Quebec’s Civil Copy of Parish Registers

In Quebec, from the time the first act was recorded in a Parish Register in 1621 until the reform of the code of civil procedures in 1994, civil registration through baptismal, marriage and burial records was the Church's responsibility. Mainly following what was done in France at the time, the registers recording events were thus kept in duplicate, the first one, known as the "minute", would be kept at the parish while the second one, called the "grosse" (i.e., the engrossed one), would be filed at the court serving the territory. Therefore, there is very few missing information for that period and these books were generally well preserved.

Record keeping has not always been mandatory. In fact, the Edict of Villers-Cotterets, signed by King François I of France in 1539, stipulated that a baptismal register must be kept and that the French language be used in all official records. The recording of marriages and burials became mandatory in 1579 under the Edict of Blois, only about 40 years before the first act was recorded in Quebec.

In 1667, the Edict of Saint-Germain-en-Laye or "Code Louis" made it mandatory that registers be henceforward kept in duplicate in order to avoid any irretrievable destruction or loss of information caused by wars, fires, or even rodents. This rule will rapidly be complied with in Quebec as opposed to France where it was only after the Declaration of April 9, 1736, reminding and complementing the Edict of 1667, that the keeping of duplicate will be widespread.

While doing research on your French Canadian ancestors, should you be asked to indicate whether you have used your ancestor's marriage record issued from the "minute" or from the engrossed one, would you be able to? In a future post, we will look at how we can identify one from the other.

Quebec's Church records on FamilySearch

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