Land Registry Office

Land registry records are an excellent source of genealogical information. Documents describing land transfers, mortgages, rental agreements and wills are “registered” against individual land parcels and provide a record of when your ancestor owned a particular piece of property. In some cases, the document may include very specific information about family relationships. (i.e. the grantee may be described as John Smith, son of my brother Adam Smith.)

The Ministry of Government Services administers Land Registry in Ontario. The Land Registry Office for Simcoe County is located in Barrie, Ontario but is now closed to the public. Researchers are urged to use the portal to search Simcoe County historical books.

A few tips for researchers using Onland:

  • Before starting your search, you will need to know the legal description of your ancestors’ land, normally the geographic township, concession and lot number for those living in the rural areas, the lot and plan number of the property for city dwellers. You can generally find this information in directories, tax assessment rolls, or on some census. Rural properties may be a little easier to locate as the Lot and Concession information is a little more common. Urban, or city property may take a little more digging to locate.
  • Using the Onland portal, search the Historical Books selection for the township where the property you want was located. Find the “Abstract Index” for the lot and concession in question. The Abstract Index is basically a list or index of documents, known as instruments, that pertain to a specific parcel of land. The Abstract provides general information about the type of document (bargain and sale, mortgage, will, etc.), date (both of the document and when it was registered), names of parties, legal description, and sometimes the value of the property or transaction. Review the Abstract for any names of interest. Often you will find other members of the family owned adjacent properties and very quickly, you will find who owned what, when.
  • From the Abstract Index, record the instrument number of any transactions that may be of interest. The instrument number will be found in the left most column of the Abstract Index.
  • Use the instrument number to locate a digital image or transcription of the actual document. From the mail web page, select Documents to obtain a copy of the instrument. Before you can do this however, you will need to find out the document prefix you need to affix to the beginning of the instrument number in order to locate the document.
  • Some Abstract Indexes and Documents may be found on the site by searching their catalogue. Note these records are not indexed and will not be found using their Search functionality.
  • The document will generally contain very detailed information about the specific event and at the very least, may provide an opportunity for you to see your ancestor’s signature. Much of the contents will be legal jargon, of interest in its own right. In some cases, the document may include specific references to family relationships. Wills are particularly useful documents to find.