Nova Scotia Archives

Built Heritage Resource Guide

Land Records

In the early days, when Nova Scotia was a colony with vast reserves of Crown land and very few inhabitants, property ownership usually began with a petition to the government for a grant of vacant Crown land, offered to anyone who could meet the basic terms and conditions of settlement.

RG 20, Series A forms the main collection of original land-settlement documents at NSARM — petitions, warrants to survey and many draft grants for the period 1765-1914; a good index is available. The petitions themselves are sometimes very perfunctory, offering only the applicant's name, the date, and the location of the land; others provide rich detail about the applicant's background, family members, neighbours and the circumstances of settlement. Some files even include rough survey maps, created on-the-spot by the surveyor who walked the land, measuring off the boundaries.

Researchers interested in Cape Breton Island should also check RG 20, Series B, the Calendar to Cape Breton Land Papers 1787-1843, for additional documents. RG 20, Series E provides additional applications for land grants throughout Nova Scotia, 1815-1890 (mainly 1829-1858); while RG 20, Series U ('Ungranted') is a collection of petitions from those unsuccessful in receiving land, 1811-1848 (mainly 1830s and 1840s).

NSARM also holds a full copy of land grants (minus supporting documents) on microfilm; there is a two-reel index, 1738-1962 (mfm 12926, surnames A-G; mfm 12927, surnames H-Z). These documents provide no biographical information, but instead spell out in detail the location and number of acres being granted, sometimes with precise measurements and boundaries.

Researchers will also want to explore the Nova Scotia Crown Land Index Sheets. This is a series of maps created in the 1950s, which breaks the province into a grid and then identifies the earliest known land grants issued within each individual section in the grid. 'There is a full set of these maps at NSARM, but they are also online at http://www.gov.ns.ca/natr/land/grantmap.htm. Select the index sheet number for the geographic area you're interested in, then click to view.

Once the land was granted, any subsequent transactions regarding the property should be traceable through the records kept in the county Registry of Deeds.

This Built Heritage Resource Guide is unusually rich in the information given in the Note Areas accompanying most images. So... when you scan down the pages, be sure to click on the thumbnails so that you can enlarge and explore the images, plus read the extra details provided beneath each.

Department of Lands and Forests scan 200803122
"Coppy [sic] of the Plan of Land Survey to Sundry Person on Esteheated [Escheated] Land Late Hales Grant" 
Date: 2 March 1827
Reference no.: Department of Lands and Forests Nova Scotia Archives RG 20 Series C vol. 88 no. 180

Topic: Land Records
Department Lands and Forests scan 200803118
Draft Grant, The King to Luke Harpel and Others 
Date: 1 July 1830
Reference no.: Department Lands and Forests Nova Scotia Archives RG 20 Series A 1830 - Harpel, Luke

Topic: Land Records
Department Lands and Forests scan 200803115
Petition of Luke Harpel and Others 
Date: 8 December 1827
Reference no.: Department Lands and Forests Nova Scotia Archives RG 20 Series A 1830 - Harpel, Luke

Topic: Land Records
Department of Lands and Forests scan 200803111
Petition of Matthew Maddocks 
Date: 23 January 1830
Reference no.: Department of Lands and Forests Nova Scotia Archives RG 20 Series B Cape Breton no. 3287

Topic: Land Records
Department of Lands and Forests scan 200803109
Affidavit of Morrison McDonald 
Date: 1 June 1827
Reference no.: Department of Lands and Forests Nova Scotia Archives RG 20 Series B Cape Breton no. 3204

Topic: Land Records
 scan 200803108
Crown Land Sheet No. 76  
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Crown Land Sheet No. 76

Topic: Land Records
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