Note: The following article was first published in the Vol. 9 No. 3 issue of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (Standard Edition), dated January 19, 2004. The URL is: <http://www.eogn.com/archives/news0403.htm#ArchivesofOntarioNeedsYou>.

This article was written by and is copyright by Elizabeth Lapointe, B.A. (as per www.eogn.com's disclaimer).


The Archives of Ontario Needs You!


by Elizabeth Lapointe

For the next month or so, the Archives of Ontario <http://www.archives.gov.on.ca> is asking for your help! They are surveying their users with a series of questions, and they are hoping that you'll answer them. The survey only takes 10 to 15 minutes, with the purpose being to "obtain information on how to better meet customer needs."

Such questions as "How important is the website to you?", "Would you like to use it again?", and "What improvements would you like to see?" are some of the questions they are asking in the areas of Vital Statistics, Court Records, and lending services for microfilm. Simply click on the website, and the survey will appear as a separate entry before entering the website itself.

For over a century, the Archives of Ontario has provided help for genealogists world-wide to find their ancestors in Ontario. Their website has been organized for the researcher to find the resources at the archives under the heading of "Genealogical Research - Sources of Family History." They carry the following categories of records: Aboriginal Records; Vital Statistics; Census Records; Criminal Justice System Records; Divorce Records; Education Records; Guardianship and Adoption Records; Health Records; Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship Records; Land Records; Militia and Military Records; Municipal Records; Newspapers; Wills and Estate Records; Biography and Genealogy Index; and United Empire Loyalist Records.

To take two categories as examples – Vital Statistics and Census Records – it should be noted that in the Birth Records from 1869-1906, the province did not record any births before July 1869 because it was the responsibility of the churches. Those records can be accessed by writing to the archives of the churches in question, the addresses of which are available on the website.

The Marriage Records date from 1869-1921, with marriage records being very incomplete before 1869. The 1919 Vital Statistics Act mandated that the collection of marriage records, such as the District Marriage Registers (1801-1858) and the County Marriage Registers (1858-June 1869), be transferred to the archives.

The Deaths Records are available from July 1869 to December 1931. The province did not register deaths before 1869, but many of these records can be found in the Surrogate and Probate Court Records (1793-1962), Cemetery Transcriptions, and Church Records.

There are two handouts on Vital Statistics. They are: 1) Information Handout No. 8, on how to find and use microfilm on indexes, and 2) Information Handout No. 9, on how to find and use the microfilm on registrations.

For births past 95 years, marriages past 80 years, and deaths past 70 years, one should contact the Office of the Registrar General, P.O. Box 4600, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada P7B 6L8. The website address is: <http://www.cbs.gov.on.ca/mcbs/english/births&marriages.htm>.

It should be mentioned here that in 1973, the Ontario Genealogical Society <http://www.ogs.on.ca> started transcribing cemeteries in the province through their 30 branches and have completed them through to December 2000. Simply go to the website and click on "Branches," and each of them will have cemetery transcriptions to purchase at a very reasonable price.

Also, found at <http://www.islandnet.com/ocfa/about.html> is the "Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid," on which over 2 million burials are recorded. This database is really a "pointer" that lists the surnames, given names, cemetery name, and location. One must then look at the organization that contributed the item and write to them for the record.

In the second instance, the census records are divided into two sections: the pre-1851 census records and the post-1851 census records.

In the pre-1851 census records, the Archives of Ontario holds the records for the 1842 census. Held in the post-1851 census records are the 1851-1852, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses, as well as the 1861 and 1871 agricultural censuses.

There are three census records listed on the Internet. It is suggested that the genealogist refer to the various branches of the Ontario Genealogical Society since many of them have transcribed the Ontario section of the Canada census into publications available for purchase at a very reasonable price.

The 1871 and 1901 Ontario Censuses are available at the National Library and Archives of Canada website at <http://www.archives.ca>. The 1871 census is easy to use, with its index. The 1901 census is more difficult, in that it must be searched on the basis of location rather than name.

The third census is the 1881 Canadian census, which is available through <http://www.familysearch.org>. It is easily searched through the family name.

It should be noted that many of these resources are also available through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their Family History Centers. However, the same resources will be found on a different numbering system from the Archives of Ontario. A conversion chart is available on the Archives of Ontario website.

There are 15,000 microfilms available in the archives to borrow on inter-institutional loan. The microfilm is loaned for 4 weeks for Canadian and American users. The microfilm available for loan is listed in the section entitled "Microfilm Interloan Service: How to Order Microfilm."

There are also special collections, which have been highlighted during the past year on the front page of the website, among them "The American Civil War/Fenian Raids" and "The Provincial Freeman."

The American Civil War is important to note, for over 100,000 Canadians fought in the war, mostly on the Union side. As the war progressed, the Reciprocity Treaty (free trade) between the two nations was canceled, and the Americans placed passport controls at the border. Just as the Civil War was getting over, the Fenian Raids started, in which Americans picked up the Irish cause of fighting against the British, with incursions over the Canadian border in the 1860s. After a brief skirmish at Fort Erie, they were pushed back to the Unites States. To check the names of some of the Canadians in the American Civil War, please check the website at <http://www.geocities.com/cancivwar/cancivwar.html>.

The Provincial Freeman was a weekly newspaper in Southern Ontario from 24 March, 1853 to 20 September, 1857. It was published for the areas of Chatham, Toronto, and Windsor by Mary Shadd CAREY – the first woman publisher in North America – for the 20,000 American-born Blacks who had come to Canada through the Underground Railway from 1800 to 1865. An excellent way to trace ancestors, the newspaper is available on microfilm N40, Reel 1.

The mailing address of the Archives of Ontario is: 77 Grenville Street, Unit 300, Toronto, ON Canada M5S 1B3. They are closed on Canadian statutory holidays and Sundays.

The main reading room is open Monday to Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with extended hours from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. On Saturday, they are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The phone number for the reference desk is: (416) 327-1853. The fax number is: (416) 327-1999. The e-mail address is: <reference@archives.gov.on.ca>.



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