Short Guide to Land Records
Government record-keeping in Nova Scotia for both the early land-grant system and the early administration of Crown Land reserves has always been complex, overlapping, and difficult to simplify within modern archival classification systems; the complexities are also difficult to explain to beginning researchers. If you're interested in exploring further, here are the principal related primary sources.....
Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Crown Lands Division. Indexes to grant books and grant books.
As noted above, the digitized content available on this website presents the preliminary documents created and filed prior to final granting of land. The grants themselves (the final step in the process) are available on microfilm at the Nova Scotia Archives; the grants contain no biographical information. Researchers should consult these indexes on microfilm 12926 (surnames A to G) and 12927 (surnames H to Z) which list names of grantees, dates and locations of grants, and provide cross-references to grant books and pages (also available on microfilm) where individual grants were recorded. The original indexes and grant books remain with the Crown Lands Division.
These identify (on large maps) all land grants issued in Nova Scotia, giving the name of the lead grantee, plus volume and page references for the record-book containing the final grant; the maps are online on the Department of Natural Resources website; click on the individual sheet numbers to see the map for that area.
Formerly classified as RG 20 Series A. The digital content presented on this website covers only 1765-1800. Index and records for the subsequent years, 1801-1914, are available at the Nova Scotia Archives in microfilm format.
Formerly classified as RG 20 Series B. This series primarily contains petitions submitted by Cape Breton Island applicants, predominantly 1787-1843. See our Cape Breton Land Petitions for an online searchable index to the names in these petitions; the petitions themselves are available at the Nova Scotia Archives in microfilm format.
Formerly classified as RG 20 Series E. Petitions to purchase Crown Land (i.e. not petitions for free grants),1800-1885, but predominantly 1829-1858; the petitions contain no biographical information; index and records are available on microfilm at the Nova Scotia Archives.
Formerly classified as RG 20 Series U. Ungranted petitions for Crown Land, correspondence regarding land, survey maps and supporting documentation, 1811-1849, but predominantly 1830-1849; index and records are available on microfilm at the Nova Scotia Archives.
If the grantee did not fulfil the conditions specified in the grant, the government could escheat (i.e. repossess) the grant. Records available at the Nova Scotia Archives cover 1760-1842 (microfilms 12915-12919); index is on microfilm 12919. The original records remain with the Crown Lands Division.
If the grantee or his/her heirs decided to sell the grant, or part thereof, a record of the transaction will be recorded as a deed of conveyance entered in the Registry of Deeds Office in the appropriate county. Extensive indexes and records dating from 1749 are available on microfilm at the Nova Scotia Archives.