Following the Constitutional Act of 1791, the colony of Quebec was divided to create Upper Canada (today Ontario) and Lower Canada (today Quebec). According to the Act of Union of 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united into the Province of Canada. Upper Canada was renamed Canada West and Lower Canada was renamed Canada East. The Province of Canada joined Confederation on July 1, 1867 and Canada West officially became Ontario.
This area was originally inhabited by a number of Native tribes, including the Huron, Iroquois, Ojibwa and Cree. The first European settlement, the Jesuit mission of Sainte-Marie-au-pays-des-Hurons (Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons), goes back to the seventeenth century.
Although there were a few French settlements in the Detroit area in particular, there was not intensive settlement before the 1780s. The basic population of Ontario consisted of Loyalists who had fled the American Revolutionary War, followed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by immigrants from the United States and the British Isles.
There were also some Quebec inhabitants who settled in eastern and northeastern Ontario beginning in the late-nineteenth century.
Researchers interested in ancestors who lived in Ontario use the main types of genealogical sources.
Civil Registration (Birth, Death, and Marriage Records)
In Ontario, civil registration dates from July 1, 1869. The Archives of Ontario holds records of births from 1869 to 1914, marriages from 1869 to 1929, and deaths from 1869 to 1939. Incomplete marriage registers prior to 1869 are also available.
Due to the large demand, staff members at that office are unable to undertake genealogical searches in these vital records. However, microfilm copies of the nominal indexes and the original registrations are available through inter-institutional loan from the Archives of Ontario and through FamilySearch. Should you prefer to hire someone to search through those records on your behalf, the Archives of Ontario can provide a list of researchers.
For births after 1914, marriages after 1929, and deaths after 1939, requests should be addressed to:
PO Box 4600
Thunder Bay, ON
Although there were a few French settlements in the Detroit-Windsor area in particular, there was not intensive white settlement in Ontario until the arrival of the Loyalists. Ontario was originally part of the province of Quebec. When it became a separate province in 1791, it was known as Upper Canada, then Canada West from 1841 and at Confederation (1867) it took the name of Ontario. The province is divided into counties, or districts in less populated areas, which are divided into townships.
Upper Canada Land Petitions (RG 1 L3)
The index of the Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1763-1865 is available online. The database also includes references to land petitions that were submitted to the Civil Secretary of Upper Canada. Those petitions are part of the series Upper Canada Sundries, 1791-1841 (RG 5 A1).
Upper Canada Land Board, 1765-1804 (RG 1 L4)
Land Boards were established in 1789 to facilitate settlement in the districts then known as Hesse, Nassau, Lunenburg and Mecklenburg by granting certificates of location to the early settlers.
The records include:
- correspondence; and
- instructions or regulations for the operation of the Land Boards.
The index of the Upper Canada Land Board is available online. It includes names of settlers and references to the original records such as volume, page and microfilm reel numbersp>
Heir and Devisee Commission - Upper Canada, 1797-1804 (RG 1 L5)
The Heir and Devisee Commission was established in 1797 to clarify the titles to lands.
Records can include:
- location certificates;
- powers of attorney;
- copies of wills;
- deeds of sale; and
- testimonial letters.
Library and Archives Canada holds most of the records of the first Heir and Devisee Commission (1797-1804) and some of the records of the second Commission (1805-1911). These records have been microfilmed, but there is no index by name. The records are arranged by district, then by type of document.
The Archives of Ontario holds numerous collections relating to land records such as land grants (patents), orders-in-council, township papers and petitions. Microfiche copies of the Ontario Land Records Index are available at most public libraries in Ontario.
Records of land transactions subsequent to the original grant or purchase are in the custody of the county/district Land Registry Offices.
Heir and Devisee Commission, 1805-1911
The Archives of Ontario holds records for the Second Heir and Devisee Commission (1805-1911) and a small number of records of the First Commission (1797-1804). A database to some of these records is available.
The Canada Company (1825-1953) was granted large tracts of lands in southwestern Ontario during the 1800s and leased or sold it for settlement.
An index to the remittance books has been published:
- Genealogical extraction and index of the Canada Company remittance books, 1843-1847, by Ruth Holt and Margaret Williams, 1990.
Many libraries hold reference books, local histories, family histories and other books on genealogy. Library and Archives Canada allows you to browse lists of Canadian library Web sites and catalogues by province (Archived).
Records are in the custody of the Archives of Ontario. That office holds the indexes, registers and estate files of the provincial Court of Probate, 1791-1859, and of the county/district Surrogate Courts, 1793-1951. Most of the pre-1930 records are available on microfilm.
The Archives of Ontario also holds the indexes and Application to Probate Clerk Books, 1858-1978, allowing researchers to locate Surrogate Court files by surname, including those not yet transferred from the local courthouses.