Friday, March 18, 2016

Digitized Land Patent Plans at Archives of Ontario

Digitized Patent Plans
Archives of Ontario
I discovered another land records related digitized collection for Ontario on Wednesday while in the process of confirming that a recently digitized collection (Thomas Talbot Fonds) was indeed the one sitting on my To-Do Research List since 2012.

From what I can tell I think the Digitized Patent Plans collection on the Archives of Ontario website has been accessible since last June perhaps April. Some how this escaped my attention.

What are the Digitized Patent Plans? Essentially they are maps showing the status of Crown Lands (patented, leased, licensed) by indicating the name of the individual who first received the patent/lease/license for a particular plot of land and often the year received.

These images (high-res jpegs that are zoom-able and downloadable) are of the plans in the Ontario Government Record Series RG 1-100 Patent Plans. According to the Archival Records Description there are 4,201 plans in the record group. Currently, the Digitized Patent Plans page says more than 4,100 plans are digitized. So it looks like they are close to completing digitization of this collection.

Most of the digitized images are readable, however, I have come across some that could have been either scanned or color corrected (tweaked) better to make them more readable.
Visual Database
Archives of Ontario

To find the digitized plans, you can use The Archives of Ontario Visual Database using just keyword search, or use the Advanced Search option using keyword and RG 1-100 in the Reference Code filter to limit results just to the patent plans.

I suggest using the just the name of the township as the keyword because the county name does not appear anywhere in the item description. (Remember, spelling counts even if the entry is misspelled itself, i.e. Ameliasburgh Township has two entries spelled Amerliasburgh.)

Use the reference code filter if too many other images appear besides the various plans for the township. (The image descriptions do not indicate the year a plan was initially drawn, so you'll have to find that on the plan itself.)

Another way to view the digitized plans is to view the item-level listing from the Archival Records Description for RG 1-100. (This is how I discovered the misspelling noted above.)

Since there is no person name index to these patent plans that means you have to browse and look at the images rather than enter a name for a results list. These names on the patent plans are the first individual owners. For later person to person sales, you need to look at the records of the County Land Registry Offices.

These digitized Patent Plans are a wonderful complement to the Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865 indexed and digitized by the Library and Archives of Canada a few years ago.

The petition papers (not just for United Empire Loyalists) are name indexed but the digitized images are not automatically linked to the results entry. (For the Library and Archives of Canada's digital collections, you have to separately digitally browse to locate the digitized microfilm using information in the search results entry and then browse for the image of the document you desire.)

It really helps to know where your ancestor received his/her land before doing a "Where's Waldo" on a patent plan. Sometimes the margin notes in the petitions say what land (county, concession, lot) was granted but not always. So in many cases you have to refer to the Land Books or Minute Books of the Land Boards (abolished in 1794) or Executive Council Office. The land books of the earlier Land Board (RG 1 L4) are also digitized and indexed up to about 1804 though mostly before 1794, but the Land Books/Minute Books of the Executive Council are still just on microfilm.

Sometimes you can also learn the specific concession and lot from a census record, county directory, or county atlas. Of course, in these cases there is no guarantee that your ancestor was the first individual owner of that land. But it is not too hard to browse the digitized patent plan when you know the township, concession and lot.

So from my previous research with the digitized Land Petitions at the Library and Archives of Canada website and then research in the Land Books/Minute Books microfilms at the Archives of Ontario, I searched the Digitized Patent Plans for the townships I needed.

John Dunham
York Twp, Conc. I, Water Lot B
Archives of Ontario

For some of my various ancestors I had already taken the research from documents to modern-day maps to have a real understanding of where my ancestor lived. But for one of them that I had not done so yet I learned something interesting.

According to a Index to Land Patents by District entry, one of my John Dunham guys (not certain which one at this time) was granted or bought from the government: 1 acre in York County, York Township, Concession I, Water Lot B opposite town lot no. 6. At that time this was on Peter Street (formerly King Street) between Frederick and Caroline Streets. (Note that this particular Patent Plan was one of the blurriest I came across when looking at the plans. I have tweaked/brightened this detail in PhotoShop a little.)

The Same Land Today
(Streets Have New Names)
Today, this same 1 acre is now part of Toronto on Front Street East between Frederick and Lower Sherbourne Streets and it appears part of the Toronto Public Library St. Lawrence branch sits on that very site. Yes, street names can change over the years. Check out the Front Street or King Street page on Wikipedia for more details of the name changes through history.

Unfortunately at the time we were at the Archives of Ontario doing this land research, we could not find the microfilm of the land book containing this specific patent. If we had found it we might have been able to determine which of my John Dunham guys was involved with this patent. So that aspect remains on my To-Do Research List for the Archives of Ontario.

To understand the Land Records in Ontario, read The Archives of Ontario Research Guide 215: From Grant to Patent: A Guide to Early Land Settlement records, ca. 1790 - ca. 1850 found in Word or PDF format on the Research Guides and Tools page of the Archives of Ontario website. If any of the links above return an expired session, just click on start new session. Most of these pages can be reached by going to MCGS Home page and then going to the Accessing Our Collection page and scrolling to the pages mentioned.

Finally besides the Land Petitions, the Library and Archives of Canada's Genealogy and History page contains links to a variety of its record collections that have been digitized.

Now to get back to the part of my genealogy that I had planned to work on this week.

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  1. Hi,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Thanks Jana! I just found out by going through my daily blog reading list.
    Have a great weekend too!
    Gone Researching