The PDF link at the end of this introduction is attached to a compilation that describes the seigneuries and townships in the Western Laurentians region, along the banks of the Ottawa River between Montreal and Ottawa.
The compilation describes the counties that existed in the region in 1791: Effingham, Leinster, Ottawa and York. The seigneuries are described in chronological order, from the Seigneurie de la Petite Nation, created in 1674, to the Seigneurie Papineau, granted in 1817. It includes a list of the major seigneurs (landowners) in the region and links to some information about each of these individuals and their properties.
The townships and some of their best known residents are described in chronological sequence, including St. Andrews Township, formed in 1800, Grenville Township, Gore Township established in 1825 by Scottish and Irish settlers, and Lochaber Township, established in 1855. It also describes the city of Lachute, founded in 1796.
The compilation includes links to lists of local cemeteries.
There is also a list of notaries who lived in the region, including the years and places they practiced, and the branch of the Quebec archives (BAnQ) where their records are kept. The legal documents they created can be very helpful to family historians looking for land transfers, business agreements, apprenticeships, wills, inventories, marriage contracts and other records. The records of some notaries mentioned here are kept in Montreal, but others are available in Gatineau, near Ottawa. I have included the locations and contact information for these archives.
Some of these notarial records, or the indexes to them, have been digitized and are online through the BAnQ online, Ancestry.com (two different databases of notarial records), FamilySearch.org or Genealogy Quebec (Drouin Institute Online).
Seigneuries and Townships
Seigneuries were created by the kings of France, based on a land ownership model that was used in France prior to the creation of New France in 1604. Seigneuries were also created in Québec after 1759 under British rule. In 1854, the seigneurial system was abolished.
For example, after Quebec became a British colony, Governor James Murray was granted the seigneury of Argenteuil in Argenteuil County. It had been granted in 1680, under French rule, to Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust des Musseaux, an officer of a French regiment stationed in New France. In 1697, d’Ailleboust des Musseaux granted the concession of the Seigneurie d’Argenteuil to his son. Neither the father and nor the son resided there. After 1700, surveyors mapped out the region along the banks of the Outaouais, or Ottawa River.
Because the Argenteuil seigneury had not been settled or seen economic development under its previous owners, the British colonial government granted ownership of it to James Murray. Under British rule, a seigneur appointed by the British authorities was expected to reside on his seigneury for at least a few months every year, and to take an active part in its management, with the legal help of a notary. A large number of notaries began their careers this way.
In contrast, land grants were usually offered in remote rural areas in which the seigneurial system had not been implemented. They were granted by both administrators of New France, and in Quebec prior to Confederation. In the majority of cases, rural land grants were recorded by the local notary. Land grants still exist today in far-flung regions of Quebec within the mining and lumber industries.
Cantons, or townships, were mainly instituted by the British in regions that had not previously been occupied by seigneuries. The Eastern Townships, Argenteuil, Gatineau, Hull and Pontiac counties were some of the regions in which the early settlers embraced the concept of townships.