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Following article posted September 7, 1998 Vol. II No. 13


Alan Rayburn, arayburn@magma.ca


Finding That Elusive Place In Canada

For almost 40 years I have been involved in researching the origins and meanings of Canadian place names. Fortunately, for much of that time I worked in the office of the Secretariat of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names in Ottawa, and published several books and over 150 articles on Canadian toponymy.

Some of the more interesting queries have come from people who had come across an apparent Canadian name, but were unable to find it any directory, gazetteer or atlas. There were names that had been printed in official documents, perhaps based on oral information provided by someone who could not remember how the name of the home village or township had been spelled. And there were the handwritten letters that were difficult to decipher, resulting in weird spellings or imaginative interpretations of place names.

Recently a lady wrote to me from Cheboygan, Mich., and asked me where Cronsound was located in Ontario, which she had seen in three different sources. She also noted that her great uncle was born either there or in Hamilton about 1770, and wondered if Cronsound might be near the latter. (She probably meant 1870, as it would be most unlikely that she would have a great uncle born before 1800, although I am mindful that my wife, who is not yet a senior, has one grandfather who was born in 1829). With the information provided I deduced that the place was likely Owen Sound, and directed her to look for her great uncle’s name in the indexed 1871 Census of Grey County; and failing to find him there, then checking Wentworth County’s 1871 Census index.

Once a person had written about coming across the name Kawata, and wondered where it might be in Ontario. Since there never had been name like that in any of the available names records of Ontario, I decided to determine what it was by assuming that it did begin with the letter ‘K’ and had six letters. The only Ontario name that fitted the two criteria was Komoka, so I suggested to the person that he look up the Census records for Lobo Township, Middlesex County. He wrote back to let me know that he had found the individual that he had been searching in that township.

I will be pleased to help anyone who is searching for the location of a place whose spelling apparently does not match any known place in the country. Preferably, I would like to have a copy of the original source of the name mailed to me, along with an SASE. (It never ceases to amaze me how many people neglect to enclose the cost of return postage when asking for information). My address is 5 Solva Drive, Nepean ON K2H 5R4. E-mail requests will also be answered. My address is arayburn@magma.ca

Books by Alan Rayburn:

Place Names In Ontario In this, the first wide-ranging survey of Ontario's place names, Alan Rayburn has reviewed 2285, including those of all 815 municipalities, as well as of unincorporated places with populations exceeding 75 and of a large selection of the more prominent lakes, rivers, islands, points, hills, mountains, and highways.

Naming Canada Stories About Place Names from Canadian Geographic 'This isn't your garden-variety let's-poke-fun at Dildo, Newfoundland. Author Rayburn looks at the origins of the place-names and how - and why - they've been altered by local tongue.'


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