I love land records! I’m not sure why; maybe because most of my ancestors came to Canada for the land, or maybe because when I was young my dad advised me to buy land as an investment. “You can’t go wrong with land”, he said.
Many people immigrated to Canada for the land. The Canadian government advertised the dream of owning land in many countries. Much of the advertising took place in the late 1800’s. However, in the late 1700’s, many settlers who were persecuted for remaining loyal to the British cause during the American Revolution, fled to Upper Canada. They were promised land and were quite persistent in their requests for that land. Some of my favourite documents are from the Upper Canada Land Petitions found on the Library and Archives Canada website.
Thomas Pettit, my 5 great-grandfather, was born in 1770, probably in New York or New Jersey. He came with his father, John, and brother, Charles, and other Pettit relatives in 1788. The area they moved to was the Nassau District of the Province of Quebec. Soon after, it was called Saltfleet Township an area very close to Hamilton, Ontario. By 1807, Thomas had 7 children. The oldest was nearly 13 years old.
I learned these facts about Thomas from the Upper Canada Land Petitions. People who came to Canada wanted land and to get it they had to petition the government. Many of the petitions contain personal information about the petitioner and his family.
Thomas petitioned for land twice. The first time was in 1791. Since he had to be 21 to acquire his 200 acres, it is inferred that he was born around 1770. In 1791 he was granted land in the 1 and 2 Concessions on Lot 20 and a broken front lot. The land he received fronted on Lake Ontario for a bit and then went away from the lake.
Thomas petitioned for more land in 1807. It is from this petition I learned that his father is John Pettit of Saltfleet, a United Empire Loyalist. An affidavit signed by Mr. Swazey who “knows the petitioner” stated the number of children he had and the age of the eldest child. From the oldest child’s age we can extrapolate that Thomas married around 1795.
Another petition was submitted by Charles Pettit who also states his father is John Pettit of Saltfleet. so Thomas had at least 1 brother, named Charles.
Early settlers had to prove to government officials that they met the criteria for receiving the land and, because the rules were modified over time, they had to prove who their fathers were. This resulted in petitions with genealogical information. It isn’t precise but can lead you to where and when they were born, who their father was, and how many children they had. The latter was to prove their need for more land.
Finding the petitions isn’t difficult but it can take a bit of time. It’s a 2 step process. First go to the Database of Land Petitions of Upper Canada to see if your ancestor has a petition(s). Take down all the information, the microfilm number, year, volume, bundle, petition, and reference. The second step is to go under the digitized microforms at the same url as above and find the Upper Canada Land Petitions. Once you have correct microfilm number, you have to manually search the microfilm, looking for the year, volume, bundle, petition, and reference numbers to help you find your ancestor
I highly recommend using the Land Petitions of Upper Canada to search for your family. The records go from 1763 – 1865. You can also check out the records for Lower Canada that are also digitized; although many of them are in French.
Sources or where I got the information
Upper Canada Land Petitions; Thomas Pettit; 1807; “P” Bundle 8, 1806-1808; RG 1, L3, Vol. 402; microfilm C2490; Image 112 – 115; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Township Papers (ca 1783 – 1870); Thomas Pettit; 1791; Land Certificate; MS 658 Reel 430; Series RG 1 – 58; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Upper Canada Land Petitions; Charles Pettit; 1819; “P” Bundle 12, 1819 -1808; RG 1, L3, Vol. 404; microfilm C2491; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.