Canadian Land Grants and Homesteading

Many settlers were enticed to come to Canada by the promise of free Canadian land grants. Some migration was from the British Isles and other parts of Europe. Other immigrants, called United Empire Loyalists, came from the US, following the American Revolution, with a desire to live in a British-controlled country.

Statue of United Empire Loyalists
Outside McMaster University, Hamilton, ON
Wikimedia Commons

United Empire Loyalists, and their sons and daughters, as well as some military personnel who fought in various British wars, were entitled to free land in Canada.

Documentation in support of the claim for free land had to be supplied.

Thus, for military personnel, documentation of their military service, including regiment and years of service, would have been filed with the petition for free land.

The sons and daughters of United Empire Loyalists would supply genealogical evidence that their parents were United Empire Loyalists. This would include birth registrations / baptismal information, as well as information regarding where the family had lived in the US prior to coming to Canada.

Canadian land grants occurred at different times across the country, although the records are more extensive in some parts of the country than in others.

For example:

  • grants of Crown land in southern Ontario began in the later 1700s, and continued to the mid-1800s;

  • Settlement of the Prairies and parts of British Columbia occurred between the 1870s (when the transcontinental railway was under construction or completed, allowing easier access to the Prairies and B.C.) and the 1930s; and

  • Northern Ontario was opened for settlement and development from the late 1800s to the 1930s.

Canadian land grants were not only to individuals. The government granted large tracts of land, for instance, to the Hudson's Bay company when it was involved in the fur trade.

It also granted large amounts of land to railway companies for rights of way and stations.

Municipalities were granted lands for towns and schools, and religious groups for churches.

The government also granted land to colonization companies, which would then seek out settlers.

The Process of applying for a Land Grant

Immigrants applying ("petitioning the Crown") for a Canadian land grant had to provide certain details which are very relevant to us as family historians, such as name, occupation, residence, number of years in Canada, and after 1908, if not already a British subject, their intention to swear allegiance to the Crown.

Most files will also include the name of the place from which the family originated - which may be the clue that many are searching for, in order to continue their family history research in the land of origin.

Notice to Yonge St. Settlers
Wikimedia Commons

Once a Canadian land grant had been made, the individual had to meet certain requirements within a specified time period in order to be granted a land patent, or full title to (ownership of) the land.

These requirements varied as government policy changed over time, but generally included, among other things, the building of a dwelling of a specified minimum size, and the clearing and tilling of a specified number of acres of land.

Those who met the requirements were granted a patent, which gave them full title to the land. They could sell it, bequeathe it (i.e., give it to their descendants in a will), mortgage it, etc., as they saw fit.

Those who failed to meet the requirements were not granted a patent to the land, and title returned to the Crown for settlement by others.

The above photo provides an example of the conditions required to obtain a land patent on Yonge Street, in what is now Toronto, Ontario. Settlers had to build a dwelling at least 16 X 20 feet in size and clear all around it; clear and fence at least five acres of land; and clear the land along the Yonge St. Road fronting on their property, to the middle of the road, all within the first twelve months of occupation of the land.

Clearly, immigrants had to be able-bodied and strong, and have a number of brothers or sons old enough to assist, in order to meet those deadlines!

Admittedly, not all areas of the province had such stringent settlement requirements. Some more rural areas provided applicants with a much longer period of time to fulfill similar rquirements.

For further information regarding where to find (mostly) free genealogy websites and information regarding land grants and homesteading in the individual provinces, follow the links below.

Canada Place, Vancouver
Land Grants and
Manitoba, Saskatchewan,
and Alberta
Canada Place, Vancouver
British Columbia
Land Grants and

Fundy National Park, NB
New Brunswick
Land Grants

Fishing Boats, Poile, NL, Canada
& Labrador
Land Grant Records
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Land Grants
Toronto Skyline
Land Grants and
Sandstone Arch, PEI, Canada
Land Grants
Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City
Land Grants

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

Have A Great Story About This Topic?

Tell us your stories about your ancestors' land grants and homesteading! Or, share your expertise in land grants in some part of Canada!

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]


Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

  •  submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Edward Silas Stephens and Dorothy Myrtle Crowder 
I was told that my grandparents homesteaded outside Milden Sask. I have not been able to confirm this. My Mother and her brothers lived there when they …

Jack Muggridge had land in Musgravetown, Newfoundland, Canada 
Trying to get a map of the land with the name Jack Muggridge on it. The map I had has been lost.

Land Grants process, Western Canada 1874 ... Not rated yet
What would the process ( steps ) be for acquiring land under the Dominion Lands Act of 1872? ie. stake/make claim out the land to make physical notice; …

Click here to write your own.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

What's New?
is now on Facebook! For daily updates
and the latest
in genealogy news,
as well as reminders re upcoming webinars,

Join us on Facebook!

Looking for genealogy-themed t-shirts, mugs, iPad cases, and giftware? Click on the links in the widget for more information!

Upcoming Webinars

Click here for upcoming webinars, courtesy of Geneawebinars.

Heard the buzz about the new Flip-Pal scanner? See my review, here, or click on the ad, below, to go directly to their website.

Looking into DNA testing for genealogy purposes

Try 23andMe, or FTDNA (click the links below).