One resident, Elaine Cain. (Photo: Untitled Land/YouTube)

Residents of historically black communities in Nova Scotia are demanding deeds to plots of land they’ve lived on for over 200 years, after recently discovering that they didn’t legally own it.

The land plots, in North Preston, a town outside Halifax, were given to ancestors of the residents centuries ago by the British, in exchange for fighting against the Americans in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.

But instead of legal titles, residents then were only given documents that granted them the right to live on the land, not full ownership.

Many of the plots were passed down to relatives in the ensuing years, but in recent months, as some latter-day residents have also tried to transfer ownership, they’ve run into bureaucratic roadblocks, eventually discovering that they in fact don’t have titles to the plots.

“We have individuals today who are trying to grant that property to their children and grandchildren and they’re running into walls,” one resident, Dwight Adams, tells the CBC. “To get a clear title to land and deeds, the process can be years in the making.”

The land was first given to about 3,000 so-called Black Loyalists, who offered to fight for the British in the Revolutionary War in exchange for the land and freedom from slavery. Another 2,000 made the same deal decades later, during the War of 1812.

But neither group were ever given titles for the land. A group now working to get them estimates that around one third of plots in the community of about 4,000 do not have titles.