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Many immigrants came to North America because they saw an opportunity to own land. Beginning in 1870, to encourage settlement in the western areas of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, the Canadian government offered potential settlers 160 acres of land for a $10 fee. To receive the patent, the applicant had to meet certain criteria. Many settlers came from the United States into the Canadian homestead areas to take advantage of the available land. Questions on homestead records ask for the applicant’s country of birth, subdivision of country of birth, last place of residence, and previous occupation.
Land records often predate censuses, and they can help date an immigrant’s arrival and trace immigrant origins. Some types of land records provide birth places or places of last residence, while others provide the basic clues to continue the search in other records. Land records can also pinpoint places of residence in Canada. With the advent of indexing projects, there are new research strategies available.
Canadian land records vary according to province, but there are five general types:
1. Records showing transfer of land from the government or Crown to the first patentees, usually in national or provincial offices or repositories.
2. Subsequent transactions, usually in local land registry or land title offices.
3. Indexes–both original official indexes and historical and genealogical compilations.
4. Maps showing boundaries of land holdings and names of owners or occupiers.
5. Records of taxes on lands (assessment and collectors’ rolls) that provide the legal description of the property.
Canadian land records are filed in a number of places, including county courthouses, provincial archives and libraries, and national archives. Some Canadian land records are available on microfilm through the FHL.
Alberta Homestead Index 1870 - 1930 : http://abgensoc.ca/homestead/
Saskatchewan Homestead Records: http://www.rootsweb.com/~cansk/Saskatchewan/homestead.html
Western Land Grants (1870-1930) http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/020111_e.html
Land records: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/genealogy/022-912-e.html
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