Ontario Land and Property

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Land survey marker at Rattlesnake Point, Milton, Ontario.

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Petitions are arranged by a numbering system based on the initial letter of the petitioner's surname and the sequence in which the petition was brought before the Land Committee. Includes reports, certificates, and other documentation submitted in support of individual requests and some lists of settlers by region.
Includes correspondence, petitions, reports, returns and schedules, certificates, accounts, warrants, legal opinions, instructions and regulations, proclamations and other documents received by the Civil and Provincial Secretaries of Upper Canada, 1791-1841. Also includes some reference documents, 1766-1809. Many letters concern land and military matters.



Importance of Land Records[edit | edit source]

  • Land record indexes are among the best tools for locating residents in Ontario before 1851 when few censuses and other province-wide records or indexes exist.
  • Many immigrants came to Ontario to claim available land, so land ownership was generally recorded soon after they arrived.
  • Also, wills were often copied into deed books and other land records instead of in probate records. Land records sometimes exist when other records are not available.

History of Ontario Land Records[edit | edit source]

  • The British crown (government) frequently offered prospective settlers free land grants.
  • The continuing settlement of Ontario was enhanced by large numbers of land grants to American Loyalists and their children who began moving into Ontario during the American War for Independence, 1775--.
  • In 1789, Land Boards were established in four Ontario districts, Hesse, Nassau, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg, to better organize the land granting process.
  • In 1791, Upper Canada (Ontario) was separated from Lower Canada (Quebec), so many land records of Ontario before 1791 are still in Quebec land records.
  • In 1794, Ontario Land Boards were dissolved— their authority and records were then transferred to the more centralized Executive Council.[1] The land registration system has now been replaced with a land title system, where title to the land is registered. Land title records are held by the Land Registry Offices.[2]
  • Until the early 1900’s, a large number of wills (more than half for some counties) were registered with the Land Registry Offices instead of being probated (homologated) in the Courts. Those wills were treated as land records. [2]

Types of Land Records[edit | edit source]

  • Instruments and deeds – these are the original documents filed by the parties. They include sales, bankruptcies, liens, wills, and other documents transferring or affecting ownership.
  • Copybooks of instruments and deeds – transcriptions made by Land Registry Office staff of instruments and deeds registered with them.
  • General Registers – transcriptions of wills filed at the Land Registry Offices, beginning in 1865; wills registered prior to 1865 would be found in the copybooks of instruments and deeds.
  • Abstract Indexes – indexes to the instruments and deeds for a given township or town, arranged by lot and concession (or subdivision) number.
  • Alphabetical Indexes – indexes to the instruments and deeds for a given township or town, arranged by name of the parties.

Information in Ontario Land Records[edit | edit source]

  • where and when ancestors lived in an area
  • the name of spouses, heirs, and other relatives
  • the names of neighbors (potentially relatives)
  • where ancestors lived previously
  • the occupation of ancestors
  • the relationship of ancestors to a Loyalist ancestor
  • when ancestors left the area and where they were moving
  • who transferred the land to an ancestor, and the person to whom the ancestor transferred it—people who are possibly relatives
  • Heir and Devisee Commissions records may explain a person's entitlement to land, such as military service or Loyalist ancestry. They may list:
    • the date of an application for land
    • the age of the applicant
    • and his place of birth.



Locating Ontario Land Records[edit | edit source]

There are many different types of land records, many different indexes. There is no one all-inclusive source or index. Search every available index for your time period. Some records only have alphabetical indexes built into the beginning pages. Some are only arranged by geographical description (concession and lot number). Again, search every possible record, even once you find your ancestors in one collection.

FamilySearch Records[edit | edit source]

Many abstract indexes, general registers, and deed and land records are filmed and digitized by FamilySearch. They are filed by county:
1. Click on FamilySearch Catalog.
2. In the Place search, type in "Canada, Ontario [county name]". Click "Search".
3. Scroll down to the "Land and property" and Land and property - indexes".
4. This will bring up specific record titles. You will be mostly using records entitled abstract indexes, general registers, land records, and deeds. The section of this article Ontario Land and Property will also help with using these records.
5. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.
6. Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
7. Some Ontario land records are indexed. Others are not indexed, but are organized geographically by their legal land description which includes the county, township, concession number, and lot number. Instructions for both methods follow.

Archives of Ontario[edit | edit source]

The records are also available through the Archives of Ontario: Ontario Land Registry Access

Research Guides and Instructions[edit | edit source]

Searching the Archives Records[edit | edit source]


Using indexes and land descriptions to locate records.[edit | edit source]

Search land records by index.[edit | edit source]

OnLand Records at My Moynahan Genealogy Blog give step-by-step instructions for using indexes and have some good illustrations:


Search land records arranged by description.[edit | edit source]

Finding the land description.[edit | edit source]

You may also find an ancestor in land records organized under the description of the land. In order to do this you must first identify their property (find the legal description). This legal description usually includes the county, township, concession number, and lot number.
Two types of records help identify an ancestor's land:

  • Censuses
  • Illustrated historical atlases
Censuses[edit | edit source]

A census was taken in Ontario (a.k.a. Canada West) every ten years starting in 1851. Every person is listed by name in each census' personal  or population  schedules. In selected census years important land information was also listed in separate agricultural  schedules, or listed in building and land  schedules. These additional schedules show the county, township, concession and lot numbers of a person's land:

  • 1901 Census "Buildings and Lands, Churches and Schools" schedules follow each enumerator's population schedules.
  • 1861 Census "Agricultural" schedules appear at the end of each county after all other personal schedules for all the towns in that county.
  • 1851 Census "Agricultural" schedules follow each set of personal schedules.
1851 Ontario Ag Sched.jpg



If you find an ancestor in one of these censuses, write down the name of the ancestor's county, township, concession number, and lot number. Links to online census indexes and images for Ontario are at:

1901 Ontario
Index:
Library and Archives Canada
FamilySearch
Ancestry
Automated Genealogy
Images:
see Advanced Search Options
-
Browse
Automated Genealogy
1861 Canada West (Ontario)
Index:
Library and Archives Canada
FamilySearch
Ancestry

Images:
see Advanced Search Options
-
Browse

1851 Canada West (Ontario)
Index:
Library and Archives Canada
FamilySearch
Ancestry
Automated Genealogy
Images:
see Advanced Search Options
-
Browse
Automated Genealogy


To learn more about Ontario census records in general see the Ontario Census Wiki page.

Illustrated Historical Atlases[edit | edit source]
Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of Carleton (Including City of Ottawa), Ont., 1879, page 70.

For some southern Ontario counties, illustrated historical atlases show farm lots and concession numbers with the names of landowners in the late 1860s and 1870s.

If you find an ancestor in one of these atlases, write down the name of the ancestor's county, township, concession number, and lot number.

Use the land description to find the land in Abstract Index Books.[edit | edit source]

  • The "land description" is the county, township name, concession number, and lot number.
  • Once you know this land description, you can use it to find the history of the transactions pertaining to the piece of land your ancestor owned. This history is recorded in short summaries (abstracts), kept in an "Abstract Index Book."
  • Be sure to note who sold the property to your ancestor, and who obtained the property from your ancestor—these are potential relatives.
  • Watch for wills and probate records listed in the abstractLook for the ancestor's land records in these sources:
  • Find the "memorial": the volume, page, and instrument number for the deed when your ancestor obtained the property, and the deed or will when they sold the property or died.
Finding Abstract Index Books[edit | edit source]
  1. Go to Ontario Land Registry Access Archives of Ontario.
  2. Use the Search field to select your Lsnd Record Office ()LRO (listed by county or district).
  3. Click on "Historical Books."
  4. Select Abstract/Parcel Register Book in the Search field on the left.
  5. Enter Property Description (township, concession, lot) in the search fields on the left.
  • These are arranged by county, township, concession, and lot numbers. They tell what happened to a particular piece of property through time, from the date of the original grant or patent to as late as 1959. The grantors (sellers) and grantees (buyers) are listed and should be considered candidates to be relatives.
  • Memorial numbers (file numbers, or Number of Instrument) are also listed for each transaction (sale or will). Write down the volume and file number or number of instrument of any sale or probate transaction for use looking up the deed. Watch for especially transactions between family members as they might state relationships.
Ontario Land 170913.jpg

Use the index information to find deeds and/or wills.[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch[edit | edit source]

Use the "memorial", the Volume, page, and instrument number to find the actual deed or will.
1. Click on FamilySearch Catalog.
2. In the Place search, type in "Canada, Ontario [county name]". Click "Search".
3. Scroll down to the "Land and property" and Land and property - indexes". Click on the title, which is a link.
4. Find the entries for "deeds" or "land records". Click on the link.
5. Look for the film number that covers the township and volume number in the memorial. 6. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.
7. Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.

Township Papers, ca. 1783-1870's. Crown Lands Department
These records have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. Archives of Ontario, 1982. This series includes early records for most southern Ontario townships and some cities. Search alphabetically for the names of the townships and cities. Papers for lots in townships are arranged by concession and farm lot. Papers for cities are arranged alphabetically by owner's name. These records may include maps; petitions; correspondence about land disputes, including the names of ancestors; or military discharge papers showing the place of birth.

Search for probate records in land records.[edit | edit source]

  • Wills involving land transactions were often not recorded with the court; but they were copied into deed books or general register books filed with registrars of deeds at land offices.
  • When individuals died, their land was usually sold or transferred to an heir or creditor. Usually a person's last will and testament was copied either into a deed book at a land registry office, or into a probate record at the probate court or surrogate court to make a land transfer official.
  • Copies of the will or probate papers are rarely filed in both the land registry office and the court. But probate papers in the land registry are a hint that you may find some additional related papers in court records.
  • The Abstract Index Books (listed above) are the major indexes to wills recorded or memorialized in deed books.
  • For other methods of accessing wills and probate records, see Ontario Probate Records.

Heir and Devisee Records[edit | edit source]

The government created the Heir and Devisee Commissions to settle disputes about who was entitled to receive the letters patent for a parcel of land. These records may explain a person's entitlement to land, such as military service or Loyalist ancestry. They may list the date of an application for land, the age of the applicant, and his place of birth. [3]


There are a card index and book indexes (links listed in film notes):

Microfilm card index of claims case files 1804-1895 example.
Book index to claimants 1829-1853, vol 1. Example from a page of surnames starting with the letter "B".



References[edit | edit source]

  1. Library and Archives Canada, Land Boards of Upper Canada, 1765-1804 at http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/land/land-boards-upper-canada/Pages/land-boards-upper-canada.aspx (accessed 16 July 2014).
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Finding Land Registration Records". Archives of Ontario. http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_231_finding_land_registration_records.pdf, accessed 8 October 2020.
  3. Archives of Ontario, From Grant to Patent: A Guide to Early Land Settlement Records, ca.1790 to ca.1850, Archives of Ontario Research Guide 215 at http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_215_grant_to_patent.pdf (accessed 23 July 2014).