Friday, January 14, 2011

What Is A French Arpent of Land?

An acre of land was larger than the arpent. An acre covered 120 perches carres(square).

When reading documents about land our ancestors owned, we often see references made to a certain number of arpents under cultivation or not under cultivation, especially in census records.

An arpent is a measurement and has nothing to do with the condition of land. An arpent is about 192 feet in length but is also used to specify a quantity of land such as an acre. It seems that the quantity of an arpent would be a square arpent but the word square is not used.

In the early days of New France everyone wanted and needed land with river frontage. So most lots were 2 or 3 arpents of frontage. These lots went back 20 to 40 arpents.

If you drive from Québec City to Ste-Anne or around the Isle d'Orléans, you can see the fence lines that still conform to those measurements. In some cases descendants of the original owners are still on the property.

Old French measurements

Linear 12 linge = 1 Pouce
18 Pied = 1 Perche
12 Pouce = 1 Pied
180 Pied = 1 Arpent
6 Pied = 1 Toise
A lieue(League) = 3.1 miles

  • Area

  • Arpent Carrée = 0.846 Acres This was usually simply called an Arpent so you must know the context in which arpent was used.

  • French-English equivalents

  • French English Pied 1.066 feet Toise 6.396 feet Arpent 191.88 feet

    A man said to be 5 feet 4 inches tall by early French measurements would actually be 5 feet 8 1/4 inches tall by our measurements. An easy way to convert is to change the height to inches, multiply by 1.066, then change back to feet and inches.

    Most of the above is from "Our French-Canadian Ancestors" by Laforest. The table is in Vol 1 Appendix B1 and Vol 22 page 273(Same as Vol 1) Also in Vol 1 Appendix D2,3,4 are maps
    of the property lines through Chateau-Richer, L'Ange Gardien, and Ste-Anne in 1680. I'm sure you have some ancestors there.

    This information courtesy of Ray Roux of Mexico, New York.


    The acre was larger than the arpent. An acre covered 120 perches carres(square).

    1 linear acre=192 feet
    1 square arpent=36864 square feet
    1 league=84 arpents=3 miles
    1 toise=6.4 feet
    1 square toise=40 square feet

    16 oz.=1 livre
    100 livres=1 quintal

    ballot-bale=120 livres
    1 pinte=1 quart
    1 pot=half gallon
    1 velte=2 gallons

    a baril(keg)=35-40 pots
    tonne=46 pots
    barriquet (hoghead)=140 pots

    2 litrons=1 quart
    4 quarts=1 boisseau-bushel
    3 boisseux=1 minot
    4 minots=1 setier

    1 minot=8 gallons or 1.05 bushels

    © Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
    Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
    1998 - Present


    Cynthia Shenette said...

    This is very interesting! Thank you for posting on this topic. I didn't know the specifics, but I did notice the arpent land tracts on maps seemed to be long and narrow and abutted the river.

    I learned something new today!

    Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

    Thanks for you comment Cynthia.

    I scratched my head for a long time trying to understand the difference between an arpent and an acre lol.. it dawned on me today that I should share that information.


    Anonymous said...

    I haven't read your blog, but I did want to contact you. I didn't see an email, so here you go. My name is Chad Marquis and I live in Florida. I'm very interested in my genealogy and would love some help from you. My email is Thanks for your work and your help.

    Louisiana Genealogy Blogs said...

    Thank you for putting the math to genealogy! In this document is says on page 685 that an ARPENT is a former land measure, of 100 perches, which were 22 square feet. Louisiana: A guide to the state By Federal Writer's Project, Louisiana Writers' Project. Google Books

    Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

    Hi.. thank you for your post.