Series GR-0112 - Crown land pre-emption records

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Crown land pre-emption records

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  • textual record
  • microform

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of the series.

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  • 1859-1971 (Creation)
    British Columbia. Lands Branch

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Physical description

24 m of textual records

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Custodial history

Transferred from Dept. of Lands, Forests and Water Resources, 1976.

Accession 97-5077 (Lands Branch volume 189 of pre-emption certificates) was donated in 2019 from a private source.

Scope and content

The series consists of pre-emption records created by the Lands Branch and its predecessor bodies between 1859 and 1971. The Chief Commissioner of Lands was responsible for the administration of Crown lands under successive governments (Colony of Vancouver Island, Colony of British Columbia, Province of British Columbia) until 1911. In 1929 the Minister delegated authority for Crown lands to the Lands Branch, headed by the Superintendent of Lands.

The series includes 216 volumes of certificates of pre-emption and 33 volumes of pre-emption registers. Some volumes contain certificates of Improvement and certificates of purchase.

Most of the volumes of certificates are arranged by district and then numerically by pre-emption number although there are many cases where individual documents from files are spread out throughout an entire volume. There are also some pre-emption numbers that are missing from volumes. One or more volumes cover the pre-emption registrations for each land district, and volumes 86-90 and 246-248 relate to railway lands on Vancouver Island, particularly in Cowichan and Nanaimo Districts (1884-1887). Pre-emptions were generally numbered sequentially based on the Land Act enforced at the time. Sequences can be found in the collection based on the Land Acts of 1860, 1870, 1874, 1875 and 1884. The New Westminster land district also includes a sequence based on rural or country land pre-emptions. Some land districts maintained the same numbering sequence throughout the entire time period. If no date is mentioned in the description, the sequence is based on the 1884 Act.

The pre-emption registers (volumes 213-245; microfilm reels B13858-B13860) summarize the information from the certificates. Each volume covers the pre-emption registrations for a district. The pre-emption registers are arranged in Lands Branch volume number order, volumes 1-27 (including three a volumes where two volumes are required for a district), followed by three unnumbered volumes that cover Fort St. John and Victoria. Each register lists pre-emptions in registration number order, with an alphabetical index of pre-emptors' names at the back. The following information is recorded: registration number, date of registration, pre-emptors name, lot number (not always recorded), acreage (for ca. 1915 on), certificate of improvement number (if issued), file number (sometimes), and remarks (either a code number, possibly accompanied by a date, or a phrase: cancelled, abandoned, or no application or declaration received). This information is hand-written in columns with printed headings.

Notes area

Physical condition

Original volumes are fragile.

Immediate source of acquisition


Many of the volumes in GR-0112 were paginated prior to microfilming in the order the documents appeared in the original volumes. This was done in order to aid in the separation process prior to microfilming the collection. Generally speaking, the original order has been maintained; however, researchers will discover that many documents were microfilmed without regard to the page number sequence.

Documents were reordered for a variety of reasons. The main reason was to gather documents relating to individual pre-emptions together in one location. Other reasons would include human error or the reordering of documents within individual pre-emption documents. On several occasions this number appears on the back of the document. If there was no other information on the reverse of the page, it was not microfilmed and the pagination will not be immediately apparent without referring to the original document. On other occasions, the pagination repeats (e.g. 1-320, 312-321). In these cases, the documents were microfilmed in the order they appeared prior to microfilming.

Documents that were not numbered in the original pagination were inserted using alphabetized numbers (e.g.: 321, 321A, 321B, 322). On several occasions, these documents remain unnumbered. Documents that were found to be in multiple pieces were generally numbered this way as well (e.g. 322 [top], 322A [bottom]). In some cases, the backing sheet was paginated as well. In these cases, both numbers will appear on the same image. Either there was no information on the back of the record, or the document was glued down so heavily that the information on the back of the document could not be retrieved without damaging the entire document.

Regardless, the documents appear on the microfilm in the order they were arranged at the time of filming. The original volumes were rehoused in containers. Larger volumes were rehoused in two or three separate containers. The BC Archives maintains a list recording the location of these containers.

Several volumes were paginated after the volumes were placed in these new containers. Researchers will note that the page numbers recycle to 1 whenever a new container begins. In these cases, the pagination will generally reflect the order of the present documents, rather than the order they would have appeared in the original volume.

No guarantee can be made as to which system was used if only one container was used to house an individual volume, or multiple containers were numbered sequentially. Researchers will need to scan the entire volume to ensure that they have located all the documents related to the pre-emptions they are trying to locate. Every attempt has been made to microfilm the backs of all the documents that have information on them. The originals still exist if researchers believe that a particular page was missed in the microfilming process.

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Availability of other formats

The following volumes have been microfilmed:
Certificate of pre-emption record books, volumes 1-32, 56-112 : B12165- B12183
Certificate of pre-emption record books, volumes 33-55 : B11188-B11191
Pre-emption registers, volumes 213-245 : B13858-B13860

Restrictions on access

Conservation restriction: use microfilm copy. Permission of the Manager of Access Services is required to access originals.

There are no other access restrictions.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Associated materials

Additional pre-emption and related records are also listed and described in the Pre-emptions and Certificates of Improvement section of the draft guide Government Records Relating to Crown Lands in British Columbia (Reference Room inventory binder 15). These include, but are not limited to:


The following list provides references to the pre-emption records contained in GR-1069. HS I = Herald Street Inventory Series I; HS II = Herald Street Inventory Series II. The number following the slash is the item number within Inventory (Series) I or II:

HS I/1 [Book. Pre-emptors. 1860-1861.] Country .New Westminster,
HS I/3 Pre-empted Rural Lands. District of Douglas. [book, nd]
HS I/23 (oversize) Osoyoos District. List of arrears on pre-emptions and purchases of land on the 21 Feb 1895. [loose material included]
HS I/91 Registry of land claimed under the Pre-emption Act dated 4 Jan 1860 mainland.
HS I/139 Applications to pre-empt, 1873.
HS I/163 [Applications to pre-empt, 1871-1872; loose correspondence in folder]
HS I/170 [Transfer case containing 3 bundles:] - Old Land Sales and pre-emption claims - Old Land Sales, Victoria District, Esquimalt, Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo, et. al. 1858-1859 - Similkameen Land Sales. [Pre-emptions 1861 and 1862.]
HS II/14 [Miscellaneous papers:] - Douglas. Land Sales. Town Lots. Suburban Land and pre-emptions, 1860 and 1861 - Rock Creek. Land Sales. Town Lots. Suburban Lands and pre-emptions 1860 to 1862 - Yale. Land Sales. Pre-emptions. Town lots and suburban lands. 1858 to 1866.
HS II/20 (oversize)Instalments under Pre-emption Act of 1861, ca. 1861-1870.
HS II/85 (oversize)Register of pre-emption claims 1861 to 1870 [Primarily Vancouver Island and the islands].
HS II/128 (oversize)[Front cover only] Pre-emption claims District of Lytton and Alexandria.
HS II/137 Pre-emption Records, 1861-1862. HS II/138 Pre-emption records New Westminster, 1862-1865.
HS II/139 War Leave Pre-emptions.
HS II/140 Soldiers Pre-emptions.
HS II/141 Pre-emptions allowed under sections 28B 29.
HS II/142 Pre-emptions allowed under sections 28A, 28B, 6 29.
HS II/143 Record of notification to non-resident pre-emptors and list of cancelled records. Fol 14 from 7.9.05.
HS II/144 (oversize)Index to inspected pre-emptions by recording districts and P.R. numbers
HS II/145 List of pre-emption claims ca. 1870-1886.

Related materials


General note

Accession number(s): 94-0760 (76-G-042), 97-5077.


For conservation reasons, BC Archives staff removed the pages from the bindings of many of the volumes, and placed the records in acid free folders and boxes.


The Genealogical Society of Utah microfilmed the pre-emption registers (volumes 213-245) in 2001. BC Archives staff microfilmed many of the volumes of the certificate of pre-emption record books in 2010 as part of a National Archival Development Program grant project.

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