Homestead Records

Homestead records are useful in genealogical research because they contain both land and biographical information about the applicant.

While marital status is noted, the spouse is not usually named. If the applicant was not a Canadian citizen, there may be a copy of his/her naturalization record, as only Canadian citizens could receive title to a homestead.

These application files provide some of the following information:

  • Age
  • Place of birth
  • Former place of residence
  • Date of entry on the land
  • Marital status is noted but the spouse is not usually named
  • Naturalization record if available (only Canadian citizens could receive title to a homestead)

The Provincial Archives holds microfilm copies of these homestead applications for land throughout Alberta. The Provincial Archives has two main series of records for those interested in learning more about a particular homestead - homestead application files and township maps. If you would like to view these microfilms, you will need to visit the Archives. Alternatively, you can pay for a homestead search. For additional information, please contact us to get started.

How to find Homestead Application Files

The Alberta Genealogical Society has created two databases to help locate the homestead application files:

These databases can be searched by the name of the individual or by the legal land description. From the databases, you will find the microfilm reel number and file number to be able to locate the file at the Provincial Archives. Once you have this information, visit the Provincial Archives to view the homestead record.

Find a homestead record, step-by-step guide:

Step 1:

To locate a specific homestead record, it is first necessary to know the specific Legal Land Description (i.e. quarter, section, township, range and meridian). If the name of the homesteader is known, the Legal Land Description can be obtained from the Western Land Grants database on the Library and Archives Canada website.

Step 2:

Sample of a homestead record
Sample of a homestead record
PAA Accession GR1974.473/GSE

Determine the file number (also known as the Ottawa number). To find this number, it is necessary to first search the indices. These are available on microfilm in the Reading Room. The indices are organized by Legal Land Description; there are two pages per township that list all of the quarter sections in that township and provide the file number for each quarter section that was homesteaded.

If there is no file number listed in the index for a specific quarter section, then there is no homestead record available for that quarter section.

Step 3:

Once the file number has been identified, look at the file number conversion lists. These lists are held in the Provincial Archives Reading Room microfilm area. The lists are origanized in numerical order by file number. The top of each page indicates the reel number on which the file will be found. The homestead microfilm reels are available for self service in the reading room.

Step 4:

The actual homestead application files are on the microfilm reel in file number order. Each file begins with a sheet stamped Alberta and the file number. A typical homestead application file is about 10-12 pages long.

Self-serve microfilm reader-printers are available to make copies of the homestead records. Photocopies cost $0.35 per page.

Unable to find a homestead record?

School, Hudson Bay Company, and Railway lands

Typical pioneer home
Typical pioneer home, Redwater District; Warren Brown and first-born son, n.d.
PAA Photo A2226

Not all of the sections in a township were available for homesteading. Sections 11 and 29 in every township were designated as School Lands, and these would only have been available for purchase. Similarly, sections 8 and 26 were granted to the Hudson Bay Company and these would also only have been available for purchase.

The odd-numbered sections in most townships were granted to the Canadian Pacific Railway and these sections would have been purchased rather than homesteaded. Records documenting land sales by the Canadian Pacific Railway are held by the Glenbow Archives in Calgary.

How to find Township Maps

The Provincial Archives has a series of township maps, which identify the original homesteaders on the township. You will need the Township, Range and Meridian (also known as the legal land description) to order these maps from the vaults. Please speak with our Reference Archivist about this process.