Discover your inside story with AncestryDNA®

March 21, 2014

Finding an Ancestor in the Challenging Upper Canada Land Books

Finding an Ancestor in the Challenging Upper Canada Land Books
Upper Canada Land Book K
I've shown you how to find an ancestor's petition in the Upper Canada Land Petitions online. If you missed that, you can follow the step-by-step instructions at Searching Ontario Canada Land Records, eh? and Understanding Notations on the Envelope of an Upper Canada Land Petition

Now we're going to tackle the very challenging set of online records called Upper Canada Land Books.

As I mentioned in my tutorial on  Understanding Notations on the Envelope of an Upper Canada Land Petition, the envelope on an ancestor's petition should not be overlooked.

In fact if you are lucky there will be a notation on the envelope that tells you the Land Book the page where you will find the entry for your ancestor's petition for land. Even if there is no notation indicating the Land Book Volume and page number, there should still be an entry in the Land Books.  I'm going to show you how to find those entries whether they are notated or not on the Petition envelopes.

What Are the Upper Canada Land Books?

But first let me explain what the Land Books are. When an individual petitioned for land in Upper Canada (present day Ontario), he or she had to present supporting documentation with the petition. The petition and supporting documentation would be read in the Executive Council. This Council consisted of a Land Committee who were responsible for recommending a decision as to whether or not to grant the petition. The  Council Clerk then made a corresponding entry in the appropriate Land Book.  These books contain the deliberations, decisions and recommendations of the Land Committee of the Executive Council of Upper Canada.

Sometimes the Land Book only contains a summary of the petition. Sometimes there is more detail. It is always wise to uncover all records possible for a given ancestor and I do recommend finding your ancestor's entry in the Land Books. The dates covered by these digitized Land Books are 1792-1867.

These Land Books do not have an online index (except for Land Book C) but there are several different online listings of the microfilm reels providing Volume numbers and dates found in each reel. However none of the online listings agree so I've tracked down which online listing is correct and that is the one you will need to use.

The Digitized Upper Canada Land Books

Let me explain in more detail. The actual filmed Land Books are online at Heritage Canada. But you can't just jump in and start searching as there are 14 films numbered from C-100 to C-110, as well as H-1976 to H-1978. The "H" films are all Finding Aids but I don't find them very helpful.

Clicking on the "About" tab for film C-100 says that this film contains Upper Canada Land Books Vol. 18-19. No dates are provided for any of the films listed on Heritage Canada. They only list Volume Numbers but the envelopes of Land Petitions do not record Land Book entries by Volume number. Instead they record it as a letter such as "Land Book K" or "Land Book M"

So we can't use the Heritage Canada descriptions to help us find our ancestor's entry. But we must use their online digitized images of the Land Books! A search of Library and Archives Canada finds a listing but on their website it shows there are 22 microfilms (as opposed to Heritage Canada's 14).

Finding What Dates are Covered in the Digitized Land Books

It took me quite awhile to find a list that provided accurate details as to what dates and Land Books are covered in each film.

I tried the search engine on Collections Canada found at but results using the "identifier" found in the two lines under a specific film number on the About tab for a specific film back on Heritage Canada bring up results that do not fit the Heritage Canada film.

For example the identifier for film C-100 for example is "RG 1 L1 205068" Entering this in the search engine brings up 5 results. Each is for a different film. The hit for C-106 shows the following details:

 "Upper Canada Land Minute Book T contains the minutes of meetings of the Executive Council between 10 August 1837 and 29 June 1839 (pages 1-614), plus a nominal index organized under A to Z. For Minutes omitted in April 1838, see Upper Canada State Minute Book K (RG 1, E 1, vol. 55; mikan #3815028). " It also states C-106 contains Volume 38. 
But Heritage Canada website description for C-106 states it contains Vol. 36-39. We're in the ball park but we still don't know exactly what is covered in the film on Heritage Canada's website!
However the good news is that eventually I found this list of microfilm numbers on the Library and Archives Canada website. So far the details on this list have proven accurate as to what is on each film on the Heritage Canada website.

Finding Your Ancestor's Land Book Entry Using Notations on the UCLP Envelope

Now we get to the fun part. First you must find your ancestor's petition in the Upper Canada Land Petitions. See my previous blog posts for help with this. Once you have found the petition, check the envelope carefully. If there is a notation such as "Entered in Land Book J, page 110" as was found on one of the examples I used, that of the petition of Elizabeth Bowman DeForest, you're in luck.

Next you consult the list of microfilm numbers I finally found, to find out what film contains Land Book J. It is
C-103 28 Upper Canada J 13 Aug. 1816 - 10 Feb. 1819

Now you go to Heritage Canada website and choose C-103. Once the first image loads you conduct a search the same way as we searched for the Upper Canada Land Petitions. See Searching Ontario Canada Land Records, eh? for a reminder of the method we used. It's a little different searching the Land Books because you are simply going by date which is found at the top of the images. Once you find the year and month you need, you check the page numbers until you get to the page you need.

And here is the entry for Elizabeth Deforest, found in Image 213 of C-103. It's a very simple entry and does not reveal any additional details about Elizabeth or her petition.

Finding Your Ancestor's Land Book Entry When the UCLP Envelope Has No Notation

But what if your ancestor's Upper Canada Land Petition envelope has no notation showing what Land Book it was entered in? What you must do in that case is note the dates - you want to write down the date of the original petition and the last date found on the envelope.

So in the case of my ancestor John Greenlees and his petition of 1826, I could see that the first date is 6 December 1826 and the last is 11 December 1826. So that is my timeframe. Checking the list of microfilm details on Library and Archives Canada I can see that my time period of interest is found on C-104.

C-104 31 Upper Canada M 9 Feb. 1824 - 13 Dec. 1826

Back to Heritage Canada and a quick search through C-104 to find December 1826 and there was his entry.

And that is how you find an ancestor's Upper Canada Land Book Entry using the Upper Canada Land Petitions.

1 comment:

T said...

Well, let me think about this. I'm 67 now.........and I don't know if my ancestor owned any land but he might have. IF he did, it would be between 1835-1856. How old will I be when I either find him or give up? In this digital age I would hope they could make it a little easier!