Land Records

Before Confederation in 1867, Canada consisted of several British colonies: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canadas (present-day Quebec and Ontario).

The British North America Act of 1867 established Crown Lands as a provincial responsibility. Only land petitions for Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec) were retained by the Government of Canada.

With the acquisition of Rupert's Land in 1869, western lands came under federal control. In 1930, responsibility for Crown Lands was transferred to the provincial governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The federal government retained a copy of the original patents issued for these lands.  The actual homestead applications and files relating to the grants were transferred to the provincial archives.

Provincial and Territorial Land Records

Many references to land records can be found in provincial and territorial archives and government offices. For each province and territory, we present the main series of documents and online databases currently available.
 
Alberta
 
References to land grants for this province can be found by searching the Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930 database.
 
Homestead records are deposited with the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
 
The Alberta Genealogical Society has created the Alberta Homestead Index 1870-1930, a nominal index to a collection of land files held on microfilm and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. Many of these files relate to homestead lands granted in Alberta between 1870 and 1930.
 
Subsequent transactions are in the custody of the Land Registration Districts in Edmonton or Calgary.
 
Sales of agricultural land by the Canadian Pacific Railway to settlers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1881-1906, can be searched in the Glenbow Archives CPR Database.
 
British Columbia
 
References to land grants for this province can be found by searching the Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930 database.
 
 
The Land Title and Survey Authority holds the Crown grants and some related records.
 
Manitoba
 
References to land grants for this province can be found by searching the Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930 database.
 
Homestead registers, files, plans and fiats are in the custody of the Archives of Manitoba. A computer-generated list of all homesteaders, by name and land description, is available on microfiche.
 
Subsequent transfers of title are recorded in the district Land Titles offices.
 
Sales of agricultural land by the Canadian Pacific Railway to settlers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1881-1906, can be searched in the Glenbow Archives CPR Database.
 
New Brunswick
 
Indexes to land petitions, 1785-1918, and to land grants, 1784-1997, are available on the Web site of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.
 
The current series of land petitions covers the period 1832-1966. A card index for the years 1832-1866 is available at the Provincial Archives. A microfilm index for the years 1867-1966 is available through inter-institutional loan. Check under County Guides for information on land records in the individual counties.
 
Records of subsequent transactions are in the custody of the county Registry and Mapping offices.
 
Newfoundland and Labrador
 
The Registry of Crown Titles and Records holds land documents together with background information, applications and legal surveys dating back to the 1830s.
 
The Registry of Deeds has records relating to real estate in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador dating back to the early 1800s.
 
Northwest Territories
 
Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) Lands Administration Division is responsible for the administration of all Commissioner's lands of the Northwest Territories.
 
Nova Scotia
 
Land grants are in the custody of the Crown Land Information Management Centre.  The Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management holds microfilm copies of land grants and petitions, all of which are indexed. A database covering the years 1769 to 1843 is available online.
 
Search BosaNova for details about land records for other counties.
 
Records of subsequent transactions are held by the Land Registration Office in each county.
 
Nunavut
 
Nunavut became an official territory of Canada on April 1, 1999. Before that, it was part of the Northwest Territories.
 
The Legal Registries Division is responsible for the operation of the land titles Office.
 
Ontario
 
References to early land records, including petitions and grants for this province can be found by searching the following databases:
The Heir and Devisee Commission was established in 1797 to clarify the titles to lands. Library and Archives Canada holds most of the records of the first Heir and Devisee Commission (1797-1804) and some of the records of the second Commission (1805-1911). These records have been digitized and are available through the Heritage project.

The Archives of Ontario holds records for the Second Heir and Devisee Commission (1805-1911) and a small number of records of the first Commission (1797-1804).  It also holds numerous collections relating to land records such as land grants (patents), orders-in-council, township papers and petitions. Microfiche copies of the Ontario Land Records Index are available at most public libraries in Ontario.

The Canada Company (1825-1953) was granted large tracts of lands in southwestern Ontario during the 1800s and leased or sold it for settlement.  An index to the remittance books has been published: Genealogical extraction and index of the Canada Company remittance books, 1843-1847, by Ruth Holt and Margaret Williams, 1990.

Records of land transactions subsequent to the original grant or purchase are in the custody of the county/district Land Registry Offices.
 
Prince Edward Island

The Public Archives and Records Office has a large collection of land-related documents prior to 1900.

After that date, records are housed at the Registry of Deeds Office.

Quebec

In the province of Quebec, land distribution was originally based on the seigneurial system, established in 1627 and used until 1854.

Seigneuries were granted by the King to members of the "bourgeoisie," members of important families or former military officers. As proprietor of a seigneurie, the "seigneur" had privileges and obligations towards the King or his representative. The "seigneur" granted parcels of land (concessions) on his seigneurie to tenants called "censitaires."

The granting of land by the "seigneur" produced a notarial act. This contract gives:
  • the names of the parties;
  • the dimension and locality of the land; and
  • the various obligations of the "censitaire."
Consult our section on Notarial Records to find out how to locate such a contract.

Starting in 1763, new lands were granted according to the township system. Quebec was divided into counties that were divided into townships or "municipalités de paroisses."

References to land petitions for this province can be found by searching the Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764-1841 database.
A list of Crown grants, 1763-1890, arranged by townships within counties, and indexed by grantees, was published in 1891: Liste des terrains concédés par la Couronne dans la province de Québec, de 1763 au 31 décembre 1890. (french only)

Microfilm copies of the records listed in this book are available at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Requests for copies should be addressed to:

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
1012, avenue du Séminaire
CP 10450
Sainte-Foy, (Québec) 
G1V 4N1

In 1841, the government created Land registration system. Records of land transactions subsequent to the original grant or purchase are in the custody of the Bureau de la publicité des droits for each county or district.

Saskatchewan
 
References to land grants for this province can be found by searching the Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930 database.

The Saskatchewan Archives Board holds homestead records. A database is available online.
Copies of the patents for grants, and records of subsequent transactions, are located in the eight district Land Titles offices.
Sales of agricultural land by the Canadian Pacific Railway to settlers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1881-1906, can be searched in the Glenbow Archives CPR Database.
 
Yukon
 
All original land titles and documents for properties are registered and stored at the Yukon Land Titles Office.

Land Grants to Veterans

From the seventeenth century, the French and British governments encouraged former soldiers to settle in Canada. Loyalists received land grants after the American Revolution, as did Canadian militiamen following the War of 1812. The Government of Canada followed the same tradition with grants to veterans.
 
The Soldier Settlement Act (1917, 1919) and the Veterans' Land Act (1942) allowed veterans of the First and Second World Wars to purchase land with the help of government loans, with additional funds for livestock and equipment.
 
North West Rebellion (1885)
 
Land grants were available to veterans of the North West Rebellion (1885). Search for references to correspondence and files relating to those individuals in the Government of Canada Files (Archived) database.
 
Keywords: surname and 1885
Record Group: 15
 
South African War (1899-1902)
 
References to land grant applications can be found in the South African War database.
 
First and Second World Wars
 
Records of the Soldier Settlement Board for First and Second World War veterans are in the custody of:
 
Access to Information and Privacy Office
Veterans Affairs Canada
PO Box 7700
Charlottetown PE 
C1A 8M9
 
The settlement of Aboriginal veterans of the First and Second World Wars was administered by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (RG 10). Records can be searched using the Government of Canada Files (Archived) database.
 
Keywords: "soldier settlement" and the surname of the person
Record Group: 10