Written petitions seeking permission to settle Canada’s newly-opening frontiers, are important family history resources. Regardless of whether land was granted “free” (as in a grant for military service), or whether a settler paid patent fees, government permission was required.
Petitions were legal affidavits, submitted with the aid of a notarial official, with supporting letters and documentation attached. The petitions described such details as the exact identity of the petitioner, make-up and circumstances of the family, reasons for immigration, qualifications for free grants, occupation and skills, oaths of allegiance and character references.
Sometimes a petition was sent back for clarification or further evidence – the ‘cover’ page of each petition contains a running summary.
Three primary collections of early Canadian Land Petitions are:
1) Upper Canada Land Petitions 1793-1867 (index and images online; involves a search),
2) Lower Canada Land Petitions 1764-1841 (index and images online), and
3) Petitions to the Crown Lands Department 1827-1904 (not online)
These collections are held either by the Library or Archives Canada or the Archives of Ontario.
As of 2012, most Upper Canada (Ontario) Land Petitions can be consulted online – first by searching a surname index, and then by locating the PDF versions of each microfilm reel.
Each listing in the index contains two locations – one was the Township or District the petitioner was residing at, and the other the location that the Government ‘recommended” to be settled. Petitions were not always followed through to the issue of patents, nor were they always issued for the recommended locations.
See more about the Land Districts mentioned (some Counties were not yet defined).
Searching Upper Canada Land Petitions 1793-1865, RG 1 L1
To find UCLP online:
1. Indexed by surname, the Upper Canada Land Petition indexes now be searched.
2. Then, the microfilmed images of the petitions can be consulted as PDF files online – look up the Microfilm reel .
An example, searching the database:
From each indexed record, make note of:
– the Microfilm number
– the Bundle number
– the Petition number
Find the record:
An example, finding the images of the petitions:
Look up the Microfilm reel number .
Each digitized reel is @ 1000+ pages in pdf format.
Click on the link to the microfilm and then use the page navigation bar. Enter a page number and/or use the arrows, as shown below:
Navigate to the correct bundle and petition… in the navigation pane, enter a page number: try 100 as a start. Click Go.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at the reference tag for the Bundle number. In this case we have P Bundle 19 and we want P Bundle 21, so must go much further.
Navigate to a later page number, maybe page 1000, and go back and forth using page-number or arrows until you find the correct reference tag.
Now look at the petition number which will be at the top of the page, hand-written:
In this example the petition number is 45 and we want to go to back to find petition 20. Change the page number or use the arrows in the navigation area as shown:
Each petition is preceded by a marker page such as the lined page, above. Every once in a while, a loose page has been placed out of order in the neighbouring petitions. Also, neighbouring petitions may be from members of the same family or migrating group.
If the reference tag is correct and the petition number is correct, you should have arrived at the record:
The first page is often a chronology of the processing of the petition. A final decision can be a simple “recommended” or “not recommended”, scrawled in corner.
If the script is difficult to read, you may consult some transcriptions from my personal research, here.