MSS-042-The Upper Saint John River Valley Land Grants

Episode 042-January 12, 2016 Header

French-Canadian News

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The American-French Genealogical Society

The AFGS has a class coming up on Saturday, January 30, at 9 AM. Patty Locke will present ‘Using PRDH to Research your Ancestors.’ Classes take place at the AFGS library in Woonsocket, RI.

The Franco-American Centre, Manchester, New Hampshire

Thursday, January 14, 2016, at 7:30 PM, at the Dana Center Lecture Room, the Franco-American Centre of Manchester will present Aurore Eaton, the author of The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company: A History of Enterprise on the Merrimack River. You will learn about the history and the people who were part of the corporation that produced, among other things, the denim used to make the first Levis blue jeans, steam fire engines, and muskets for the Union army during the Civil War.

Upper Saint John River Valley Land Grants

The land on the border between northern Maine and New Brunswick was disputed territory until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. Settlers on the disputed land had to prove ownership. To do so, genealogically-rich records were created that are a boon to researchers today.

Map: Webster-Ashburton Treaty

By Quebec localisation carte.svg: Q-Rieux 21 juin 2011 derivative work: Dr Wilson –Dr Wilson (talk) 04:30, 27 September 2011 (UTC) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

George Findlen (from episode #35) joined us for a discussion of the Upper Saint John River Valley Land Grants. We covered the following topics:

The location of the St. John River Valley

  • The boundary between the US and Canada was disputed until Webster and Ashburton agreed on a line between the two disputed borders. This area was already populated.
  • The Upper St. John River Valley is an approximately 70-mile long border between the state of Maine and New Brunswick.
  • This “disputed land’ was historically a well-travelled route, used also by the military, between Halifax and Québec by way of the Madawaska River, Temiscouata Lake, and a 40-mile overland route.
  • The treaty basically drew a line down the middle of the Upper St. John River. A previously unified community now found itself divided with the people living on the northern bank continuing as Canadian citizens and those on the southern bank now finding themselves to be Americans.
  • French-Canadians/Acadians from Hartford County, Connecticut, may very possibly trace their ancestors back to the Upper St. John River Valley and on to Acadia as a large number of people from this region moved to Connecticut looking for work.

History of Settlement

  • To escape deportation, many Acadians fled to the St. John River and remained there from 1755 to 1758.
  • In 1758, Acadians were removed from the St. John River Valley also, and many ended up in Kamouraska County. After that, they moved to an area about six miles north of Fredericton, consisting of virgin forest, and stayed there about fifteen years.
  • A land development scheme called the St. John Society permitted Acadian/French-Canadian families to settle on the St. John River at a place later called French Village.
  • During the period right after the Revolutionary War, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were one. The British government settled Loyalists there after the war but stipulated that land not be taken from those with legal claim to it. Due to legalities, in 1785, those who had received land from the St. John Society lost their property.
  • About half of the blended Acadian/French-Canadian families moved to the southern shore of Miramichi Bay, to Baie du Vin and Baie Ste. Anne in eastern New Brunswick.
  • Sixteen families went north to the Madawaska Settlement, or the Upper St. John Valley. Louis Mercure, a courrier, suggested to the governor of Canada that these “loyal British subjects” be allowed to settle at the mouth of the Madawaska, halfway between Québec and Halifax, so they could defend the military route. It was agreed.
  • From 1785-1845, families lived here. Their sons moved along the river and settled their own farms, becoming squatters. Both the American and Canadian governments agreed not to give more deeds than had originally been given (those by the Canadian government in 1790 and 1794 and the two given by the state of Maine in the early 1800s) until the border dispute was solved.

The Database

  • In 2014, the Congrès Mondial Acadien was held in Aroostock County, Maine; Madawaska County, New Brunswick; and Temiscouata, Québec. At the Moncton University Campus in Edmundston, Madawaska County, there is a museum of Madawaska history with an exhibit telling the history of the settlers of the St. John Valley, including a 20-foot-plus wide aerial map of the Valley superimposed by a map of the 1844 land grants.
  • Article 4 of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty stated that if someone had lived and farmed on these lands for six years, cleared the land and built a house and a barn, then they received a grant to those lands. This applied to both the Canadian and the American sides of the St. John River.

Accessing the Database

Step 1: Go to Take time to explore the various tabs at the top of the page. You can click ‘FR’ to access the website in French. expoatf tabs Step 2: On the right, click on the small map under the words ‘Find Your Family on the Map.’ You are now on a web page, located on the servers at Laval University in Québec City, which shows a map of the Upper St. John River Valley. For now, leave the defaults in the box in the upper right of the screen.

expoatf link to map Click on map.

Step 3: In the upper left, click on ‘Recherche.’ In the search box, type in a surname. Use your genealogical sleuthing skills to determine if you have the correct person or just someone with the same name. Also, be sure to scroll to the bottom to look for your person because sometimes the names are listed under surname and sometimes by given name.

expoatf recherche Click ‘Recherche.’
expoatf-martin search Search for surname.

Step 4: After clicking on a name, you will be taken to his or her plot of land on the map. A brown background indicates the Canadian side, and you’ve struck pay dirt. A gray background means you are on the American side, and you are out of luck. The depositions on the American side have not been located and are likely lost. The black dash on each property indicates the location of your ancestor’s house as of 1840.

expoatf-Basile Martins land Basile Martin’s land. Click ‘Details.’

Step 5: Click on ‘Details’ in the pop-up box to access the deposition in both English and French. You will often find family information spanning two or three generations. Zoom out to see where relatives were located in relation to each other.

expoatf-Basile Martins deposition

Basile Martin’s deposition

Further Research

In the Atlas of Aroostook County, Maine by Roe & Colby, 1877, you will find different names associated with each lot. To follow the possession of the land after 1845, do the following:

Take the name of the settler (or the owner’s child or grandchild who might have inherited) to the Service Nouveau Brunswick for land on the Canadian side (Carrefour Assomption, Edmundston); for the American side, go to the Northern Registry of Deeds, Fort Kent, Maine.

To use the grantor/grantee index, look up the settler as the grantor to determine to whom he sold the land. Look up that grantee as the grantor, and continue to follow the path of ownership through the years.


Final Thoughts

  • When you go to the website, click on ‘Find Your Family on the Map,’ search for ancestor, and bring up his piece of land, you might discover that the overlay map is in blocks and incomplete. This problem has been going on for a while, and George suggested we contact the University of Laval to inform them of the problem. The squeaky wheel, and all that.
  • So I emailed the Geostat Center at the Laval University Library and received a very nice response from Stéfano saying that they are investigating the problem and will try to fix it. Perhaps it will even be fixed before this episode is actually published. So fingers crossed.

Surviving buildings

How to Contact George Findlen

You can reach George at findleng [at] gmail [dot] com.


And the Winner Is…

From episode 41, the winner of the year’s associate membership to the Society of the King’s Daughters and Carignan Soldiers, including two issues of Sent by the King, is Camille Boucher from Ohio. Congratulations, Camille!


From episode #41: What do you like best about the Maple Stars and Stripes podcast? [MEDIA: Pie Graph] The top three answers were:

  • 1st place: 32%-the interviews with experts
  • 2nd place: 26%-segments on researching and actual record groups
  • 3rd place: 16%-language tips

This episode’s survey: What one thing would you want to see me change or eliminate in the podcast? Why? This survey is totally anonymous, so feel free to tell me how you really feel! Here’s your chance to make your opinion count. I’ll announce the summary of responses in episode #43. And remember, no matter when you listen to this podcast, whether it be ten days or ten months from now, you can still participate in the survey because I will be publishing yearly updates.


From here on, you’ll only be able to leave comments on the show notes page, not the blog page. This will keep everything in one place.

Acadian Ancestral Tour 2016

For our new listeners, if you have Acadian ancestors, consider participating in the Acadian Ancestral Tour 2016 next July. Join Lucie LeBlanc Consentino, And Away We Go Travel, and myself on a summer trip to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Walk in your ancestors’ footsteps. Look out over the land where they said good-bye to their homes. Enjoy the Grand-Pré Acadian Festival where our own Lucie LeBlanc Consentino will give a presentation. Stephen White will join us for dinner and a talk. There will be museums and seafood and a guided tour of Annapolis Royal by none other than Alan Melanson. Don’t miss out. There are only seven seats left! Check out the itinerary, then follow these instructions to sign up for this genealogy trip of a lifetime!

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