Canada. Dept. of the Interior. Lands Patent Branch : The Lands Patents Branch was primarily responsible for issuing Letters Patent on Dominion Lands. Letters Patent are instruments issued by the Crown, which grant or confirm title to a portion of land. Letters Patent are issued as the first title to land, and they serve as proof that the land has been alienated from the Crown. Before Letters Patent could be issued to a homesteader, the land had to be accurately described and located through cadastral surveys. As well, the Dominion Lands Act required that each homesteader provide proof that the land had been improved that it had increased in value or utility through some additions (cultivation, building construction, etc.) costing labour and/or capital. The Dominion Lands Act clearly stipulated what improvements had to be made to a land grant before a homesteader would be issued his/her Letters Patent by the Crown.
When a homesteader felt that he met all the conditions of his homestead entry, as outlined in the Dominion Lands Act, he filed an application or fiat with his local Dominion Lands Office. At first, the application was completely processed from Ottawa and required the approval of Cabinet, acting on the advice of officials from the Department of the Interior and Justice. The Patent itself was issued by the Registrar General's Office of the Department of the Secretary of State. But this arrangement proved to be far too awkward and bureaucratic. Consequently, in an effort to improve the situation, the revised Dominion Lands Act of 1883 (46 Vic., c. 17, s. 70) passed complete responsibility for the issuing of letters patent on western homesteads to the Department of the Interior.
As a result of this move, the processing of the homesteader's application was to be divided between two separate agencies within the department: the Dominion Lands Board, which had been created just two years previously, and the Dominion Lands Office. The latter had always performed administrative tasks for the Department in the issuing of Lands Patent before passing them to the Department of the Secretary of State, but now under the new Act, it would be responsible for everything, exception adding the Great Seal of Canada. To assist the Branch in its added responsibilities, staff of the Department of the Secretary of State, who had been involved in the issuing of Letters Patent, were transferred to the Department of the Interior under Order-in-Council, P.C. 2489, 7-10 December 1883. By the end of the 1883-84 fiscal year, the Dominion Lands Office was renamed the Lands Patent Branch. Although Andrew Russell was still officially in charge of the unit, ill health prevented him from performing his duties, and William M. Goodeve filled the role of Chief Clerk on an acting assignment. Upon Russell's retirement about a year later, Goodeve was moved into the position on a permanent basis (see Order-in-Council, P.C. 564, 16 March 1885).
On receipt of an application from the local lands office, the Dominion Lands Board was now given the responsibility of undertaking all initial screening and validation of the claim, including the dispatching of a homestead inspector to the property to confirm that the proper improvements had been made. If the Board approved the application, the fiat would then be forwarded to Ottawa for the "preparation and issuance of patents" by the Land Patents Branch. At first, the Letters Patent were completely hand-written, but by the time the new Land Patents Branch was fully functional, printed patents had been introduced, which helped to speed up the processing of the applications even further. After the formation of the Land Patents Branch, the only input required by other federal agencies was the application of the Great Seal of Canada by the Secretary of State.
The new Land Patents Branch also administered applications for grants of land for churches, schools, and other purposes; applications for purchase of Dominion Lands; railway rights-of-way; and provincial roads through unpatented lands. From 1884 to 1928, the Branch was headed by a chief clerk who reported to the Deputy Minister of Dominion Lands. When the settlement of the Prairies was near completion in 1928, the Branch was down graded to Divisional status, and the Commissioner of Dominion Lands took direct responsibility for the issuing of Letters Patent. After the transfer of natural resources to the western provinces in 1930, the Land Patents Division continued its function but its jurisdiction was limited to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. When the Department of the Interior was finally disbanded in 1936, the Registrar of Dominion Land Patents was placed under the Department of Mines and Resources. It remained in this department from 11 January 1937 to 17 November 1949. For the short period from 28 January 1950 to 19 June 1950, the Registrar was under the Department of Resources and Development. RG15 General Inventory