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Land Registry Copy Books

Land Registry Copy Books finding aid (PDF 123Kb)

The Land Registry Copy Books are large volumes of memorials and indexes of all registrations pertaining to the ownership of land after the Patent from the Crown in the Ontario counties of Essex, Kent, and Lambton. The Copy Books cover registrations from the years 1796 to 1955 and are a part of Record Group 61 - Real Property Registration Records at the Archives of Ontario.

In the fall of 1983, the Copy Books were transferred to the University of Windsor Archives, where they remain on permanent loan. An additional ten volumes of early records were transferred from the Registry Office to the Archives in July 1997. Eleven volumes still remain at the Land Registry Office, including "Old Records A" (1796-1805).

The Record Group is divided into three series: the Area Series, the General Register Series, and the Miscellaneous Series.

Area Series

The Area Series include memorials of instruments from 1796 -1955 and consist of all types of land transactions, including sales, quit claims, mortgages, and deeds. Earlier transactions often took place several years prior to the actual enregistration of the memorial at the Registry Office. Additionally, a memorial could have been registered outside the county, but by statute had to be brought to the Registrar to be entered in the copy books with at least one witness who could swear oath that he or she saw the same executed. The Registry Act of 1795 also required that memorials of all wills shall be registered within six months after the death date of the deceased. Even though the Registry Act only required the registration of memorials, the "Old Records" copy books (which date from 1796 - 1846), contain a wide variety of registrations including court judgements for trespassing or lands sold by the sheriff for arrears of taxes due.

The more recent Area Series copy books begin to reflect the more structured and organized systems set forth by amendments to the Registry Act. For example, after the amendments of 1825, memorials were registered for deeds of gift, lands sold at public auctions, deed polls and release of dowers. After the 1865 amendments, the Area Series copy books included deeds to trustees for religious institutions, property for grammar schools, order of decree for alimony and declaration of the formation of Library Associations and Mechanics' Institutes.

Miscellaneous Series

The Miscellaneous Series consists of copy books relating to a variety of transactions such as bylaws, deposits, bankruptcies, partnerships, joint stock ventures, and judgements, which began to be recorded in separate volumes after the 1865 amendments. Each of these copy books contain a wealth of information. There are two gaps in the registration of judgements, from instrument numbers 1 - 304 and from 446 - 583. It is possible that these copy books have been lost, or that these instruments are contained within other copy books and have not been located to date.

General Register Series

The third series of copy books is the General Register Series, which also began with the Registry Act of 1865. This series is the most straight-forward and contains wills and letters of administration that were recorded at the Registry Office, since most probates dealt with the transfer of land. The Treasurer of the County or City was to provide a General Registry book to be used for the entire county, not by municipality. These registrations list the name of the deceased, and often the death date, as well as a description of the property, both real and personal, that was to be dispersed among the heirs.

How to Use this Collection

Each book has been given a University of Windsor Archives accession number. To locate the number of the book you are interested in, consult the card catalogue in the University of Windsor Archives. The card catalogue lists each copy book by series and municipality, and will indicate the dates covered, the instrument numbers, and whether or not the book contains an index.

Since many of the volumes are not indexed, it is helpful to know either the year in which the property was purchased or the lot and concession number of the property.

If you know the lot and concession number:

  1. Check the Abstract Index to Deeds ("Abstracts"). These can be accessed at the Land Registry Office in Windsor, or on microfilm either at the Archives of Ontario or on loan through your local LDS Family History Center. Check the abstracts (arranged by lot and concession number) to locate the date of transaction and instrument number for the land owner. The abstracts will give a one line history of the legal transactions affecting each parcel of land going back to the patent from the Crown.
  2. Check the card catalogue at the University of Windsor Archives to locate the book number for the volume that contains the instrument number you are interested in. The archival assistant will then pull the book for you. (The Copy Books have also been microfilmed by the Registrar and these films are available at the Land Registry Office, however cannot be photocopied there. Microfilm copies can also be ordered through the LDS Family History Centers, and are also available at the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.)

If you do not know the lot and concession number, check The Land Records in Ontario for some suggestions on how to locate this information. It is possible to search the Copy Books without this information; however, many of the books are not indexed. This would result in searching the books page by page to locate the name of the land owner. If you know the approximate year in which a transaction took place, this would help you to narrow down your search.

For more information on this collection, including an extensive reading list and chronology, please consult the Land Registry Copy Books finding aid (PDF 123Kb).