Prince Edward Island Land Grants

Records of Prince Edward Island land grants (specifically, petitions for land grants) exist from 1769 to 1837.

Brief History

Coat of Arms of the Lieutenant-Governor of PEI.
Creative Commons, Wikimedia
Coat of Arms - Lt. Gov. of PEI

Prince Edward Island (PEI) was originally part of the French colony of Acadia. In 1713, it became part of the Ile Royale colony, another French settlement, and was known as Ile Saint-Jean. It was within the territory over which France and Britain disputed ownership.

On June 28, 1769, it became a British colony in its own right. Its first government was established that year, and initially consisted of a Governor, a Council, and a Supreme Court.

Its name was changed to Prince Edward Island in 1798, in honour of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (father of Queen Victoria), who at that time was commanding troops in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Council handled all issues that came before the Governor, including Prince Edward Island land grants.

Initially, the Council members were chosen from among landowners and others within the colony for this unpaid position. Once a government was sitting, however, they became members of the Executive Council. By the 1830s, virtually all members of the Council were related, leading to calls for reform and to do away with the “Family Compact”.

Prince Edward Island joined Confederation, thereby becoming a Canadian province, on July 1, 1873.

Green Gables, Childhood Home of Lucy Maud Montgomery,
author of "Anne of Green Gables"
Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons
Green Gables, PEI

Where can I find the Records?

The Prince Edward Island Archives hold all of the relevant records. They are located at:

Hon. George Coles Building, 4th floor
175 Richmond Street
Charlottetown, PE
General Inquiries: (902) 368-4290

Mailing Address: PO Box 1000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7M4

The most relevant Prince Edward Island land grant documents are petitions made to the Governor, the vast majority of which are requests for land grants, in its Executive Council fonds, catalogued as Record Group (RG) 5, Series 4. The petitions cover the period from 1780 to 1837. They have been indexed by name, and are included in the Master Name Index.

For those researching from a distance, there is also a searchable online database, called the PEI Petition Index, which allows you to search by name for any petitions, including land, which exist for an individual. This database contains petitions from 1780 to 1915.

The actual petitions have been digitized, and clicking on “Individual Results” in the database, after finding the person’s name, will give access to the digital copy.

Not all petitions have survived, however. In some cases, where the petition is not on file, but there was reference made to it elsewhere in the Executive Council fonds (usually in the Executive Council Minutes), copies of those notes or discussions have been included in the database.

You can access the original Prince Edward Island land grant petitions at the Public Archives of PEI.

At the very least, a petition for land will include the name of the petitioner and the tract of land in which he was interested. For United Empire Loyalists, it will also include the US Army regiment in which he served. It may also provide the name of the petitioner’s wife.

Some Prince Edward Island land grant petitions, however, go into much more depth, and provide details of the petitioner’s family, their background, where they have come from, and sometimes even health issues they are facing. These biographical details, naturally, are a ‘goldmine’ to family historians seeking information about their ancestors.

Prince Edward Island Map, 1775.
Wikimedia Commons
PEI Map, 1775

Other related documentation

The Public Archives also has the following series of documents on file with respect to Prince Edward Island land grants:

  • Warrants of Survey: These Crown-issued land survey orders pertain to some Loyalist allotments in about 20 lots. They cover the years 1784-1803.
  • Pre-1900 Land Records and Maps Land records may include the purchaser's place of origin, occupation, and perhaps his spouse's name.

    Not all land transfers are included, however. Up until October of 1939, the existing laws allowed for land to be transferred by will, without any requirement to register the transfer of ownership with the authorities.

    The bulk of PARO's land-related documents date from before 1900. Records dated after 1900 are housed at the Land Registry Office, located in the Jones Building, 11 Kent Street, Charlottetown (902-368-4591).

  • Conveyances: The first series of land conveyances (that is, transfers of property from one owner to another) covers all of Prince Edward Island from 1769 – 1873, when it joined Canadian Confederation. This series is indexed alphabetically to 1873.
  • Crown Deeds and Township Ledgers: Under the Land Purchase Act of 1853, where the government purchased land from the owners, tenants could purchase their land from the government. Once a specified number of payments had been made, as recorded in township ledgers, a deed was issued. These deeds may contain information about previous transactions and may record the number of the original lease.
  • Leases: The Archive’s collection of leases consists of the copy on the person who leased the property, which was given to the government at the time that a Prince Edward Island land grant occurred. The government did not have copies of the leases, as those were contracts between private parties, and the parties to the contract kept the copies. Their value to family historians lies in the names recorded on the lease itself
  • Maps and Plans: The Archives has a large collection of maps which are of interest to family historians, including the 1863 Lake Map, the 1880 Meacham's Atlas, and the 1927 Cummins Atlas. Each of these contains maps showing the names of residents for all lots.

    It also houses manuscript maps of the Island and individual lots. Many show property boundaries.

    Although the quantity and quality of maps for the different lots vary considerably, they may be useful in establish where a particular family was living at a given point in time.

    Some maps may also contain land record reference numbers, allowing you to locate additional documentation with respect to that land, in the form of leases, petitions, or other documents.

  • Rent Books: Some individuals never applied for a land grant, but simply rented property. The owners, or their agents, kept what were called ‘rent books’, in which they recorded all rental payments. This collection is incomplete. However, they may be the only record of your ancestor’s presence in the area, and of exactly where they were living.

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