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.
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.
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.