Land Registry Offices Closing to the Public by Shirley Dolan

Published September 1, 2020
Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan

Despite the title, this may be a good news story. The fact is that all 54 Land Registry Offices (LRO)in Ontario are closing their in-person counter services to the public effective Tuesday, October 13th, right after the Thanksgiving long weekend. The last day you can visit a Land Registry Office in person is October 9th. How will we be able to do a title search now, you ask? Here’s the good news: according to the Ontario government, all documents, including those historical records that were stored on microfilm, are available online.

The Ontario Landowners Association recommends doing a title search for your property back to the Crown Patent, as well as obtaining a registered copy of your Patent. When the closure of the LROs was announced, there was concern that the old records might not be available.

In fact, for those who use a computer, and that’s most of us today, it has never been easier to look up the provenance of your property from the Crown Grant to the present. According to the Ontario government, 99 percent of all land registration records have been digitized and are available through Ontario’s OnLand system.

We have genealogy associations such as APOLROD (Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents) to thank for their advocacy “to preserve land records over the past twenty years.  APOLROD was the organization created to preserve the original Land Abstract books from destruction at the beginning of this century”.

According to www.familysearch.org,” all dealings with the land subsequent to the Crown patent are recorded in the Abstract Book in the order of their registration. These books contain a page for each piece of property that had been surveyed. As the property changed hands, was mortgaged, had the mortgage paid off, or was part of an estate in a will, etc., it was recorded on its own page in the order that the events took place. Line after line tells the story of the individual piece of land. In order to get all the details of the transactions one must retrieve a deed or document by noting the instrument number shown beside the entry and requesting the document. This document can then be studied, and the contents read. The full names of all those with an interest in the land, buyer and seller alike, as well as the amount of the sale price and any other stipulations are some of the things shown on the actual “Bargain and Sale” as well as other pertinent information.”  https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Ontario_Land_Registry_Records_and_Offices_(National_Institute)

I spoke to an agent at the Ottawa-Carleton LRO who provided me with the link to the digitized system and gave me enough information to get me started. Having done a title search on my own property back to the patent at the LRO many years ago, I thought to myself “It can’t be that easy”. Back then, I had to choose and load microfilm reels, search through them for what I wanted, then print them. For the later records, I had to consult a different system. There was a fee of $10 plus the gas to get there and back (60 KM one way) and parking.

What I discovered is that it is that easy. The records can be accessed from the comfort of my own home and delivered to me by email free of charge, at least those in the Abstract Books.

You will need the name of your Land Registration Office, your Township and your Lot and Concession Numbers. Here’s how I found my records in the Abstract Book

  1. Type OnLand.ca into your browser “enter search or web address”.
  2. Select from the LRO list drop down box. This is the name of the Land Registry Office where records for your property are kept.
  3. On the same page, select Historical Books.
  4. Select Browse all Books.
  5. Select Browse Abstract/Parcel Register Book.
  6. Select your Township from the Filter by Township/Municipality menu.
  7. The page displayed is a list of the Abstract Books for your Township. Select your Concession by clicking on View Details.
  8. The book displayed is a digitized version of information on all Lots in the Concession you selected. The book is displayed sideways. Click on the circular arrow (top left-hand side) to get it to display right-side up. You can also display the book in full screen and enlarge the image.  Page numbers are listed at the bottom of the image. The Lots are listed starting at 1. To jump ahead, enter a number in the Box beside Previous. For example, if the book has 150 pages and you want to skip to the middle, type in 75 and press return. You can also page through the book by clicking on the Previous and Next buttons.

Getting a copy of the records for your Lot

To have pages from the book emailed to you, fill in your information in the top right-hand corner.

  1. Enter the first page in From and the last page in To then click on Add Range.
  2. If you need certified copies, click on Add Certified Copy for $2.00.
  3. Read the Terms of Service and click on the box for I accept Terms of Service.
  4. Click on Request Selected pages.
  5. Provide your email address and the pages will be emailed to you automatically by the system. (At least, this is how it worked for me. I did not ask for certified copies. There are likely extra steps to submit payment if you choose certified copies.)
  6. There is one last page that asks if you want to download the receipt.

A word of caution: There is a lot more to the system than I have described above. Looking at the Abstract Books is simple and there is a lot of information there. However, when I decided to take it to the next level and look for more detail on the transactions, I wasn’t so lucky.  More research is needed to fully understand the system. I encourage everyone to test the system and report problems https://help.onland.ca/en/contact-us/. A list of the available information can be found here https://help.onland.ca/en/onland-phase2-is-here/.

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