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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 ($).
Map of Manitoba
What’s Available on the Internet
- Library and Archives Western Land Grants (1870-1930)
- Glenbow Museum - Archives CPR Land Sales has a database of CPR Land Sales searchable by name or land location. “The CPR Land Sales Catalogue contains records of sales of agricultural land by the Canadian Pacific Railway to settlers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta from 1881 to 1927. The information includes the name of purchaser, legal description of land, number of acres purchased, and cost per acre.”
- Saskatchewan Archives Board-Supplement to Homestead Maps of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northern and Southern Alberta 1916
Websites of Interest
- Library and Archives Canada
- Archives of Manitoba
- Hudson’s Bay Company Archives
- Manitoba Genealogical Society Inc.
- Métis Culture & Heritage Resource Centre
In 1670 the Hudson’s Bay Company was given by Royal Charter the territory which is now Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company were the first European settlers to inhabit the area. York Factory was founded at the mouths of the Nelson and Hayes Rivers in 1682 with La Vérendry establishing Fort Rouge in 1738 and Fort Gibralter (now Winnipeg) being built in 1809.
The late 17th century and early 18th century brought the adventurers and fur traders to the west but land ownership was not their focus and therefore “land records for property purchases” as such were not created. The Hudson’s Bay Company did create records of these early inhabitants and should be consulted for this time period and beyond.
The arrival of the Selkirk Settlers (sponsored by Lord Selkirk) in 1812 heralded the use of land for agriculture. These Scottish immigrants settled on the banks of the Red River near Fort Gibraltar. The account books of the Red River Settlement covering the period from 1811 to 1871 are to be found at the Hudson’s Bay Archives as well as service records of some employees, history sheets of various posts, and land registered from the Company.
Land grants in Manitoba prior to 1870 were basically under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company. These early land records cover the years from 1811 to 1833 (Land Register “A”) and about 1830 to 1871 (Land Register “B”). There are also some land registration and sales volumes for the years from 1823 to 1862 in existence.
When the jurisdiction over Crown lands was transferred to the Dominion of Canada in 1870, the records resulting from the sale of properties were now under the government’s care.
Dominion Lands Act
Letters Patent either grant or confirm title to a portion of land. They are issued as the first title to land and serve as proof that the land has been alienated from the Crown. Before Letters Patent could be issued to a homesteader, the land had to be accurately described and located through cadastral surveys.
As well, the Dominion Lands Act required that each homesteader provide proof that the land had been improved; that it had increased in value or utility through some additions (cultivation, building construction, etc.) costing labour and/or capital. The Dominion Lands Act clearly stipulated what improvements had to be made to a land grant before a homesteader would be issued his/her Letters Patent by the Crown.
When a homesteader felt that he met all conditions of his homestead entry, as outlined in the Dominion Lands Act, he filed an application with his local Dominion Lands Office. On receipt of an application from the local lands office, the Dominion Lands Board had the responsibility of undertaking all initial screening and validation of the claim, including the dispatching of a homestead inspector to the property to confirm that the proper improvements had been made. If the Board approved the application, it would then be forwarded to Ottawa to issue the patent.
For grants made by the provinces after 1930 or any land transactions subsequent to the issuance of the original Letters Patent, the appropriate provincial authorities must be consulted. Such transactions are not recorded in the Federal Land Records.
In 1871, an order-in-council initiated a uniform land survey of the three Prairie Provinces as well as the railway belt of British Columbia. The comprehensive indexing of the legal land descriptions resulting from the survey formed the basis of the Dominion Land Grants searchable database, at the Library and Archives Canada. When available, individual names have also been indexed.
This specialty database relates exclusively to Letters Patent issued by the Lands Patent Branch of the Department of the Interior. The records refer to grants issued in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the railway belt of British Columbia, c.1870-1930.
The database, “Western Land Grants” is searchable on the Internet by name, location or keyword.
The Library and Archives Canada have an alphabetical list of all those who applied for homesteads under the Dominion Land Act but retain no records. You need to provide the name and/or a geographic location. They can supply the land location and the file number. This will provide you with the key to the specific record you are looking for.
Homestead and Pre-emption Lands
The land was surveyed into a township system consisting of blocks 24 miles square; each block contains 16 townships. Every township is sub-divided into 36 “sections” each containing one square mile or 640 acres, more or less.
Macoun, John, Manitoba and the Great North West (Guelph, Ontario: World Publishing Company 1882).
“All even numbered sections, (except 8 and 26, which were Hudson’s Bay Company Lands) were available to settle. Odd numbered sections (with exception of 11 and 29, which were School Lands) for 24 miles on each side of the Canadian Pacific Railway, were generally slated to be railway lands, purchasable from the Company and not open to homestead and preemptions.” See the diagram dividing the land into various sections as shown.
Homestead records identify the Section, Township, Range and Meridian of the piece of property. For example:
Homestead locations can be located from the Township and Range numbers. Townships run from South to North beginning with Township 1 at the U.S. Canada border and incrementing northward. Ranges run East to West beginning at a meridian and incrementing westward. First, locate the Township by going north to the given number, in this example 32. Then find the Meridian and go west (to the left) to the Range, in this case 6. When the grid location is found, look for the Part, in this case NW, so the property would be in the upper left quarter of the grid.
These records are found at the Archives of Manitoba.
The land transactions from 1871 to 1885 were registered under the “old system” (see Archives of Manitoba for description of this system).
The boom of 1881 and 1882 brought by the building of the railway increased the land values. The Canadian Pacific Railway was running south of the Assiniboine and people poured in by the hundreds trying to buy land close to the railroad. Brandon experienced a huge amount of activity in the land speculation department.
Elsewhere in Western Manitoba many other settlements were experiencing the same growth rate. However, by the late 1880’s the homesteading rate in southwest Manitoba had declined, with the result being the reorganization of the Lands Districts.
In 1890the Dufferin Agency was merged with that of Winnipeg and in 1891 a large part of the Little Saskatchewan Agency was set apart as the Lake Dauphin Sub-District. It was operated as a temporary office in the beginning but by 1893 the Dauphin office was open year round.
Also in 1893, the Birtle and Turtle Mountain offices were closed and their districts merged with those of the Souris and Little Saskatchewan agencies. In 1896 Lake Dauphin was designated a separate district. In 1898 a branch office was opened in Swan River and the Lake Dauphin district was further enlarged in 1899. In the meantime, agencies were renamed according to the location of the office: Brandon, Minnedosa and Dauphin.
In 1903 a sub-Agent was located at Ranchvale to service the Ukrainian settlement south of Riding Mountain. The Minnedosa Office was closed in 1906. There was little land left here now; the District was merged with Dauphin. In 1908 the office in Ranchvale was closed as well.
In 1901 the agencies were redefined to conform to provincial boundaries. The Brandon Office was thus deprived of most of its vacant lands; the office was closed in 1916 and such business as remained was transferred to Winnipeg. Thereafter, the only Dominion Lands Office in Western Manitoba was at Dauphin.
A PDF copy of Supplement to Homestead Maps of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northern and Southern Alberta,1916 which contains a synopsis of the regulations concerning the granting of homesteads, grazing leases and timber berths is available on the Internet. It describes what land is available, who may access that land, what the duties are of the homesteader, how to access the land and pre-empt adjacent land, as well as other pertinent information such as how many bushels of grain to expect from an acre of land and the progress of the railway through the west. If your ancestor was one of the homesteaders, this type of information would make a nice addition to your family history story. Land Titles
Land Records since 1870 are registered at the Land Titles Office at one of the six areas of Manitoba (listing follows). Before 1870 most land records are found through the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives. Between 1870 and 1885, land was registered under the “old English system.” This system did not provide the titles to property, but only recorded the transactions. At each transaction, the chain of ownership had to be established through the Crown.
Since 1885, land registration in Manitoba has been based upon the Torrens System and the chain of ownership is not identified. Using the Torrens System the titles number or the Land Description must be established before the land record is searched.
The latter information is obtainable from the Surveyor’s Department at the Land Titles Office. Boissevain records have been transferred to Brandon. Records for Northern Manitoba are now housed at Portage La Prairie.
Archives of Manitoba
The records of the provincial Archives are divided into two sections. The first is prior to 1870 containing documents related to the Red River Settlement. The second is post 1870 and often includes more detailed information pertaining to the province of Manitoba.
To obtain access to land records in Manitoba it is necessary to know the exact legal description of the land.
There are three sources that can help in determining this description; the first two are at the Library and Archives Canada:
1. The alphabetical index to patentees in Western Canada (as discussed above)
2. The alphabetical index of half-breed and white settlers’ claims, 1870-1885
3. Various rural directories, 1881-1922
Archives of Manitoba Land Records Listings
The following information has been accessed in the publication of “Selected Manitoba Government Records” provided by the Archives of Manitoba, September 1998. There are no restrictions on the use of any of the records listed in this brochure. Access permissions are not required.
The entire publication containing Court, Municipal and School Records descriptions can be obtained by contacting the Archives.
There is also a Guide to Government Records in the Provincial Archives that is available in the Archives’ Research Room. The Guide provides summary descriptions of all records transferred to the Provincial Archives and also includes detailed lists of many series.
Remember these records were created in the daily lives of our ancestors by various government offices and were not created in order for you to use them in your genealogical quest. Your patience and diligence will be necessary to learn to use them and thus provide you with the information you are searching.
Manitoba Natural Resources
The records are held under Manitoba Natural Resources (at the Archives) as follows:
Land Surveyors Field Books 1869-1983
Consists of: Filed notes compiled by Dominion and Provincial Surveyors, recording mainly technical data and natural features of the land. Documents are arranged by numerical order. There is an index by legal description. List Numbers: GR 1601; GR 2630; GR 2884
Township and Parish Plans and Plats 1870-1930
Consists of: Department of Interior cadastral plans which portray natural features of the land and record names of patentees and patent numbers. Documents are arranged by their legal description. List Numbers: Township Plans GR 2404; Parish Plans GR 2405
Township Registers 1870-1930
Consists of: Registers maintained in the Department of Interior providing names of homesteaders and dates of the transactions. Includes names of patentees as well as those who did not obtain patent. Documents are arranged by their legal description. List Number: GR 2133
Parish and Settlement General Registers ca.1870-1930
Consists of: Department of Interior registers recording names of people who obtained Crown land in the parishes along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and in towns and settlements. Provides nature and number of the land grant and date and number of patent. Documents are arranged by their legal description by parish or settlement. List Number: GR 2403; Location: G 5463; G 5465
“Grants to Half-Breeds” Registers 1880-1881
Consists of: Copies of the “Grants to Half-Breeds” Registers, certified by the Acting Surveyor General, Dominion Lands Office, Department of Interior. The Registers record the allotment of lands to Métis under the Manitoba Act of 1870, which provided for 1,400,000 acres of unspecified land to be distributed to individual claimants. They provide:
- the claim number
- claimant’s name
- parent’s name
- year when claimant would be 18 years old
- grant number
- date of allotment
- legal description of the allotment
- patent date
- occasionally, remarks
|Copies include only 2 volumes covering the Parishes of St. Norbert, St. François Xavier and Baie St. Paul. The original registers are at Library and Archives Canada (RG 15 vol. 1556-1573) and are available on microfilm in the Provincial Archives of Manitoba Research Room (reels C-11885 to C-11886). Documents are arranged by reference number and claim number. List Number: GR 2217|
Historic Holders Index Finding Aid
Consists of: Crown Land Registry System index to people who obtained patent to Crown land through homestead entry, purchase, or grant. Provides:
- legal description of the land
- type of holding
- date of entry
- date of patent
The index is created by Manitoba Natural Resources, Crown Lands Branch and is based on the General Registers listed above and current Crown land information. Documents are arranged by name and by legal description. Microfiche copy is available in the Research Room (updated annually).
Homestead Files ca.1870-1930
Consists of: Department of Interior files, on microfilm, documenting the administration of Dominion lands made available for settlement, through homestead entry, sale, grant and preemption. Includes applications, inspectors’ reports and correspondence. Naturalization and citizenship documents may be included. Applicants who did not obtain patent are also recorded. These documents are arranged by their legal description. List Number: GR 2060
Parish Files 1874-1959
Consists of: Documentation relating to the establishment of ownership and occupancy of parish lots in the Red River settlement, in order to obtain patent under the 1870 Manitoba Act. Includes information on pre-1870 settlers, including personal data, use of the land, and improvements. A detailed finding aid is available. These documents are arranged by parish and lot number. List Number: GR 2671
|Series is incomplete. Missing files may be in the Department of Interior Manitoba Act Files (Microfilm Reels C-14902 to C-14924) or with Manitoba Natural Resources.|
Consists of: Forms prepared in the Patent Branch of the Department of Interior, to authorize the preparation of Letters Patent. Provides name, address and occupation of the person receiving patent, legal description of the land and size, type and number of the grant. These are arranged mainly by their legal description. List Number: GR 128
|Letters Patent are held by the Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N4, Telephone 613-995-5115.|
- Archives of Manitoba
130 - 200 Vaughan Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1T5
Métis and Scrip
The Manitoba Act of 1870 provided for the settlement of aboriginal land claims in western Canada, by which thousands of individual Métis files of genealogical value were created. Scrip is a word used to denote a money equivalent paid to a person in place of a land grant. Manitoba Métis Scrip Registers (1870-1885) are found at Library and Archives Canada in their RG 15, D II 8b series. This series is arranged alphabetically, with an index. Names of parents and/or spouse and children are recorded along with other identifying information. Although a date of birth may be inaccurate, it is a starting point for further research; it might also be the only such reference in many cases.
Also at Library and Archives Canada, in RG 15, D II 8a series, is a collection of Manitoba parish registers by which land grants were given “in random fashion” to children of Métis (previously known by the earlier term of half breed). Métis claims for land grants were considered apart from white settlers and status Indians. The grants are arranged by claim number, running from 1875-1880 and are microfilmed. Many of these records are being digitized online at LAC website.
See also the previous section on “Half-Breed” Registers.
Gail Morin’s book Manitoba Scrip and Northwest Half-Breed Scrip, 1885 summarizes the first two series of Métis scrip applications. She has written other books on Métis families and the Glenbow Museum has a database of her work on pedigree charts of 40,000 families. The following organizations and addresses can be very useful:
- Métis Culture and Heritage Resource Centre
- 504 - 63 Albert St.
- Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 1G4
- Telephone: 204-956-7767
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Glenbow Museum
- 130 - 9th Avenue SE
- Calgary, Alberta T2G 0P3
- Telephone: 403-268-4100
- Library Email: email@example.com
- Telephone - Library Reference Desk: 403-268-4197
- Archives Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone - Archives Reference Desk: 403-268-4204
Hudson’s Bay Company Archives
As previously mentioned, the Hudson’s Bay Company was responsible for most of the records that were created prior to c.1870 (the Company was the administrator of most of Western Canada before 1870). When the arrangement was made to have the land transferred back to the Crown and then given to the Dominion of Canada and then to the province of Manitoba in 1870, the responsibility to maintain any records was also transferred to the province of Manitoba. Prior to that time the Hudson’s Bay Company had their own record keeping system in place. These documents are now housed at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBCA) and can be accessed by several methods. Land Register A covers 1811-1833 and Land Register B covers 1830-1871 approximately.
Records are listed by type and volume number. If they have been microfilmed they are referenced accordingly. The HBCA has records of various types and subjects; however, at the moment we are only dealing with the land records.
In addition to the finding aid the website will also provide you with:
- A Guide to the HBCA’s Holdings
- HBCA Classification System
- A Short Catalogue of Microfilmed Records available through Interlibrary Loan
- A List of Published Collections of HBC Documents.
You can access the HBCA records by interlibrary loan of microfilm, reading published excerpts of the HBCA Records or by viewing the microfilmed copies or the original records at the HBCA. Library and Archives Canada and The National Archives in the UK also have copies of the microfilm holdings but they must be viewed on site only. Here is the UK location:
- The National Archives
- Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
- United Kingdom
- Telephone: 44 (0) 20 8876 3444
How do you find out what is available for interlibrary loan? You can access the HBCA finding aid on the Internet OR for a more detailed finding aid you can order the microfilmed set of finding aids which are far more detailed than the online versions. The finding aid reel numbers are 1M1252, 1M1253, 20M1 and 1MA76 (the last reel number deals with post-1904 records only).
To determine which of these reels to order you need to consult the website’s microfilm catalogue. Of course, detailed finding aids are also available on site. Pre-1870 manuscript maps can also be found at the HBCA. For a description and index to these maps please consult A Country So Interesting by Dr. Richard Ruggles.
For those interested in HBC’s records, a guide entitled Biographical Resources at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives: Volume one, by Briggs and Morton, 1996, can be consulted at the provincial Archives or can be purchased.
The physical location of the HBCA is within the Archives of Manitoba building.
- Archives of Manitoba
- 130 - 200 Vaughan Street
- Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1T5
- Telephone: 204-945-3971
- Email: email@example.com
- Hudson’s Bay Company Archives
- 130 - 200 Vaughan Street
- Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1T5
- Telephone: 204-945-4949
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Manitoba Genealogical Society
- Manitoba Genealogical Society Inc.
- 1045 St. James Street, Unit East
- Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 1B1
- Telephone: 204-783-9139
- Email: email@example.com
Land Title Offices
- Winnipeg Land Titles Office
- 276 Portage Avenue
- Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0B6
- Telephone: 204-945-2042
- Morden Land Titles Office
- 351 Stephen Street
- Morden, Manitoba R6M 1V1
- Telephone: 204-822-2920
- Neepawa Land Titles Office
- 329 Hamilton Street
- Neepawa, Manitoba R0J 1H0
- Telephone: 204-476-7040
- Brandon Land Titles Office
- 705 Princess Avenue
- Brandon, Manitoba R7A 0P4
- Telephone: 204-726-6279
- Portage Land Titles Office
- 25 Tupper Street North
- Portage la Prairie, Manitoba R1N 3K1
- Telephone: 204-239-3306
- Dauphin Land Titles Office
- 308 Main Street South
- Dauphin, Manitoba R7N 1K7
- Telephone: 204-622-2084
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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