Civil law notarial records are among the most valuable genealogical resources available. In civil law societies like France, Spain, Italy, (French) Canada, and many other countries, notaries function much like contract lawyers, creating legally binding "authentic acts" (also called contracts or protocols) that regulate private relationships among individuals. These are among the oldest extant types of records, dating in France, for one example, to the 16th century or earlier, and pre-dating church records in some places. They are also packed with information - explicitly stated family data as well as information that can help define an ancestor's family life, social standing, financial status, business and social relationships within a community. This presentation examines the value, content, and location of the most commonly used notarial records, and strategies for using them to further genealogical research.
Claire Bettag, CG, FUGA, FNGS, is a professional genealogist in Washington D.C. focusing on Louisiana French and Acadian families. She has lectured nationally and was a contributing author to Professional Genealogy (ed. Elizabeth Shown Mills, 2001). She has published in the NGS Quarterly, APG Quarterly, and other publications. Currently she is writing a book about her paternal line for private publication. She has served as the director of NIGR (now Gen-Fed) and a ProGen mentor, and on the boards of NGS, APG, and BCG. She is on the NGSQ editorial board and volunteers at the National Archives.