Manitoba Land Records, Part 1 (National Institute)

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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 ($).

In Manitoba, 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
Manitoba Township Survey Grid.jpg

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

How the Crown Land Was Allocated

The Dominion Land Act of 1872 set out the policy for administering the Crown land in western Canada. Under the Act land was set aside as free homestead and school land. As part of the original purchase agreement with the Hudson’s Bay Company Crown land was set aside for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Grants of land were made to railway companies as an incentive to build railways throughout the west. Reserves were set aside in Manitoba for ethnic groups such as the Mennonites in southern Manitoba and Icelandic community at Gimli as well as for colonization companies. Legislation was enacted on April 25, 1871 to set aside 1,400,000 acres of land in Manitoba for Half Breed residents of Manitoba. Further land was allocated for Indian reserves, Military Bounty Grants and Drainage and Swamp land in the Province of Manitoba. On 01 July 1873 the Department of the Interior was made responsible for this Crown land including the natural resources. In 1930 the remaining Crown land in Manitoba was transferred to the province. Many of the records have since been transferred to the Archives of Manitoba.

Homestead Land

To encourage people to settle western Canada the government of Canada offered 160 acres of land as a homestead grant.

Free homestead. 1872-1930

The even numbered sections within each township, except for 8 and 26, were designated as homestead land. Adult men or women who were the sole support of their family were eligible to apply for a homestead. To qualify the settler had to pay a $10 registration fee, break and crop 30 acres of land, live on the homestead for at least six months of the year, build a substantial house and barn, and fence some land. After three years the homesteader would make a sworn statement to say that these requirements had been met. At this time those who were not British subjects had to become Naturalized British subjects. If the homesteader passed the inspection, a patent would be issued which was taken to the Land Titles office where the title for the land would be issued.

Pre-emption 1871-1890 and 1908-1918

A pre-emption was a further 160 acres of Crown land, adjacent to the homestead, that the homesteader could apply for at the same time that the homestead was applied for or once the patent for the homestead had been received. To qualify for the pre-emption the homesteader had to complete the homestead requirements. The pre-emption land was purchased for a set fee of $2 or $3 an acre. To receive the patent for the pre-emption the homesteader had to cultivate 50 acres of land, reside for six months of the year on the land, at the homestead or with a relative within a nine mile radius of the pre-emption.

Purchased Homestead 1871-1918

A purchased homestead was a further 160 acres of Crown land, within a nine-mile radius of the homestead. The homesteader could apply for this land at the same time that the homestead was applied for or once the patent for the homestead had been received. To qualify for the purchased homestead the homesteader had to complete the homestead requirements. The land was purchased for a set fee of $2 or $3 per acre. A one-third down payment was required with the balance to be paid in five equal installments. To receive the patent the homesteader had to cultivate 50 acres of land, reside for six months of the year at the homestead or with a relative within a nine mile radius of the purchased homestead.

Documents in The Homestead File and How They Help Genealogists

  • Application for Entry

The application form contains the land location, name and signature of the applicant, the date and where the application was made. More recent forms included ages of all the people in the family but no names of these family members were given.

  • Sworn Statement in Support of the Application for a Homestead Patent

When the requirements established by the Dominion Lands Act were completed the homesteader made a sworn statement to this effect. The information in the statement provides the name, age and post office address of the applicant and whether they are a British subject or a Naturalized British subject. Other questions ask for the date of entry, the date building began on the house, the portion of the year that the homesteader lived on the land and if absent where they were and what they were doing. Another question asked was of whom the family consisted and when they commenced residence on the homestead. Further questions asked about the number of acres that were broken and cropped each year, the numbers and kinds of livestock had each year, the size and value of the house and barn. Note the date and place where the document was signed.

If the applicant was not a British subject there will be a stamp on the document that indicates the date of naturalization and the date that the document was seen. The Naturalization certificate was to be returned to the applicant but sometimes the copy is still in the file.

  • Sworn Statement of Two Neighbours

These statements were given by two neighbours who had to have known the applicant for three years in Canada. They were swearing that the information contained in the Sworn Statement was correct

  • Notification of Patent

The notice that the patent was being sent to the homesteader is often part of the file. The actual certificate was taken to Land Titles office to prove that they had title to the land. Rarely is theCertificate of Recommendation for Homestead Patent found in the file. If the certificate still exists it would be part of the family papers.

Other Papers That May Be Found in the Homestead File

  • A statutory declaration was made if the homesteader was unable to fulfill the requirements within the three year time frame. The questions were similar to those asked on the sworn statement except for the last one that asked for the special circumstances such as illness, accident or lack of means which should be considered by the Department of the Interior. The answer to this question could have a lot of information that is of interest to the genealogist.
  • Correspondence was not usually microfilmed unless it dealt with disputes or if people were using the information in the homestead file to prove age and residency in Canada for pension or citizenship purposes.
  • The Naturalization certificate occasionally will be found in the file although it was supposed to have been returned to the homesteader.
  • Applications for others who may have applied for the particular homestead and failed to complete the requirements. Along with this there could be a Declaration of Abandonment certificate indicating why the homesteader wished to abandon this particular piece of property.
  • Some files contain a copy of the Homestead Inspector’s Report. This report records the information about the homestead location, the date of entry, the size and construction of the house, stables and granary along with the value of each, the amount of land broken and cropped and information about the stock. Questions are also asked about the nature of the soil, the area fit for cultivation, marsh or lake, timber and hay land on the homestead. There was also space for general remarks.

Crown Land Records at the Archives of Manitoba

The homestead files were transferred to the Archives of Manitoba after the Crown lands were transferred to the province. These files as well as other records created by the Department of the Interior are now available for research at the archives. Subsequent land transactions are found in the Land Titles offices.

Finding Aid: The Historic Holders Report

The “Historic Holders” report consists of a nominal listing of all individuals who obtained patent to Crown land through homestead entry, purchase or grant. It includes the legal description, type of grant, size, date of entry and date of patent.

Homestead Files 1870-1930

Copies of the homestead files are found on microfilm at the archives.

Fiats 1870-ca. 1930

The fiat is the form used to request that letters patent be issued. It shows the name, address, legal land description, the size and type of grant. Paper copies of the fiats are found at the archives arranged by legal land description.

Township General Registers ca. 1870-1976

Township registers are arranged by meridian and range. They contain the names of everyone who applied for Crown land up to the date of the final grant. These are large books which have not been microfilmed.

Parish and Settlement Registers ca. 1870-1976

Provide the name of the patentee, nature of grant and date of transaction. Includes names of persons who entered a homestead but did not obtain a patent.

Township and Parish Cadastral Plans ca. 1870-1930

Consist of Department of Interior cadastral plans for townships and parishes. The township plans show the name of patentees and patent numbers. Parish Plans provide the name of the owner and parish lot numbers.

Parish Files 1874-1959

Consist of documents that establish ownership and occupancy of parish lots in the Red River Settlement as required to obtain patent under the 1870 Manitoba Act. Contains information on pre-1870 settlers, including personal data, use of land and improvements. The majority of files cover the period 1878-1930. Where title was disputed or land reserved, files continue until 1959. The series is incomplete. Missing files may be in the Department of the Interior Manitoba Act Files available on microfilm at the archives. Some files may still be with Manitoba Natural Resources.


Archives of Manitoba
Tel. (866) 626-4862
130-200 Vaughan Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1T5

Hudson’s Bay Company Land

Under the terms of the original purchase agreement with the Hudson’s Bay Company blocks of land around its trading posts and 1/20th of the land in the ‘Fertile Belt’ were set aside as Hudson’s Bay Company Land. This land is identified as Section 8 and Section 26 except for the NE quarter of Section 26 which was designated as homestead land in every township. But in every fifth township the Hudson’s Bay Company had all of Section 26. In some townships the HBC could have other townships if the Dominion Government required the land for other purposes.

Finding Aid RG 1, Series 21

The records for the sale of the Hudson’s Bay Land are found in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg. In order to access the records you need to consult RG 1, Series 21, Record of HBC Lands to find the land description. These are arranged in 17 volumes by township and range, Volumes 18 and 19 are the sections other than sections 8 and 26.

When you find the correct entry note the contract number which is listed on the left-hand side of the page which is headed “Area Sold, Surrendered or Otherwise Disposed of.” Beware that not all agreements for sale were completed so there could be more than one entry per quarter-section. You will need the contract number in order to access the Farm Land Agreements.

Hudson’s Bay Company Farm Lands Register of Sales

RG 1, Series 25 1879-1910 consists of eight volumes for the period 1879-1910. Each register is organized numerically according to the sale number found in the finding aid. The entry for each sale includes the name of the purchaser, the location of the land and the amounts of the installments paid as well as details concerning the delivery of the deed of property. Subsequent land transactions are found in Land Title offices.


The Hudson’s Bay Archives
Telephone: (204) 945-4949
130-200 Vaughan Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1T5

Additional Information

For more information about Manitoba land records, see:

Manitoba Land Records, Part 2
Manitoba Land Records, Part 3
Manitoba Land Records, Part 4


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

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.