Friday, January 12, 2018

The NEW OnLand Portal: Three Ways To Get Property Details

You can now search historical land registration books online using the new OnLand site. This is great news for genealogists.

Because the website is still in the Alpha phase, genealogists have experienced confusion and frustration trying to access records. There are also lots of questions about WHAT documents can be accessed on this new portal and HOW can genealogists use it.
Source: Government of Ontario: Service By Design Playbook
Teranet, in partnership with Service Ontario, is still very much in the process of building this web portal. All that to say that things will be very fluid and frustrating initially but what a GREAT resource!

The Three Key Genealogy Records Online

To answer the questions about WHAT documents can be accessed on this new OnLand portal, so far, there are three key records available: 
  1. First Registration books which contain a list of first registrations from registry to land titles (e.g. Crown Patent or Crown plan). (See how I located my 3rd great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan's Crown Patent (1770-1860) here)
  2. Abstract/Parcel Register Book: Registry abstracts, land title parcel registers, registry and land titles condominium registers, miscellaneous abstracts containing other title information. (See how I located my 3rd great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan's Abstract Index (1770-1860) here)
  3. General Register Index which contains a Registry System index of all non-land-specific documents maintained by each Land Registry Office, including wills, letters probate, letters patent, etc. (See how I located my 3rd great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan's Will (1770-1860) here)
 HOW Do I Find A Property?

The Abstract/Parcel Register Book is the one of the key books that genealogists will want to look at in the NEW OnLand Historical Books section. Here's the conundrum:

To access these property records 
you need to know 
the township name, the lot number and the concession number, etc., etc.

From the Book Category drop-down list, you must select the type of land record you’d like to view, and once you select "Abstract/Parcel Register" you need to enter details like Concession, Plan, Section, Condo or Parcel for the Property Description?
  • Concession – a surveyed geographic which creates geographic fabric within a township
  • Plan (Plan of Subdivision) – a surveyed area of land which may create new lots, blocks, widenings and streets registered as a plan of subdivision
  • Section – a land titles filing system. A parcel and section has been assigned to each listed Land Titles ownership
  • Parcel – a quantity of land identified for abstract purposes
  • Condo – a plan creating units for each level of a condominium
If you already know this information (like I did for my 4th great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan), that's great! Happy searching!

But what if you know the street address but not the Lot and/or Plan. Worse yet, what if you have no idea what any of your ancestors property details are?

 Three Ways To Get Property Details

There are three paths to locating the property details for your research on the new OnLand portal.
  1.  If you know the street address, to determine details such as Lot, Plan, Parcel etc, follow Chris Ryan's blog post ( and read more below)
  2. If you don't know ANY details other than township, use online Historical Directories
    (see below) to locate your ancestor.
  3. If you don't know ANY details other than township, use online Historical Maps
    (see below) to locate your ancestor.
You Know Your Ancestor's Street Address Details

Genealogists who were excited about the NEW OnLand tool to view land records in Ontario but frustrated they didn’t know the “Property Details” will LOVE Chris Ryan’s (aka History Nerd) latest blog post.
"Finding the history of an urban property requires you to convert a street address into a lot and plan number and then follow the records back towards the original Crown grant. Researching small town property is a little easier since you may only be dealing with a few 100 or 200 acre farms that were broken up into parcels to create the town."
If you have the street address, Chris Ryan demonstrates on his blog post how:
  1. by registering for a FREE account at Teranet-Express (the group building this OnLand interface for the Ontario government)
  2. then typing in the street address of the Property (I.e. “50 Smith”) 
  3. you receive the legal description of the Property with details such as Lot, Plan, Parcel You can then use these details to search the Historical Books: Abstract/Parcel Register Book on OnLand
Below is an example of what Chris Ryan found out about his family’s home in Cochrane, Ontario Visit Chris' blog post for complete details at:

Source: "OnLand: A Wonderful New Tool" by Chris Ryan

You Don't Know ANY of Your Ancestor's Property Details

What if you don't have any details except that your ancestor owned some property in a particular township some time in the nineteenth century.

Starting with your ancestor's township, look for their property details in township directories or on township maps.

Using Township Directories

I actually know nothing about my 2nd great-grandfather Martin Broderick's (1831-1915) property holdings except that early census records show him living in Sandwich (later Sandwich West) (1852, 1871, 1891, and 1901 censuses) and later (1911 census) in Essex North just before he died.

Consulting the list of Ontario Online Historical Directories for Essex County I found Martin Broderick in Sandwich West

Source: Library and Archives Canada; Online Historical Directory; Essex County Gazetteer 1866-67; Page 164 (found on page 14/33 online)
This Gazetteer was organized by township, then alphabetically by surnname and the remarks to the right indicate the Concession (Con.) and then Lot (Lot) therefore, my 2nd great-grandfather Martin Broderick (1831-1915) is living at Concession 3, Lot 3 in Sandwich West (in 1866).

Using this property description in the OnLand Search for Book Category /Abstract / Parcel Register yields the following results:

When I view the details for Sandwich West, Concession 3, Lot Petite Cote 3, I find my 2nd great-grandfather Martin Broderick and learn that he was not the original patent owner and there are many transactions that follow where I recognize the names of his children in later years.

Using Township Maps

Another way of getting property details for your Ontario ancestors is by using Township Maps

McGill University: 1880 Canadian County Atlas Digital Project

Where to Find Ontario Historical Maps
How does looking for your ancestor on a historical map help? Do you remember the case of my 3rd great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan (1770-1860)?  The only item that I entered on the OnLand interface (after selecting Essex County LRO) was "296" which is the number appearing on this early township map (below) that I located at  Archives of Ontario Digitized Patent Plans (Source: AO RG 1-100-0-0-1368)

Archives of Ontario (Source: AO RG 1-100-0-0-1368)

HOW Can I Save or Print What I Find ?

Currently, on the OnLand portal (still in Alpha) there is no feature to save or print the document. Hopefully, this feature will be added in the future.

For now though, you can always take a screen shot for your records

You do this (on Windows) by pressing the CTR button and the PrtSc button at the same time and then opening a program such as Windows "Paint" and pasting it there. You can then crop the image, give it a name and then save the image to to your files. You can also print this image.

HOW Can I Get Copies of  Documents NOT YET Online?
The instrument numbers in the first column (far left) may be located digitally on Teranet Express or at the local LRO on microfilm reels.

I tried several instrument numbers from specific searches that I had undertaken in Toronto, Essex and Peel counties and I did not yields any results on the Teranet-Express Interface below. This portal is still VERY new and in alpha testing so I hope to post updates at a later date.

I have written to Ontario Lands with list of genealogy-related questions and I will update this post when I receive them.

In the meantime, if you have been actively searching the OnLand records in the past few days and if you have any tips, questions or suggestions, please leave them in the message box below.

Happy searching!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks very much for your excellent posts about OnLand, Cindi. With respect to documents not (yet) online through OnLand, perhaps it would be worth also considering the ongoing project to digitize FamilySearch microfilms - among which of course one finds a large number (though not a comprehensive set) of Ontario land records. For instance, and having Matthew Moynahan in mind, digitized reels of Sandwich Township records 1847-1853 are already digitized (and accessible anywhere upon logging in with a free FamilySearch account) and one hopes that other reels of Essex County land records will follow soon. See

    James F.S. Thomson