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.
British Columbia. Lands Branch