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The origins of the Seigneiural system were adopted from the feudal system in France to suit the conditions of North America. The intent of the system was to distribute, settle and cultivate the land with a structure which would support a land owning aristocracy similar to the nobles in France.

There system had two basic levels with the Seigneurs at the top. The Seigneurs were granted large parcels of land which usually consisted of a tract of land which had some waterfront along the St Lawrence or other river. The Seigneurs were granted their title and property in a ceremony which was usually conducted in New France at the Castle St. Louis. Their obligation to the King was to conduct a survey and census of the property, list the animals and resources and provide a system of defence for the land if under attack by the Kings enemies. His sworn loyalty to the King, and in the Kings name the Governor, obligated him to insure that the land would be productive and profitable for himself and hence the colony.

Under the Seigneurs came the censitaires who committed themselves to paying a yearly rent and providing a certain amount of services to the Seigneurs in exchange for a grant of land to work. The censitarie could expect certain additional services from the Seigneurs such as an administrative centre for managing the system, a mill to grind the grain, and  a court to settle issues or disagreement between the censitaries. The censitaries would be required to provide military service when the colony was threatened and pay an additional minimal fee to the crown.

As long as the Seigneurs met their obligations their land would be handed down through their family as the censitaries could also insure continued family occupancy of their section by living up to their obligations. The land grants to the Seigneurs tended to be planned in long thin strips in order to accommodate the need by each grant to access the river - see map above. The water access to rivers tended to dictate the size and layout of the grants.