In 1911, the British Columbia Department of Lands began publishing standardized series of lithographic maps of BC regions, as well as general maps of the entire province. Over the next five decades these provincial maps were used both to stimulate and to document settlement and economic development on a region-by-region basis. For many areas, the provincial regional maps served as the main published source of cartographic information until those areas were gradually covered by sheets from the National Topographic Series of maps. This summary guide and the accompanying series lists and graphic indices provide a basic overview of the provincial series maps available at the British Columbia Archives and Records Service (BC ARCHIVES). The series list (see finding aid) allows researchers to search for the call numbers of desired maps by using map series name, map sheet number or map title, while the graphic indices (CM/CL1 page G1) allow for a search by geographic area.
*For most of the time period under consideration, the major provincial map series were published by the Department of Lands Geographic Branch (1912 - 1970). Such series include the Geographic Series of general purpose maps; the Lands, Pre-emptors', and Degree series of land status maps; and the Topographic Series of physical features (and some land status) maps. The land status maps are of particular value to researchers since the lot numbers depicted on the maps serve as an entry point to many other types of records produced by the Department of Lands and its successors. Conversely, researchers who already know the legal description for a property can often use the maps to place the property in its geographic context. Researchers should note that mineral titles are usually not depicted on the land status maps. Such titles are shown in the published Mineral Reference Maps (see CM/CL1 page 18) and in a separate, unpublished series (CM/S1).
(1A - 1SW) Geographic Series, 1912 - 1981 This series consists of a diverse range of maps including general maps of the entire province, general maps of large regions, and provincial and regional maps overlaid with various government administrative boundaries. The Geographic Series was continued by the successor to the Geographic Branch, the Map Production Division (1971 - 1981), which also published such related series *Date ranges given are those for the sheets held by BC Archives as the Special Geographical Series Maps, 1967 - 1980 and the Regional (New Series) Maps, 1978.
*(2A - 2F) Land Series, 1913 - 1958 This series and the two following were designed primarily to show the status of land alienation. The Land Series sheets initially covered the settled southwestern area of the province and usually provided general geographic detail; fairly extensive cultural features such as transportation routes, parks, post offices, hospitals, telegraph lines, etc.; land district boundaries; limited topographic (landform) information in the form of spot heights, and depictions of the boundaries and numbers of surveyed lots pertaining to various forms of land title (crown grants, reserves, timber licences and leases), conveniently coded by colour. Later sheets in the series covered portions of the mainland coast, and the Queen Charlotte Islands. The series was published at the scale of four miles to one inch.
*(3A - 3Q) Pre-emptors' Series, 1911 - 1969 Originally intended as a quick means of depicting for settlers the Crown lands available for pre-emption in the north-central portion of the province, the first pre-emptors' maps were rough in form and were substantially redrawn each year. Since the early sheets were designed for short-term use, they provided only basic planimetric information (horizontal features such as rivers and lakes, but not landforms) along with depictions of the boundaries and numbers of surveyed lots, land recording district boundaries, government reserves, and of course, lands open for pre-emption or in some cases, public auction. Even the early sheets, however, often also provide relatively detailed information on the location of trails, roads, and railways, and the popularity of the series as well as the increasing availability of accurate survey information for the mapped areas soon prompted the Geographic Branch to improve the maps' appearance, accuracy and level of detail. Thus, while the scale, area covered, and numbering of the early sheets varied from year to year, the format of the series was standardized by 1915, with most sheets being published at a scale of three miles to one inch. Certain sheets eventually depicted topography by means of contours, and provided some of the types of more detailed cultural information present in the Lands and Degree Series.
*(4A - 4Q) Degree Series, 1912 - 1956 This series was designed to cover the relatively well-settled area of the BC interior between the CPR line and the 49th parallel using standardized sheets of one degree in latitude and one in longitude. The maps were published at the comparatively large scale of two miles to the inch since they were intended to provide prospectors and other residents with accurate, long-term information on physical features; the location of land recording, mining, and/or electoral districts; the boundaries and numbers of surveyed lots (including timber leases), and specific cultural details such as the location of schools, hospitals, post offices, transportation routes, power lines, and so on. Many of the sheets are contoured so as to depict topography in detail.
*(5A - 5E) Topographic Series, 1917 - 1952 This series was begun with the goal of depicting the results of exploratory topographic surveys (by Frank Cyril Swannell) in northern BC. The first sheets, therefore, provide planimetric information as well as topography in the form of hachures or contours, but depict few cultural details and are drawn at the relatively small scale of five miles to one inch. Later sheets, however, covered parts of southern BC and include not only detailed topography, but also many of the same cultural features, presented at the same scales, as in the Lands and Degree Series. Interestingly, certain maps in the above series were produced as special "economic geography" editions containing numerous annotations regarding natural resources as well as extensive textual information on the verso (back) of the sheets. Such sheets, as well as those which simply contain extensive natural resource annotations, are identified in the accompanying lists by the entry "Economic Geography" after the map title. In addition to the series described above, a number of smaller or more specialized series are identified in the series lists.
British Columbia. Dept. of Lands