TITLE: INDEX TO RS108 LAND PETITIONS: ORIGINAL SERIES
EXTENT: 31 linear meters
INDEX: Nominal index follows
RESTRICTIONS: Use on microfilm only
RELATED SERIES RS272 LAND PETITIONS: CURRENT SERIES
THE PROCESS AND THE RECORDS ON LAND:
This series contains the earliest petitions for grants of land (see also
RS272 for later petitions). The settler who wished to obtain a grant of Crown
land submitted a petition to the Lieutenant Governor (later to the Crown Land
Office) describing his or her circumstances, need, family, and any service
(usually military) rendered the Crown, which would attest to the petitioner
being deserving of the land and whose settlement would be beneficial to the
community and province. The Lieutenant Governor in
Council, acting as a Committee of Council on Land (see RS568) would approve or
disallow the petition. If the petition was allowed, an Order/Warrant of Survey
(see RS687A) would be issued to the deputy-surveyor who had to establish the
boundaries of the grant to be issued. Field notes made by the deputy-surveyors
(see RS1021) describe the boundaries. From those notes a Return of Survey (see
RS687B) was prepared to show in detail the location, size, and other
survey-related information concerning the land to be granted. Correspondence
between the Surveyor General and his deputies may be located in RS637. The
Returns of Survey were kept by the Surveyor General organized by county (see RS687), or
by subjects such as railways, Indians, etc., (see RS656). The Returns were used to
draw up the official Land Grant (see RS686), which form the official record and
final authority of granted Crown land. A copy of the Grant was issued to the
petitioner (cum grantee) and became his proof of ownership. All subsequent
transactions such as selling, leasing, or mortgaging between individuals
required registration at the county registry offices (see RS84 to RS98).
However, in the case where the Crown reclaimed the property by escheatment (see
RS686F) for non-compliance with granting regulations, the original grant was
cancelled and the land re-granted.
The petitions held at the Provincial Archives fall under Record Group 10 -
Records of the Department of Natural Resources and Energy - and are divided into
two Record Series, i.e. RS108 Land Petitions: Original Series, and RS272 Land
Petitions: Current Series. RS108 includes petitions between 1783 and 1918 with
the bulk (about 98%) being between 1783 and 1867. RS272 includes petitions
between 1830 and the present: it is called "Land Petitions: Current Series"
because it is an on-going series. The land petitions since 1830 which were
granted were numbered by the department and that system is still in use today.
It also seems that all petitions within RS272 were granted whereas those within
RS108 may not have been. RS272 petitions, especially from the late 19th century on,
are cumulative in that former, unsuccessful petitions are filed with the most recent
petition providing a history of the attempts to settle a property
In the first hundred years of the history of New Brunswick, the Government
actively pursued a policy of land settlement by encouraging settlement,
lumbering, and "progress" as it was defined in the nineteenth century. The
territory which is now called New Brunswick was first peopled by the Maliseets (Wolastoqiyik)
and Mi’kmaq. Samuel de Champlain established the first French Colony on Saint
Croix Island in 1604 and a year later moved the colony to Port-Royal which
became the capital of a permanent settlement called Acadia. During the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, control of the region was passed back and
forth between the French and English depending on which European power was
dominant. The last such transfer came in 1763 when, by the terms of the treaty
ending the Seven Years' War, the area became a possession of Great Britain.
Under the British administration at Halifax, the territory north of the Bay of
Fundy was known as the Counties of Sunbury and Cumberland. Significant efforts
were made to establish settlements at this time -- the New England traders
centered in Boston planted settlements on the St. John River at Saint John,
Gagetown, Maugerville, and various other prime locations; and the Pennsylvania
Germans established settlements such as Hillsborough and Moncton on the
Petitcodiac River. Yorkshire and Rhode Island immigrants settled in the
The first major influx of settlers were, refugees from the War of
American Independence known as "loyalists". Whereas previous, pre-loyalist
emigration was measured in the hundreds, the loyalists arrived by the tens of
thousands. Voluntarily or otherwise, they left the new American republic and
returned to the protection of the King of England within the domains of British
North America. To accommodate and administer the new settlers north of the Bay
of Fundy, New Brunswick was set off from Nova Scotia in 1784. This encouraged
even more emigration from the American colonies. Many, however, only passed
through New Brunswick on their way to the Canadas, England, or elsewhere. The
British loyalists and disbanded British soldiers arrived between 1783 and 1790
and were rewarded for their political loyalty and for their military service in
the War by grants of land in New Brunswick. When petitioning for their grants,
these early settlers often described their families, their military exploits,
their place of birth, or other personal information which make their petitions
valuable historical documents.
The second great wave of settlers came to New Brunswick as a result of the
upheavals caused by the Napoleonic Wars and the emergence of the factory system
in Europe, especially in the British Isles. The wave which began to arrive
around 1815 continued until the late-1820s. During this time and until the
1850s, the Province attempted to attract immigrants by publishing and
distributing in Europe, brochures, booklets, and advertisements; by establishing
a commissioner to oversee immigrant placement; and by providing transportation
across the Atlantic Ocean.
The third and final wave of immigrants affecting New Brunswick specifically included
those who came to North America as a result of European political and military turmoil,
the continuing detrimental effects of the expanding Industrial Revolution, and the crop
failures suffered in the mid-1800s. Among these groups the Irish was the predominant
component. Combined with these negative incentives was the belief in the
Old World that North America, including New Brunswick, was the land of opportunity.
There was "land for the having" and the qualifications for obtaining it were minimal.
Those qualifications included being a British subject and being an adult male. At
various times there were also fees involved, such as paying for the survey. Land
improvements were also a stipulation and these included clearing a portion of the lot
and building a domicile. These terms varied over time depending on the colony’s stance
on the importance of immigration and population retention. Especially in the early years,
these petitions took the form of a letter pleading their case for receiving the land. Thus, the
petitions submitted by these immigrants between 1783 and 1840, for the large part,
amount to biographical sketches of the petitioner and his family. Unfortunately, in the 1840s
the Province began to issue standardized forms for petitions and because the
information required was minimal, they are less helpful to the researcher.
The index to RS108 covers the period from 1783 to 1918. It totals about
67,300 entries. The following rules were used in compiling the index:
1) Petitioners: To accommodate biographical and genealogical research, every
petitioner on a petition is indexed. Petitions which contain lists of names are
filed under the name of the first petitioner, and the other petitioners in the
list are cross-referenced accordingly.
2) Claimants: To accommodate demographic and land-related research, every
person named within the petitions as having, or having had, claim to the land,
is indexed. Researchers should note that sometimes the whereabouts of a former
claimant is mentioned; e.g.. 'went to Upper Canada two years ago'.
3) Witnesses: To further accommodate general research on the early
inhabitants, names of those who signed someone else's petition by way of
recommendation that the petition be granted have also been added to the index.
In these cases, there is no biographical detail on the witnesses but it was
deemed useful to include them in the index.
4) Places: To accommodate research on local areas, settlements, parishes,
counties, towns and cities are indexed when a group of petitioners from a
geographical location identify themselves with that area; eg. 'We, the
Inhabitants of Woodstock' would be indexed under "Woodstock, Inhabitants of"
and the name of each petitioner cross-referenced accordingly. However, places
were not indexed if simply mentioned within the petition.
5) Churches: To accommodate research on religion and denominations, churches
are indexed when the trustees, or others, sign on behalf of the church.
6) Blacks: To facilitate research on Blacks (Afro-Canadians), slavery, etc.,
a single asterisk "(*)" was added after the name of any person who could be
identified as being black. In the cases where a group of blacks petitioned
together and identified themselves as such, entries were added under "Blacks of
Place X" and "Place X, Blacks of" as appropriate. Note: the asterisks were used
as an easy method to create sub-sets or search groups based on the technology at
the time the indexing was done.
7) Indigenous people: To facilitate research on the indigenous population and their land claims,
indigenous people were not only indexed by surname but also identified as such in the
index by a double asterisk "(**)": Please note that the term Indian is used because that is the wording
in the document. Again for this to be indexed there had to be an indication in the petition.
Also, whenever a petition identified land as being
Indian lands, an entry for 'Indian Lands' was cross-referenced to that petition.
In cases where a group of indigenous people petitioned, entries were added under
"Indians of Place X" and "Place X, Indians of" as stated in the petition.
8) Military: To accommodate research on British and colonial military units,
all names of petitioning soldiers and each regiment identified within the
petitions were indexed. Researchers must note, however, that all regiments and
other military units are indexed under "Military--".
9) Grants: To accommodate land studies relative to the break-up of the
holdings of the very large grants (usually pre-loyalist), names of the major
grants were added to the index when identified as such by the petitioner.
"Hammond Grant", for example, would be cross-referenced to the individual
petitioner asking for land within what is (was) known as the Hammond Grant.
Because of the many variations of the spelling of surnames, the researcher
may find it useful to know what rules were used to determine how names were
entered in the index. The first thing we need to bring to the researcher's
attention is that consistency of spelling (even of one's own name!) was not a
cultural necessity in the nineteenth century in the way it has become in the
twenty-first. It is not uncommon to find a petitioner spelling the family name
two or three ways within a single petition. The quandry for the indexer, (and
for the researcher), consequently is to know which is the 'proper' spelling. The
rule followed: index according to the spelling used in the signature. Thus, if
"Bailey" were used in the petition, but the signer spelled it "Baillie", index
by the latter. Subsequently, we ended up with entries for variants such as
"Baillie", "Baley", "Bailley", and "Bailey". It is recommended, therefore,
that the researcher search every surname spelling variations. Part of this
confusion was based in the fact that some petitions were written by clerks
or others for petitioners. Often, depending on the literacy or lack of
familiarity between the people involved, names were often spelled phonetically.
This was especially true when an Anglophone wrote a petition for a francophone.
Within the index, titles such as "Dr." and "Rev." were used only when no
given name was included. For example, an entry which reads "Smith, ----- (Dr.)"
indicates that although the petition did not include the given name (five
dashes), it did indicate that the petitioner is a doctor. No "Senior" or
"Junior" designations were maintained within the index because of the temporary
nature of the descriptor. Also, although the computer strictly alphabetizes all
names, on the microfilm the "Mac's" and "Mc's" are interfiled and filmed after
the "M's". Thus, on the films, MacDonalds are interfiled with McDonalds, and
filmed after the simple "M"-names. This is not a factor in the online search
but is when consulting the microfilm.
Researchers should note that when a "Name" has been drawn from a petition
submitted by someone else or by a group, the "See Petition of:" column directs
them to the name under which the document is filed and microfilmed. Also, about
600 cross-reference entries from surname to surname have been added to the index
to direct the researcher to a spelling variant which they might not realize
existed. We are not confident, however, of having identified all variants and,
therefore, again urge diligence on the part of the researcher when searching for
Included in the index is the county where the land is located. The two-letter
code for the counties is used to assist with identification of individuals and
property. It is important for the researcher to remember that the county
indicated is the modern county name rather than the county name contemporary to
the petition. Thus a petitioner may ask for land at Madawaska, York County, in 1830, but since we
know that that land now lies in Madawaska County, we have used "MA" in the
county code. Where the county could not be identified, "--" was included in the
county column of the index. The abbreviations for the names of the counties are
as follows, the dates in brackets indicate the years of establishment:
- AL Albert County (est. 1845)
- CA Carleton County (est. 1832)
- CH Charlotte County (est. 1786)
- GL Gloucester County (est. 1837)
- KE Kent County (est. 1826)
- KI Kings County (est. 1786)
- MA Madawaska County (est. 1873)
- NO Northumberland County (est. 1786)
- QU Queens County (est. 1786)
- RE Restigouche County (est. 1837)
- SJ St. John County (est. 1786)
- SU Sunbury County (est. 1786)
- VI Victoria County (est. 1844)
- WE Westmorland County (est. 1786)
- YO York County (est. 1786)
VIEWING THE COMPLETE PETITION:
The petitions are available only on microfilm: they cannot be used in their
original, paper format. The microfilm number ("F-number") is included in the
index. Also, the entire index is available on microfilm F13763. The films can be
viewed at the Provincial Archives in Fredericton, or at a library participating
in the inter-library or inter-archives microfilm loan program.