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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 Canadian: Land Records Course Part 1 and Part 2 by Sharon L. Murphy, Brenda Dougall Merriman, CG, and Frances Coe, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Map of Northern Québec
Map of Southern Québec
What’s Available on the Internet
FamilySearch Québec Notarial Records - 558738 images from the judicial districts of Montreal, Québec and Terrebonne from 1800-1900 are available to browse. At the time of printing there was no searchable-by-name database.
Ancestry.ca Québec Notarial Records (Drouin Collection) 1647-1942 - These are available on this subscription site. Most of the records are in French although there are some in English.
Library and Archives Canada- Lower Canada Land Petitions Library and Archives Canada have an index database for Upper Canada Land Petitions searchable by name and place. The results provide the necessary information to access the petition by microfilm.
Websites of Interest
Québec is the oldest and largest Canadian province with the first permanent settlement established by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. The first colonist family arrived in 1617. For the next 46 years, there were conflicts between fur traders and colonists and between New France and the British colonies to the south.
Québec became a British colony by the Proclamation of 1763 and extended west to include land that is now known as Ontario. British merchants arrived after the Conquest and demanded British law. In 1774 the Québec Act adopted both British criminal law and French civil law.
The Constitutional Act of 1791 (dividing Québec into Upper and Lower Canada) was passed in order to meet the demands of the Loyalists. The land east of the Ottawa River became the Province of Lower Canada. The rebellions of 1837 resulted in the Act of Union in 1841 changing Upper and Lower Canada to Canada West and Canada East (Québec). Confederation in 1867 saw Canada East become the Province of Québec in the Dominion of Canada.
This capsule of history provides an outline of the changing boundaries and policies that were all part of the growth of Québec. As each different nationality vied for power and control, the laws of the land were adjusted accordingly. This will aid you in determining what records were created and why. This should enable you to plan your strategy and to be able to understand when and how people arrived and settled in Québec.
Under French rule the seigneurial system was the method of land ownership and settlement. From the beginning, large grants of land were issued by the Crown to seigneurs (lords) who held them in feudal servitude to the king. The lords hired indentured land workers and habitants (the French farming class) to work the land. Although the lords did not actually own the land they could buy and sell it by “right of occupancy.” This system was abolished in 1854. The river-lot system was used as a means of laying out and dividing the land. Having access to the waterways provided the settler with transportation and food. It was a system that had been used in France and worked well along the ‘water highway’ of the St. Lawrence River. The land was divided into long narrow strips of land facing the river. The sizes were about 1:10 ratio and although these strips were of irregular size they did provide river access to each piece of property. This was most prevalent along the St. Lawrence River but was also found along all the other waterways.
In Québec, deeds and other documents about land transfers are in the notarial records. Notaries (notaires) have registered all types of contracts since 1626. These deeds, wills, marriage contracts and other records were recorded and the originals given to the parties involved with the notary keeping a copy known as “minutes.”
The information included in the minutes gives at least the name of the notary, the date and place the document was prepared, the names and addresses of the persons involved, and the names and addresses of the witnesses. The ages and relationships of the witnesses and the persons involved are sometimes included.
These records are not normally indexed by the names of the persons involved in the contract; instead they are collected by the name of the notary. These notarial records are sent to the protonotaire of the local judicial district when the notary involved no longer is employed as a notary. Notarial records before 1900 have been deposited in the branches of the Archives Nationales du Québec (see contact information at end of this module).
An important early notary was Léon Lalanne. He was a notary for the entire Eastern Townships area between 1799 and 1815. This included the Bedford Judicial District and the St. Francis Judicial District. The counties in the Bedford district are Brome, Missisquoi and Shefford. The counties in the St. Francis district are Compton, Richmond, Sherbrooke, Stanstead and Wolfe.
Notarial records after 1900 are only available to the person involved or the person’s legal representative who may request copies from the judicial district office that has the records. Addresses of the judicial offices are given in Marthe Faribault-Beauregard’s La Généalogie: Retrouver ses ancêtres. Current addresses of the district offices are listed in annual editions of the Canadian Almanac and Directory.
If there is a reference to any materials at the Family History Library, or their filming arm, the Genealogy Society of Utah, it has been given in brackets after the reference as Family History Library with the book, film or computer reference number shown.
Names of deceased notaries and the localities they served are included in both of the following:
- Laliberté, J.M., Index des Grèffes des Notaires Décédés, 1645-1948 (Index of deceased Notaries). Québec: B. Pontbriand, 1967. Note: Many notaries’ records are no longer at the repositories indicated in this book. FHL book 971.4 N3L; fiche 6046554
- Quinton, Robert J., The Notaries of French Canada, 1626-1900: Alphabetical Chronologically, by 'Area Served.Pawtucket, Rhode Island: R.J. Quintin, 1994. FHL book 971.4 N3n; film 1750788 item 120
Since 1997 the Chambres des notaires has collaborated with the Archiv-Histo Society to produce the Parchemin Project (Banque Parchemin), an index to the files (greffes) of deceased Quebec notaries. The database is searchable online (in French) or by a set of CD-ROMs held by major research repositories. You can search the database by key word (mot-clé) such as your ancestor’s surname, or by the name of a local notary. There is also a map-related feature for determining the name of a notary who worked in your ancestor’s locale. The database includes other types of papers prepared by notaries, besides land-related documents. Presently the period of the documents in the database is 1635 to 1800, but the Society’s own data bank holds millions more, and they will assist you:
- Société de recherche historique Archiv-Histo
2320, rue des Carrière
Montréal, Québec H2G 3G9
The French king’s grants to original seigneurs are in:
Québec (Province), Legislature, Assemblée législative. Land Grant of Seigneuries 1674-1760 Québec: Appendice du Onzième Volume des Journaux de L’assemblée Legislative de la Province du Canada, Appendice (H.H.H.H.). Québec: Secretary’s Office, 1853. Text in English. FHL Collection
A map with the names of the original seigneurs, their successors in 1791 and the boundaries of the original seigneuries is in:
- Mathews, Geoffrey J., Historical Atlas of Canada, vol. 1, From the Beginning to 1800, editor R. Cole Harris. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1987. The map is plate 51. FHL Collection
Detailed maps and land descriptions of the seigneuries along the Saint Lawrence River are in:
- Trudel, Marcel, Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent en 1663 (Land Occupied in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1663). Ottawa, Ontario: Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa, 1973. Text in French. FHL Collection
Land Grants generally include the name of the colonist, the maiden name of his wife or widow, the name of the seigneurie and its boundaries, the names of immediate neighbors and the obligations the colonist accepted or the price paid.
Fealty and homage
Fealty and homage records are registers of the pledges a Seigneur made to the king when he received the land. These records may show how an individual was entitled to receive the land, either by a grant or by inheritance, and may provide names of relatives of the Seigneur.
You will find some land grant and fealty and homage records summarized in:
- Roy, Pierre Georges, Inventaire des Concessions en Fi'ef et Seigneurie, Foi et Hommages et Dénombrements Conservés aux Archives de la Province de Québec (Inventory of Seigneurial Records at the Archives of the Province of Québec). 6 vols. Beauceville, Québec: l’Eclaireur, 1927-1929. Text in French. Includes index. FHL Collection
Aveue et dénombrements for the Saint Lawrence River Valley are transcribed in:
- Mathieu, Jacques, and Alain Leberge, L’Occupation des Terres dans la Vallée du Saint-Laurent: Aveux et Dénombrements, 1723-1745 (Occupation of the St. Lawrence River Valley: Oaths of Allegiance and Censuses, 1723-1745). Sillery, Québec: Éditions du Sepentrion, 1991. Text in French. Describes each seigneurie, lists its farms and gives the names of the habitants. Has information of approximately 7,400 farms (more than 98 percent of the seigneurie farms in Québec during the French regime). Includes indexes of the names of the Seigneurs and habitants. FHL Collection
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Land Records Course Part 1 and Part 2 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
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.