End of the Seigneurial System
Quebec Act of 1774
Following the British acquisition of New France, and the signing of the Peace of Paris in 1763 some adjustments were necessary to the Seigneurial (land holding) system. In the legal arena, English criminal law was adopted, but it was found necessary to retain French civil law, and these facets were recognized in the Quebec Act of 1774.
Lower Canada and Upper Canada Created in 1791
Following the American Revolution, the large influx of Loyalists from the US created major problems of adjustment between two quite different peoples in terms of their systems; legal, religious and social. This problem was partially solved in 1791 by splitting Quebec into two parts: Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). Many of the Loyalists settled in the Sorel area, Eastern Townships, and some in the Chateauguay Valley areas, where an early attempt at a Crown grant scheme, instead of the Seigneurial system, was made.
Seigneurial System Abolished in 1854
From 1763 to 1791, various schemes were tried to move from the Seigneurial system. Finally in 1854, it was abolished, and all land became freehold, not without problems, and more years were to pass before it was finalized.
Printed guides are available at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec of those who held land under Seigneurial tenure when the system was abolished.
In the conversion process, the land identification also had to be rationalized and a renumbering took place.
Under the British system, acquisition of Crown land was by petition to the Governor, stating the reason for a grant. Generally a petition, when found, will give more genealogical information than the subsequent patent or deed, which will give, however, a land description, location and acreage.
In Quebec, List of Lands Granted by the Crown in the Province of Quebec from 1763 to 31st December 1890, arranged by townships within counties, and indexed by grantees, was published in 1891 by order of the Quebec Legislature. Records of subsequent transactions are the responsibility of the Ministère de la Justice, operating through the Bureaux d'enregistrement of the various judicial districts. (There are currently 55 different land record offices. While you can do your own research, there is an hourly rate charged, and you will require an address, i.e., street or lot and concession.)
Researching Quebec Land Records
QFHS owns a copy of List of Lands Granted by the Crown in the Province of Quebec from 1763 to 31st December 1890 in our Library, and our volunteers can do searches for you.
Reading the preamble in the List of Lands Granted by the Crown in the Province of Quebec from 1763 to 31st December 1890 provides insight into the problems encountered in the transition from the French to the English land grant system, and the deals that occurred. All the major/fraud grants are listed and you may find one of your ancestors listed there. In addition, it may help with your understanding of the land granting process at a particular point in time after 1763.
It has been said that in Ontario it is easier to find a land record than a person, and in Quebec, it is easier to find a person than a land record. Recognizing the historical background, with all its changes, the underlying truth of this statement for the earlier period becomes evident.