Quebec Land and Property
- 1 Map of Northern Québec
- 2 Map of Southern Québec
- 3 What’s Available on the Internet
- 4 History
- 5 The Seigneuries
- 6 References
Map of Northern Québec
Map of Southern Québec
What’s Available on the Internet
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.
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 Family History Society
- Société généalogique canadienne-francaise
- Société de recherché historique Archiv-Histo
- Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
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.
In common with much of New France (La Nouvelle-France), the territory known today as the province of Quebec (Le Québec) was first organized politically along feudal lines. Beginning in 1604, scores of concessions of land, known as seigneuries, were granted by the government to proprietors known as seigneurs. The potential for the creation of new seigneuries effectively ended in Quebec in 1763, with the English conquest, but the system remained intact, with modifications, for decades afterward.
A list of all of the seigneuries of New France, with the dates of their foundation is found at Wikipedia.fr. A list of the seigneuries of Quebec is found at memoireduquebec.com. A map of the seigneuries of Quebec, made by A. E. B. Courchesne in 1923, accompanies the list. Most seigneuries had a frontage of several miles along the Saint Lawrence river and estuary (Le fleuve Saint Laurent), or along a major river, although some seigneuries surrounded large lakes.
Eventually the county system introduced by the English supplanted the seigneuries for most purposes of interest to the family history researcher, but the seigneuries figure importantly in early records. Early baptismal records often refer to a newborn child's residence using the name of a seigneurie rather than a city or town.
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. The lords did not own the land, but in time they could buy and sell the land by the "right of occupancy," much as we do today. Although this system was French, the English retained it after they acquired New France in 1763. The system was finally abolished in 1854.
The French Canadians generally used a river-lot system to divide the land on the seigneuries. The land was divided into narrow strips of irregular size, but each strip bordered on the river.
If your ancestor lived in a seigneury (the land of a seigneur), look for records of family members in the parish registers of churches in or near that seigneury. See Quebec Church Records.
The French king's grants to original seigneurs are in:
- Québec (Province).Législature. Assemblée legislative. Land Grants of Seigneuries 1674–1760 Quebec: Appendice du Onzième Volume des Journaux de L'assemblée Legislative de la Province du Canada, Appendice (H.H.H.H.). Québec, Canada: Secretary's Office, 1853. (Family History Library book 971.4 R2s; film 1036410 item 10; fiche 6046787.) Text in English.
A map with the names of the original seigneurs, their successors in 1791, and the boundaries of the original seigneuries is in:
- Matthews, Geoffrey J. Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume 1, From the Beginning to 1800, Editor R. Cole Harris. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 E7h.) The map is plate 51.
Detailed maps and land descriptions of the seigneuries along the Saint Lawrence River are in:
- Trudel, Marcel. Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent en 1663 (Lands Occupied in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1663). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Les Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa, 1973. (Family History Library book 971.4 R2t.) Text in French.
Seigneurial records include:
- Land grants
- Fealty and homage records
- Aveux (oaths of allegiance)
- Dénombrements (censuses)
Land Grants generally give the name of the colonist, the maiden name of his wife or widow, the name of the seigneury and its boundaries, the names of immediate neighbors, and the obligations the colonist accepted or the price paid.
Fealty and homage records are registers of the pledges a seigneur made to the king when he received 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.
Some land grant and fealty and homage records are summarized in:
Roy, Pierre Georges. Inventaire des concessions en fief 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). Six Volumes. Beauceville, Québec, Canada: L'Éclaireur, 1927–1929. (Family History Library book 971.4 R2q; on 24 fiches numbered 6046791.) Text in French. Includes index.
Aveux and dénombrements for the Saint Lawrence River Valley are transcribed in:
Mathieu, Jacques, and Alain Laberge. 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, Canada: Éditions du Septentrion, 1991. (Family History Library book 971.4 R2m.) Text in French. Describes each seigneury, lists its farms, and gives the names of the habitants. Has information on approximately 7,400 farms (more than 98 percent of the seigneury farms in Québec during the French régime). Includes indexes of the names of the seigneurs and habitants.
|In Quebec, deeds and other documents about land transfers between individuals are in the notarial records. (See also Quebec Notarial Records.)|
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
Crown Land Records
After 1763, areas in the Eastern Townships and counties on the Ottawa River were surveyed for settlement by the British and by Loyalist Americans. This included counties such as Argenteuil and Gatineau. The areas were divided into townships (cantons).
In contrast to the French river-lot system, the English usually divided the land into sections called ranges or "concessions." The concessions were then divided into regularly shaped farm lots of 100 to 200 acres.
Beginning in 1764 in Québec and in 1795 in Ontario, land was given in crown grants instead of in seigneuries. A settler who wanted free land in a township submitted a petition directly to the governor or lieutenant governor. Crown grants became especially popular because of the American Revolutionary War. Grants were made to all Loyalists or children of Loyalists. Later, any settler in the provinces of Canada could receive these grants. Free grants were abolished in 1827, except for relatives and descendants of Loyalists.
The petitions for land and the patents-certificates that granted the land are the most important crown land records for genealogical research. The petitions may have information on the petitioner, his family, parentage, military service, time of settling the land, etc. The patents give the name of the grantee, a description of the land, and the date of the grant.
Several manuscript records relating to crown lands are at the National Archives of Canada and at the Archives nationales du Québec. The most easily available include:
List of Lands Granted by the Crown in the Province of Québec from 1763 to 31st December 1890. Québec, Canada: Charles- François Langlois, 1891. (Family History Library films 413121–22.) This book is a transcription of information from land patents. It is an especially good source to begin with if you are looking for English-speaking settlers. It gives the date of the patent and the county, township, and lot number where the grant was located. The index at the end of the volume is alphabetical only by the first letter of the surname.
Lower Canada. Executive Council. Land Committee. Land Petitions and Related Records, 1637–1842. National Archives of Canada series RG 1, L 3 L. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Public Archives of Canada, 1965–1995. (On 126 Family History Library films beginning with film 1831844.) Indexed.
Upper Canada. Executive Council. Petitions for Land Grants and Leases, 1791–1867. National Archives of Canada series RG 1, L 3. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992. (On 257 Family History Library films beginning with film 1832344.) Includes records for the years between 1842 and 1867, when Canada East (Québec) was part of the Province of Canada. Index films and some series films are available at the Family History Library.
The Family History Library has a combined index to Petitions for Land Grants and Leases, 1791–1867 and to the following minute books:
Québec, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, Canada Executive Council. Minute Books (on Land Matters) 1787–1867. National Archives of Canada series RG 1, L 1. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: National Archives of Canada, [19—?]. (NAC films C-94 through C-96 and C-100 through C-110). Includes records of hearings before land committees of various executive councils. Although these are not at the Family History Library, microfilms of the "Land Books" can be loaned by the National Archives of Canada to any public library which participates in the interlibrary loan system.
Library and Archives Canada holds Lower Canada Land Petitions 1764-1841 (RG 1, L3L) and records of the Gaspé Land Commission (RG 1, L 7, vols. 79-80) which are nominally indexed in their finding aid 1801. Both the records and the index are microfilmed. The microfilm shelf list is posted on Library and Archives Canada website. The petitions may have information on the petitioner, his family parentage, military service and time of settling the land making them very valuable genealogically. The patents that were granted gave the name of the grantee, a description of the land and the date of the grant, also very useful.
Land Transfers after the First Grant
Subsequent sales, gifts, bequests, or other transfers of land have been a matters of local record since about 1831, under the responsibility of the Ministère de la Justice and registered at the Bureau d’enregistrement [Legal Registry Office] of the various Judicial Districts. In 1996 there were 55 different land registry offices. Current addresses are given in the Canadian Almanac or in a current Québec Government Telephone Directory, or Québec Legal Telephone Directory, and probably other legal directories. Ask your librarian. You must know the street address or Range and lot number and it helps to know the Ward or Parish.
Be prepared for very high search fees. I was once told offices were very busy in May, and to check opening hours before visiting. Remember, these offices are there for lawyers and notaries to search titles for current land sales, not for genealogists.
Most land transfer documents will have been drawn up by the local Notary, and if over 100 years old, may be in his greffe in the ANQ. That is a less expensive way to search for such records, so if you can find one land transfer document and get the name of the Notary, you can search the greffe for other papers and probably track other sales backward or forward.
The Jésuit Estates were the properties owned by the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus. These lands were confiscated by the Crown following the conquest of Canada by the British and were located entirely in Québec. These lands were first rented and then sold separate from the Crown Lands in Québec. The records for this are in the Archives nationales du Québec (series-QBC-18-20).
Archives nationales du Québec
Throughout Québec there are regional Provincial Archives centers known as Les centres d’Archives nationales du Québec:
- Abitibi-Témiscamingue et Nord-du-Québec
27, rue du Terminus Ouest
Rouyn-Noranda, Québec J9X 293
- Bas-Saint-Laurent et Gaspésie,Iles-de-la-Madeleine
337, rue Moreault
Rimouski, Québec G5L 1P4
700, boulevard Laure, Bureau 190
Sept-Iles, Québec G4R 1Y1
225, rue Frontenac, bureau 410
Sherbrooke, Québec J1H 1K1
80, boulevard de Gaspé
Gaspé, Québec G4X 1A9
Telephone: 418-727-3500 ext. 6573
- Mauricie et Centre-du-Québec
225, rue des Forges, bureau 208
Trois-Rivières, Québec G9A 2G7
535 avenue Viger est
Montréal, Québec H2L 2P3
Telephone: 514-873-1100 option 4
855, boulevard de la Gappe
Gatineau, Québec J8T 8H9
Campus de l’Université Laval
1055, avenue du Séminaire
Case postale 10450, succursale Sainte-Foy
Québec, Québec G1V 4N1
- Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean
930, rue Jacques-Cartier est, bureau C-103
Chicoutimi, Québec G7H 2A9
Québec Genealogical Societies
- Quebec Family History Society
15 Donegani Avenue, P.O. Box 715
Pointe-Claire - Dorval Postal Station
Pointe-Claire, Québec H9R 4S8
Email: [mailto: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org]
The leading English-language society, they sell maps and the full index to Quebec Crown land grants, sorted alphabetically by surname, available online to members only.
- Société généalogique canadienne-française
3440, rue Davidson
Montréal, Québec H1W 2Z5
Both societies have many links to other resources.
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
- Douglas, Althea. "Québec Land, Judicial, Tax Records (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Qu%C3%A9bec_Land,_Judicial,_Tax_Records_%28National_Institute%29.
- Murphy, Sharon L., Brenda Dougall Merriman, and Frances Coe. "Québec Additional Land Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Québec_Additional_Land_Records_(National_Institute).