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