Historical Land Information at the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables


Family histories are inextricably linked to the history of land. The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables maintains records and maps tracking crown land transactions. It also maintains a collection of A.F. Church maps dating back to the mid to late 1800s. These materials reside in either the Department’s library or in the Crown Land Information Management Centre. The following is a brief description of how these two resources can be of use to those involved in genealogical research.

The Library

A.F. Church maps:

Ambrose Finson Church’s maps are a great genealogical tool because they indicate the name of the heads of households in each community, as well as listing tradesmen and prominent citizens. As Charles Bruce Fergusson pointed out in 1969:

Next to highway and perhaps geological maps, the maps of Nova Scotia most frequently consulted are the topographical township maps of the counties of the province that were prepared by Ambrose F. Church and published by A.F. Church & Co. These handsome maps, generally about four and a half feet square, or a little larger, include insets of Nova Scotia and adjacent provinces, plans of the various townships, and names of residents. Each (excepting Cumberland) bears a certification that it was entered according to law on the twenty-fourth day of March, 1864, by Ambrose F. Church. But none of the maps were published in that year, and very little is generally known about Ambrose F. Church.

(Dalhousie Review volume 49(4): 505-516).

The article goes on to describe the little that is known of Mr. Church, but it does provide a detailed schedule of the completion dates of each map. These dates are summarised chronologically in the following table:

Date of completion
Halifax County
1" = 500 rods
Pictou County
1" = 1 Mile
Digby County
1" = 1 Mile
Yarmouth County
1" = 1 Mile
Hants County
1" = 1 Mile
Kings County
1" = 1 Mile
Cumberland County
1.5" = 1 Mile
Colchester County
1.5" = 1 Mile
Annapolis County
1" = 1 Mile
Guysborough County
1.5" = 1 Mile
Cape Breton County
1" = 1 Mile
Antigonish County
1" = 1 Mile
Shelburne County
1" = 1Mile
Lunenburg County
1" = 1 Mile
Inverness County
1" = 1 Mile
Richmond County
1" = 1 Mile
Victoria County
1" = 1 Mile
Queens County
1" = 1 Mile

The library has hanging copies of the maps that can be consulted on site in the library. Our hours and contact information are listed at the end of this article. These copies of the Church maps are approximately 4.5’ x 5’. Since our copiers have a width limitation of 36", we offer each county on two overlapping maps, usually 36" x 60". Each county is printed on 2 sheets of bond paper and is priced at $19.35 Cdn per county.

Crown Land Grant Maps:

Crown Land Grant Index maps provide a graphic representation of the layout of the original land grants and over the years they have been meticulously updated by government staff. They show the locations of all land grants and townships. Each map is 26" x 38". The series consists of 138 maps at a scale of 1" = 1/2 mile. The index to the map sheets is illustrated below. The index sheets are updated on a daily basis, recording crown land transactions such as acquisitions or leases. Since notations are made on any parcel of crown land to describe its status, some of the historical data may be obscured. The Crown commenced issuing grants in the 1730’s, so the names found on this series can predate the A.F.Church maps by over 100 years. Each Crown Land Grant Index Map is printed on bond paper and is priced at $7.26 Cdn.

How to order maps or view them in the library

The library is located at 1701 Hollis Street on the 3rd floor. We are open from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm from Monday to Friday. To order maps or request additional information, please drop by, send us a note, call us at 902-424-8633 or e-mail us at nsNR&Rlib@gov.ns.ca.  We accept VISA and we also accept prepayment in the form of cheques or money orders. If paying by cheque or money order, please add applicable shipping fees and tax, and remember that shipping fees are calculated on the net value of the order and are taxable at the applicable rate. A tax of 15% is payable on orders to NS, NB, and Nfld. A tax of 5% GST is payable on orders to the rest of Canada. International orders are tax exempt.

Value of map order
Shipping fee
below $5.00
5.01 to 25.00
26.00 - 75.00
76.00 - 200.00
Over 200.00
6% of net value

Our Postal Address is:
or You can visit our website

Crown Land Information Management Centre

Land grants and grant petitions

The Crown Land Information Management Centre houses copies of all original land grants for the Province of Nova Scotia. We also have copies of the land grants for the Province of New Brunswick prior to 1784 - after which it became a separate province. Copies of the grants are available from our office. The charge is $7.26 plus applicable taxes. The Centre also houses the grant petition papers for grants issued after the early 1850s. The earlier petitions, if available, are on file at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. The cost for copies of the grant petitions papers is $1.22 per page.

Consolidated Index of Grants

Our Consolidated Index of Grants is an alphabetical listing of the grants. This is a very useful tool if one does not know the location in which their ancestors were granted land or to see if they ever received a grant. The Centre also has many miscellaneous plans that may be of interest to anyone involved in genealogy.

How to order materials from the Record Centre

The Record Centre is found on the 5th floor of Founders Square, 1701 Hollis Street, Halifax. We are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Visitors are always welcome and are requested to use the telephone on the 5th floor to dial 3171 for access to the office. There is a search fee of $36.30 per hour. This includes advising, assisting and copying material. It applies to all services provided whether in person, by telephone, e-mail, or regular mail except to provincial government departments. The search fee is pro rated for time actually used. The former service charge is now included in the search fee. Written inquiries can be sent to P.O. Box 698, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 2T9 or e-mailed to crownland@gov.ns.ca. Our telephone number is (902) 424-3171. Our payment policy is the same as that of the library, however the Record Centre may send out Postal C.O.D. for an additional charge of $7.26.