British Columbia Land and Property Records
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The early applications for preemptions and Crown grants began in the mid-1800s and are at the British Columbia Information Management Services. They have an index for the preemption land records (1859-1971) which they can search for you. (See the “Archives and Libraries” section of this outline.) Copies of Crown grants can be made only for legal or court purposes. They give the name of the grantor and grantee, a description of the land, the date of transaction, and sometimes names of relatives. For copies, write to the appropriate land title office. If you have the legal description of the land, they can trace the title of the land back to previous owners. For addresses, contact the Headquarters of Court Services. Original Crown grants are at:
Surveyor General Crown Lands Registry Services
Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks
3400 Davidson Avenue
Victoria, BC V8Z 3P8
What’s Available on the Internet
Library and Archives -Western Land Grants (1870-1930)
Glenbow Museum - Archives CPR Land Sales
Websites of Interest
Map of British Columbia
British Columbia is bounded by the 60th parallel on the north, the 49th parallel on the south and Alberta on the east. Its western border is Alaska and the Pacific Ocean. Nootka Sound saw the first landing made by Captain James Cook in 1778. The first European overland crossing to the Pacific Coast was made by Alexander Mackenzie in 1793. The region of British Columbia was administered by the Hudson’s Bay Company and was known as New Caledonia. Fort Victoria was established in 1843.
In 1846 Britain and the United States agreed on a boundary beginning at the 49th parallel in the Rocky Mountains. In 1851 Vancouver Island became a British colony and the mainland joined in 1858. This was the year of the gold strikes that led to the Fraser River Gold Rush. The two colonies were united in 1866 and joined Confederation in 1871. In 1885 the province was physically linked with the rest of Canada with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, terminating in Vancouver.
BC Land Title and Survey
The Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) now manages all historical land title and survey records relating to Crown land and alienated Crown land (private property) dating back to the 1850s. In late summer 2010, they moved their historic collection to a new building in Victoria which provides state-of-the-art controlled records vault and a conservation laboratory for ongoing preservation and protection of their historic records.
However, there is no province-wide index to historic land title transactions. Access to the original land titles is restricted; therefore, it is necessary to consult with a registry agent, also known as a title search agent, to access them for you. Staff of the LTSA cannot undertake such research for you. You must provide the full legal description, a specific civic address, or the parcel identifier (PID) number of the property in which you are interested.
The BC Land Title and Survey website gives the following information about Crown Grant documents:
Crown Grants may be accessed by sending your order to LTSA's Record Distribution Services, Surveyor General Division, at the email order desk, or by calling the Customer Service Centre at 1-877-577-5872. A photocopy of the Crown Grant information will be mailed to you or a PDF image may be created and sent to you by e-mail.
If you are interested in background file information that relates and gives rise to a particular Crown grant, you should contact the provincial Ministry that was responsible for authorizing the Crown grant. The Ministry name and the property's file number will be shown on the Crown grant.
Land Title Offices
- New Westminster Land Title Office
(Vancouver, New Westminster, Prince George, Prince Rupert Land Title Districts)
Suite 300 - 88 Sixth Street
New Westminster, British Columbia V3L 5B3
- Kamloops Land Title Office
(Kamloops, Nelson Land Title Districts)
Suite 114 - 455 Columbia Street
Kamloops, British Columbia V2C 6K4
- Victoria Land Title Office
Suite 200 - 1321 Blanshard Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9J3
British Columbia Archives
The British Columbia Archives hold applications for homesteads and applications to pre-empt or purchase Crown Lands. Their website gives the following listings:
- Crown Grants: Microfilm copies of original Crown grants and indexes dating between 1851 and 1930 held at Crown Land Registry, Ministry of Environment, GR-3096, GR-3097, and GR-3139
- Land Sales: Land sale registers contain information on the sale of Crown land, most often by public auction or public tender. GR-3140 consists of microfilm copies of auctioneers’ agreements, 1899-1914.
- Land (Lot) Registers: Bound volumes maintained by Crown Land Registry in which are recorded the first instance of alienation of Crown land or a reversion of private property to the Crown land base. The Archives has an incomplete set.
- Pre-emption Records: Pre-emption records date between the late 1850s and 1970. Pre-emption records include the pre-emption application and record itself, the certificate of improvement, and any correspondence associated with the pre-emption. The largest body of pre-emption records are in GR-0112.
- Correspondence Registers and Indexes: The Archives does not have a complete set of correspondence registers and there is no known complete subject index to Crown Land Registry correspondence. A partial subject index for the years 1871 to ca. 1980 is GR-0993
- Correspondence: Summaries and descriptions of correspondence files are found in the Correspondence category of Inventory 15, Crown Lands.
- Miscellaneous Reserves and Grants of Land: A variety of land reserves and types of land grants were offered at various times by the government to organizations and individuals. Among these are military or soldier grants, church, park, forest, and military reserves.
- Dominion Land Branch (Railway Belt and Dominion Peace River Block) Records: The Archives holds the Dominion Land Surveyor (DLS) diaries for the Railway Belt and the Dominion Peace River Block (GR-0437).
- Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Belt Record: Most of these pertain to commissions of inquiry held between 1897 and 1916 as a result of disputes between settlers within the E&N Railway land grant prior to 1884 and the E&N Railway Company
- Indian Affairs Records: The Archives holds a partial set of federal government records created by the federal Indian Affairs department and acquired from Library and Archives Canada as microfilm and photocopies. These records are described in Inventory 25 and are known asRG-10 records, a designation assigned by Library and Archives Canada.
- Tax Assessment Records: Photocopies of colonial tax assessment rolls for southern Vancouver Island (1861-1871). Tax assessments records from 1876 to 1948 are available on microfilm inGR-1999. Not all tax assessment rolls after 1876 have survived.
- Land forfeiture, reversion to the Crown and Expropriation: Due to financial circumstances or for other reasons, private property owners sometimes involuntarily lose ownership of their land and it may revert to the Crown. Property owners may also bequeath their land to the Crown. In both cases, information may be available at the Archives or Crown Land Registry.
- British Columbia Archives
655 Belleville Street Victoria,
675 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9W2
Hudson’s Bay Company Archives
Please refer back to the section in Manitoba regarding the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives.
- Hudson’s Bay Company Archives
130 - 200 Vaughan Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1T5
- British Columbia Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 88054, Lansdowne Mall
Richmond, British Columbia V6X 3T6
- Victoria Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 43021 Victoria North P.O.
Victoria, British Columbia V8X 3G2
- Victoria Genealogical Society Resource Centre
947 Alston Street
Victoria, British Columbia
For additional information see:
- Murphy, Sharon L., Brenda Dougall Merriman, and Frances Coe. "British Columbia Land Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/British_Columbia_Land_Records_%28National_Institute%29.