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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Land Records Course Part 1 and Part 2 by Sharon L. Murphy, Brenda Dougall Merriman, CG, and Frances Coe, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Within the Atlantic region, Prince Edward Island comprised the largest area of agricultural land available. The island was discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1534, claimed by Samuel de Champlain for France in 1603, and called Île Saint-Jean. In 1719 three hundred settlers from France established the first actual colony on the island, Port la Joie, at the entrance to Charlottetown. The British captured this colony in 1745 but it was regained in 1748.
In 1763 France ceded the area to Great Britain, under the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia. Later, the Island (known as the Island of St. John) was divided into three counties, each with a townsite and 67 lots (townships).
In 1767 various political friends of the British government and naval and military officers, active and retired, were selected to participate in a lottery that disposed of the entire island in lots of roughly 20,000 acres. The new proprietors only wanted the land for speculation and had not intended to ever live there themselves. The demands for rents and lack of freehold tenure existed as late as Confederation, affecting the land records produced.
The Island separated from Nova Scotia in 1769 and the name changed to Prince Edward Island in 1799. This is important to remember when trying to locate the records created prior to this date. You may need to access records created earlier under the Nova Scotia jurisdiction.
In 1803 the largest single colonization in Island history occurred when 800 settlers from the Scottish highlands arrived. They were sponsored by Thomas Douglas, Lord Selkirk, who later founded the Red River Settlement in Manitoba.
The Land Purchase Act dated 1867 ended the tenure system of 1767 and in 1873 the Province of Prince Edward Island was formed and became part of the Dominion of Canada.
This preamble is to give you a sketch of the development of Prince Edward Island and the creation of land records as time progressed. It is necessary to understand what took place in order for you to be able to determine what records may have been created.
Map of Prince Edward Island
What’s Available on the Internet
This site, searchable by name, is composed of early land records such as deeds, land grants, early land leases, and other similar documents submitted by individuals. The site, maintained by Dave Hunter, is still in its infancy so check back regularly if you have ancestors from Prince Edward Island.
- Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Records Office - Land Records and Maps Prior to 1900
This site contains descriptions of what is held at the archives concerning land records and maps prior to 1900.
- Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Records Office - Prince Edward Island Petition Index
This is a searchable database of petitions or “memorials” made to the Governor and Executive Council of Prince Edward Island by individuals or groups from 1785 to 1915. Most of these deal with requests for land although other requests are also included. This website states it “is searchable by name, year, keyword, or topic. The results returned from each search will include the name of the petitioner(s), the date of the petition, a description of the petitioner’s request, and links to digitized images of the petition. Personal and family background, immigration history, and the Council’s decision, if mentioned, are also included in the database.”
- Archives Council of Prince Edward Island - Archives PEI
This database contains descriptions of archival holdings held in repositories across Prince Edward Island. It is searchable by keyword and the search may be all inclusive or restrained to a particular repository.
The Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society has the Computerized Master Name Index online in a searchable database. Although this is a finding aid only, it will direct a researcher to a document with more information about the person.
The archives website lists many important websites and has the following online databases:
- Prince Edward Island Petition Index
- Prince Edward Island Baptismal Index
- P.E.I. Census Documents Data Search
Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Records Office
The Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Records Office (PARO) has the largest collection of genealogical material pertaining to Prince Edward Island in the province. As the depository for public records, PARO contains several government series such as probate, chancery and Supreme Court records, land transactions (pre-1900), early maps and vital statistic records.
- There is another resource available known as The Master Name Index, an alphabetical index compiled from newspapers, census and cemetery transcripts, marriage registers,petitions and other sources. See the What’s Available on the Internet section, above, for further access information.
- When sending an inquiry to the Public Archives and Records Office it is not necessary to submit any payment, return envelope, or reply coupons. If you require copies of documents you will be invoiced for the charges.
It is necessary to follow these guidelines:
- Write a clear and concise letter.
- Identify the individual you are attempting to trace: full name, approximate birth and death dates, place of residence, religion, names of parents, siblings, spouse’s children and any other info that may help in identifying your particular ancestor.
- Ask exactly what you want to know. Be specific.
- Mention sources already consulted.
- Mention any previous correspondence you have had with PARO.
- Remember, research inquiries are handled in the order received. No priority is given to fax or email inquiries.
- Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Records
Hon. George Coles Building, 4th Floor
175 Richmond Street
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
P.O. Box 1000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7M4
Land records and maps prior to 1900 can be found at the Public Archives and Records Office. These maps will be useful in tracing who was on a specific piece of property at a given time. You will find this very helpful because until October 1939, land could be transferred by an individual’s will alone, without registration of the transaction. The following describes the types of documents and records created with a brief description of each. These are housed at the Public Archives and Records Office, in Charlottetown:
The first series of land conveyances covers all of Prince Edward Island from 1769 to 1873. It is alphabetically indexed and also contains leases, court judgments and powers of attorney. After 1873, the records are arranged by county.
Leases were not recorded in registry books. Therefore, the only record of the transaction is the lease itself. The transfers of legal ownership to a lease were often recorded on the actual lease document. This provides a valuable source of genealogical information. There are gaps in the records within the collection of leases which survived to be exchanged for deeds after the Land Purchase Act.
Crown Deeds and Township Ledgers
After the first Land Purchase Act in 1853, tenants were allowed to purchase their land from the government which had purchased it from the first proprietors. After a series of payments recorded in township Ledgers set up for this purpose, a deed was issued. These deeds may contain information about previous transactions and may record the number of the original lease.
Maps and Plans
In addition to the 1863 Lake Map, the 1880 Meacham’s Atlas, and the 1927 Cummins Atlas which contain maps bearing residents’ names for all lots, there is also a large collection of manuscript maps for the Island as a whole and for individual lots. Many are cadastral, and though the quantity and quality of maps existing for the various lots is quite uneven, they may be very useful in establishing a family’s location at a particular time. Maps may also record the liber (page) and folio (volume) reference for specific properties enabling you to refer to the documents of transfer.
These books recorded the payment of rents by tenants. They were kept by the proprietors or their agents and may be the only source you find to establish your ancestor’s place of residence. These records vary in quantity and quality.
These are petitions to Executive Council, from 1780 to 1837 and contain some land petitions. These have been indexed in the Master Name Index.
Warrants of Survey
These exist for some Loyalist allotments in about 20 Lots from 1784 to 1803.
Wills and administrations from 1807 to 1920 are useful for documenting land transfers as these transactions were not entered into the registry books. The only record of a transfer of ownership would be the will itself. Records later than 1920 are held at:
- Supreme Court Registries - Estates Division
Sir Louis Henry Davies Law Courts
42 Water Street
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7N8
Land Registry Office
For post-1900 land records for Kings and Queens Counties contact:
- Registry Office
Jones Building, 11 Kent Street
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7N8
For Post-1899 land records of Prince County contact:
- Prince County Registry of Deeds
Summerside Waterfront Office Building and
120 Harbour Drive
Summerside, Prince Edward Island C1N 5L2
Pre-1900 land records for all of Prince Edward Island are available at the Public Archives and Records Office.
FamilySearch has several microfilmed collections of Prince Edward Island records including the Master Name Index (which has had petitions included), as well as some land and probate records. The series of land conveyances can be viewed through the FamilySearch Center. The Family History Library has two good sources for land and property research:
- Nova Scotia, Department of Crown Lands. Land Records, 1763-1914. Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1983-1984. (On 95 FHL films beginning with 1378554.) Prince Edward Island was part of Nova Scotia until 1769.
- Prince Edward Island. Registrar of Deeds. Land Registry Records, 1769-1872. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: Microfilmed by the Public Archives of Prince Edward Island 1979-1981. (On 55 FHL films beginning with 1630087.) These contain films of indexes and of records.
Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society
The Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society printed a listing of the records in the Public Archives and Records Office Record Group 15 (Prince Edward Island Land Commissioner fonds) over a number of their issues. This record group includes a vast amount of material pertaining to Prince Edward Island land holdings. Some of this material has been microfilmed, however, the PARO does not participate in inter-library loans. Therefore researchers must visit the PARO to conduct their own search of the records or hire the services of a private researcher to work on their behalf. The Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society provides a forum for exchanging information through its quarterly newsletter, meetings, workshops and indexing projects. The Society is administered by a volunteer executive and has no staff or office. Membership in the society is currently $20 in Canada, $20 in the USA and $20 overseas. (USA and overseas in U.S. Funds)
- The Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society
The Island Register
P.O. Box 2744
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 8C4
- ↑ Harris, R. Cole and John Warkentin, Canada Before Confederation: A Study in Historical Geography, (London: Oxford University Press, 1974).
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Land Records Course Part 1 and Part 2 offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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