Seigneurial System

French Regime
During the French Regime, land holding was held in accordance to the seigneurial system:
  • the king owned the land, and in turn,
  • granted it in large blocks to the seigneurs,
  • who in turn rented it in smaller parcels to the habitants.
The seigneurs, who could also be a religious order rather than an individual, paid the king rent, and were responsible for:
  • colonisation and development,
  • defense,
  • local government.
The habitant had to:
  • serve his " corvées," a few days work a year to the seigneurs; either on his farm or on communal property, e.g., roads,
  • pay his rent, " cens and rentes," a blend of money and produce or animals,
  • required to use the seigneur's mill to grind his grain, " banalite."
While arrangements were made to transfer the use of land/buildings, other than by direct inheritance, "lods et ventes" were due the seigneur. (Remember the king owned the land.)
The system was feudal, paternal, hierarchal, and was fixed by law. Generally, with exception of the religious orders, private/free enterprise colonisation did not work, and the king stepped in by bringing out settlers directly from 1663 to c.1700.
With time, the province was divided into Administrative Districts or Gouvernements. Each Administrative District was sub-divided into Parishes. Each Parish had a "curé" (priest) as its religious head and a captain of militia as the local authority in civil and military matters.
Each district, except the Gaspé, had seigneuries. In 1760 the Gouvernements were:
  • Quebec City,
  • Trois-Rivières,
  • Montreal.
See Paroisses et Missions du Quebec, Hormisdas Magnan, 1925, which provides the history of each parish and the names of the towns, counties, etc., of Quebec. The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Montreal owns various collections of Seigneurial documents.