The Seigneurial System in Quebec and Migration
to the Ottawa / Gatineau area in the 1800's
August 29, 2009: (new graphic showing seigneuries along the St. Lawrence River)
Graphic Source: A Historical Atlas of Canada, Edited by D.G.G. Kerr,
University of Western Ontario, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Second Edition, 1966, page 25
December 21, 2005:
Many of the early French families who came to the Ottawa and Hull area beginning
in the 1820's, came from the seigniories located in the Montreal area. Also, some
came from seignieuries which extended along the north shore of the Ottawa River, from
Montreal to about Thurso, Quebec.
One of the seigniories was called La Petite Nation and the manor house was at Montebello, Quebec.
It was owned by the Louis Joseph Papineau family beginning in 1801. Early church
records in Ottawa, Buckingham, etc. often mention the place of origin of the
early settlers in the Ottawa area. Quite a few families, mostly French but some
Irish, came from La Petite Nation or nearby seignieuries around 1828 to work on
the building of the Rideau Canal or to establish farms here. (See also Canal Francophones).
Some also came to this area as early as 1810 to work for Philemon Wright.
Thanks to Frank Watters for the following information:
In the register for Rigaud, I don't believe it said where the Sloan
family was living. I usually note it only when they are NOT from the
parish. Usually the priests showed their place of residence when they
performed a church ceremony. But I'd have to go back and see if they
mentioned if the parents were from the Rigaud parish or not.
For example, here's one I didn't send before, because I wasn't sure of
the family name. But perhaps someone would recognize the family if it
moved to Ottawa later:
SLIVIN??, Patrick, 18 yrs old, son of Patrick and Margaret FLANIGAN,
died in Argenteuil. It wasn't possible to know the place of residence
of the parents of the deceased. Wit. Francois Seguin & Francois
Regimbald. (The note regarding the lack of place of residence was
written in the register by the priest)
(Note: I think that this likely refers to the Slavin family who came to Bytown ... Al)
The Albert, Dugas - dit - Labreche, and Joanisse families came from the
Seigniory of Argenteuil. There was also a Blais family, there and they
eventually moved to Ottawa as well. Many of the earliest Ottawa French
Canadian families came from St Hermas, St Augustin, Ste Scholastique, St
Benoit (Damour dit - Potvin), St Eustache, Rigaud, Vaudreuil. I think
they followed the bush operations, expecially after about 1830.
They had also worked at building the Grenville Canal.
According to a book I read on the area, many of the farms by then had
run into hard times while the Seigniors continued to raise the rent (one
of the forgotten reasons for the 1837 rebellion). During the early
1800's there was a lucrative trade in the potash business because of the
wars in Europe (used in making gun-powder, glass, & soap), plus the land
still had virgin forests. But when there were no more trees and the
farms became unproductive, that's when the families left. Surprisingly,
the French Canadian farmer, before the Conquest, didn't know too much
about crop rotation and the use of manure as a fertilizer. That was
brought in by the Scotch, supposedly.
Regarding the Seigniories north-east of Montreal, where most of the
Ottawa French Canadian people came from, there is a book that you could
read, in French, that was written by a fellow by name of
Serge Laurin. It's entitled "Histoire des Laurentides" and covers the
settlement of the area from the beginning to the 1900's, including
demographics, religion, etc.. It's a well written book; very
informative and balanced. He's very fair in his comments. But mostly,
it's very informative. You can see that one of the main goals of the
French Canadian clergy was to stop the progress of Anglo Protestantism
and Anglo Catholicism in the area. Which they succeeded very well. Even
St. Andrews East, which was settled by Protestant Scots has now become
St-Andre d'Argenteuil and has very few Anglos in its population.
As you probably know, St Andrews, Quebec, had the "East" attached to it,
so as not to confuse it with St Andrews "West" in Glengarry County which was
settled by Catholic Scots from the highlands, about the same time.
The book was published by the Institut quebecois de recherche sur la
culture. It should be on the shelves of the Ottawa Public Library.
Regarding what I wrote, I have no objection to any reproduction. Once
your map is up, I think I may be able to get a fresh copy of the various
"cotes" and "rangs" that existed at that time in the Seigniories of
Argenteuil and Deux-Montagnes so that readers, if they know the
location where their ancestors came from, will be able to find it. I
have a couple of copies, but they are not very clear. I could try and
get better copies made from either the Archives or the Grande
Bibliotheque, depending on where that part of the Montreal Library
I'm trying to locate a good map showing the seigniories in the Montreal area.
There is one in one of my books here and when I find it, I'll scan it for
this web page.
I'm also interested in the migration of French Canadian farmers to
North and South Plantagenet Townships, half way between Ottawa and Montreal.
Somewhere (again) there's a good article in my so-called filing system. I think
that many of these farmers came from the seigniories along the north shore of
the Ottawa River, in Quebec, beginning in the 1850's.
There will be more to come for this page.
January 13, 2006:
The textbook for the Winter 2006 course at Carleton on the History of Quebec (HIST 3301)
contains a detailed explanation of the seigneurial system in Quebec. The textbook is
A Short History of Quebec (it's not all THAT short!) by John Dickinson and
Brian Young, McGill- Queen's University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-7735-2450-9. See pages 31-33.
It also contains some maps but not the one I want. The maps show that about half
of the seigneuries were owned by the Catholic Church (for example the Sulpicians
owned the siegneury of Montreal and Oka). The other half of the seigneuries were owned
by private landholders who formed part of the Quebec nobility under the ancien regime
of France (before 1763) and England (after 1763). Oka / Kanesatake was a seigneury on its own.
The article regarding French migration to Prescott County is Boom and Bust:
The Demography and Economy of the Lower Ottawa Valley in the Nineteenth Century,
by Chad Gaffield (White Binder #3).
January 15, 2006:
Paul Phillion (Philion / Filion) came to Bytown from Terrebonne, Lower Canada,
a seigneury owned by the Montreal fur trader Simon McTavish.
Here's a quote from Dickinson and Young:
Simon McTavish (1750-1804) was a dominant fur trader in the Northwest Company.
Born in Scotland, he emigrated to New York, USA, and traded at Detroit, USA, and
Michilimackinac before moving his operations to Montreal at the end of the
American Revolution. With capital acculumated in the fur trade, McTavish emulated
other rich anglophone merchants by buying a seigneury. His seigneury at Terrebonne
represented more than status and a secure investment for his merchant capital;
besides the seigneurial grist mill, McTavish opened a bakery, a sawmill and a
barrell factory to supply fur traders in the west.
January 31, 2006:
The following is part of an e-mail from Christine. She has sent along an
interesting link to St. Columbans which is north-west of Montreal:
I will add another bit of information. Many Catholic Irish settled in the
Mirabel region of Quebec - my ancestor, Michael McLean (aka McLaughlin)
apparently arrived here around 1820. There are villages such as St-Canut,
Ste-Scholastique and St-Columban which had large Irish populations. There is
a relatively new website about the Irish in St-Columban
http://www.stcolumban-irish.com/. I am sure many Irish who ended up in this
area started out there.
(Christine is researching the Mousseau, David and McLean families ... Al)
I believe those villages were part of that seigneury. I had found this
letter a while ago at the Rootsweb site:
http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/QUEBEC/1999-05/0927174123 which may
contribute to your research. It is written by Frank Watters.
March 2, 2006:
The north-west corner of Osgoode Township in the 1800's was mainly Roman Catholic.
Some of these folks had connections to the Oka / Kanesatake area of Quebec, including St. Columbans and
Ste. Scholastique. Some possible family connections include surnames at this link.
December 15, 2009:
Watermills in the New World
One of the first requirements of the settlements in the new world was a water mill. These were used to grind grain, to power looms for
making textile products and also to more easily saw lumber.
In Quebec, the construction of the first mill was the responsibility of the owner of the seigneury. In Ontario, private
individuals usually built the first mills. Waterfront property on a continuous-flowing river was most valuable.
Source: Watermills of Ontario, Quebec and Maritime Canada, by W. Stephen Cooper,
McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited (Toronto and Montreal), ISBN 07-549594-5, page 104
November 6, 2010:
Visit our web page for the seigniory at Longueiul, Ontario. It became a township in Eastern Ontario.
September 12, 2011:
Thanks to Gaelynn for sending us the following link:
I found this book while searching the free books at Google. It is a Canada Archives document and contains some
ownership details of the seigniories, parish register of Montreal around 1762 (marriages, christenings, burials),
and lots of tidbits on early Quebec.
February 18, 2012:
Here is an excellent book written by Cyrus Thomas in 1896:
History of the Counties of Argenteuil, Quebec and Prescott, Ontario, by Cyrus Thomas, Montreal, 1896, John Lovell and Son
Reproduced by GlobalGenealogy.com and included in our bibliography.
July 11, 2013:
Sylvain Desforges and a group of researchers are studying the early Irish Settlement at Rigaud Mountain in Vaudreuil County, Quebec.
February 6, 2015:
The seigneurial system was phased out in the first half of the 19th century in Lower Canada. By that time they
were over-populated and there was no good land to claim on the individual seigneiries. As a result, many agricultural
labourers moved to the Ontario side of the Ottawa River to settle on better farmland in Eastern Ontario. This resulted in
the large francophone population today in Eastern Ontario between Ottawa and Montreal.
Here is part of a government document from the 1850's which shows the official break-up of the seigneurial system in Lower Canada.
At the same time, the anachronistic Clergy Reserve system was abolished in Upper Canada.
Source: Read more at A Future Defined: Canada from 1849 to 1873, published by Library and Archives Canada,
written by George Bolotenko, 1992, ISBN 0-6601441-5, page 147
and here is another great book, also at the OBOGS library: The Seigneurial System in Early Canada, A Geographical Study,
by Richard Colebrook Harris, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Milwaukee and London, 1966, no ISBN, 247 pages.
August 9, 2016:
A classic article is by Fernand Ouelett - The Rural Economic Crisis in Lower Canada. This article is re-printed in
Readings in Canadian Social History, Volume 2, Pre-Industrial Canada, 1760-1849, edited by Michael S. Cross and
Gregory S. Kealey, McClelland and Stewart, ISBN 0-7710-2461-4, 1982, 1991, pages 40-58.
E-mail Frank, Christine, Gaelynn Wall and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa, Canada area