A community group in North Preston wants the provincial government to re-examine why some of them don't legally own the land they pay taxes on, even though they've lived there for two centuries.

About one-third of North Preston's properties are not deeded to its residents, according to Dwight Adams of the North Preston Land Recovery Initiative.

"It's been granted to them many years ago. The issue is that the proper paperwork and documentation is not in place," said Adams.

Journalism students at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth launched a project this week called Untitled: The Legacy of Land in North Preston, focusing on land title concerns in the community.

Kristen Brown, a second-year student, says her class was shocked by what they learned.

"The majority of the class immediately connected with the land title issue. We just couldn't believe it's been happening," she said.

Generations in the dark

The Nova Scotia government provided North Preston land plots to black loyalists in the early 1800s. 

Adams says even though generations of the same family have stayed on the land, it's only now coming to light that they may not own it.

"We have individuals today who are trying to grant that property to their children and grandchildren and they're running into walls," Adams told CBC Radio's Information Morning. "To get a clear title to land and deeds, the process can be years in the making."

He adds it can also be very expensive. Community members have been told transferring land titles will cost at least $10,000.

Many residents, including Adams, didn't realize the legal loopholes until a few months ago. He suggests older residents with an elementary school education did not have the knowledge or confidence to fight the province.

"It's just today that we're actually trying to push the government," Adams said.

Not a new fight

It has been done before without success.

"Going to the archives, we stumbled upon a petition that was from North Preston residents from 1861 asking for clear title to their land," said Brown.

In 1963, Premier Robert Stanfield acknowledged the land issue in North Preston and enacted the Land Titles Clarification Act.

"Those programs were running but were never really fully established," said Adams.

"Individuals just didn't have enough information and when they were trying to gather that information, they were always given quite a bit of a runaround, from what I understand in talking to the elders in the community."