Historical Notes
on the Seigniories of New France

Here's an of the seigniorial or feodal system. The early registers of
the colony's beginning refer to those locations, not to the actual municipalities.

The Seigniorial or Feodal system

In the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, the territory of New France
was legally called the Domain and was owned by the Crown.

The King of France (or his procurators) granted lands to the nobles,
rich citizens or to reward good services rendered
to their country. For example some army officers.

These lands were called seigniories or fiefs. Its owner was the Seignior.
The Seignior had to build and live in a Manor, grant lands,
swear allegiance to the King, make a report on the inhabitants
of his seigniory, pay the Quint's rights or the revenue
of one year, build a mill, reserve the Oak wood and
the mines' products for the King and reserve lands for the roads.

Part of the seigniory remained as of the Seignior's Domain.
It could be made of one or several tracks of land.
The rest was divided into parcels that were
granted to inhabitants called the grantees.

Those grantees had to build and live in their house, to cultivate their land,
 erect fences, pay the different taxes to their Seignior
(cens, rents, banalities, quints, etc…), keep part of their land for the
construction of a road, reserve a quantity of wood for the construction
and heating of the Seignior's buildings, pay his fishing
and hunting rights, do their annual chores, etc..

The Seigniory could contain a communal land serving
as pasture for the cattle. The inhabitants had
to pay a tax to the Seignior to have the right to use it.

The Seignior could grant part of his seigniory as a fief.
Its owner would become seignior of this fief and would be empowered
with the same rights as the original Seignior but he would be
under his the power. He could also grant a fief if he wishes to.

A seigniory could be owned by more than one seigniors
in case of a sale or an inheritance. The seigniories were indivisible
by law but very often its income was divided between the coseigniors.

The parcel of lands were granted along a river or in a range.
The word  "range" designates the road leading to the tracks of land.
The word "montée" designates the roads that lead to the interior lands.

The Seigniories' territory is not necessarily the same
as the parishes' territory. A seigniory could contain more
than one parish or only represent a small part of one.

The measurements were made in Leagues. One League was 2 280 toises.
One toise was 6 feet. One league represented a little less than 4,5 km or 2.75 miles.

The superficie of the lands was measured in arpents.
One arpent was a litlle bigger than an acre. One linear arpent equaled 10 perches.
One perche was 20 feet. One arpent represented 65 meters or 213 feet.

With the help of these equivalences and Misters Courville
and Labrecque's work, the re-drawing of the original position
of the seigniories was attempted on actual maps. Keep in mind that their
delimitations were only made in the XIXth century, which is
in many cases, more than 150 years after they were conceded.

The land surveyors had to adjust the original territory because
 of the creation of new elements that did not exist in those days.
For example the Canada and the United States frontieer.

Certain territories were "reconstructed" and do not logically correspond
to the original will of the King's procurators under the French regime.

The re-drawing of the seigniories' delimitations was based on the land
grants which were sometimes more or less lacking in information.
The result is not scientifically accurate
but is probably pretty close to the historical reality.

To complete this explication you can consult a land grant from Patrick Murray,
procurator of the seignior James Murray, to James Robinson of Argenteuil :

These documents are courtesy of one of James Robinson's descendants, Renée Gauthier.


Translated by Renée Gauthier

© Alain Chebroux, Count of Argenteuil : www.count-argenteuil.com
© Count Alain Chebroux of Argenteuil. The Seigniory and the County :