British Columbia Land Grants
and Homesteading

British Columbia land grants exist from at least the 1840s to 1970.

Land grants on Vancouver Island between 1871 and 1884 were not without their difficulties.

Following the federal government's commitment to build a railway linking B.C. with the rest of Canada, there were disputes concerning what lands would be reserved for the railway.

While it was clear that 20 miles on either side of the railway line was to be reserved for the railway, the actual route the rail line would take within the Island was not.

Settlers who had moved onto lands which may have been reserved for the railway finally were granted rights to the lands they had been occupying as of 1884. However, the title (ownership right) granted was without any sub-surface mineral rights or timber rights.

A fierce debate ensued, with the settlers eventually gaining full rights to their lands.

That is, under the Vancouver Island Settlers' Rights Act, 1904, settlers who could show occupation and improvement of lands within the railway belt (the 20 miles on either side of the railway line, reserved to the railway) prior to enactment of the Settlement Act (1884), and who applied to the Lieutenant Governor in Council in the year following the 1904 Act, were granted the right to obtain Crown grants "in fee simple" (i.e., full title to the land, including all mineral and timber rights).

The railway unsuccessfully challenged this, but in 1905 was granted other lands in lieu of those lost.

Any lands granted after passage of the 1899 Lands Act were without rights to minerals, petroleum and coal, except for those of the settlers described in the previous paragraph.

Between 1849 and 1970, homesteading (also called "pre-emption" in B.C.) was one of two ways to acquire Crown lands, the other being to purchase it.

British Columbia homesteading was eliminated in 1970.

Steps in the British Columbia Land Granting / Homesteading (Pre-emption) Process

Details of the pre-emption process in British Columbia varied somewhat over the years, as they did in other provinces. According to the BC Archives, the steps to a land grant generally were as follows:

  • A block of vacant, non-reserved, unsurveyed Crown land was selected by the pre-emptor (the homesteader).
  • The pre-emptor staked the land, and submitted a written application.
  • A Certificate of Pre-emption was issued in triplicate, with copies to the pre-emptor, the local office, and the department in Victoria.
  • After meeting the requirements for improvements to the land, residency qualification, and land surveying, the pre-emptor was issued a Certificate of Improvement, and the land was purchased at a discounted rate or at no further charge.
  • A Crown grant was issued and the land was "alienated" (a legal term meaning that ownership of the land passed into private hands). The British Columbia land grant had to be registered at a Land Titles office and a Certificate of Indefeasible Title (land title deed) issued for the process to be fully completed.
  • Responsibility for keeping records of the land then passed to a Land Title office. If the new owner defaulted on taxes, the land reverted to the Crown.

Where can I find the Records?

The British Columbia Archives holds applications for British Columbia Homesteads, and British Columbia Land Grants (Applications to Pre-Empt or Purchase Crown Lands).

The records are on microfilm, and can be ordered to your local Family History Centre for your convenience.

The Land Title and Survey Authority holds British Columbia land grants and some related records.

While virtually all of the Crown grants are online at the Land Title and Survey Authority, the general public cannot access them. The database, primarily for those in industries related to land transfers, has fee-based user accounts, and requires a password.

For Crown grants, you can send your order to the LTSA Record Distribution Services, Surveyor General Division, at, or by calling the Customer Service Centre at 1-877-577-5872.

You can have either a photocopy of the Crown Grant information mailed to you, or you can ask for a PDF image to be created and sent to you by e-mail.

You will receive only the Crown grant, with none of the associated paperwork.

Once you have the Crown grant, however, it will tell you which provincial Ministry authorized it, as well as the file number of the property. You then can contact that Ministry for further information.

Go to Newfoundland Land Grants

Go to New Brunswick Land Grants

Go to Nova Scotia Land Grants

Go to Ontario Land Grants

Go to Prairie Provinces Land Grants (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan)

Go to Prince Edward Island Land Grants

Go to Quebec Land Grants

Go to Canadian Land Grants and Homesteading

Go from "BC Land Grants and Homesteading" to familyhistoryalive Home Page

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