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Genealogy and Family History

Explore your roots at VPL and beyond: resources and services for genealogists


Land records are very complex. There may be many transactions and documents relating to one parcel of land. Procedures and requirements for acquiring and transferring land -- and for the associated record-keeping -- may have changed over time.

A useful distinction to keep in mind when researching land records is the difference between Crown grants and private land transactions. All land originally belongs to the Crown -- that is, to the government. Crown land may be owned by the provincial or federal government which may grant it to individuals or corporations through means such as purchase, pre-emption, or auction. Once land has been alienated from the Crown and is privately owned, it can be transferred to others through private transaction.

Information on Canadian land records is available on the Library and Archives Canada's Land Records page.

The subject is also explored in Sharon Murphy's book: Researching Canadian Land Records.

Land Records ×


All historical land title and survey records relating to both Crown land and private property are managed by the Land Title and Survey Authority of B.C.(LTSA), but copies and related records and tools are available at other locations and online.
Vancouver Public Library owns back issues of the B.C. Gazette, a weekly government publication providing information about government activities. Part I includes information about transactions and activities relating to Crown land. Indexes to the B.C. Gazette list names of individuals applying to lease or purchase land, with references to corresponding entries in the main Gazette. The indexes are available at VPL beginning from 1901. B.C. Gazette is not indexed prior to this date.
Holdings of land records at the B.C. Archives and how to use them are described in two Research Guides:
As described in the guides, finding historical land records is a complex undertaking that may involve the use of both online and conventional tools, such as card catalogues and printed user guides. It may be necessary to contact the B.C. Archives for advice and assistance.
The LTSA's myLTSA Enterprise and Explorer services available through the Land Title and Survey Authority of B.C. offer access to land titles. A land title search currently requires payment of a statutory fee and service charge. Searches for historical land titles dating from 1980 are only available through myLTSA Enterprise.
Historic Crown Grants
Crown Grant records document and describe the sale or transfer of specific parcels of Crown land from the provincial government to private persons and organizations. There are three online databases for Historic Crown Grants in British Columbia. They all provide access to digitized images of documents. One is a searchable database while the other two are browsable; and one provides access to copies of documents for a fee while the other two offer access for free.
Browse digitized historic Crown grant documents for the period from 1851-1874. The grants are arranged in registration number order. This is a browsable collection; there is no nominal search.
Browse digitized historic Crown grant documents for the period from 1889-1903. The grants are arranged in registration number order. There are separate index volumes which cover one or more annual volumes of land grant registers. This is a browsable collection; there is no nominal search.
Pre-emptions are purchased land that has not been fully surveyed. The pre-emption registers summarize the information from the pre-emption certificates.  Volumes are organized by location and there is an alphabetical index in the back of each volume.
Access historic Crown grant information for the period from 1860 to 1930. Results include the date, land district, and name of the person to whom the grant was issued, as well as a reference to the B.C. Archives' microfilm on which you can find the complete record. Thumbnail images of the Crown grant document and tracing (a colour plan of the lot) are provided, and full copies can be ordered online.*
Tip: Use the Historic Crown Grant Search to search for records and then access and save digitized records from the British Columbia, Crown Land Grant Records, 1851-1874 and/or the British Columbia, Crown Land Grants, 1869-1930 FamilySearch record collections using the information provided in the Historic Crown Grant Search database (date, number, volume, etc.).
Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930
While most of B.C. was provincial Crown Land, two areas -- the Railway Belt and Peace River Block -- were federal Crown Land, and could be alienated from the Crown through the federal homesteading process (similar to pre-emption). The Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930 database, hosted by Library and Archives Canada, indexes Letters Patent issued to homesteaders in Western Canada. Letters Patent were one-page documents, issued to confirm title to a parcel of land. Additional information is available through homestead files and applications at the B.C. Archives.
Dominion Land Branch Records, 1885-1949
The Dominion Land Branch Records, 1885-1949 record collection from FamilySearch contains images of various land records for British Columbia including Land Files (1885-1949); Index Maps (1910-1927); Township General Registers (1885-1930); and Homestead Grant Registers (1886-1930). The Land Files contain applications for homestead entry, applications for patents, and correspondence and registers relating to land settlement in the Railway Belt and the Peace River Block. Several indexes are included in the images.
More websites are to the left in the box titled Websites of Interest.


The Library's collection includes several printed titles with information relating to historic Ontario land transactions.
Index to the Upper Canada Land Books is a 9-volume index covering the period from 1787 to 1841. The Index is based on a series of Land Books. The Land Books contained the most formal copy of the records of the Land Committee of the Executive Council, which considered petitions for land grants. Petitions supported by the Land Committee and approved by the Council then became the subject of an Order-in-Council. Neither the Minutes or Orders provide a great deal of information about individual petitioners, but the Land Petitions are very informative. The Index to the Upper Canada Land Books can be used to locate references that can then be used to identify microfilms from Library and Archives Canada - both of the Land Books and the Land Petitions. The digitized microfilm for the Upper Canada Land Books is available online through the Heritage project.
Also available online from Library and Archives Canada are:
Other printed items in the VPL collection relating to Ontario land records can be found in the Land Records - Ontario booklist.
VPL also owns a microfiche copy of the Ontario Archives Land Record Index. The Index provides access to Crown Land and related records found in two sets of records at the Archives of Ontario: the Canada Company fonds and the Peter Robinson fonds. The records cover the period ca.1780 - ca.1920. If a relevant index entry is found in the Ontario Land Record Index, you can order corresponding records on microfilm from the Archives of Ontario. Detailed information about the Index is available in the Archives of Ontario's online Research Guide, Using the Ontario Land Records Index ca. 1780 - ca. 1920.
The Archives of Ontario website also includes the following useful online guides to researching land records:
The Archives of Ontario also hosts Second Heir and Devisee Commission Case Files, a database that contains over 5000 case files dating from 1804 to 1895 documenting claims for land made to the Second Heir and Devisee Commission.
More websites are to the left in the box titled Websites of Interest.


There are two main types of New Brunswick land records - petitions and grants.

The process of obtaining Crown Land in New Brunswick included presenting a petition to the authorities stating the reasons for wanting the land and often included family information. An online Index to Land Petitions: Original Series, 1783-1918 is available.

A small number of records from what became New Brunswick are also available in Nova Scotia petitions 1769-1799 ~ Cape Breton Island petitions 1787-1843.

Land petitions from 1830 to 1966 are in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. There is no online index. These records are not as informative as the earlier ones.

VPL owns a microfilm Index to Grant Survey Return Plans, 1785-1985 for New Brunswick. The grant survey returns were drawn up as part of the process of acquiring a grant of Crown Land in New Brunswick. If an individual's (or corporate body's) petition was approved, a warrant was drawn up for the Surveyor General to survey the lands. The warrant and a completed plan of the surveyed lands had to be returned within six months. The Index to Grant Survey Return Plans, 1785-1985 shows the names of people and provides reference to corresponding grant surveys in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

Although less informative than petitions as they tend to give only names and land descriptions, Land Grants can still be useful for genealogical research.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

An online index is available. See Index to New Brunswick Land Grants, 1784 - 1997 to conduct a search and the RS686 New Brunswick Land Grant Records PDF finding aid for information on these records.

Ordering Microfilms or Copies of Records
Microfilms referenced in these databases may be borrowed through the interlibrary loan program from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (free). A copy of the file may be requested for a fee from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

More websites are to the left in the box titled Websites of Interest.


Nova Scotia petitions 1769-1799 ~ Cape Breton Island petitions 1787-1843 is a searchable database for early petitions (often called 'Memorials') made to government by individuals or groups of people seeking grants of Crown Land for settlement purposes in the colonies of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. The information in this database has been carefully transcribed from index cards prepared many years ago to summarize the contents of individual petitions. All basic information (names, biographical details, immigration history, etc.) contained in the originals has been thoroughly and accurately transcribed.

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