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 (see location map).
Land Registry Office,
114 Worsley Street
Tel: (705) 725 7232
Fax: (705) 725-7246
A few tips for researchers using the Simcoe County Land Registry Office in Barrie:
- Hours are 8:30 to 5:00 on normal working days (if in doubt, call ahead). Avoid Mondays and Fridays, or the first and middle of the month when many real estate transactions take place. Start your research early in the day. Be aware, the systems will start shutting down a few minutes before 5.
- Be courteous … there are only a few microfilm readers for everyone to share. Remember that most of the people in the Land Registry Office are there to earn a living. Don’t monopolize the machines.
- 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 on tax county directories, assessment rolls, or on some census (see Branch Collection or Simcoe County Archives). If your ancestor lived in a town or city, you will likely require assistance from staff to point you in the right direction.
- You will need a copy card that requires a $5 deposit
- Have lots of change available
- Locate the “Abstract Index” for the lot in question. This 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.
- Use the instrument number to locate the actual document that will be on a separate reel of microfilm. You may have to ask staff for assistance, as these films are sometime difficult to locate unless you fully understand the filing system.
- 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.