Quebec Historical Geography

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The present province of Québec has not always been known by that name. And it has not always included the same territory. For the sake of consistency, the name Québec has been used in most FamilySearch Wiki articles.

1660s–1763: Canada or New France. It was a vaguely defined territory that included Québec, areas surrounding the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, and land now in the Ohio River Valley of the United States.

1763: Canada. New France was turned over to Great Britain.

1774–1783: Québec. The territory was officially renamed in the Québec Act.

1784: Québec. The Peace of Paris of 1783 took away some of the territory and turned it over to the United States. Boundaries were more clearly defined.

1791–1841: Lower Canada. In 1791 the old province of Québec was divided into Upper Canada (now southern Ontario) and Lower Canada.

1841–1867: Canada East or Province of Canada. In 1841, Lower Canada was renamed Canada East. Between 1841 and 1867, Canada East was affiliated with Canada West (Ontario). Together they were called the "Province of Canada."

1867–present: Québec. Canada East was renamed Québec when it joined the new Dominion of Canada in 1867.

Municipal divisions and their names and functions have changed throughout the history of the province. Seigneuries (manors) were established on land grants from the king of France. (See Quebec Land and Property for information about seigneuries.) Up to 1763, the lower Saint Lawrence River Valley was generally divided into three "governments." The headquarters for the governments were in Montréal, Trois-Rivières, and Québec. Local villages, parishes, and seigneuries were under one of these governments.

France turned Québec over to Great Britain in 1763. The British introduced a system of counties and townships. Older counties retained their seigneuries. New counties were divided into townships. (See Quebec Land and Property.)

The part of the province directly north of Vermont was called the "Eastern Townships" (Cantons de l'Est). It was originally settled by English-speaking Protestants. Many of them were Americans with Loyalist connections. Many of their family names are in the history pages and township maps in:

Illustrated Atlas of the Eastern Townships and South Western Quebec. Second Reprinting.  Reprinted Edition 1881. Reprint, Stratford, Ontario, Canada: Cumming Publishers, 1980. (Family History Library Q book 971.4 E7i.)

Beginning about 1829, some of the British county names were changed to French names. Some townships were changed to municipalities, and their boundaries were changed to match parish boundaries. A summary of county name and boundary changes is in Jetté's Traité de Généalogie, pages 659–665. See Quebec For Further Reading for a complete description of this book.

The present local jurisdictions in Québec are based on the Municipalities and Roads of Lower Canada Act of 1855. They still include cities, towns, villages, parishes, and townships.

Recently, counties were replaced by larger regions called MRCs, "municipalités régionales de comté." Some gazetteers describe the past jurisdictions of Québec. See Quebec Gazetteers.

Modern municipal structure is described in:

  • Répertoire des municipalités du Québec, 1988(Gazetteer of Québec). Québec, Québec, Canada: Ministère des Communications du Québec, 1988. (Family History Library book 971.4 E5rm 1988.) Text in French.