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Article posted: February 9, 1998
The Loiselle Index - Marriages in Quebec
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles
If you are looking for a marriage in Quebec, but are not sure when it took place, you may still be in luck.
Although civil registration in Quebec did not start until 1926, all marriages in Quebec had to be in the church until 1969. This means that the parish registers are, in effect, civil registers too.
Genealogists have good reason to be grateful to Antonin Loiselle, a priest who spent his leisure time transcribing and indexing marriage records. As he worked in various parts of the province, he was able to access records from many parishes. He kept a card index of many thousands of names. In all, 460 parishes' registers are included.
The original index was stored at a Dominican convent in Montreal, but has been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. It is now available through the LDS family history centres, at the National Archives in Ottawa, the Archives nationales du Quebec in Quebec city (and its regional centres) and the Montreal Public Library. It occupies more than 150 reels of film.
Because of their civil nature, these church records were scrupulously kept. As Roland Auger says, "As the marriage acts always give the name of the parents of the husband and wife, the French Canadian genealogists trace their family back by the marriages, and, when they have time to do so, they then complete the story by the baptisms and burials." For this reason, the marriage volumes of the church records are frequently published first.
If you consult Loiselle, you can expect to find the names of the bride and groom, all four of their parents and the place of the wedding. You should also look at the original, for even Loiselle made mistakes. There, you will also find the names of the witnesses.
No matter where you research, you should always examine the names of the witnesses to weddings. Then, as now, these were frequently family members and can be clues to relationships you will establish later. If you know the parish where your ancestors liver, you may simply want to look at the church records. Twenty years ago, you would have had to use microfilm of the original records, but the research can be done much more quickly now using the transcribes versions. These are usually published by local genealogical societies. These church books are know as Repertoires and many hundreds of volumes are available. They will be listed under the name of the villages, which is usually also the name of the church.
Another document exists for most marriages in Quebec before 1970. These are the notarial records.
Before marrying, couples would visit the local notary to sign a marriage contract. Their immediate family members would also be there. These documents, which were civil contracts concerning the property each brought to the marriage, are on file in the regional archives. Many of them have also been published. The earliest transcriptions was for Beauce. Brother Eloi-Gerard, another prominent collector of genealogical information, issued those for Charlevoix.
Recently, many more of these have become available either on microfilm in their original form or in indexes. If you use the indexes, remember to go back to look at the originals.
In many ways, researchers in Quebec have an easier time of it than their fellows in English Canada, because the church records, which are vital, are also well kept. In future columns, we will look at other aspects of genealogy in Quebec.
Genealogists wishing to make telephone queries at the Archives Nationales du Quebec, or the Montreal Public library should remember they will need to conduct their calls in French. Angus Baxter says the Montreal central library is "fast becoming the main centre for genealogical research in the province."
Books By Ryan Taylor
Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.
Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997
More Family History Research Resources