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From its origins in the french regime, Quebec land ownership system followed the Old French Seigneurial system. In this system, large areas of land called "Seigneuries" were granted to officials and friends of the regime as rewards for services rendered. The owners were called "Seigneurs". In return for the land, they were supposedly obligated to grant lots to settlers on a lease basis and to support these settlers with services like flour mills and roads. The settlers in turn had to pay an annual "rentes et cens" in cash and produce to the Seigneur, use the Seigneur's mills to grind their grain and carry out certain improvements within the first few years.
Following the fall of Nouveau France to the British in 1759-1763, the new British regime continued the seigneurial system with the existing seigneuries and even granted a few new ones in the early 1820s. During the first half of the 1800s, there was an explosion of new immigrants, mostly from the British Isles, who settled on the available lands in Quebec (then called Lower Canada). These English, Scotch and Irish immigrants were leaving the tenant farm system prevalent in the UK and wanted to own their own land outright. In the period following the 1838-9 rebellions, these settlers along with many of the French Canadian habitants, pressured the authorities to abolish the seigneurial system.
In 1854, the legislature of Canada passed the Seigneurial Act of 1854, which essentially abolished the seigneurial rights of the Seigneur and gave the land "owners" the right to buy out their contract and own the land without restriction. In return for the loss of their seigneurial rights and previledges, the Act allowed for compensation to the Seigneurs based on the value of their properties and the annual rent that it yielded. A Commission was appointed to value the properties. This "Cadastre Abrégé" (french for "Abreviated Land Ownership List") is the resulting report from this Commission. It lists all of the lots, the name of the leasee, the size and shape of the lot, the value of the land and buildings if it was used for non-agricultural purposes, and the annual "rente" that the leasee had to pay to the Seigneur.
Note that this Cadastre Abrege lists only the lots that were covered by the Seigniorial "Rent" system. In the period immediately preceeding 1854, the seigniory of Beauharnois had surveyed additional concessions in the regions such as Jamestown, Ormstown and South Georgetown. Historical records indicate that many of these lots had been sold outright by 1854 and as such were not included in these lists. In addition there were a number of lots in Russeltown region adjoining Hemmingford Township that were involved in a long running legal dispute as to ownership. These so-called "Russeltown Dispute" lots are also not included in these lists.
What does this Cadastral List have to offer the family Genealogist? It can:
- Tell you which concession your ancestors settled on.
- In some cases, it indicated the old cadastral lot number assigned by the seigneur's survey. (On the two listings attached, Châteauguay lists the old lot number (called "No. de Terrier") and Beauharnois does not. Beauharnois old lot numbers are listed in the Seigniory Rent Books, not yet transcribed but available for lookup.)
- Who their neighbors were. Often marriage partners came from the neighbourhood and family members and in-laws settled side by side or nearby.
- What the size and shape of the lot was.
- Whether the lot was used for farming or non-farming purposes.
- What the annual rent was.
- What the value of land and buildings was in 1854 on land used for non-agricultural purposes.
- If the owner had died, it usually listed the maiden name of the surviving widow. (The vast majority of land owners in this era were men.)
There were a total of 316 Seigneuries in Quebec. But only two were of importance to the County of Châteauguay. They are the Seigneury of Beauharnois, the largest in Quebec, owned by an English merchant and his heirs and the Seigneury of Châteauguay, owned by the Sisters of Charity of the General Hospital of Montreal, known as the "Gray Nuns". Copies of these two cadastral lists were obtained and transcribed into a computer database. From this database, the following web pages have been created. The total number of entries in the database is over 4600 and transcription errors are inevitable, although hopefully few in number or significance. If you suspect that there may be an error in a certain line, contact the transcriber and he will check the original source. The listing themselves are listed verbatim, in the original french language, with no attempt to correct spellings and possible errors. Titles and notes on each table are in english or bilingual as convenient. As an aid to non-francophones, there is a mini French/English dictionary included with the files.
Good luck in your research.
- Seigniory of Beauharnois
- North Georgetown
- South Georgetown
- Seigniory of Châteauguay
- Islands in Lac St-Louis
- Lake St-Louis Concession
- Châteauguay River Concession (Northeast side)
- Châteauguay River Concession (Southeast side)
- Concession Saint Charles
- Concession St-Jean Baptiste
- Concession Sainte Marguerite
- Concession du Petit Rang
- St-Regis Concession (Northwest side)
- St-Regis Concession (Southeast side)
- Concession Saint Simon
- Concession Ste-Thérèse
Don't Know Which Region or Concession Your Ancestors Settled On?
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