Quebec Ancestors: Prison Registers at BAnQ

Some people are rather taken aback when they find their ancestor listed in a criminal register. Then there are those of us who get excited, because it means there\’s an interesting story to add to our family tree. If you have Quebec ancestors that may not have been totally straight and narrow, BAnQ has several criminal registers digitized on their site.

The collection, Prison de Québec – registres 1813-1964, is only partly digitized. They\’ve digitized from 1813 to 1903. The titles on the BAnQ website are in French, but I\’ve given Google\’s English Translations below.
  • P1 Detention register (admitted prisoners) of the Quebec prison (women and men), 1813-1823
  • P2 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1823-1837
  • P3 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1838-1843
  • P4 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1844-1847
  • P5 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1848-1855
  • P6 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1856-1865
  • P7 Detainee register (admitted prisoners) of the Quebec prison (women and men), 1865-1866
  • P8 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1866-1873
  • P9 Detainee register (admitted prisoners) of the Quebec prison (women and men), 1874-1880
  • P10 Detention register (admitted prisoners) of the Quebec prison (women and men), 1881-1903
You can access the digitized images for each book by clicking at the links on the right side of the screen

If your knowledge of French is sketchy, don\’t worry. These digitized registers are in English. They are all set up the same way, with the exception of the first volume, P1 Detention register (admitted prisoners) of the Quebec prison (women and men), 1813-1823. This book gives an index by surname at the front of the book, but part of the A surnames are missing. The entries for each person run across 2 pages, so make sure you look at the next image as well. The columns are:
  1. Prisoner Name and Description
  2. Committed When & How, By What Authority & for What Cause
  3. Bailed, When and by what Authority
  4. Recommitted, When, How, By What Authority & for what Cause
  5. Delivered When and by What Authority
  6. Remarks
The very first entry involves a snapshot into the War of 1812, with John Hill. Mr. Hill was taken into custody on suspicions of being an American.

The other registers are much more in ledger form. As well, look to the back of the volume for the index. Some of the volumes have double pages scanned as one image, while others do not. They contain any of the following headings
  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Native of
  4. By whom Committed
  5. Crime with which charged
  6. Education level
  7. If committed before, No. of times
  8. Date of Commitment
  9. Period for which Summarily Committed
  10. Sentence
  11. Date of Discharge
  12. By what authority
  13. Conduct in Gaol
  14. Married
  15. Single
  16. Temperate
  17. Intemperate
  18. Size (feet and inches)
  19. Complexion
  20. Religion
  21. Occupation
  22. Residence
Some of the registers have additional codes, so it\’s always good to look at the first few pages of the books to see what the codes mean. For instance, here\’s a legend from P4 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1844-1847

Don\’t forget to look at the names around your ancestor\’s name. People arrested at the same time and for the same charge may have been friends or relatives, and can offer new avenues of research. Sometimes looking at the other names can give you a pretty good picture of the circumstances surrounding your ancestor\’s arrest. Take a look at the names and occupations of these people from book P8 Quebec prison prison register (women and men), 1866-1873

 Now if you look at the corresponding arrest details, you get the feeling that maybe a \”house of ill repute\” was raided.

So what happens if you find your ancestor listed and you want to find out more? BAnQ also holds court records in their collection. These are not online that I could see. Because of COVID, it may not be possible to do an onsite visit. However, BAnQ is still handling research requests. You can make a request through their online form. There are several different facilities around the province. If you know which facility the records you want are located in, then you can also contact that branch. The contact information for each BAnQ facility can be accessed here.

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