QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2004-10 > 1098852778
Subject: Re: the inconnu
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2004 00:53:04 EDT
In a message dated 10/26/2004 6:01:02 PM Eastern Standard Time,
To Fr. Taggart from L. H. Smith. I would like to bring up the question
about Baptisms in early Quebec of illegitimate children. I'll ask off the
list. Maybe the reply could be put on the list, because this subject is a
concern for many of us..
I will be happy to answer your questions, as best as I can. And I agree
that the subject is of general concern, so I will post the dialogue on the list
as well as to you personally.
I have seen such Baptisms in places like Mascouche, Berthier, St. Edouard,
etc. where illegitimate children are Baptized without a surname.
That was the custom not only in the places you mentioned, but throughout the
colony. A child born to parents who were not married to each other were
listed in their baptismal record as "né[e] de parents inconnus", that is "born
of parents unknown". They did not officially have right to the surname of
either their father or their mother.
Firstly, in later life, they must get a surname and a given name in order to
function in society. It would appear that the parish records don't ever
show this child's full name, unless he/she shows up later in a Confirmation
list, but there would be no way to connect to the Baptized inconnu child.
That is not an accurate perception of the way things were in the Quebec
colony (or, for that matter, the way things were in the British colonies in North
America). An illegitimate child would appear on the Confirmation list as
"of unknown parents" without a surname.
Secondly, if they marry in Quebec, how are the parents identified? I have
not had occasion to find such a marriage in the Quebec parish records, so I
don't have an example of this. It should be said that illegitimates in Quebec
are far fewer than what I have seen for England and Ireland.
On the marriage record, the bride or groom born of unmarried parents would
be listed as "de parents inconnus", or else no mention would be made of
Thirdly, even though the record shows inconnu, in small places like the
above, with all the families intermarried for many years, the parentage is
actually known, even though not stated, because of inheritance law, I think.
While it is true that in some cases the actual parentage is known, the legal
status was that only children born of the legitimate marriage of their
parents had inheritance rights. The disposition of the properties of the parents
of an illegitimate child would not include a portion of the estate for that
child. Being "of unknown parents" is a status in civil law that would remain
throughout a person's life. The children of a father who was born
illegitimately sometimes were known by the family name of their father and grandfather
(the "of unknown parents" was often a matter of law, but not of fact), but
nonetheless, the illegitimate child had not inherited, and the grandchildren
did not have any rights whatsoever with respect to their grandparents' legacy.
Fr Owen Taggart