Ontario Public Records
Public records are records created by civil authorities in the province. Records of the provincial legislature and some municipal records are among the records cataloged under this heading. Many early public records still exist, although some were lost in fires (especially the 1843 fire at Parliament House, Toronto, and the 1916 fire which destroyed the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa).
Records of the Executive Council
In early Ontario, the lieutenant-governor and his executive council conducted much of the business of government. While some of their records are lost, many Orders-in-Council dealing with property matters still exist, mixed in with other records described in the "Land and Property" section of this outline.
The correspondence files of the first lieutenant-governor and his alternate have been preserved and published in two books:
Cruikshank, E. A., ed. The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe, 1789-1796. Five Volumes. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Historical Society, 1923-1926. (FHL book 971.3 N2o; not on microfilm.)
Cruikshank, E. A. and A. F. Hunter, editors. The Correspondence of the Honourable Peter Russell, 1796-1799. Three Volumes. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Historical Society, 1932-1936. (FHL book 971.3 N2r; v. 3 on FHL film 1,697,292 item 3.)
Records of the Civil Secretary
The Family History Library and the National Archives of Canada have 71 microfilm reels of Upper Canada Sundries, 1766-1841, which consist of correspondence, petitions, warrants, and other documents received by the Civil and Provincial Secretaries. Many of these records concern land or military matters, including reports on the treason trials for some of those involved in the Rebellion of 1837. The finding aid to the series is on FHL films 1,630,841-42 and 1,711,038-39.
Records of the House of Assembly (1830-1840)
The House of Assembly met from 1792 to 1840. Its published journals, which are very rare, contain names and locations of many early Ontario settlers who petitioned the government. The Family History Library has microfilm copies and indexes of:
- Journal of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada, 1830-1840. (FHL film 862,269-79.)
- Records of the Legislative Assembly (1841- 1867)
A combined Legislative Assembly for the Province of Canada served both Ontario and Quebec between 1841 and 1867. The Journals of the Legislative Assembly are rare. Some issues are at the Library of Congress in Washington. Extracts from some of them have been published. An example taken from an 1848 issue is:
Return of Convicts at the Penitentiary [at Kingston, Ontario] 1st October 1847, Lost in Canada? Volume 13, number 3 (Aug 1987), pp. 133-49, and Volume 13, number 4 (Nov 1987), pp. 182-88. (FHL book 971 B2c; fiche 6048073.)
Municipalities keep minutes and business records. Many county records begin in 1850, at the time of the Municipalities Act. Records for the cities, towns, and villages begin whenever the community was incorporated and began its own activities separate from the county.
The Archives of Ontario and the Family History Library have microfilm copies of minutes and some other municipal records dating before 1900 for more than 200 communities in Ontario. Records for the rest of the more than 800 municipalities in the province must be obtained from the municipal offices or regional archives holding them.
A discussion of ways to use municipal records in family history research is in:
Walsh, Mark. Municipal Archives and Genealogy, pp. 67-75, in Debra Butler Honor, editor. In the Footsteps of the Habitants. Toronto, Ontario: The Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986. (FHL book 971.3 D2o; not on microfilm.)
Addresses for all incorporated municipalities and some archives and government offices in Ontario are in the appropriate sections of:
Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto, Ontario: Canadian Almanac & Directory Publishing Company, annual. (FHL book 971 E4ca; not on microfilm.)