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March 7, 2014

Searching Ontario Canada Land Records, eh?

Searching Ontario Canada Land Records, eh?
1826 Land Petition John Greenlees
Last night I stumbled on two land petitions for my 3rd great grandfather John Greenlees. That's right, I said "stumbled on". Yes it's a bit embarrassing to admit my finding these petitions from 1826 and 1833 was not an act of brilliant genealogy sleuthing. 

Finding land petitions may not sound exciting but not only do they add details to an ancestor's life, they often contain clues to other records or facts that were not previously known. In this specific instance the 1826 petition gave John's year of immigration from Ireland to Ontario Canada. It also provided the number of children he had in 1826.

Last night I went to a lookup service site I use sometimes and entered GREENLEES into the site search engine. I’ve searched for my Greenlees family before on this site but the owner often adds new indexes so since I was bored with TV I figured what the heck. Bingo! Up popped two index entries for my ancestor in the Upper Canada Land Petitions (UCLP). That puzzled me because the UCLP have been online as a searchable index at Library & Archives Canada (LAC) since 2010, and the actual images have been online for at least a year.  I’ve searched them dozens if not hundreds of times but I’ve never seen a petition for John Greenlees. 
My next stop was the online UCLP indexes at LAC. It’s a bit tricky finding the petitions there because the searchable indexes are on one spot on the site and the actual digitized images are on another – and there is no link from one to the other. First you head to the Indexto Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865) to search the indexes. But here’s the important part of searching this index. When you search for an ancestor, take advantage of the wildcards that LAC allows. 

For example, searching for GREENLEES does not bring up my ancestor John. But searching for GREEN* brings him up for both those petition entries I found on the other website. For those his name is rendered as GREENLESS.   Here’s the embarrassing bit – I know to use wildcards. I do use wildcards. But apparently I never used them when searching for my Greenlees family! Either that or I somehow overlooked searching for them in the UCLP. Once your name of interest is found you must click on the link for each name. 

Clicking on the index entry for John Greenlees 1826 provides me with the information I need to find the digitized image(s) online. 

Name:  Greenless, John
Place:  Nelson
Year:  1826
Volume:  208A
Bundle:  G 14
Petition: 142
Microfilm:  C-2032
Reference: RG 1 L3
It would be nice if LAC had an easily found link to the digitized images but unless you then go back to your results, click on SEARCH HELP, then choose HOW TO OBTAIN COPIES you will be lost as to what to do next. Choosing HOW TO OBTAIN COPIES takes you to an explanation and buried in it is a sentence saying you can view the digitized images for the UCLP online. The word “online” is linked. 

But guess what! Clicking on that link takes you to another page of information about LAC’s digitization projects. Buried within this page is an explanation that “some” items from LAC’s “numerous collections” have been digitized and you can search for what you want by going to a BROWSE BY TITLE or BROWSE BY TOPIC page. Phew! Nowhere will you find a link that specifies you can search the UCLP digitized images. That's a major fail in my mind.

But the workaround is that you can go directly to the digitized UCLP images with the link I have provided here. I suggest you open a second browser window for the actual images so that you have your first window still open to the information you need (Microfilm #, Volume #, Bundle and Petition #) You'll be jumping back and forth to doublecheck that you are in the right volume and bundle as you search for the petition you want.

Using John Greenlees 1826 petition, I’ll show you how you find the image you want on the digitized microfilm. I need Microfilm:  C-2032 so I must go page by page until I find the film number I need.  It is on the 3rd page of film numbers. I click on the film number and the first image of 749 appears. The first page won’t help me so I usually enter 50 in the box so I go to image 50. 

Source details at bottom of digitized image
 Scroll right to the bottom until you can see Upper Canada Land Petitions and the source detail including the Volume, Bundle, Years and more. We need Volume 208A for John Greenlees. But a look at the info on image 50 shows we are in Volume 208. So we have to jump ahead. There is no way of knowing how far ahead you need to go so I just usually go by 50 at a time. Sometimes I go head a few hundred because you can always go back. So I jumped to image 100 (still not the right volume) and then 200. Image 200 shows me I am in Volume 208A, Bundle 14.  We can also see it is for letter “G”. Now we check what Bundle we needed for John Greenlees and it is G14. So we are in the right Volume and Bundle. 

Next is the all-important petition number. We need #142. So now we scroll UP on the image we are on (200) and check the top of the actual petition.   The petition number is usually on the right top but sometimes on the left. In this case Image 200 shows the petition number on the top left is 120a

The petition we want (142) is ahead on the reel. You might do the math and think you only need to go head by 22 but most petitions have at least 2 pages, sometimes dozens. So I would go ahead 50. I’m not worried because if I jump past #142 I can always go back.

Going ahead 50 takes me to image 250 and I can see that it is Petition 131a. I’ll go ahead another 25 and see where I am. That brings me to Petition 139. Finally I hit on image 302 which shows me the petition #142 for John Greenlees. If you happen to get to your desired petition # but it has a letter after it (such as 142b) then you have gone too far. The petitions are numbered in sequence and always start with a number. Each page of the same individual’s petition is given a letter so if John Greenlees has a 4 page petition they will be numbered 142, 142a, 142b and 142c.

Be sure to save every page including the “envelope” as it has important information on it. I’ll explain how to interpret the information on the "envelope" in another blog post. Meantime you may want to read about other land records in Ontario - where to find them and how to search the databases. It is found at Finding Ancestors in Ontario Land Records


Unknown said...

Thank so much! I found one family and I'm off to look for others.

Celia Lewis said...

Goodness, it's time for me to revisit these land records! I'd always given up after finding the indexed numbers etc., but never figuring out how to find the images. Hmmm. Another weekend lost, I suspect!
Thanks for your details, Lorine - so helpful.

grandrapidsgirl said...

Lorine, I have not worked on my Ontario ancestors in several years and had always found the land records, beyond indexes, difficult to use. This morning already I have found petitions for Jacob Beam in 1797 and Jabez Colver in 1818 both with signatures of the petitioner. Thank you so much for posting these directions. Sandra Page

Anonymous said...

Such a cumbersome process, but thank you for the step-by-step. I've had great success, thanks to you!

SallySearches said...

Thank you for the simplified process! The steps were perfect.

Anonymous said...

The link works but as of today 9 Jan 2014 there is a banner that says it has been archived.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

What link are you referring to?

Beth Bishop said...

SO HELPFUL -- THANK YOU SO MUCH!! Now I have to figure out how to look up the RG5A1 microfilmed pages (C-6873) since they don't appear on the link you gave. I had great luck with a number of others though, so again, THANK YOU!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Beth - that microfilm is part of the Upper Canada Sundries. Please see my article on how and where to search them at