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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors by Althea Douglas M.A., CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
The Library And Archives Of Canada [LAC]
The original Land Papers for Crown Grants for both Lower and Upper Canada (1764-1841) are held at the Archives Division of Canada, but are widely available on microfilm. They are indexed sometimes by Township, sometimes by County, and for subsequent transfers, the Judicial District must be known. For Québec land research a good sequence of historic maps, gazetteers and directories will be essential.
Land Papers and Petitions
In order to obtain Crown land, settlers were required to submit petitions to the governor stating their reasons for claiming land grants. Claimants might be Loyalists, children of Loyalists, military claimants, “late Loyalists”, legitimate settlers or just opportunists. The Library and Archives of Canada [LAC] hold the land petitions and other papers for Québec and Lower Canada from 1764 - 1841 (RG 1 L3L). Both the documents and the card index to them are available on microfilm.
Petitions by Associates
Petitions could be submitted by individuals, or by an “association” of would-be settlers. Individual petitions are more common in Upper Canada, where individual petitions can have useful information about military service, loyalties, time of arrival in the province, family, etc. but alas, “associations” offer little except lists, and more lists, of names.
In Lower Canada, most land grant petitions were made by groups of associates; two or three “men of influence” who had the money to pay for a survey and other charges, might gather together a number of “Associates” and in their name sent off a petition asking for a large tract of land, often a whole Township. If one petition was not accepted, another might be sent by many of the same men asking for land in a different area.
Once the petition reached the Governor, bureaucratic wheels started to grind. Qualifications of “Loyalists” were checked, attested to or documented in several ways and noted in a variety of files. Each “associate” had to swear an oath of allegiance, and for many of these group-petitions, there are bundles (files) of attestations and certificates showing that each individual had in fact taken the oath. These lists, and the lists of those who had taken the oath are stored in the Land Papers, though not necessarily together with the attestations.
Land had to be found, and surveyed into Ranges and Lots. The Chief Surveyor in Lower Canada was Joseph Bouchette and his survey reports and maps constitute another section of the Land Papers.
|In Québec the strip of lots is called a range [rang], not a concession as in Ontario.|
Finally the associates agreed with the leaders as to who would get what lots, and more lists were made. The names might also be added to one of the surveyor’s diagrams of the Township. Eventually the government would pass an Order-in-Council, and issue a fiat or warrant, which assigned a grant of land to the petitioners, who would portion it out as agreed. Officials might check this and make further lists of who really cleared land, built cabins, etc.
Lower Canada Land Papers
The Lower Canada Land Papers are not easy to research. At some point in time, they were numbered sequentially, and the files are divided into “volumes”. They are indexed by the name of individuals, giving only a date, and the page numbers of the petition file on which the name is found. You then have to cross check the page numbers against a microfilm list which gives the volume numbers, and the page numbers within each volume or part volume on the film.
Because of the “associations” one petition file can run to well over a hundred pages. The file will be in the name of the “men of influence” who headed the association, not the individual associate whose name may only occur once or twice. To find the names of those who got the original big land grant, look in Joseph Bouchette, British Dominions, Appendix XVIII, Vol. 1, pages 483-488, where grants are tabulated by Township.
Lists of the individual land grants (1763-1890) are published in the Journal of the Legislative Assembly (Lower Canada) 1949, Vol. 8, Appendix 3, divided by County and Township, then by range and lot, and then giving the owner’s name. In addition, if you know the Township, there is a nominal listing of grantees, alphabetical by first letter of the surname. The Québec Family History Society has extracted the nominal lists for each letter of the alphabet and published them in a single booklet for each letter - A, B, C, etc., but separately grouped and listed by township. The lists serve the same purpose as the Archives of Ontario computerized land index, but are not nearly as user friendly.
Once in possession of a location (as recorded on lists and maps) for a lot, the would-be owner had to “improve” his land (clear, plant crops, erect a building etc.) within a given number of years. When this had been done a Patent of ownership was issued in the name of the Crown. It was the owner who was given (and hopefully retained) the Land Patent (or Deed). It is not with government records. The Department of Crown Lands kept all the lists and attestations and petitions and reports of Surveyors General, and Script Books telling what Patents had been given out. These are what are indexed at the Archives.
The published lists of grants go up to 1890 and Crown grants after 1841 are preserved in Québec City by the:
Service de l’enregistrement des documents de l’État
1200, route de l’Église, Sainte-Foy (Québec) G1V 4M1
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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