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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: New Brunswick Ancestors by Althea Douglas, MA, CG(C). The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
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Petition or Memorial: A written statement by an individual (or group) giving the reasons why they should receive a grant of land.
Survey or Description of Land Grant: These describe the “metes and bounds” of a piece of land. There may be a plan showing the shape of the lot.
Grant: Legal conveyance by written instrument, a formal conferment, used in reference to a transfer of land ownership from the Crown to an individual.
Deed: A written or printed document detailing a legal transfer of ownership and bearing the signature of the disposer. Usually refers to transfers after the first Crown grant.
Instrument: Document indicating a transfer of ownership. An instrument can be a Bargain and Sale, Conveyance, Mortgage, Discharge of Mortgage, Will, Quit Claim, Release, Final Order for Foreclosure, etc.
Interval land—is river lowland, both island and riverbank, that floods in the spring with the run-off or freshet as snow melts in the watershed and uplands. Like the annual flooding of the Nile, this enriches the land annually and interval land produces good hay and is great pasture. The St. John River valley has a lot of such land. Not to be confused with dyked marshland.
The Land Grant Process
The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) online research includes RS108, an “Index to Land Petitions: Original Series 1783-1918.” This includes a full explanation of the land granting process and an “Historical Background” which is well worth studying with some care. However, the basic steps were:
- The settler wanting a grant of crown land submitted a petition to the Lieutenant Governor (later to the Crown Land Office) explaining why they should have it, often very informative
- The Lieutenant Governor in Council, acting as a Committee of Council on Land (see RS568) would approve or disallow the petition.
- If the petition was allowed, an order/warrant of survey (see RS687A) would be issued to the deputy-surveyor who had to establish the boundaries of the grant to be issued. Field notes made by the deputy-surveyors (see RS1021) describe the boundaries, further material may be found in RS687B and RS637.
- The returns were used to draw up the official land grant (see RS686) and a copy of the grant was issued to the petitioner (grantee) and became his proof of ownership.
- A record of grants given to petitioners was kept in grantbooks.
- All subsequent transactions such as selling, leasing, or mortgaging between individuals required registration at the county registry offices (see RS84 to RS98). Occasionally wills will be found in these records.
There are two separate databases that can be searched from the PANB website. Do not confuse them.
- Government Records includes: RS108—Index to Land Petitions: Original Series 1783-1918 This is an index to the actual surviving petitions, indexed by name of petitioner, date and county.
- Land Grant Database at UNB: Land Grants—Searching the Grantbook Database This is an index to entries in the grantbooks, in which each original grant of land was itemized, giving name or names of grantees, date, place and county, how many acres, and the volume number, page number, and grant number. Search by name of grantee or county and place of settlement.
Petitions and information on the grants can be followed up at the PANB.
Nova Scotia, 1763-1784
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, control of the territory which is now called New Brunswick passed back and forth between the French and English. On February 10, 1763 the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years War and the area became a possession of Great Britain. Under the administration at Halifax, the territory north of the Bay of Fundy was known as the Counties of Sunbury and Cumberland. Significant efforts were made to establish settlements (townships) on the St. John and Petitcodiac Rivers and in the Chignecto Isthmus.
Land papers for these early years of settlement, i.e. the petitions, grants, etc. are held in Nova Scotia, at the Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management (NSARM) filed under RG20, Series “A”, pre 1800. Land was sometimes granted to a group of “Associates”, and the names of these official first grantees may not be those of the actual settlers. The PANB has an index of early Nova Scotia grants from 1713 and the later New Brunswick land grant records from 1762 are on Microfilm.
An index is on films F-1744 and F-1755. On reels F-1734 to F-1764 are copies of the old Nova Scotia Grant Books.
New Brunswick After August 1784
In the newly founded colony of New Brunswick, the land granting process was essentially the same as in other British possessions. Brenda Dougall Merriman’s, Genealogy In Ontario: Searching the Records has detailed descriptions of British colonial records which, though generated in Ontario, may be relevant regardless of what British North American colony you are researching.
The searchable index to the petitions in RS108 (1783-1918) totals about 67,300 entries. Do be sure to read the various rules used in compiling the index at the end of the introduction, since many more names than that of the actual petitioner are included. Unfortunately, in the 1850s the province began to issue standardized forms for petitions and because the information required was minimal, they are less helpful to the researcher.
RS272 Land Petitions: Current series includes petitions between 1830 and the present: it is called “Land Petitions: Current Series” because it is an on-going series. The land petitions since 1830 which were granted were numbered by the department and that system is still in use today. It also seems that all petitions within RS272 were granted whereas those within RS108 may not have been.
The actual petitions are available only on microfilm; the microfilm number (“F-number”) is included in the index. Also, the entire index is available on microfilm F13763. The films can be viewed at the PANB in Fredericton, or at a library participating in the inter-library or inter-archives microfilm loan program. It is also possible to obtain a copy of the petition, see the end of the online introduction for details of current costs, etc.
A second searchable database is that of the Grantbook Database, and if you are curious about neighbours, this can be searched in the second and third fields by county and place of settlement. You must then contact PANB for full details, maps, etc.
Land Transfers After The First Grant
Once land was granted to a settler, the government at Fredericton ceased to keep any record, but in each county a land registration office was set up where every transfer of ownership (by sale, mortgage, lease, will, whatever), had to be registered. In some cases the PANB has both the county registry office records (to about 1974) and the index to the records which may run to a dozen reels of microfilm.
The index microfilms can be borrowed, but check the County Guides for the numbers. Using the index, find the book number and page number. With this information, a photocopy of the transaction can be obtained. For complete instructions see the individual County Guide.
Also look to see what county tax records survive, whether there are lists of quit rents paid, lists of grantees in some specific area, or other land-related material. If you need a sequence of searches to trace changes in ownership, it might be best to employ someone locally to conduct the search.
These are maps that show the actual borders of each lot of land with the name of the grantee. Copies are held by the PANB and the Lands Branch of the Department of Natural Resources. Copies can be obtained from the Lands Branch for a fee. These can be useful in showing the names of neighbours, and so possible spouses, the location of churches and graveyards.
As well, the Archives has other maps and survey plans, containing information on boundaries, landforms, fortifications, waterways, railways, roads, and the growth of communities. These are indexed by category or purpose, geographical location, and name of cartographer or surveyor.
Crown land surveys represent the largest and most frequently consulted group of cartographic records. Approximately 10,000 plans for the 19th and 20th centuries show boundaries, allocation of land, and tracts reserved for timber and mineral resources, mills, wharves, roads and railways.
County Maps & Atlases
The PANB and Library and Archives Canada both have collections of the large-scale atlases, county wall maps (also large scale), and county survey plans that were produced during the latter half of the 19th century. These published surveys cover towns, villages and dispersed settlements; they show locations of buildings, identify residents, and list names and occupations of individuals who subscribed to the works. H.E. Halfpenny’s 1878 Atlas was published in facsimile as Historical Atlas of York County, New Brunwick and St. John, New Brunwick (City and County), by Mika Publishing in 1973. The maps contain detailed information but only for the two counties and the two major urban centres, Fredericton and Saint John which is where the subscribers lived of course.
At Library and Archives Canada
The New Brunswick Executive Council records, 1784-1867 were once in the care of the National Archives (NA) when it was the Public Archives of Canada (PAC); here they were microfilmed. When the PANB was established these records were returned to the province and reorganized. Microfilms, under the old arrangement MG9 A1, are still available at Library and Archives Canada, and Finding Aid #121 includes nominal indexes to many of the files of petitions, applications, intestate estates, and patent applications.
As late as 1988, PANB was listing RG 2 Records of the Central Executive:
- RS7 Executive Council Records: PAC Series
- RS8 Executive Council Records: PANB Series
It is advisable to work with the newer PANB series and its indexes at the PANB, but you might encounter the PAC/NA references in earlier research.
- ↑ Don Dixon, G.R.S., "Researching Records at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick," ""Generations"", Vol.20, No.3, Fall 1998, pages 29. Further articles on the same subject are published in Fall 1998 and Summer 2000 issues
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: New Brunswick 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 email@example.com