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Description of the Certificates


The PRDH data base includes some 755 000 certificates of various types, dated from 1621 to 1850. The vast majority correspond to the systematic extracting of information from records of baptisms, marriages, and burials for the 1621-1799 period that came to us from 153 parishes, missions, and Catholic institutions in Quebec that kept registers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Are also part of the data some 41 000 burials of the 1800-1850 period extracted to better death information of people born in the first half of the XVIIIth century (click here for a description of this specific data set). The certificates were read and transcribed onto magnetic media according to a standard format that reproduces the essential information contained in the documents: type, place of registration, and date of the record (written in the year-month-day format); family names, first names, and characteristics of the people cited (sex, age, marital status; profession, occupation, or social status; place of residence or birthplace; etc.). The documents for the period 1621–1765 include all of the individuals cited; those for the period 1766–99, on the other hand, do not include witnesses to the certificates unless the writer expressly mentions the existence of a family relationship with the subject of the certificate. In fact, identification of individuals by name only, without the assistance of family relationships, becomes impossible when homonymy increases within a population, as was the case in Quebec. It therefore seemed useful to favour the number of certificates over the group of witnesses statements. Burials of the 1800-1850 period name witnesses with a family relationship in a comment line; they are thus not accessible for a name research.

The certificates were systematically gathered from ecclesiastical archives, which are manifestly more complete than the civil archives. Nevertheless, when the series kept in the presbyteries showed gaps, we turned to the civil archives to find missing information, thus adding more than 16,000 certificates to those from the parishes. In this regard, we consulted the Inventaire des registres parroissiaux catholiques du Québec 1621–1876 (by Pauline Bélanger and Yves Landry with René Jetté, Montreal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1990), which links the two series. It also seems that in the last century, when he was writing his well-known Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours (Montreal: E. Sénécal, 1871–90), Cyprien Tanguay had access to certificates that no longer exist, especially some concerning the parishes of Sorel, Saint-Augustin, and Petite-Rivière-Saint-François; a search in this dictionary enabled us to add 815 certificates. Their notation, in the context of the dictionary, bears only the basic elements, and it is not possible to judge how true they are to the original texts. Finally, we added 96 certificates, mostly of burials, from the Journal des Jésuites.

Three name censuses of the entire colony were produced, on the instigation of Colbert, in 1666, 1667, and 1681. Mont-Louis and Quebec City were subjected to population counts in 1699 and 1700 and in 1716 and 1744, respectively, and there are partial censuses from after the conquest of Quebec City. All of these documents together cover 13,995 households.

Marriage contracts were used when the corresponding marriage certificate was not received or had gaps concerning identification of either spouse or the birthplace of an immigrant; 3,751 contracts were used in this way. The information retained is sometimes limited to the parties to the contract and their parents or ex-spouses; in these cases, data were drawn mainly from various published inventories or from the Parchemin data base belonging to the Archiv-Histo historical society.

A number of sources were used for the lists of migrants (1,279 certificates). For practical reasons, the PRDH resorted to printed materials for some of these lists, as we did for naturalizations (80 certificates) and testimonies of freedom to marry (443 certificates).

Lists of migrants:

  • Passengers from St-André
    • A. GODBOUT, Les passagers du St-André. La recrue de 1659. Publications de la Société généalogique canadienne- française, no 5, Montréal, 1964.
  • Recruits from La Rochelle
    • G. DEBIEN, "Liste des engagés pour le Canada au XVIIe siècle (1634-1715)", RHAF, vol. VI, no 2 (septembre 1952), pp. 221-233.
    • G. DEBIEN, "Liste des engagés pour le Canada au XVIIe siècle (1634-1715)", RHAF, vol. VI, no 3 (décembre 1952), pp. 374-407.
    • M. GAUCHER, M. DELAFOSSE, G. DEBIEN, "Les engagés pour le Canada au XVIIIe siècle", RHAF, vol. XIII, no 2 (septembre 1959), pp. 247-261.
    • M. GAUCHER, M. DELAFOSSE, G. DEBIEN, "Les engagés pour le Canada au XVIIIe siècle", RHAF, vol. XIV, no 1 (juin 1960), pp. 87-108.
    • M. GAUCHER, M. DELAFOSSE, G. DEBIEN, "Les engagés pour le Canada au XVIIIe siècle", RHAF, vol. XIV, no 2 (septembre 1960), pp. 246-258.
    • M. GAUCHER, M. DELAFOSSE, G. DEBIEN, "Les engagés pour le Canada au XVIIIe siècle", RHAF, vol. XIV, no 3 (décembre 1960), pp. 430-440.
    • M. GAUCHER, M. DELAFOSSE, G. DEBIEN, "Les engagés pour le Canada au XVIIIe siècle", RHAF, vol. XIV, no 4 (mars1961), pp. 583-602.
  • Recruits from St-Nazaire
    • R.J. AUGER, La grande recrue de 1653, Publications de la Société généalogique canadienne-française, Montréal, 1955.
  • Recruits from Nantes
    • G. DEBIEN, "Les engagés pour le Canada partis de Nantes (1725-1732)", RHAF, vol. 33, no 4 (mars 1980), pp. 583-586.
  • Recruits and passengers boarding at Bordeaux
    • A.N.C., Direction des ressources historiques, copie microfilmée des Archives départementales de la Gironde à Bordeaux, Série 6B, Amirauté de Guyenne.
  • Soldiers of the Régiment de Carignan
    • "Rolle des soldats du régiment de Carignan Sallière qui se sont faits habitans de Canada en 1668", Archives publiques du Canada (Archives des Colonies, série G1).
  • Dealers in contraband salt
    • A.N.C., MG1, Archives des Colonies, Série B, Lettres envoyées
    • - vol. 54, ff. 445, 496-497 (1730)
    • - vol. 55, ff. 86-89, 125, 537-538 (1731)
    • - vol. 59, ff. 178-179, 368-371 (1733)
    • - vol. 61, ff. 75-77, 95-96, 253-255 (1734)
    • - vol. 63, ff. 86-88, 105-107, 282-284 (1735)
    • - vol. 64, ff. 57-58, 60-61, 539-543, 573-574, 704-705 (1736)
    • - vol. 65, ff. 434, 652-653, 843 (1737)
    • - vol. 68, ff. 47-54, 117-119 (1739)
    • - vol. 69, ff. 14-15 (1739)
    • - vol. 70, f. 312 (1740)
    • - vol. 71, ff. 230-234 (1740)
    • - vol. 72, ff. 294-296, 336 (1741)
    • - vol. 74, ff. 106-111, 146-148 (1742)
    • - vol. 76, ff. 309-310, 350-351 (1743)
    • - vol. 77, f. 91 (1743)
  • Naturalizations
    • P.G. ROY, "Les lettres de naturalité sous le régime français", B.R.H., vol. XXX, no 8 (août 1924), pp. 225-232.
  • Testimonies of freedom to marry
    • Rapport de l'archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1951-1952 et 1952-1953, vol. 32-33, pp. 3-159.

Finally, we drew on the hospital sick lists from the daily records of colony hospitals prior to 1700 (1,878 certificates), and extracted other information from the parish registers and the archives of the Quebec City archdiocese: recantations (239 certificates), confirmations (551 certificates), marriage rehabilitations (191 certificates), and marriage annulments (5 certificates).