Series S 42 - Saskatchewan Homestead Records Pre-1930 series

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Saskatchewan Homestead Records Pre-1930 series

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  • Textual record

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S 42

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  • 1931-1960 (Creation)
    Saskatchewan. Lands Branch
  • 1883-1930 (Creation)
    Canada. Dept. of the Interior. School Lands Branch
  • 1881-1930 (Creation)
    Canada. Lands Patent Branch
  • 1873-1930 (Creation)
    Canada. Dept. of the Interior

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Physical description

419.32 m of textual records

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Administrative history

In 1869, the Government of Canada finalized an agreement with the Hudson’s Bay Company to acquire Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, an area that incorporates all of the present-day provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, part of British Columbia and all of Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. To centralize the administration and promote the settlement and development of this newly-acquired territory, the Department of the Interior was established by the federal government in 1873. During its 63 years of existence, the Department established a multitude of branches and sub-agencies, with most focused on its core areas of operation related to land sales and survey, First Nations and Métis relations, natural resource development and immigration in western Canada. For periods of time, the Department also administered functions of government that involved operations in all areas of the country, such as immigration, museums, national parks, tourism and geological surveys. Several branches operated within the Department of the Interior evolved into separate agencies or departments of the federal government, including Indian Affairs, Immigration, the Geological Survey of Canada, Parks Canada, and the North-West Mounted Police.

In 1930, the federal government transferred all responsibility for crown land and natural resource administration to the provinces. In Saskatchewan, these functions were assumed by the Department of Natural Resources. The Department of the Interior ceased to exist on December 1, 1936. Its remaining functions were amalgamated with those of the Departments of Mines, Immigration and Indian Affairs to create the Department of Mines and Resources.

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Administrative history

The Lands Patent Branch was originally established in 1881 to maintain the records produced in the land patenting process and to process land applications from institutions. It was originally administered from a central office in Ottawa, but an office was later opened in Winnipeg and local field staff assumed many of the lands patent duties. In 1883, the Lands Patent Branch took over the full functions of a land registry office in relation to federally-controlled western lands. Previously, many of these duties had been administered by the Office of the Registrar General of Canada, part of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada. In 1928, the name of the agency was changed to Lands Patent Division. In 1930, the Lands Patent Division was dissolved when the provinces took over the responsibility for all unconveyed lands.

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Administrative history

The School Lands Branch was established in 1879 to administer lands that were reserved for education purposes under the Dominion Lands Act, 1872. The Act stated that sections 11 and 29 of every surveyed township were designated as school lands. Any revenue generated from the sale of these lands was to finance school construction and the purchase of school supplies.

The rapidly increasing population of the western Canadian territories and the need for federal assistance to help build educational facilities necessitated special legislation by the Canadian government. This law also resulted in the creation of a separate School Lands Branch within the Department of the Interior to administer the terms of the act. The Branch was responsible for arranging public auctions for the sale of school lands, inspecting property, and setting the price for land. The lands could not be sold until a fair market value could be attained; in the interim, the land was often leased for grazing, timber, and/or haying purposes. Monies collected for these purposes were added to the territorial/provincial education endowment.

The School Lands Branch was placed under the direction of Frank Checkley from 1879 to 1918. Initially, the Branch reported to the Minister of the Department of the Interior through the Commissioner of Dominion Lands. In 1909, the Branch reported directly to the Minister. In 1918, the status of the Branch was downgraded to a Division, and it was placed back under the authority of the Dominion Lands Branch, and was renamed the Dominion Lands Bureau. The unit was disbanded in 1930 when the management of natural resources and dedicated Crown Lands in the western provinces was transferred to the provinces. In Saskatchewan, this authority transferred to the Department of Natural Resources, Lands Branch which operated from 1930 to 1944.

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Administrative history

From 1930 to 1947 the Lands Branch, and grant and lease functions, were part of the Department of Natural Resources (later the Department of Natural Resources and Industrial Development.) The initial legislation (The Provincial Lands Act, 1931 and The Land Utilization Act, 1935) and the legacy of the Federal Department of the Interior, which previously held jurisdiction over these responsibilities, provided the framework for Crown Land lease and sale accounting and administration. While the Lands Branch was part of the Department of Natural Resources, the Provincial Lands Division and then (in 1932) the Lands Patent Division carried out the grants and transfer of land. This included handling enquiries, application forms, payments, agreements and recording the disposition of land.

In 1948, control of the Lands Branch was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, which subsequently changed the responsibility for many of the functions from the Land Utilization Division to the Inspection Services Division. During the 1960s, The Agriculture Rehabilitation and Development Act resulted in many of the grants and leases only being permitted for projects related to the development and conservation of water supplies, soil improvement, and /or agricultural efficiency.

In 1975, the Lands Disposition and Records Division of the Lands Branch became responsible for land grants and transfers - by advertising land for lease/sale, by preparing land transfers, and by maintaining the records of lands. In 1984-1985, a reorganization of the Lands Branch saw many of these functions split between the Field Operations and Support Services divisions.

The transfer of the Lands Branch back to the Department of Agriculture and Food in 1993 resulted in another reorganization, splitting the control of leases and sales amongst geographically oriented divisions (i.e. northwest, south). In 1993-1994 the Branch operated under the Financial Support and Program Management Division as part of the Lands and Regulatory Management Branch. This Branch had a broader mandate, including livestock health and operations. With the abolishment of the Crow's Nest Pass annual railways subsidy in February 1995, Lands Branch assumed responsibility for management of the provincial share of the federal payout and amended rental rates on Crown agricultural leases.

In 1996, the splitting of the Lands and Regulatory Management Branch into three branches (Livestock and Veterinary Operations, Pasture, and Lands) resulted in Lands Branch becoming part of the Program and Services Division, where it remained until April 2005. This change marked the first time that the Lands Branch did not hold responsibility for the administration of provincial pastures and the Community Pastures Program. The responsibility was returned to the Branch in 2001 with the amalgamation of Pastures and Lands Branches.

In 2000, the stated mandate of Lands Branch was "to promote the sustainable and integrated use of Crown land while providing opportunities for diversification and economic growth." Between April 2002 and May 2004 the Department operated as the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization. Currently (2011) Lands Branch resides in the Ministry of Agriculture. While the Branch has experienced changes in its structure and in policy and program development, the basic function regarding the administration, sale and lease of Crown lands has not substantially altered throughout its history.

Custodial history

The federal Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources transferred these records to the Saskatoon office, Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, in one accession in 1956: 453 (S) (1956).

Scope and content

This series consists of homestead records created, accumulated and used by the federal Department of the Interior, Dominion Lands Administration between 1872 and 1930. Each file pertains to a specific parcel of land (typically a quarter section or portion thereof) available for settlement under the provisions of the Dominion Lands Act, 1872 (An Act respecting the Public Lands of the Dominion, S.C. 1872, c. 23). A file usually covers the period from date of entry until grant of patent, at which time file was closed. Files contain information pertaining to various types of land grants including homesteads; pre-emptions; scrip grants to North West Métis entrants and to South African volunteers; grants to soldiers of the Great War; and homesteads on First Nations reserves. The fonds also includes: applications for Letters Patent that were separated from certain original homestead files and filed independently; and administrative records regarding the management of lands designated for schools.

The types of records included are applications for entry and for patent; land condition and valuation reports; land transfer documents; sale deeds and receipts; notarial certificates; naturalization documents; cattle grazing and haying permits; soldier land settlements; maps; and correspondence.

To facilitate access to the records in this series via the Threshold description tree, the series has been arranged into sub-series, sub-sub-series and file parts. Sub-series include: 1. Duplex-Numeric File sub-series (records with two sets of numbers separated with a dash for each file number); 2. Terminal "A" Numeric Files sub-series (contain records with an "A" at the end of all file numbers); 3. Straight-Numeric Files sub-series (contain records with simple numeric file numbers); and 4. School Lands sub-series (contain records pertaining to school lands).

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Physical condition

Some records are in fragile physical condition.

Immediate source of acquisition


Numerical order maintained.

Language of material

  • English

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Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Microfilm copies of the records in this government series are available from the Regina office (R-8.1 to R-8.1717; S-6.17 (727) to (886) and S-6.18 (1) to (13).

Microfilm copies of the records in this government series are available from the Saskatoon office (S-6.17 (727) to (886); S-6.18 (1) to (13); R-8.1715 to R-8.1716).

Digital copies of some of the records in this series are available in the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan's online database, which is accessible via the Archives website or at the Regina and Saskatoon offices.

Restrictions on access

These records may be subject to access restrictions. Please consult reference archivist for assistance.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Use, publication and/or reproduction of records are subject to Crown Copyright. Please consult reference archivist for assistance.

Finding aids

SAFA 296 (part of old guide GS 66) consists of a series description and file list.

A searchable database of the pre-1930 homestead files in the holdings is available on the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan website.

Associated materials

Department of the Interior fonds - National Archives of Canada: consists of records created and/or maintained by the Department of the Interior from 1632 to 1936. CAIN no. 257617.

S 43 Saskatchewan Homestead Records Post-1930 series - includes homestead land files created, accumulated and used by the federal Department of the Interior, Dominion Lands Administration (1871-1930) and School Lands Branch (1879-1930), the Saskatchewan Department of Natural Resources, Lands Branch (1930-1947) and Department of Agriculture, Lands Branch (after 1947).

Related materials


No further accruals are expected.

General note

It is unknown why certain pre-1900 Application Letters Patent documents were separated from the original homestead files. It is also unknown if this separation was done by the Department of the Interior, or by Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan staff.

Location note

Location for retrieval: Saskatoon - Murray; Saskatoon - Williams; and Regina - Hillsdale.


Fasteners were removed and records were placed in acid-free file folders.

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