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Heir and Devisee Commission, 1777-1854

About the Records

The Heir and Devisee Commission was established by provincial statute in 1797 to clarify the titles to lands in Upper Canada which had been granted before the provision was made, in 1795, for the issuance of patent deeds on Crown Grants. Legislation passed in 1805 changed the composition, powers, and duties of the Commission considerably. The Commission established under the 1805 legislation continued in operation until 1896 and was formally abolished only in 1911.

The two distinct periods of Commission activity (1797-1805 and 1805 onward) are characterized as the "First" and "Second" Heir and Devisee Commissions.

Under the 1797 legislation and its amendments, Heir and Devisee Commissioners were appointed to hear and rule upon claims within the various districts of the Province brought forward by the original nominees of the Crown, their heirs, devisees, or assignees. Each commission consisted of three or more persons, with the stipulation that one member be the Chief Justice or one of the justices of the Court of King's Bench. Decisions of the Commissioners could be appealed to the Executive Council.

The 1805 legislation resulted in a centralization of the Commission work. Thereafter, a single Commission met at York, its membership made up of members of the Executive Council, the Chief Justice, and justices of the Court of King's Bench. The work of the second Commission was restricted to claims to land made by heirs, devisees or assignees, not by the original nominees themselves.

Library and Archives Canada holds most of the records of the first Heir and Devisee Commission (1797-1804) (RG 1 L5) and some of the records of the second Commission (1805-1911). Most of the post-1805 records are now with the Archives of Ontario.

Records can include:

  • affidavits;
  • bonds;
  • location certificates;
  • powers of attorney;
  • orders-in-council;
  • copies of wills;
  • mortgages;
  • deeds of sale; and
  • testimonial letters.

For more information, consult Library and Archive Canada’s description of the records.

How the Records Are Arranged on the Microfilm Reels

The microfilm reels have been digitized and the images appear in the same order as on the microfilm reels. There is no index by name. The records are arranged by district, then by type of document, then in chronological, alphabetical or numerical order. The Reports of the Commissioners, 1808-1854, are arranged together in vols. 100-104. Some of the volumes of supporting documents contain rough lists of contents, supplementing the arrangement by date, personal name or claim number.

List of Content of Microfilms

Microfilm Volume Pages District Title or description of records Date
H-1133 1 1-46 Index of location certificates issued by the Land Boards n.d. (pre-1804)
H-1133 2 1-110b Eastern Reports of the Commissioners, with the Surveyor General's reports and some Orders-in-Council 1803-1804
H-1133 3 5-28 Eastern Report of the Commissioners n.d. (1803?)
H-1133 4 1-185 Eastern Reports of the Commissioners, with the Surveyor General's reports 1797-1802
H-1133 5 1-107b Eastern Notices of claims, received but disallowed or unresolved, arranged alphabetically ca. 1809-1841
H-1133 6 1-32a Eastern Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames A-B to 1804
H-1134 6 33-133a Eastern Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames C-K to1804
H-1134 7 134-280c Eastern Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames L-T to 1804
H-1134 8 281-325b Eastern Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames U-Z to 1804
H-1135 9 326-391a Eastern Second series of certificates, arranged alphabetically to 1804
H-1135 10 392-452a Eastern Third series of certificates, arranged alphabetically to 1804
H-1135 11 1-190a Eastern Contemporary copies of location certificates (Edwardsburg, Augusta, Matilda) n.d. (1789)
H-1135 12 1-123 Johnstown Reports of the Commissioners, with the Surveyor General's reports 1800-1803
H-1135 13 1-225a Johnstown Notices of claims n.d. (1800-1803)
H-1135 14 1-47 Johnstown Orders-in-Council 1801-1804
H-1135 15 1-83a Johnstown Notices of claims 1804-1840?
H-1136 16 1-128 Johnstown Notices of claims 1804-1840?
H-1136 17 1-107a Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames A-D to 1804
H-1136 18 108-213 Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames E-F to 1804
H-1136 19 214-323a Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames G-H to 1804
H-1136 20 324-418a Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames K-M to 1804
H-1137 20 419-480a Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames M-P to 1804
H-1137 21 481-567b Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames Q-R to 1804
H-1137 22 568-663b Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames S-S to 1804
H-1137 23 664-694a Johnstown Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically, surnames T-Y to 1804
H-1137 24 1-400 Midland Reports of the Commissioners, with the Surveyor General's reports 1797-1803
H-1138 24 401-524 Midland Reports of the Commissioners, with the Surveyor General's reports 1797-1803
H-1138 25 1-103 Midland Index of claimants 1790s
H-1138 25 1-67a Midland Orders-in-Council 1797-1803
H-1138 26 1-178 Midland Notices of claims with some reports of the Surveyor General and Provincial Secretary 1797-1804
H-1138 27 1-99a Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames A and B to 1804
H-1138 28 100-154a Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames C to 1804
H-1139 28 155-193a Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames D and E to 1804
H-1139 29 194-277b Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames F and G to 1804
H-1139 30 278-347b Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames H-K to 1804
H-1139 31 348-376b Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames L to 1804
H-1139 32 377-441a Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames M and N to 1804
H-1140 33 442-523b Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames P-R to 1804
H-1140 34 524-620a Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames S-V to 1804
H-1140 35 621-667b Midland Location certificates submitted in support of claims, surnames W-Y to 1804
H-1140 36 1-70a Midland Orders-in-Council 1801-1804
H-1140 37 1-62a Home Reports of the Commissioners 1802-1804
H-1141 37 63-68a Home Reports of the Commissioners 1802-1804
H-1141 38 69-110a Home Reports of the Commissioners 1804
H-1141 39 1-29a Home Copy of the Commission of 1816, notices of claims and a list of claimants, 1821-1823 ca. 1804-1823
H-1141 40 1-15a Home Orders-in-Council 1791-1802
H-1141 41 16-70a Home Location certificates submitted in support of claims to 1804
H-1141 42 1-208a Home Notices of claims 1803-1837
H-1141 43 1-93d Western Reports of the Commissioners, with some Orders-in-Council for the issuance of Surveyor General's descriptions for land claims recommended (see also reports in volumes 95-96) 1798-1804
H-1141 43 1-54 Western Rough minutes of meetings, 1799 1798-1804
H-1141 44 1-49a Western Notices of claims, received but disallowed or unresolved, arranged alphabetically 1798-1840
H-1142 45 50-187a Western Notices of claims 1803
H-1142 46 1-95b Western Location certificates submitted in support of claims, arranged alphabetically to 1804
H-1142 47 1-33a London Notices of claims to 1804
H-1142 47 34-41b London Orders-in-Council 1803-1804
H-1142 47 42-59b London Notices of claims, received but disallowed or unresolved 1818-l841
H-1142 48 1-41 Niagara Reports of the Commissioners 1802-1804
H-1142 49 1-44a Niagara Notices of claims, received but disallowed or unresolved 1803-1819
H-1142 49 45-75a Niagara Notices claims allowed 1803-1819
H-1142 50 1-23a Gore Notices of claims, received but disallowed or unresolved 1815-1824
H-1142 51 1-66e Newcastle Reports and Orders-in-Council and notices of claims, received but disallowed or unresolved 1798-1835
H-1143 51 67-123a Newcastle Notices of claims allowed 1798-1835
H-1143 51 1-5 Bathurst Notice of a claim 1841
H-1143 52 1-92 Surveyor General's descriptions of lands allotted in response-claims 1841
H-1143 53 93-203 Surveyor General's descriptions of lands allotted in response-claims 1842
H-1143 54 204-708 Surveyor General's descriptions, with annotation of Attorney General's fiats 1848-1850
H-1144 54 708a-1415 Surveyor General's descriptions, with annotation of Attorney General's fiats 1851-1854
H-1144 55 1-59 Supporting documents for claims in Ancaster township 1794-1799
H-1144 56 60-132 Supporting documents for claims in Blenheim township 1797
H-1144 57 133-156 Supporting documents for claims in Beverley township 1796-1797
H-1144 58 157-211 Supporting documents for claims in Burford township 1796-1797
H-1144 59 212-221 Supporting documents for claims in Charlotteville 1797
H-1144 60 222-227 Supporting documents for claims in Crowland township 1797
H-1144 61 228-229 Supporting documents for claims in Ernestown mills, bond for a lease 1812
H-1144 62 230-280 Supporting documents for claims in Etobicoke township, Gainsborough township and Grand River (see also volume 75) 1794-1797, 1828
H-1144 63 281-316 Supporting documents for claims in Grimsby, and Humberton, Lansdown, Loughborough and Markham townships 1794-1798
H-1145 64 317-399 Supporting documents for claims in Oxford-on-Thames township 1796-1799
H-1145 65 400-436 Supporting documents for claims in Pelham, Rainham, Saltfleet, Southwold and Thorold townships 1795-1799
H-1145 66 437-491 Supporting documents for claims in Townsend, Vaughan, Wainfleet and Wolford townships 1797-1801
H-1145 67 492-503 Supporting documents for claims in Yonge Street and York 1789, 1802-1803
H-1145 68 0-152a Certificates regarding the performance of settlement duties, surnames A-F to 1804
H-1145 69 152b-295a Certificates regarding the performance of settlement duties, surnames G-Robertson to 1804
H-1145 70 295b-449a Certificates regarding the performance of settlement duties, surnames Robinson-W to 1804
H-1145 72 449b-475a Certificates regarding the performance of settlement duties, second series, arranged by township to 1804
H-1145 71 0-44a Certificates regarding the performance of settlement duties, third series, arranged alphabetically to 1804
H-1145 73 0-28a Certificates attesting-good character of claimants 1781-1817
H-1146 74 1-370 Certificates of Loyalist claimants, arranged alphabetically 1777-1816
H-1146 75 1-68 Certificates and depositions regarding exchanges and surrenders 1788-1804, 1820, 1856
H-1146 76 1-265 Niagara/Home Certificates and Orders from the Land Boards and other authorities giving entitlement-lands, arranged alphabetically for each district 1789-1801
H-1146 77 1-31 Home Assignments of title-lands by certificate or deposition 1800-1804
H-1146 78 1-127 Assignment of title-lands by agreement, bond, deed of sale, mortgage or other conveyance 1788-1835
H-1147 78 128-258 Assignment of title-lands by agreement, bond, deed of sale, mortgage or other conveyance 1788-1835
H-1147 79 259-348 Receipts acknowledging sales of lands and titles thereto 1798-1815
H-1147 79A 349-716 Orders-in-Council 1803-1804
H-1147 80 1-400 Register A: entrybook of Commissioners Reports, with an index 1797-1802
H-1148 81 1-275 Register B: entrybook of Commissioners' Reports, with an index 1802-1803
H-1148 82 1-159 Register C: entrybook of Commissioners' Reports, with an index 1803-1804
H-1148 83 1-133 Register D: entrybook of Commissioners' Reports, including the Surveyor General's reports 1805-1822
H-1149 84 1-273 Register E: entrybook of Commissioners' Reports 1823-1835
H-1149 85 1-74 Index-Register E 1823-1835
H-1149 86 1-315 Register F: entrybook of Commissioners' Reports, with an index 1836-1845
H-1150 87 1-177 Register G: entrybook of Commissioners' Reports 1836-1845
H-1150 88 1-85 Register of Notices of Claims, arranged alphabetically (see also volume 99) 1826-1828
H-1150 89 1-228 Minute Book of the Commissioners, with an index 1837-1847
H-1151 90 1-184 Register of claims allowed, “A”, entered chronologically, by district 1797-1804
H-1151 91 1-116 Index of claimants in Registers A-B-C (see volumes 90 & 93)
H-1151 92 1-133 Index of original nominees in Registers A-B (see volumes 90 & 93)
H-1151 93 1-41 Register of claims allowed “B” 1805-1823
H-1151 94 1-400 Index of original nominees in Register C (Register of claims allowed C not found)
H-1151 95 Western Report of the Commissioners 1803
H-1151 96 Western Report of the Commissioners 1799
H-1151 97 4 parchments Commissions appointing members of the Heir and Devisee Commission 1805, 1812, 1818
H-1151 98 1-120 Reports of the Commissioners, submitted-the Executive Council 1805-1808
H-1152 99 1-53 Schedule of claims 1816-1823, ca. 1830
H-1152 100 54-62 Register of disposition of claims 1833-1836
H-1152 101 1-192 Reports of the Commissioners 1808-1829
H-1152 102 193-388 Reports of the Commissioners 1830-1840
H-1152 103 389-536 Reports of the Commissioners 1841-1850
H-1153 103 537-638 Reports of the Commissioners 1841-1850
H-1153 104 639-821 Reports of the Commissioners 1851-1854

Other Resources

Merriman, Brenda Dougall. Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the records, 4th ed. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 2008.

Moorman, David. The first business of government: the land granting administration of Upper Canada [PDF 19,827 KB].

Murphy, Sharon L. Researching Canadian Land Records, Heritage Book Series: Book HC22. Toronto: Heritage Productions, 2001.