The Loyalist Orphans of Quebec under British Military Rule and Lower Canada
United Empire Loyalists were people who remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution (1765-1783), and settled elsewhere in British North America after the United States became independent. In Quebec, the Loyalists settled in various places from the Mauricie to the Gaspé, but primarily in the Eastern Townships, southeast of Montreal and near the American border.
Most of these families were poor and had gone through very hard times fleeing their homes. The difficulties involved with rebuilding their lives, clearing lands and erecting barns and houses in Quebec often resulted in the early deaths of parents. Their orphaned children were usually assigned to other families in the three regional Judicial Districts of Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières.
If you suspect you had Loyalist ancestors who came to Quebec, but it appears they simply vanished, notarial acts dealing with these orphans might help you break through your brick walls. The notarial documents known as tutelles and curatelles (guardianships of minors) are most likely to be helpful.
The attached compilation is a list of notaries who served during this time period and these places, and whose tutelle and curatelle acts might shed light on the lives of the Loyalist orphans. Click here: Searching for Loyalist Orphans in Quebec
Thank you to the Heritage Branch of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada for this info, passed on in a 2014 conversation with a member of the executive.
The following are notarial acts or notarial expressions used in official documents which you might want to consider in your notarial searches of your ancestors in Québec and Lower Canada (Bas-Canada).
Curatelle – Judicial acts – Authority given to an adult individual by the Justice system (Regional Court House) or by an assembly of family members in order for the selected person to be the administrator of all assets, funds, capital for those who are not capable of managing their assets.
Testament – Wills and testaments
Tutelle – Authority given to a person by law or by the wishes of a testator or by an assembly of family members in order for said person selected to be the guardian of said emancipated minor and for said chosen person to be the overseer and administrator of all assets, funds, capital obtained through a will from his or her parents.
See also: Jacques Gagne, Genealogy Ensemble, Feb. 10, 2019, “Quebec guardianship records can help resolve brick walls,” https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/02/10/quebec-guardianship-records-can-help-resolve-brick-walls/
Some Geographic Background:
The first Loyalist families under British Military Rule arrived in Québec in 1777. Loyalists from the Mohawk Valley appear to have been the first to arrive, settling along the shores of the Richelieu River near the town of St. Johns (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu) and in Montreal.
In 1779, Governor Frederick Haldimand assigned Captain Daniel McAlpin with the King’s Royal Regiment to oversee the establishment of the Loyalist refugees in British Quebec.
In the Montreal region, Loyalist families settled in Pointe-Claire, Lachine, and Montreal.
Along the shores of the Richelieu River, in addition to St. Johns, Loyalist refugee camps were organized in Chambly, Sorel, St-Ours, Sorel being the largest refuge in the region. A few miles away in Yamaska, a small group of Loyalist families were present.
Across the St. Lawrence River from Sorel, in the townships of Berthier and Yamachiche, a much larger group of Loyalists families were given temporary lands. The hamlet of Yamachiche became known to Loyalist families as Machiche. It became the largest temporary Loyalist settlement in Quebec. The settlement of Machiche was organized from two seigneuries which were the property of Conrad Gugy, secretary to Frederick Haldimand, Governor of Trois-Rivières and later Governor of Quebec.
The seigneuries owned by Conrad Gugy were the Seigneurie de Grosbois-Ouest, also known as Petite-Rivière-Yamachiche. In 1771, Gugy purchased a second seigneury, Seigneurie de Dumontier, which adjoined the Seigneurie de Grosbois-Ouest where the Loyalist camp of Machiche was organized.
South of Quebec City, in present day Beauce County, there was a small and short-lived Loyalist refuge referred to as Nouvelle-Beauce. It was along the banks of the Chaudière River near present-day St-Georges-de-Beauce.
Just north of Montréal, in the townships of Terrebonne and St-Eustache, a few Loyalist families settled on farms alongside former German mercenaries who had fought with British Regiments during the American Revolutionary War.
A few Loyalist families also settled in the Lower Laurentians in hamlets such as Lachute, St. Andrews (St-André-d’Argenteuil) and more to the east in St-Gabriel-de-Brandon, within the present-day district of D’Autray in the County of Berthier.
In 1784, a large group of Loyalist families settled in the Gaspé Peninsula and organized communities such as New Carlisle, Bonaventure, New Richmond, Carleton, Port Daniel and the Matapedia region.
Finally, the largest group of Loyalist settlers in Quebec were the families who were highly instrumental in establishing the Eastern Townships and of the communities on the Upper Richelieu River at Bay Missisquoi.
Loyalists were present within the Eastern Townships in St. Armand, Stanbridge, Dunham, Sutton, Farnham, Granby, Shefford, Stukely, Bolton, Brome, Potton, Stanstead, Magog, Hatley, Oxford, Ascot, Eaton and Clifton townships and also Foucault, Bay Missisquoi and Noyan on the shores of the Richelieu River at the U.S. – Canadian border.