Do you have ancestors who lived in the earlier days of Quebec, Canada? Catholic church records may prove some of your most consistently helpful resources! Read about how to tap into these great resources online, going back as far as the 17th century, to uncover your Canadian family history.

Those tracing their ancestors in Quebec can encounter serious frustrations! The same 50 given names appear for 70% of the people before 1800 (and many share the same surnames, too). Almost all passenger lists are missing before 1865. Several early censuses are not easily searchable online.

Thankfully, in Quebec church records are often available back to the 1600s. There are LOTS of them online, and they often contain the distinguishing details–those exact dates, names, relationships and locations–that can help identify an ancestor with greater certainty.

The Catholic church was the dominant religion in Quebec. “Between 1679 and 1993, priests were required to make two copies of all baptisms, marriages, and burials,” explains FamilySearch. “The second copy was sent to civil authorities, and these are found in civil archives. In 1796, churches were required to index their registers.” Records duplication means more chances to find an ancestor. And “while the form and content of the entries vary somewhat, the general quality of the records is excellent.”
 
Catholic baptisms were performed for newborn babies, often within a day or a few days of birth. It’s often possible to glean the birth date from the baptismal date. This one, for example, states the child was born the day before:
As you can see, in this baptismal record, the parents are identified as lawfully married. The father’s military regiment is named. Two witnesses are named, one who signed the register himself and the other who declared herself illiterate. Catholic marriage and death records can also be rich in genealogical data. Though most Quebec church records are in French, this one happened to be in English.
 
I learned recently about an interactive map of Quebec’s Catholic parishes (and other churches) up to 1912. Click below to check it out:
Quebec catholic parishes
 
Once you’ve identified the nearest parish, you will more confidently identify your ancestors in databases of church records, or pursue their listings in offline resources. Start looking in databases like these:

I also recommend exploring this excellent website for Quebec genealogy: Quebec Records: The Genealogical Website of French America

More Canadian Genealogy Gems Right Here at Genealogy Gems

Plus get inspired by this Family History Video about the Cooke family’s immigration to Canada! You can make videos just like this using Animoto. It’s incredibly easy! Click here for step-by-step instructions. 

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This article was originally published on October 6, 2015 and updated on April 8, 2019.

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