Saskatchewan Historical Geography

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

As is often the case, during genealogical research, it is discovered that the name of the place where your ancestor came from has changed or that the name of the province has changed.

The present province of Saskatchewan has not always been known by that name. Additionally it has not always included the same territory. For the sake of consistency, the name Saskatchewan has been used in most FamilySearch Wiki articles.

This section describes the changes that have taken place in Saskatchewan, Canada. This information can help you find records in the FamilySearch Catalog for the place your ancestors lived. Note the jurisdictions used in the FamilySearch Catalog.

Geography of Saskatchewan[edit | edit source]

Saskatchewan is centrally located in Canada, within the North American central plains.

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Interior Plains

In 1905, the province of Saskatchewan was created with the following (current) borders.

The western border which abuts the province of Alberta runs concurrent with the 4th meridian or the 110°W longitude. The eastern border alongside the province of Manitoba is west of the 102nd line of longitude unlike Northwest Territories and Nunavut which run along this line of longitude. The international Canada – United States border forms the southern boundary at the 49th parallel. And finally, to the north, the Saskatchewan is south of the 60th parallel separating the province of Saskatchewan from the Northwest Territories.

The population in May 2012 was 1,072,853 over a total land area of 651,036 square kilometres (251,366 sq mi) of which 591,670 km2 (228,450 sq mi). Within the province, an area of 59,366 km2 (22,921 sq mi) is water.

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Geography of Saskatchewan

Geographically, Saskatchewan can be divided into three main ecosystems:

1) grassland (part of the Great Plains) in the south

2) the centrally located aspen parkland

3) forest (taiga) in the north, part of the Canadian Shield.

Each area has developed their own socioeconomic industries and communities.

Beginning historically, the first nations followed the buffalo adopting a transient hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The fur traders of the 18th and 19th century brought European goods to trade with the first nations in exchange for furs. Currently Saskatchewan's economy is based on its natural resources, notably petroleum, natural gas, coal, potash, uranium and forests, and agriculture (wheat and other grains, and cattle ranching).

Internet Maps[edit | edit source]

Historical maps are online showing boundary changes, historical highways and rail lines Online Historical Map Digitization Project Also, the historical atlases contained on the Online Historical Map Digitization Project contain maps which depict boundary changes, migration and settlement patterns, and ethnic and religious distribution.

Boundary and Name Changes[edit | edit source]

The area now known as the province of Saskatchewan was first inhabited by First Nations. Then as explorers arrived, the area became known as Rupert's Land. When Rupert's Land was sold by the Hudson's Bay Company to the Dominion of Canada, the region was thenceforward was within the North-West Territories. This marked the start of the era where the thrust was thrown upon immigration to the "Last Best West". The Government of Canada initiated a settlement campaign spear-headed by Clifford Sifton, Minister of the interior for Canada, encouraging immigration to the North-West Territories.

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Territorial evolution of Canada

Within the North-West Territories divisions called provisional districts were formed. Additional information regarding provisional districts. The provisional district boundaries did not follow the current provincial boundaries, but laid some of the framework when the province was established. (The North-West Territories became known as the Northwest Territories in 1906).

The provisional districts were then further divided into Statute Labour Districts (also known as Fire Districts, Statute Labour and Fire (SLF) Districts) whose main focus were constructing fire guards and fire breaks to assuage devastating prairie grass fires.

Statute Labour Districts gave way to smaller regions which were easier to manage called Local Improvement Districts (LID). The LIDs continued fire protection, alongside improvements such as roadwork, bridgework, and dam building.

LIDs were also too large, and a change took place creating municipal jurisdictions about 18 miles square called Rural Municipalities (RM), which are currently in use today. Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, and the first RMs were created in the early 1900s. For further information regarding Rural Municipalities of Saskatchewan  Understanding rural municipalities is imperative when studying the 1921 Canadian census, and the location column labelled "Place of Habitation" as explained in the following article. 1921 Canada Census: Place of Habitation :: Rural Municipalities.

Becoming conversant with rural municipalities, and using rural municipality maps will help with genealogical research pertaining to cemeteries especially in rural areas.

Urban municipalities such as cities, towns, villages and hamlets were governed by their own city or town council. As with rural municipalities, urban municipalities allocate infrastructure resources for public cemeteries. Studying place names will help to determine historic naming patterns and village amalgamation into larger city centres.

Familiarization with One Room School District Names will impart the location of an ancestral abode when historical correspondence or oral history refers to the family residing in a "district" of Saskatchewan.

As names and boundaries changed, it may be necessary to determine previous boundaries and jurisdictions to locate your ancestors' records. A local history book is a good source of information about an area's origin. Additional sources that can help you determine the origin and boundaries are maps.

Other sources about boundary changes are found in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under



The historical atlases described in Canada Maps contain maps depicting provincial formations, migration and settlement patterns, military actions, ethnic distribution, religious trends, and population trends.

See also[edit | edit source]

Saskatchewan Land and Property Records Saskatchewan History

Saskatchewan History

Saskatchewan Biographies for historical book records which would relate regional history in addition to biographical information

Some sections adapted from wikipedia as noted above, along with the following;United States Historical Geography Italy Historical Geography Quebec Historical Geography Australia Historical Geography Saskatchewan GenWeb