A case in point is the Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865 collection. Here they have a searchable database that let's you search by the given names, surnames, and also by place. You can even use the '*' character to search with a wild card. For example, when looking for a land petition for Robert Wilkerson in Niagara results in nothing being found. However, he went by the name of Wilkinson. So instead of searching on all the various possible combinations of a name you can use the first several letters followed by the asterisk. So in this case I would search for Robert Wilk* to see what comes up. I might even narrow the focus and put in Niagara as the place. But most of the time I leave the place field empty unless I'm positive I know exactly where it was and what it was called at the time.
I'm going to use the Jacob Ball as my example for the next queries.This is what is returned from the LAC database query:
|BALL||Jacob Jr.||Newark||1795||27||B 1||27||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob||Lincoln||1794||27||B 1||65||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob Sr.||Newark||1795||27||B 1||81||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob||Newark||1795||27||B 1||82||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob Jr.||Thorold||1795||27||B 1||85||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob Sr.||Newark||1795||27||B 1||96||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob||Newark||1797||28||B 2||156||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob & family||Newark||1797||29||B 3||9||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob||Nassau||1791||29||B 3||43||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob||Nassau||1791||29||B 3||60||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob||Nassau||1791||29||B 3||61||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob sr.||Newark||1797||29||B 3||77||RG 1 L3||C-1619|
|BALL||Jacob Sr.||Newark||1800||32||B 5||104||RG 1 L3||C-1621|
|BALL||Jacob Sr.||Niagara||1805||34||B 7||45||RG 1 L3||C-1621|
|BALL||Jacob J.||Thorold||1810||36||B 9||86||RG 1 L3||C-1622|
As you can see there are several Jacob Balls listed. I already know that Jacob Ball the Elder has a son (the Jr.) so that isn't a surprise. Also the time frame is the late 1700s and early 1800s. I've already discovered that Jacob Ball the Elder (AKA Jacob Ball, Sr.) is an United Empire Loyalist.
Not that there are several places listed: Newark, Lincoln, Nassau, and Niagara. If you didn't know the area you might assume these places are all different locations. This is where knowing the region where your ancestors settled is vital. Have a map handy and even Wikipedia can be a useful tools for figuring out where and when a place is.
Looking at the 1791 petitions the place is Nassau. We aren't talking about the Bahamas here but Nassau District, Province of Quebec. This was even before Upper Canada came into being. In the early days of Upper Canada (remember this is way before Ontario existed), from 1792 until 1797, Newark was the capital of Upper Canada. In 1798 Newark was renamed as Niagara (much later on it became Niagara-on-the-Lake). Lincoln is the county in that same region. Thorold is a township in Lincoln County. So all of these places were in the same geographic region.
Next, make a note of the Volume number, Bundle, Petition and Reference. Also note the microfilm. We are going to need that information in order to actually find and see the documents. For this example, I'm interested in Jacob Balls 1791 Nassau petition found on volume 29, bundle B 3, petition 43 referencing RG 1 L3 on microfilm C-1619.
Of course it would be so much easier if LAC had linked to the Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865) (Archived) microform collection from the information page of the database search but they didn't do it. Instead you need to know that the digitized microfilm is actually available online at the link above. I will admit that they do mention it on the Land Records starting page. When you go to that archived page you will be presented with a list of microfilm numbers. Look through the various pages until you come to microfilm C-1619 (it is on the first page). Click on that link to bring up the start of the digitized microfilm.
Depending on how your web browser is set up you just might want to click on the "PDF" button so that each page almost fits on the screen. In my case, the JPG format is just a little too big and it continues off the side of my screen. I do switch back to JPG to save the image so I can manipulate it later if I want.
Go forward a couple of pages until the microfilm pages are on the screen. Now look at the bottom of the digitized microfilm page. It will tell you the bundle (B 1) the RG number (RG 1 L 3) and the volume (27). Since I'm looking for volume 29 I probably have a number of pages to go. I usually jump ahead by 100 or 200 pages until I either overshoot the volume I want or I actually get to the right volume. In this case, I ended up on page 1000 before I was in volume 29. Even better, I'm in bundle B 3. If you look at the top of each page you will see numbers written there. On image page 1000 it is written 50c. So I'm probably looking at the 3rd page of petition 50. I'm going to move backwards maybe 10 or 20 pages at a time until I get really close to petition 43. I quickly find that it starts on image page 975. There may be several pages so make sure you save them all to your computer so you can take the time to read and transcribe the documents.
It isn't that hard to find these Land Petition documents but, as with all genealogy research, you have to know where to look and that is often the biggest challenge of them all!