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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 Research: Manitoba Ancestors by Laura Hanowski. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Manitoba Land Records
Land records are one of the areas where genealogists can learn much about their ancestors. This is particularly true if your ancestors were homesteaders or were one of the early settlers. However, to make the best use of the land records one must understand the survey system and how the first land was allocated.
Red River Settlement Land Records, 1811-1892
The first survey divided the land into river lots along the Red River from Pembina to Lower Fort Gary and along the Assiniboine River from the junction of the Red River to Portage la Prairie.
These river lots were long narrow lots similar to those in Quebec. Each lot had 660 feet of river frontage and extended back from the river to a road called the “Two Mile Road.” It then extended a further two miles to the “Four Mile Road.” The latter land was also called hay grazing or hay privilege land.
There was also a road that ran parallel to the river. Settlers held their land by grant or sale from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Records of the transactions were made by the Hudson’s Bay Company or the Council of Assiniboia. When this land became part of Canada in 1869, the lots were renumbered to conform with the new survey system.
Correlation Book of Hudson’s Bay Company and Dominion Government Survey Numbers enables the researcher to use the original lot number to find the new number.
The records today are found at the Archives of Manitoba. Company Land Register “A” contains the documents from 1811-1833, and Register Book “B” contains the documents from 1839-1871. Information about further records can be found on the Archives of Manitoba web page
Crown Land Records 1870-1930
The Dominion Land Survey
Canada purchased Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869 but before the land could be settled it had to be surveyed. Under the Dominion Land Survey a grid system was established to create townships of equal sizes.
This was accomplished by setting the first or principal meridian at 97E 27' 28.4" west longitude which is about twelve miles west of Winnipeg, near Headingley. From this point ranges were set every six miles both east and west of the first meridian. As a result Manitoba has land descriptions both east of first meridian "E1" or west of the first meridian "W1".
In order to complete the grid townships were created by using the United States/Canada border as township one and setting the remaining townships every 6 miles going north. These newly formed divisions, also called townships, were then divided into 36 sections each of which was divided into quarters.
The surveyors also established baselines and correction lines, which run east and west, to ensure the size of townships would remain consistent despite the curvature of the earth. These correction lines occur every 24 miles, starting 12 miles north of the Canada/United States border, and cause boundaries and roads to jog to the west (west of the prime meridian) or the east (east of the prime meridian.).
The result can be clearly seen with the southern part of the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan Road allowances were created between each sections every mile going east and west and every two miles going north of Township 26.
Understanding the Terms
- a line running north and south set every four degrees longitude apart
- the prime or first meridian is set at 97E 27' 28.4" west longitude which is just west of Winnipeg at Headingley
- surveyors set a peg every six miles east and west of the first meridian to create long narrow strips of land
- ranges west of meridian one are numbered east to west and noted W1
- ranges that are east of the prime meridian are numbered from west to east and noted E1
- surveyors set a peg at the 49th parallel, which is the United States/Canada border, and every 6 miles going north to establish the township lines
- these lines then form a grid about six miles by six miles which are called townships
- each township was then divided into 36 sections
Sections in a township
- more or less a mile square consisting of 640 acres
- further subdivided into quarters of 160 acres
- quarters referred to as NW, NE, SW, SE
How to Read and Find Western Canada’s Land Descriptions
- To read NW 26-14-15 W1
- North West Quarter, Section 26, Township 14, Range 15, West of the First Meridian.
- To find you start at the far right side and work to the left.
|| tells us that the starting point is the First Meridian or Principal Meridian |
|| tells us that this is range 15 to the west of W1|
|| tells us that this is township line 14 north of the 49th parallel |
|| tells us that this is section 26 within the township|
|| tells us that this is the north west quarter of the section 26|
|| the nearest post office is Neepawa, Manitoba|
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Manitoba Ancestors 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
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.