After Canada purchased Rupert's Land in 1869, the government needed a way to divide this amazingly huge amount of land into decent sized lots to settle the Canadian West.

The Principal Meridian is a line corresponding to a line of longitude just west of Winnipeg in Headingley. There are 5 more Initial Meridians west of the Principal Meridian, each about 4 degrees of longitude apart.

Each range is about 486 chains wide and are numbered west of the closest meridian (east if a range is east of the Principal Meridian -- most of the Interlake region of Manitoba is split up using the DLS). Each township is about 483 chains wide and are numbered starting from the 49th parallel. 36 sections are divided into a township/range as a 6x6 square and are numbered as such:

+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| 30 | 29 | 28 | 27 | 26 | 25 |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|  7 |  8 |  9 | 10 | 11 | 12 |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|  6 |  5 |  4 |  3 |  2 |  1 |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+
Each section was further divided into four quarter-sections and are named as follows:
+----+----+
| NW | NE |
+----+----+
| SW | SE |
+----+----+
Thus, each quarter-section is 160 acres big. The system allowed for correction lines to be made due to the fact that longitudes converge and also for road allowances (the first two versions made road allowances around each section, the third version made road allowances around a two-section column of sections -- i.e. there would be no road between sections 1 and 12 -- this is called a blind line).

This system therefore makes it easy (and made it easy for the following wave of immigrants) to find a certian property in Canada's West. For example:

Sec. 2, Twp. 4, Rge. 2 West of 4th Mer. would be the second section of the fourth township from the 49th parallel, second range west of the Fourth Meridian (this would be in the south-east corner of Alberta as the Fourth Meridian is also the Alberta/Saskatchewan border).

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