Ontario Land RecordsEdit This Page
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See also Ontario Land Records User's Guide.
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 as 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.
What you need to know to get started
To search these land records, it helps to know:
- Ancestor's name
- County of residence
- Township of residence (if known)
Kinds of information in Ontario land records
- where and when ancestors lived in an area
- the name of spouses, heirs, and other relatives
- the names of neighbors
- 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
Types of records found in Ontario land records
- immigrant lists
- petitions for land grants
- leases, indexes, and registers
- case files and commission records
- claims and reports
Ontario land records do not consistently show all the same information, even within the same record, or for the same piece of property over the years. Be prepared to supplement land records with other types of records. Only by comparing and contrasting all the available sources can you build the most complete and accurate picture of the life of an ancestor.
- Archives of Ontario, Crown Land Records: Introduction. Briefly describes dozens of record groups pertaining to land records.
- Archives of Ontario, From Grant to Patent: A Guide to Early Land Settlement Records, ca.1790 to ca.1850 (Research Guide 215). Discusses the Ontario Land Records Index, petitions, land board records, Heir and Devisee Commission land disputes, land promoters, township papers, surveyor notes, correspondece, maps, patents, and land registry office records.
- Archives of Ontario, How to Use the Ontario Land Records Index ca. 1780 - ca. 1920 (Research Guide 205). What it is, how it is organized, where it is available, what you need to know, how to use it, index examples, and index code explanations.
- Ontario Genealogy, Land Petition Index (registration). Presumably, after registering you can search their index.
Steps for Using Ontario Land Records
To find an ancestor follow these steps:
Step 1. Search land records that have surname indexes
Search all four of the following records because each has different names and information than the others. Your ancestor may be in more than one. Search each index first to find its corresponding land records.
- Executive Council, Petitions for Land Grants and Leases, 1791-1867. LAC RG 1, L3.
- Heir and Devisee Commission, Land Records 1796-1894. AO RG 40, series A-I.
- Archives of Ontario, Ontario Archives Land Record Index, 1780s-1914.
- Crown Lands Department, Land Petitions and Related Records, 1637-1842. AO RG 1, series C-I to C-III.
Search the Indexes
For the records listed below, find and search the appropriate index film for an ancestor's name. If you find an ancestor, photocopy the index entry.
1. Executive Council, Petitions for Land Grants and Leases, 1791-1867. A surname card index to:
- Land Books (Minutes of the Land Committee) in RG 1 L1,
- Land Petitions in RG 1 L3, for Upper Canada (Ontario) 1791-1841, and Canada 1841-1867.
- Click here to see the card index film numbers.
2. Heir and Devisee Commission, Land Records 1796-1894. AO RG 40, series A-I.
Second Heir and Devisee Commission Case Files Database at http://ao.minisisinc.com/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/ARCH_HEIRS?DIRECTSEARCH
3. Archives of Ontario, Ontario Archives Land Record Index, 1780s-1914. Index to the Ontario Land Records Index Microfiche at http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/interloan/l_land_records_microfiche.htm
4. Crown Lands Department, Land Petitions and Related Records, 1637-1842. AO RG 1, series C-I to C-III.
Search the Land Records
If you find your ancestor listed in any of the above indexes, search the corresponding land records.
- Type in the same beginning film number for each of the sources, using the catalog Film/Fiche Search.
- Find copies of the land records using information from the index, such as the volume and page number.
- Upper Canada, Executive Council. Petitions for Land Grants and Leases, 1791-1867. On 257 films beginning with FHL film 1832344. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992. Microfilm of original records in the Library and Archives Canada. RG 1, L3. These petitions may describe a land applicant's military service or relationship to a Loyalist ancestor. They may also list the names and ages of family members.
- Index film number__________________________________
- Name_______________ Townships_______________ Year______
- Petitions or Book____ Bundle number______ Petition number_____
- Petitions or Book____ Bundle number______ Petition number_____
- Bundle film number_________________________________
- Land Records, 1796-1894. On 100 films beginning with FHL film 1313768. Ontario. Heir and Devisee Commission (2nd). Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1982. 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.
- Index film number_________________________ Case file film number_______________________
- Ontario Archives Land Record Index. On 129 microfiche beginning with FHL fiche 6049631. [Ontario?: Computrex Centre Ltd., 1979?]. Microfiche 6330425-6330477 contain the surname index, and microfiche 6049631 has the key to symbols. The surname section of this index gives the township name and concession and lot numbers for original government grants. The listed dates are petition or patent filing dates, not dates of arrival. Letter codes refer to the type of grant, lease, or sale.
- Index fiche number_________________________________
- If you found your ancestor's name, copy the information below.
- County__________________ Township________________________
- Type________ Lot number__________ Concession number_________
- Date___________ RG Series_________ Vol.________ Page________
- With the information found in this index, view the land records.
- Search the following record. Also try the sources listed on page 6.
- Then go to Step 2.
- Land Records, ca. 1792-1876. On 289 films beginning with FHL film 1316141. Ontario. Crown Lands Department. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1982-1984. The Ontario Archives Land Records Index indexes some, but not all of the names from the Ontario Archives Record Group 1, C-I to C-III series. Use the transaction type, record group (RG) number, volume, and page number in the Index to find the film number. Search each alphabetical sequence in these land records even if your ancestor was in the Index.
- Alphabetical index film number_____________________________
- Land record film number___________________________________
Before concluding that your ancestor is not listed in Ontario land records, consider the following:
Step 2. Search land records arranged by description
Find the land descriptions
- Locate your ancestor's name in the records listed in this section.
- Note the county name, township name, concession number (often written in Roman numerals), and lot number (usually in Arabic numerals) where your ancestor lived:
- County__________________ Township_____________________
- Concession number______________ Lot number______________
- Ontario Archives Land Record Index described previously.
Agricultural schedules, or buildings and lands schedules in the 1851, 1861, or 1901 censuses. To find census film numbers, look in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under Canada and the topic Census.
Illustrated historical atlases
for some southern counties, showing farm lot and concession numbers with the names of landowners in the late 1870s. The atlases are listed in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under the name of the county and the topic Maps. These oversize folios are located on the third floor of the library. Many are also available on microfilm. Most illustrated historical atlases are indexed in:
- -The Central Canadians, 1600-1900. FHL book 971.3 D22cc. 3 vols. Toronto: Genealogical Research Library, 1994. This index is in the Canada reference area. Look in the back of each volume for the keys to localities and sources. This index is also on compact disc available at the library attendant window on the third floor:
- -Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s. FHL compact disc no. 9, part 118. Family Tree Maker's Family Archives; 118. [Novato, Calif.]: Brøderbund, 1996. Containing over 2 million entries, this CD shows name, event, date, location, province, county, source (sometimes an illustrated historical atlas), and page.
- This Index is included on the internet in Search Family Archives available at www.genealogy.com/cdhome.html Family Archives: Genealogy Data Online & on CD [Internet database]. [N.p.]: Genealogy.com, 2000. You can search this 220 million entry database for free. If the archive is the Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s (#118), the source might be an illustrated historical atlas, but you must buy the index on compact disc, or use a book or compact disc copy at a library to learn the county and township.
Use the land description to find the land records
- Once you know the county, township name, concession number, and lot number, use this information to find the land records.
- Look for your ancestor's land records in the sources listed below:
Township Papers, ca. 1783-1870's
On 541 films beginning with FHL film 1319288. Ontario. Crown Lands Department. [Toronto]: 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. These papers are listed in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under Ontario and the topic Land and Property.
Abstract Index Books of Deeds
. . . give information about property in a particular township, but they are listed by county in the catalog. Search the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under the name of the county and the topics Land and Property or Land and Property — Indexes. Abstract Index Books 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. Memorial numbers (file numbers) are listed for each transaction (sale or will).
- Memorial number____________________________
. . . With a memorial number for the years prior to 1880, you can look for deed records. If the library has copies, deed books are found in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under the name of the county and the topic Land and Property.
After you have searched the records in this guide, there are other land records that may be valuable to search. These records can be found using the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under Ontario, or the name of the county, and the topic Land and Property.
Step 3. Search for probate records
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.
Probate Registers and Estate Files
The Abstract Index Books, listed under Step 2, are the major indexes to wills recorded or memorialized in deed books. If land records show the person's estate was proved or probated before a court, look for the person's name in one of the following sources:
- Court of Probate: Registers and Estate Files at the Archives of Ontario (1793-1859). FHL book 971.3 P2z [Toronto]: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986. This record indexes Probate Registers, 1793-1858; and Estate Files, 1793-1859. On 41 films beginning with FHL film 1312313. Upper Canada. Court of Probate. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1982. Search alphabetically for your ancestor's name. The probate registers may include wills, administrations, guardianships, or citations of next of kin. Estate files may include inventories, administration papers, bonds, affidavits, letters, or wills.
Surrogate Court Records Index
- Surrogate Court Records Index, 1793–1858. FHL fiche 6334160 [set of 8. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, [198 ?]. This index may list dates, volume and page numbers, and the county that received the preB1854 records. For film numbers of indexed records, check the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under the name of the county and the topic Probate Records.
More recent surrogate court records can also be found under the same catalog Place Search heading. For a county-by-county index see:
- Surrogate Court Index of Ontario, Canada, 1859-1900. FHL book 971.3 P22g by June Gibson. 27+ vols. Agincourt, Ont.: Generation Press, 1988B. This index lists name, locality, will number, and year proved. A table in each volume lists the Archives of Ontario microfilm reel numbers that are indexed in that volume.
Search other record types
If you cannot locate land records for your ancestor, you could also search Church Records, Censuses, Directories, Military Records, or Taxation Records. For details about the value, use, and availability of these and other record types, see the Ontario wiki page and Canada wiki page.
For a detailed discussion of land records see:
Brenda Dougall Merriman, Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records, 3rd ed. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1996. [FHL book 971.3 D27m 1996]. Pages 89-114 discuss land records; explain key dates, townships, concessions, lots, the land grant process, the Ontario Archives Land Record Index, abstract index books, the registry system; and include several document facsimiles.
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 www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/guides/rg_215_grant_to_patent.htm (accessed 11 December 2008).
To search many of the land records, it helps to know the township of residence and land description. Begin by searching for your ancestor's name in the record indexes listed under Step 1.
Some land records are arranged geographically by land description and include no surname indexes. To search these records, use the description of the land where your ancestor lived, including the township name, concession number, and lot number as described in Step 2.
Most southern Ontario townships are divided into strips of land, called concessions, which run from one border of the township to the other. Each concession includes farm lots of 100 or 200 acres. Lot 1 in the First Concession joins Lot 1 in the Second Concession, which in turn joins Lot 1 in the Third, as shown below. As you search the land records, record the concession and lot number of your ancestor's land.
The indexes and records described in this guide are also listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under Ontario and the topic Land and Property.
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