Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Part III: OnLand Records: Historical Books: General Register Index

On December 18, 2017, the Ontario Land Registry built a web portal ( to deliver key statutory services relating to land and property ownership in Ontario to land registry professionals and the public.

This is a gold mine of information for genealogists with ancestors in Ontario. I have previously posted about Part I: Historical Books: First Registration Book and Part II: Historical Books: Abstract/Parcel Register Books
    Part III: General Register Index

    This post, Part III,  is about the 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.

    Why would wills be found in the Land Registry Office and NOT in Court records?
    "If the deceased person's estate consisted ONLY of real estate (e.g., farmers), the original will may have been deposited in the local Land Registry Office to transfer the land to the heirs. Some Land Registry Offices hold over 60 per cent of all surviving wills. Because they were never probated, these wills are not indexed or registered in the court records."
    Source: AO Research Guide 206
     "Until the early 1900’s, a large number of wills (more than half for some counties) were registered with the Land Registry Offices instead of being probated (homologated) in the Courts.  Those wills were treated as land records and are covered in Archives of Ontario Guide 231. The land registration system has now been replaced with a land title system, where title  to the land is registered.  Land title records are held by the Land Registry Offices" Source: AO Research Guide 231

    I will demonstrate how I found information for my 4th great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan's (1770-1860) Will (which I had attained at the Essex LRO previously)

    Selecting "Essex" then "General Register Index" then "Moynahan" resulted in "No results found for Moynahan".

    To find results for "Moynahan" I decided to scroll page-by-page. Here are the steps that I took:

    STEP 1: Select the Land Registry Office for your ancestor. 
    I selected the Land Registry Office "Essex"

    STEP 2:  Select "Browse Books"

    STEP 3: Select "General Register Index"

    For Essex County. I received nineteen "General Register" results:
    1. Book 7: WILLS 1978 TO 1984 (182 pages)
    7. Book 13: OLD WILLS (129 pages)
    8. Book 14: WILL TO 1939
    9. Book 15: WILLS 1939 TO 1962
    10. Book 16: WILLS 1963 TO 1977
    12. Book 19: GENERAL REGISTER; A TO J TO 1939
    13. Book 20: GENERAL REGISTER; L TO Z TO 1939
    14. Book 21: GENERAL REGISTER; A TO L 1939 TO 1962
    15. Book 22: GENERAL REGISTER; M TO Y 1939 TO 1962
    16. Book 23: GENERAL REGISTER; A TO L 1962 TO 1977
    17. Book 24: GENERAL REGISTER; L TO Z 1962 TO 1977
    18. Book 25: GENERAL REGISTER; 1978 TO 1991
    19. Book 26: GENERAL REGISTER; 1992 TO PRESENT
    Because my 4th great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan's died in 1860, I started with Book 13: Old Wills which was 129 pages. I eventually found Matthew on Page 70 (of 129 pages).

    The information found on the page was:

    BOOK 13 (Page 70/129)
    Name: Moynahan, Matthew
    Book: B
    Number: 635
    Township: Sandwich
    Remarks: Will

    Previously (in the 1980s) I had visited the Archives of Ontario and obtained a copy of Matthew's will  (no. 915)(G.S. 987; Sandwich Twp., Essex county; Deed Volume D; 1857-1860; #581-993) and this was what it looked like:

    Matthew Moynahan's Will(1770-1860)
    (Source: Archives of Ontario: G.S. 987; Sandwich Twp., Essex county;
    Deed Volume D; 1857-1860; #581-993)
    Matthew's will recorded as Instrument No.915 on the abstract index that we found earlier as No. 635 and No. 636 in the General Registers (see below)

    I found reference Matthew Moynahan's1860 will again in Book 14:

    BOOK 14 (Page 142/278)
    Name: Moynahan, Matthew
    Book: D
    Number: 635
    Township: Sandwich
    Remarks: Will

     Obtaining & Viewing Corresponding Land Records

    Locating all of your ancestor's Will data from the General Register and Abstract indexes, such as the year, township, file number, volume and page number is just the first step.

    The feature to obtain documents listed on the abstract pages is not currently available through OnLand, but it will be included in a future release.

    I wrote to OnLand to inquire about how to obtain copies in the meantime and received this response:
    "At this time, requests for copies of pages from the historical books are not available through OnLand, please visit the Land Registry Office where the book resides."
    Thank you,
    The OnLand Team

    Related Blog Posts
      Additional Online General Resources 
      For Finding Your Ancestors Land Records

      Instruments and deeds – these are the original documents filed by the parties. They include sales, bankruptcies, liens, wills, and other documents transferring or affecting ownership.

      Copybooks of instruments and deeds – transcriptions made by Land Registry Office staff of instruments and deeds registered with them.

      General Registers – transcriptions of wills filed at the Land Registry Offices, beginning in 1865; wills registered prior to 1865 would be found in the copybooks of instruments and deeds.

      Abstract Indexes – indexes to the instruments and deeds for a given township or town , arranged by lot and concession (or subdivision) number.

      Alphabetical Indexes – indexes to the instruments and deeds for a given township or town , arranged by name of the parties .


      1. Another fabulous post helping me understand more about where to find what, and how to search more effectively re ON lands and wills. back to Ireland record searches! Thank you so much, Cindi! Your work is much appreciated!

        1. Thanks so much Celia! Still waiting on OnLand to let me know the plan on digitizing the full wills and will post as soon as I know!