This reference guide was created by Library and Archives Canada in 2013 to assist researchers in discovering this series.
About the records
The Heir and Devisee Commission was established by provincial statute in 1797 to clarify the titles to lands in Upper Canada which had been granted before the provision was made, in 1795, for the issuance of patent deeds on Crown Grants. Legislation passed in 1805 changed the composition, powers, and duties of the Commission considerably. The Commission established under the 1805 legislation continued in operation until 1896 and was formally abolished only in 1911.
The two distinct periods of Commission activity (1797-1805 and 1805 onward) are characterized as the "First" and "Second" Heir and Devisee Commissions.
Under the 1797 legislation and its amendments, Heir and Devisee Commissioners were appointed to hear and rule upon claims within the various districts of the Province brought forward by the original nominees of the Crown, their heirs, devisees, or assignees. Each commission consisted of three or more persons, with the stipulation that one member be the Chief Justice or one of the justices of the Court of King's Bench. Decisions of the Commissioners could be appealed to the Executive Council.
The 1805 legislation resulted in a centralization of the Commission work. Thereafter, a single Commission met at York, its membership made up of members of the Executive Council, the Chief Justice, and justices of the Court of King's Bench. The work of the second Commission was restricted to claims to land made by heirs, devisees or assignees, not by the original nominees themselves.
Library and Archives Canada holds most of the records of the first Heir and Devisee Commission (1797-1804) (RG 1 L5) and some of the records of the second Commission (1805-1911). Most of the post-1805 records are now with the Archives of Ontario.
Records can include:
- location certificats;
- powers of attorney;
- copies of wills;
- deeds of sale; and
- testimonial letters
For more information, consult Library and Archives Canada's description of the records.
How the records are arranged on the microfilm reels
The microfilm reels have been digitized and the images appear in the same order as on the microfilm reels. There is no index by name. The records are arranged by district, then by type of document, then in chronological, alphabetical or numerical order. The Reports of the Commissioners, 1808-1854, are arranged together in vols. 100-104. Some of the volumes of supporting documents contain rough lists of contents, supplementing the arrangement by date, personal name or claim number.
List of content of microfilms
You can see the full list formatted as a web page by clicking here.
Merriman, Brenda Dougall. Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the records, 4th ed. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 2008.
Murphy, Sharon L. Researching Canadian Land Records, Heritage Book Series: Book HC22. Toronto: Heritage Productions, 2001.