Sunday, December 15, 2019

Notarial Records of Québec

Although I finally found answers to the questions of when and where my Québécois fourth great-grandfather George Jarvis passed away, I was left with a peculiar name discrepancy that I couldn't explain.

George Felix Gervais (Anglicized to Jarvis) was named in his Vermont obituary as George Philip Jarvis.

The obituary included evidence (namely his surviving children) that helped me confirm that George Philip was indeed my ancestor George Felix, but I was stumped by the name swap.

After reading about my discovery, Diane Tourville, a Québec-based blogger at Genealogy on my Mind, tweeted a possible answer:

"I confirm that men called Félix often anglicized their first name to Philip after migrating to the US."

The phonetic similarity between the two names seemed like an appropriate explanation. I was grateful for Diane's input. But she wasn't done just yet.

With more than 25 years of research experience and an interest in French-Canadians who migrated to the United States, Diane messaged that she found notarial records for George Jarvis.

What are notarial records? 

While I know what a notary public is, I wasn't familiar with the notarial records of Québec. I haven't had much opportunity to properly research my French-Canadian ancestry (too many ancestors, too little time!).

I was intrigued by what the collection may hold for my ancestor and reveal about his life, but I had to brush up on the purpose and significance of the documents for family history.

Billed by Ancestry as "some of the most valuable documents you'll come across in genealogy," Québec's notarial records span nearly 300 years (1637-1935) and have been digitized and made available online at Ancestry.

The Library and Archives of Canada explains that, "A notarial record is a private agreement written by a notary in the form of a contract."

FamilySearch adds that the collection includes, "deeds, wills, marriage contracts, and other records that are important in family history research."

The notary would make two copies of each contract. The original was given to the party involved, and the notary kept the duplicate, which are called minutes. These duplicates are what make up today's archived collections.

Notarial record outlines family relationships

Diane kindly pointed me to the collection and a couple documents that featured George. These records were deeds of sale, which suggested George was a man of sufficient means to purchase property.

I soon landed on a two-page document dating to the autumn of 1907 that underscored the value of the notarial records for family history research.

Henri Girard, the notary, had atrocious penmanship that made deciphering the document a herculean feat. However, I've transcribed enough to determine that George's children were relinquishing inheritance rights following the May 1899 death of their mother - George's wife - Adeline Parmelia (Judd) Jarvis.

George Jarvis Québec notarial record (page 1), recorded October 9, 1907

Page one's transcription (with the fantastic help of Lee Anne, a volunteer with the Facebook group Deciphering Genealogy Script):

9 Oct 1907
No. 1763

Ed. Jarvis & al
George. Jarvis

On this twenty ninth day of September nineteen hundred and seven
Before Henri Girard the undersigned notary public for the Provence of Quebec, residing and practicing at Danville, District of St. Francis.

Comes and appeared:

Mr. George Jarvis of Kingsey Falls farmer,

1st Mr. Alfred U. Lebel of Danville, student acting as the attorney of Edward Jarvis and Catherine Jarvis of Bridgewater Vermont, and Ruth Elize Jarvis wife of Alexander Peoples, and Adda E. Jarvis wife of Edward Moore of Taftsville, Vermont in virtue of a power of attorney dated the twenty first of October last part 1907 and deposited with the undersigned notary on the twenty sixth day of September 1907 registered at Drummondville B52 No: 40485

2nd William Jarvis of Richmond, carpenter

3rd Clara Jarvis of Richmond, wife of Frank Boisvert and by her husband duly authorized

Who do hereby convey, transfer and make over unto Mr. George Jarvis of Kingsey Falls their father, all their rights claims and petitions in the estate and succession of their mother Dame Adeline Parmelia Judd who departed this life intestate on the 8th May 1899.

This first page maps out several family relationships - naming surviving children of George Jarvis and their spouses and current cities of residence - and provides a death date for his wife Adeline. That's enough for any genealogist to be sold on the value of notarial records!

The children relinquished to their father their inherited rights to their mother's estate eight years after Adeline's passing.

The second page was also a doozy to transcribe.

George Jarvis Québec notarial record (page 2), recorded October 9, 1907

Page two transcription:

And more particularly their rights and share of lots no: five A and six 3 (5a, 5d and 6 3) of this truthful [illegible] of Kingsey with the buildings [illegible] invalid.

To have and to hold use and enjoy or dispose of the same unto the assigner of his own forever from death hereof.

This transfer and conveyance is thus made under the condition that the said father, the assignee shall pay all shares of the debts of the estate of the late mother if there be any.

Whereof act at Danville under No: seventeen hundred and after [illegible] hereof the parties have signed [illegible] the said assignment witnesses who hath signed with the other parties and the notary [illegible] forty one words [illegible]…

Another assigned not good

Clara J Boisvert
William C Jarvis
Alfred LeBel
Ed McGorreas (?)
P C Hastings
Henri Girard

This second page appeared to get down to brass tacks with the children relinquishing their rights to lots - presumably land - that George owned in Kingsey Falls with the stipulation that their father pay any outstanding debts on Adeline's estate.

The family's black sheep

Curiously, this notarial record named five of George and Adeline's seven surviving children. Two daughters, however, were missing.

Kate Viola Jarvis, was not named. In 1907, she would have been 18 years old. Perhaps she was still considered a minor or lived at home with her father and was excluded from this agreement.

Also not named was Phoebe (aka Phebe) Elizabeth "Lulu" Jarvis who was married to Francis (aka Frank) Stephen Lamb and lived in Colorado by 1907. Phoebe was my third great-grandmother, so I'm particularly curious about her absence.

This wasn't the first time she was kept hidden away. She was also omitted by name from George's 1933 obituary.

Was she the black sheep of the family?

Her husband changed the family surname from Lamb to Stephens. Family lore whispered that this happened after he shot a man in Vermont, but I've never been able to turn up evidence to support that story.

I did, however, find sensational articles published in Denver's newspapers in 1901 detailing the jealous rage that Frank flew into when he suspected Phoebe of adultery and shot and nearly killed an innocent bystander. See Till Jealousy and Bullets Do Us Part.

Perhaps the Jarvis family was trying to distance themselves from the drama.

What, if anything, do Québec's notarial records have to say about Phoebe's relationship with her family? With the value of this record collection now abundantly clear, that search continues in earnest.


  1. Great post, Michael! And thank you for the mention :) Funny thing sometimes about notarial records written in English, some French words might appear now and then ;-) The title is "Cession par Ed. Jarvis & al à Georg. Jarvis" Cession could mean Sale, but in that case, it means that they have reliquinshed their rights. ("par" means by and "à" means to. Would the illegible town in Vermont be Taftsville written Tasville by the notary? I am still working on the other ones.

    1. Diane, thank you for the clarification on the introductory words. I was stumped. And Taftsville does make sense - I googled it and saw that it was an industrial village "mostly in Woodstock." Woodstock is where they were enumerated on the US censuses.

  2. I still haven't delved into notarial records for Luxembourg. Wonderful post, Michael, and kudos to Diane for her help.

    1. We just need more research time in the day to take full advantage of the many great resources available!

    2. Isn't that the number one wish on all genealogists' wish lists?

  3. That's wonderful that Diane was able to help you with this. And yes, that writing is atrocious! Amazing that you could transcribe it.