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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:
Part Section Township Range Meridian NW 5 32 6 W3
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 1890 the 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.
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
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.