Posted by Lesley Anderson on February 8, 2016 in Canada, Research

This valuable land record collection includes the names of approximately 200,000 people who applied for homesteads in Alberta under the Dominion Lands Act – an 1872 law aimed to encourage the settlement of the Canadian Prairies.

Compiled during a time where the population was expanding to Western Canada, this collection is an incredible resource for those hoping to learn more about their ancestors who settled in The Princess Province.

The collection contains 1,622,218 images and 206,457 records showing basic biographical information such applicants’ name, age, place of birth, former place of residence, date of entry on the land and marital status.

In order to encourage migration to the west, settlers were offered the chance to apply for a 160-acre homestead in areas of their choice in Alberta. After paying a $10 filing fee and agreeing to build up their homestead to include items such as a house and barn, fencing, breaking and cropping a portion of the land, the homesteader could apply for the title to the land.

A homesteader's first residence, n.d. Provincial Archives of Alberta Photo B4510 via,
A homesteader’s first residence, n.d. Provincial Archives of Alberta Photo B4510 via,

The homesteads were managed by local Dominion Lands offices under the auspices of the federal government. When each quarter section was homesteaded for the first time it was given a file number and all documents relating to that quarter were placed on file until the land patent was granted.

The modern boundaries of Alberta were established when it became a province in 1905. Before that, the Canadian prairies were divided into provisional districts. The province of Alberta includes the entire provisional district of Alberta, as well as the western edge of Assiniboia and Saskatchewan and, in the far north, Athabasca. The vast majority of homesteads in Alberta before it became a province were in the districts of Alberta and Assiniboia.

While the collection has a start date of 1870, only about a dozen settlers filed for homesteads in Alberta before 1880, and meaningful migration did not begin until after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. (The first homesteaders went to southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan.) After 1930, homestead applications were handled by the provincial government, rather than the federal one.

Requesting proof of citizenship for William Sartorius via Michael John Neill's Genealogy Website,
Requesting proof of citizenship for William Sartorius via Michael John Neill’s Genealogy Website,

Digging through the collection, you can find details of the early lives of Albertan settlers, including such notable individuals as:

  • Born in Scotland, George Murdoch became the first Mayor of Calgary in 1884. He applied for a homestead in Calgary, Alberta in 1886.
  • George Clift King was born in England, arriving in Alberta in 1875. He later become the second Mayor of Calgary in 1886 and applied for a homestead Calgary, Alberta in 1890.
  • Adrian Albert Dick applied for a homestead in Springbank, Alberta 1899. He and his wife survived the Titanic sinking in 1912 while on their honeymoon, and returned to Alberta.

Not everyone who filed for a homestead was able to “prove” the land; some voluntarily gave up their applications within hours or days of submitting them. These files include information on improvements done and problems faced by the applicants.

To start searching the Alberta, Canada, Homestead Records (1870-1930) record collection, click here.


This post was written with assistance from Dave Obee. 


Lesley Anderson

Lesley Anderson has been involved in the personal research of her family tree for more than 35 years (yes she was a teenager!) and her passion for genealogy has branched out to teaching classes, speaking at seminars and conferences, consulting and doing research for others. She is well known for her genealogy classes and her “field trips” to various archives and libraries. You can find Lesley on the 2nd or 3rd floors of the Library and Archives Canada, researching for clients and working for


  1. Liz

    It appears that the homestead index is slightly incomplete. When I was searching for Adam Borrowman’s application (for SW 34-36-26 W4)at the Alberta Archives, in person, neither his name or application showed up in any index, but it was found via the card catalogue, and I viewed the original paper documents on file there. Apparently one or more boxes were not filmed and indexed, but still exist in the archives. I hope that can arrange to add these missing documents to their collection!

  2. Hi Viewers,

    With Ancestry’s recent announcement in launching the AB Homestead Collection, the Alberta Genealogical Society would like to remind viewers to seriously compare the scope of the two indexes. Ancestry’s index has a minimal listing of approximately 207,000 records, whereas the Alberta Genealogical Society has in their combined database over 520,000 entries. Please do not be mislead on the number of records or the passion that went into this index by our volunteers.

    The AGS all name homestead index for 1870 to post-1930, lists those applying for land patents between 1885 and 1897; those who completed the homesteading process and eventually obtained a title; those who applied but abandoned their homesteads; and other individuals whose name appears in the files for a variety of reasons—something the Library and Archives of Canada nor Ancestry has done.

    We invite everyone to view the AGS databases which have twice as many records, and twice the knowledge over the record index at

    Thank you, Lyn Meehan, AGS Communications.

  3. T. Atkins

    I would encourage researchers to review the Alberta Genealogical Society’s index. It seems to be more complete.
    Also, as valuable as the Homestead records maybe, there are missing pages that have been lost or misplaced. But the information that is there is very helpful.

  4. Dana Sheldon

    It seems to me that unless the limited availability of records was pointed out would have said nothing to the general public. I find this very misleading, on the part of

  5. Kristie Wells

    Ancestry has greatly appreciated our collaboration with the University of Alberta on the digitization of this collection. We provided funding and other support to assist the university in their efforts to create an index. The university also plans to publish the index on their website, making access available for free to academic researchers across the country.

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