Marriage records in Quebec can be divided into several distinct periods.
|prior to 1841||All marriages performed by religious personnel. To the extent that records were made, they were kept by the religious institution.|
|1841-1867||All marriages performed by religious personnel. By law, records books (including births, marriages and burials) were submitted annually to the Superior Court for Lower Canada in the jurisdiction where the marriage was performed. Typically records were kept in duplicate, with one set of books being kept by the religious institution, and a second set being submitted to the government. There were no formal rules regarding what information was included in these records, but generally they included the date of the marriage, the names of the groom and bride, a statement of whether they were of age, or if they had their parents' consent, and usually, the parents' names (although often missing the mother's maiden name). The records often included the signatures of the groom and bride and the witnesses. This norm notwithstanding, some records had surprisingly little information (date, surnames and initials of groom and bride), and some records are amazingly rich in detail, including place of origin, residence addresses, occupations, names of deceased spouses.|
|1867-1925||The situation remained the same as the previous period, but with the Confederation of Canada in 1867, the record books were now submitted to the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec.|
|1926-1968||Beginning in 1926, in addition to religious records maintained as above, the Provincial Department of Health required that a new Statistical Return of Marriage be completed and submitted to the government. Over the years, as new forms were phased in, the specific details requested varied quite a bit and are documented in the accompanying Table. The name of the form also changed to Registration of Marriage and then Declaration of Marriage.|
|1969-1996||Beginning in 1969, civil marriages were allowed. The forms and their content remained the same. About 2% of marriages were civil ceremonies in 1969, rising to 40% in recent years.|
|1997-||The situation remained unchanged, but with the advent of new privacy legislation in the early 1990s, and the 1994 centralization and computerization of all records, indices of marriage and the Department of Health records were no longer publicly available.|
The accompanying TABLE shows what information was recorded in any particular year, and also has images of sample forms. Perhaps you will recognize some of the people there.
It is interesting to note that beginning in early 1970s, the number of marriages performed in Quebec has dropped dramatically from about 50,000 per year to the recent (2008) tally of about 22,000. Part of this results from the increased number of people living together without a formal marriage ceremony, a phenomenon that, as the influence of the Catholic Church has lessened, has been particularly evident in Quebec.
There is a microfilm index to the 1926-1996 marriage records at the Quebec National Archives in Montreal located at:
535, avenue Viger Est
Montréal (Québec) H2L 2P3
There is also a database version of the index. It is available at the Quebec National Archives, the Canadian Genealogy Centre at the National Archives in Ottawa, and through several Quebec-based genealogy societies including the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal.
Images of the actual records are available on microfilm at the Quebec National Archives in Montreal. These records are available only to visitors on site at the Archives. A research or extraction service is not offered by Archives personnel. There are two versions of the microfilms, the first of which is pointed to directly by the marriage reference number in the index, but it is worth noting that there is a second version of much higher quality. To obtain the location of the higher-quality version, a loose-leaf binder is available at the Archives which translates the location pointed to in the index into the microfilm location for the higher quality image.
The JGS-Montreal holds a fully indexed copy of most Jewish marriage records for the period 1841-1942 in its collection of Drouin Records. The full set of Jewish images are also available at the Jewish Public Library and for all religions at the Quebec National Archives. Neither set is indexed, but the Health Department records can be used as a finding aid for 1926-1942 marriages.
There is no charge for the use of Quebec Archives facilities, but you must register.
For those not present in Montreal, the JGS-Montreal can either retrieve marriage records at a nominal cost, or refer you to a local genealogist who can provide the service. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Formal certified marriage records can be obtained from the Government of Quebec, but only those who can demonstrate a requirement for such records can order them. See http://www.etatcivil.gouv.qc.ca/en/certificate-copy-act.html. To maximize the information included in such a record, you should order a "copy of the act of marriage".
September 8, 2009