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October 9, 2003

Finding Ancestors in Ontario Land Records

Land records are very useful research tools. Often they provide wive's first and maiden names, children's names, information as to origin, and even wills!

Originally all land in Ontario belonged to the Crown. Although there were small areas of settlement in 1763 after the British took over, major settlement of Upper Canada began in 1783 and utilized Crown Grants.

Up to 1826 free land grants were available to all settlers, to government favourites, and to UEL children. In 1826 these free grants were abolished except Loyalist grants and soldiers, and anyone wanting Crown land had to buy it.

There were two types of land petitions:

  • pre 1827 petitions for free grants of land under the UEL and military categories
  • post 1827 petitions for purchase of Crown lands

Settlers could also buy lands from the Canada Company, a private company owning all of the Huron District. These records are held at the Archives of Ontario. All land sales after the initial Crown grant were registered with local land registry offices.

Procedures for granting Crown Land changed constantly but could involve:

  • The settler's initial Petition to the Crown for land
  • An Order-in-Council from a federal Land Board granting their request
  • A Warrant from Ontario's Attorney General ordering the surveying of a lot
  • The Fiat from Ontario Surveyor General authorizing a grant of the surveyed lot
  • A Location Ticket permitting the settler to reside on the lot
  • The Patent transferring ownership of the lot from the Crown to the settler.

Other Resources for Land Records

  • Upper Canada Land Petitions and Land Books 1793-1826 [NA RG 1, L3 and RG1, E1] or indexes on C-10810 to C10836 on microfilm at the Ontario Archives or NAC.
  • Loyalist Claims and Conversion List [NA MG14] 1790-1837 - Audit Office 12 and 13 compensation claims for land and goods lost during the American Revolution - 178 reels of microfilm
  • CLRI (Computerized Land Records Index) aka Ontario Land Record Index, summarizes land grants from sales of Crown Land, from Canada Company sales or leases and from Peter Robinson settlers' grants. If your ancestor settled anywhere in Ontario and he was the first time buyer of Crown Land, he will be on these lists. I offer a lookup service for the CLRI.

More details on Land Records in Upper Canada (aka Canada West and present day Ontario) as well as links to online searchable databases for land is available at