Ontario Land Records Index (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 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 ($).

Ontario (Continued)

Land Boards

After four districts were created in the western part of Québec (1788), the Lieutenant Governor appointed a Land Board for each district, which was to hear applications for land and assign specific locations for settlers with a location ticket or certificate. In the very early re-settlement period, Loyalists and other settlers were given slips of paper or certificates by the first Land Boards to denote the location of their lots. It was expected that these papers would later be exchanged for a patent grant. The boards reported to the Governor-in-Council which was advised by the land committee, a sub-committee of the Council.

This first Land Board system lasted only until 1794 when a more centralized land granting procedure evolved. The Clerk of the Executive Council kept minutes of the committee’s proceedings in what are known as Land Books. After the War of 1812, Land Boards were re-established with a more restricted role. Sixteen volumes of records of the early Land Boards(LAC, RG 1, L 4) have been microfilmed. They may include reports and correspondence, and sometimes documents which pre-date their establishment. An index to names and subjects was prepared and microfilmed. It is available in a searchable online database.

Upper Canada Land Petitions are designated LAC, RG 1, L 3; there are nominal card indexes in two series (microfilms C-10810 to C-10836 and H-1176 to H-1178). Petitions requesting (“praying for”) a land grant are often the most informative source about an early ancestor. Both the indexes and petitions are microfilmed. The index is available in an online searchable database.

Upper Canada Land Books (LAC, RG 1, L 1) are also filmed. The Ontario Genealogical Society is publishing an extensive series, Index to the Upper Canada Land Books which may “catch” some of the errors or omissions in the index to petitions. An illuminating introduction to this series, in each volume, is by Patricia Kennedy, acknowledged expert on the Archives’ pre-Confederation period.

There were two Heir & Devisee Commissions, the first 1797-1804 (LAC, RG 1, L 5) and the second 1805-1911 (Archives of Ontario, RG 40), both microfilmed (Archives of Ontario has copies of the first commission). They were created to sort out and correct problems arising from claims for land and confirm earlier certificates or location tickets as eligible for a patent. As a result, the applicants often provided a wealth of information to support a claim for a piece of property. Many of the earliest settlers had lost their original papers, or had moved away, or perhaps died, causing additional confusion.

The first series is arranged by districts and has no nominal indexes. By patiently scrolling through the minutes, reports and correspondence, you may find a rewarding reference to your ancestor. The second series has a nominal index according to the person who applied to the commission. That person might have come to the property later than your ancestor, so you are advised to use the Ontario Land Records Index to see who did receive the patent to a specific piece of land.

Archives of Ontario

Archives of Ontario
134 Ian Macdonald Blvd.
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C5
Telephone: 416-327-1600
Toll-free in Ontario only: 1-800-668-9933
Email: reference@ontario.ca

Crown Land records are found in RG 1 at the provincial archives (not to be confused with RG 1 holdings of Library and Archives Canada). The Crown Lands Department was created in 1827 when most free grants stopped and land was now to be sold. There are hundreds of sources in this record group, including petitions, location registers, sales registers of Crown/clergy/school reserves, and so on. It also has sources which pre-date the Crown Lands Department, such as orders-in-council, fiats and warrants, and sponsored emigration settlements. Most of these are briefly described on the AO website. Some land-related records are in different series, as indicated. A few of the most relevant for family historians are the following:

Ontario Land Records Index ca. 1780-1920 

This is a microfiche index of settlers who have:

1. Requested Crown land to settle on.

2. Received permission to lease or live on a specific piece of Crown land while fulfilling their settlement duties.

3. Received the patent for the land.

4. Leased or purchased land from the Canada Company or were Peter Robinson settlers (will be discussed in Canadian Land Records-Part 2).

This index is arranged by name or by township. Copies of the microfiche index have been distributed to almost all libraries, archives in Ontario as well as the FamilySearch Centers. Of course, a copy is also available at the Archives of Ontario.

When you are searching through the index, be sure to use your genealogical research skills, i.e.: search all possible spellings, including phonetic and typo errors. When you find your person or location, copy the entire citation. You will need all the data shown to continue on to various groups of records. This index provides:

  • Ÿ the settler’s name and residence (if known);
  • Ÿ township, concession and lot of the crown property;
  • Ÿ date and type of grant;
  • Ÿ the archival reference to the source of the data.

To determine if your settler eventually acquired the patent to the land you should check the Index to Land Patents in series RG 53-56, arranged by surname, 1826-1967.

You should also check the Index to Land Patents in Series RG 53-55 arranged by township, 1793-1852, and the Abstract Indexes to Deeds which are also arranged by township.

Remember, however, that these are indexes. To do a proper job of your research you must access the documents. An entry on an index is not considered to be genealogical proof of a fact. An index is a finding aid only.

The Archives of Ontario provide many research guides to assist you with your work. Research Guide No. 205 “Using the Ontario Land Records Index ca. 1780-ca. 1920” includes the information to help you interpret the results of your findings. (See Tables 1-6 in the Research Guide on the Archives of Ontario website.


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 wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.