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Article Published July 20, 2002

By: Paul Milner, Biography

Title: Emigration: The British farmer's and Farm Labourer's Guide to Ontario: The Premier Province of the Dominion of Canada
Author: "issued by authority of the government of Ontario'
Published: 1880 C. Blackett Robinson Toronto.
Reprint: 2001 by Global Heritage Press, Milton, Ontario, Canada
Details: 108 pp., Illustrations, map, hardcover
Price: $24.95 (Canadian Dollars) which as about $16.00 US$
Buy it at: Global Genealogy & History Shoppe

Ontario never looked so good as it does in this 1880 guide written to encourage British farmers to emigrate. The book presents short county-by-county summaries of the local farming situation. The goal is to show the characteristics of the different sections of the county; capabilities of the soil; accessibility to markets; cost of purchase or rental; and the variety of choices open to farmers and laborers. The overall impression is that anything and everything grows abundantly.

Yet, how would British farmers accustomed to snow lying for just a few days have reacted to "winters usuallt quite open, and snow seldom lying for more than three months" (Elgin County, page 14)? Snow must be insignificant in other counties, As Elgin is the only one that touches on it. Or how about the fact that stones and rocky outcrops are only mentioned for Grey, Simcoe, Haliburton and Peterborough counties? Presumably, the other 48 have great soil.

Yes, an idealized picture is painted of farm ownership and laboring in the country. The government wanted the immigrants to come. The farm laborers share their personal stories, and they are all success stories of nothing to riches, but they do show the hard work needed to be successful. At the same time a more realistic picture is obtained when the whole book is read. All advice and letters are assimilated along with lists of recommended provisions and suggested capital.

If your ancestors came in the late nineteenth century to Canada, this book may have contributed to their decision to come. It is well worth a read to understand what motivated them and what they thought they were coming to.
    Source: This book review was originally published in the Federation of Genealogical Societies' FGS Forum, Summer 2002, Volume 14, Number 2, page 31. It is reprinted here with the permission.

    Contributor: Paul Milner is a professional genealogist, lecturer and author. He is the book review editor for the FGS FORUM and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Society of Genealogists (London), and several English family History Societies. Click here for Paul Milner's biography.
Buy it at: Global Genealogy & History Shoppe Inc. 1992-2017
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