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Identifying Ontario’s lots and concessions

Much of Ontario’s land was divided up and distributed to settlers in 200-acre lots. In rural Ontario, the 200-acre farm lot is still the norm, with some lots divided in half, or merged with other lots. But the lot number remains the way the land is described.

The lots are grouped together, side-by-side, into a long strip called a “concession”. Think piano keys. The long, narrow concessions are grouped together into a township. (You could argue that it is the other way around and townships are divided into concessions that are then divided into lots. And you’d be right.)

The names of these concessions with their township and the lot numbers are all part of the legal description of the property your ancestor owned.

Most concessions are named with a simple number like 1, 2, 3 (often shown as Roman numerals) or letter like A, B, C. But many townships—perhaps most townships—have several concessions with unique designations. I was reminded of this when a fellow researcher showed me the mystifying abbreviations EBR, WBR, and EOBR for concessions in a township in Haliburton County.

The BR in all these abbreviations stands for Bobcaygeon Road—East of, West of, and to keep us on our toes, East Of.

The Bobcaygeon Road was a colonization road drawn straight north (or as straight as possible in a land of rocks and lakes) from the town of Bobcaygeon through the wilds of unsettled Haliburton in 1856. The surveyors knew that this road was vital to opening up the area, and that settlers along the road were vital to its construction and maintenance. So a special series of lots were surveyed, lining both sides of the new road. You can see them clearly, just left of centre, on this map of Haliburton from 1961.

Wherever your ancestors lived in Ontario, figuring out the idiosyncrasies of how concessions where arranged can provide additional information. The surveyors put the most desirable lots close to what they felt were important physical features, methods of transportation, or population centres. Often the best lots were in the lowest numbered (or lettered) concessions. Did your ancestor rate one of those?

Was your ancestor settled on an important road or waterway that the authorities wanted to see thrive? Extensive records about the development of the Bobcaygeon Road can be found at the Archives of Ontario in fonds RG 1-574 Crown land agents’ records for Victoria County and Haliburton.

31 comments to Identifying Ontario’s lots and concessions

  • I’m so glad to see you doing this, Jane. Anyone with Ontario ancestors will benefit from your experience!

  • Mike Clark

    Helpful information to aid with understanding the landholdings information related to my ancestors. Thanks.

  • Heather

    Where can I find the location of Concession 8? Is there a map available to see where the different concessions were laid out? I am trying to find out where Joseph Winters got his 200 acres in Concession 8 and where it is, relative to other Winter/s.


    • Jane

      Hi Heather. Detailed county atlases were produced for most of Ontario in the 1870s and 1880s. They’re a great source for lots and concessions. The maps have been digitized here:
      Select the township you need from the drop-down menu. Generally the concessions will be marked with Roman numerals (ie: VIII for 8). Lots will be shown in regular numbers. Many of the maps will include names of the current owners (when the atlas was produced.)

  • Jack Sherwood

    thank you so much! My ancestors, Justus Sherwood, Thjoams Sherwood, ebenezer Sherwood and Reuben Sherwood were Loyalists, and some were given land and even though almost 70 years have passed by the time of the 1862 map it still helps. I am visiting the area in October and hope to use this to find where they lived in 1797! I only wish I was able to print or obtain a larger map of Leeds and Grenville Counties especially Augusta and Elizabethtown.

    Much appreciate your work!


  • D.J. Sloan

    Our neighbour is trying to develop “concession” lands in North York Are there any different rules and regulations restricting this ?

    • Jane E. MacNamara

      I’m not sure what you mean by “concession” in this context, but I suspect it is not the survey term that I’ve covered in my article. North York is now part of the City of Toronto, and any development rules are put in place by the City.

  • Wendy Lyons

    I know the “concession number V11” and “lot number 6” of my relatives property in Goilbourn, Ontario and now I would like to find out the current street address of that property. In B.C. We can enter the legal description into the net and get the street address. Is impossible to. Do that and how for Ontarion

    • Jane E. MacNamara

      Hi Wendy. I don’t know of a similar tool for Ontario. For rural property that is intact (and I think Lot 6, Con 7, Goulbourn is intact) the lot and concession description is still valid. However most residences have been given street numbers for the benefit of emergency services. Using a combination of the historical atlas for Carleton County and Google maps, I’ve concluded that your lot is at the NE corner of Munster Road and Mansfield Road. You could contact the Goulbourn Museum to confirm that.

  • Don Madera

    Was watching Murdoch’s Mysteries on Netflix and Murdoch was investigating some property on Concession 51. Never heard the term before and had to look it up. Thanks for the history lesson of the area.

    • Jane E. MacNamara

      Ah, and the use of the impossibly high number 51 means that they story wouldn’t tread on any real parcel of land. Great show, glad it let you to my site.

  • James Poulter

    Can anyone provide information on a concession granted to James Poulter at Savard in 1948 ?
    I am his son and want to return to the lot

  • Barbara Gressel

    The Concessions in Glengarry were renumbered. Is a chart available that compares the old numbering to the new numbering? It would be very helpful when looking at the Land Petitions.


    • Jane E. MacNamara

      Hi Barbara, I don’t know a lot about Glengarry County, but I’m sure the change in concession numbering will be well documented at the local Land Registry Office as well as in the early records at the Archives of Ontario. For example, this patent plan for Charlottenburgh Township shows both sets of concession numbers along the top.

  • Judi Sullivan

    My ancestors by the name of Callaghan lived on lot 20, first concession of Thurlow. I am trying to find a map of the area and have had no luck. Can you please point me in the right direction?
    Thank you so very much,
    Judi Sullivan

    • Jane E. MacNamara

      Hi Judi. County atlases produced in late 1800s have been digitized by McGill University here: Use the dropdown menu at the top to select Thurlow. In this case, the concessions are identified with Roman numerals across the top. You’ll see #1 at the left. You’ll need to zoom in to follow the lot numbers about halfway down to 20. Mrs. Callaghan owns 18 1/2 acres.

  • Stephen Robson

    Is there a map of the concessions or lots for CFRB SIDEROAD between Bathurst and Yonge with their boundaries. I am looking to find our old home which was on this Sideroad (now changed to Bloomington)

    My Parents George Robson and Margaret, Lillian Robson emigrated to Canada from the UK in 1953 with my 2 sisters and I was born at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto in November 1954. We lived in King Township for a few years and returned to the UK in 1955 (mam, my sisters and I in February and dad in October).

    My parents both passed away recently and I am trying to locate the house we lived in as a family in King, I have an address of CFRB Sideroad but I don’t have the door number or the location of the property,

  • Stephen Robson

    Thank you Jane I will contact them. I can probably work with concession and lots maps for Bloomington road if they are available as I understand it CFRB SIDEROAD only stretched between Bathurst and Yonge. Do you have these maps for Blooimgton road. Thanks again

  • Judi Sullivan

    Thank you so much for your guidance. I couldn’t have done it without your help!


  • Melanie McLennan

    Hi Jane
    I’m reading through an older directory for Nepean township in Carleton County and some of the concessions and lots have notations such as:
    Concession 2, rf Lot 25, Concession 1, of Lot 8, or there is an “a” before Concession 1, Lot 25.

    The link to the page is:

    I have come across descriptions for divided lots such as NE 1/4 but I haven’t seen this before. Can you help? I couldn’t find the glossary for the directory on-line.

  • Denis Boyle

    Hi, I have two men, both John Boyle, one on lot 5 concession 1
    the other on lot 28 concession 2 . I am looking for a map that shows
    what area the lots and concession would have been in 1850-51.
    To track them.

  • Yvette Howard

    Really appreciate this article! I had found a map with all the lots, and was mystified how to find which one would be my ancestors. You made it so simple to understand! Thanks!

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