guide for each scribe. Use the Paleography Guide: Reading Difficult Handwriting chart. Look for known words and copy the scribe’s handwriting for capital and small letters. When you come upon a word you don’t know, compare the letters to those in the chart. Create a separate chart for each notary.
  • Create your own notary record translation dictionary. As you come across new words and discover their meanings, create your own mini-dictionary. That way you won’t have to keep looking up the same words over and over again.

Other links

Notaires from BAnQ: Finding aid for various marriage contracts (contrats de mariage) and inventories after death (inventaires après décès). After clicking on your category, click on “Consultation de l’instrument de recherche.” Fill in whatever information you’d like as follows:

Nom de l’homme – surname of male
Prénom de l’homme – given name of male
Autre conjoint – other spouse (of male)
Occupation – occupation
Lieu de résidence – place of residence
Nom de la femme – wife’s surname
Prénom de la femme – wife’s given name
Autre conjoint – other spouse (of wife)
Date – date
Notaire – notary

Archives des notaires du Québec des origines à 1936- As translated from the BAnQ website (Google Translate)

“Directories, indexes and, progressively, the text of the acts of notaries from all regions of Quebec…

“Two tools allow you to find your way around it. The directories, or repertoires, usually prepared by the notaries themselves, give an overview of each act (number, date, type, names of parties), in chronological order. An index can accompany the repertoire of a notary. Entries in this index, which refer to the directory, are usually grouped under the first letter of the last name of the parties involved in the acts, with a chronological subclassification.

“The digital collection of the Archives des notaires du Québec, from the origins to 1933 of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) will eventually give access to all directories and indexes of notaries from all regions of Quebec. In addition, with the collaboration of FamilySearch (Mormons), BAnQ will progressively make available the deeds produced by all Quebec notaries.”

Search for a notary’s name in the left column under Par nom (by name). You can also search for a notary Par district (by district) or Par région (by region).

Fonds des Greffes de Notaires du Québec Collection held by Library and Archives Canada

La Société généalogique canadienne-française offers a transcription project for notarial deeds from 1630 to 1900. First check to see if they have already transcribed a record of interest. If so, you can order the transcription of that document at a price of $1 per page (minimum $3). You must provide them with contact information such as the type of deed, names of parties, notaries and contract date. Note that this is a transcription, not a translation. But if you have trouble reading the French handwriting, this is a great first step.


Notarized documents a blog post from the Drouin Institute

Instruments de recherches des registres notariaux, Family History Library, Salt Lake City-Microfiche of the indexes and repertoires of the notaries. Arranged by the notary.

Ancestry guide: Finding Your Family in Notarial Records

How to order a notary record from the Quebec Archives after finding it in an index on Ancestry from Genealogy à la carte.



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Best Bill

Bill Fleming from episode #26 was a fixture on Rootsweb’s Quebec-Research list. He was always helping people, and his cemetery reports are legendary. He is offering to continue helping people. All you need to do is email him at wflem72706 [at] aol [dot] com. Let him know if there’s a particular surname you’d like him to look for in his cemetery visits. You can also request a copy of his cemetery reports, or just ask a question. Thanks, Bill!

French-Canadian News

What's Happening Header
The American-French Genealogical Society

November 4, 9:00 AM- Patti Locke will present What is the PRDH Database and How to Use It.
November 12, 1:00 PM- World War I Commemorative Celebration presented by Roger Beaudry.

Events are held at the AFGS Library building, 78 Earle Street, Woonsocket, RI.

The Franco-American Centre

November 18, 6pm- the annual Beaujolais Nouveau Gala: According to its website, “Beaujolais Nouveau Day is marked in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music and festivals… Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m., just weeks after the wine’s grapes have been harvested. Parties are held throughout the country and further afield to celebrate the first wine of the season. The Franco-American Centre will be holding a special evening of its own at Drumlin’s Restaurant at the Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown, NH.

The French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

November 11, 11 AM-Barbara Fried will speak on Acadia and Acadian History at the Mount Clemens Public Library.

The Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

November 4- Patti Malone will present EXCEL-erate Your DNA Research. You can learn how to handle all your DNA data using an Excel spreadsheet.
November 11- Online Searches at the 95 Regional Archives of France
November 18- Sheila Morris will present Les Filles du Roi.

Classes run from 10:30 AM until noon and are held at the Vermont Genealogy Library in Colchester, Vermont.

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2 comments on “MSS-067-French-Canadian Notary Records

  1. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    Thank you for your presentation, Michael. I have worked extensively with the New France notarial records. I invite you and listeners of this podcast to read my discussion of the marriage contract in New France. Each child, male and female alike, inherited equally. See the left side of the page and also a translation of a contract. Not many people are aware of its provisions under the Coutume de Paris / Custom of Paris.

    For a brief but specific discussion of inheritance under the Custom of Paris that involved other notarial records, see André Roy dit Pacanne,
    Son of Pierre Roy and Marguerite OuabanKiKoué, and his Brother, François Roy, Voyageur and Interpreter
    Part 2 A Question of Property
    Direct link:

    For Part 1 of this article, see the right side of the page at

    Again, thank you.

  2. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

    For those with an interest: Another Marriage Contract, one written at a fort and carried to be registered with a notary:

    Marriage Contract of Louis Chevallier and Marie Madeleine Réaume, widow of Augustin Larchevesque
    28 April 1752, Fort St. Joseph (Niles, Michigan)

    A Marriage Contract that was written but no Church marriage followed and the parties married other individuals.

    The Marriage Contract of Jean Baptiste Réaume fils and Félicité Javillon dite Lafeillade

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