(Note, this is my last post until September. I have many more compilations ready to post then. Meanwhile, happy summer! Jacques)
The region south of the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and the U.S. border is a tranquil area of forests and farmland. The main highway hugs the shore of the broad St. Lawrence, crossing tributaries such as the Chaudière River, and the land rises gently to the south into the Appalachian Mountains. Today, this area is known as the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec.
The region has a long history of human habitation. Before the 1600s, the people of the Abenaki First Nation lived here. The French founded Quebec City in 1608 and started to grant large tracts of land called seigneuries to aristocrats and military officers. Each seigneury was long and narrow so it could border the St. Lawrence River, the only transportation corridor. Most of the early Europeans were men, including soldiers and fur traders, and the population remained small. In 1663, women arrived in the colony, chose husbands and started families. The population of New France grew quickly.
In 1759, the British defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and a new era of British rule began. Chaudière-Appalaches saw many new settlers arrive from England, Scotland and Ireland, and for the most part they got along well with their French-speaking neighbours. Today, the area remains primariiy French-speaking.
This 59-page guide in PDF format is designed to help you find the records of people who lived in this region. Click on this link to access the PDF:
- 1 Information on the seigneurs who owned much of the land, including the Lotbinière and Taschereau families.
- 5 Descriptions and histories of the region’s seigneuries.
- 20 Descriptions of the area’s townships, which were established by the British and date from the 1790s and 1800s. This guide includes links to the churches and cemeteries in these townships.
- 27 Descriptions and history of the counties in the region, including when they were created and how they were named and settled.
- 30 Towns that changed names over the last 240 years. If the town where your ancestor lived had different names over the years, this will help you identify it.
- 44 A list of regional cemeteries in each county or municipality.
- 45 Notaries prepared a variety of legal documents for their clients, including land transfers, wills and business agreements. The list of notaries shows where each one worked, the years he practiced and the location of his records at the archives today.
- 59 Contact information for the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Quebec City.
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.