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Article posted: January 18, 1999

Some New Ontario Bits and Bytes
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

Simcoe County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society continues its relationship with the Barrie Public Library. It has long had its book and archival collection there, and is now negotiating for a dedicated genealogy computer in the local history room.

As well as its extensive library, Simcoe County branch has collected many volumes of pedigree and family group sheets of members, which are available for browsing. They also have a series of 'settler's forms' which highlight the earliest pioneers around their area. They want to index these materials and other things in the local history room on the new computer. Naturally, they hope for an internet hookup too.

Claudia McArthur, branch librarian, tells me, "We've been able to add several thousand dollars worth of new books and microfilms in the past two years so the staff now have many more resources to assist everyone."

If you haven't visited the Barrie library recently, you should see what's new there. It is located at 37 Mulcaster Street, Barrie, L4M 3M2, phone 705-728-1010. If you have questions about Simcoe County branch activities, you can reach Claudia at

The Huron County Library has begun an exciting project to bring archival documents to the internet. The 1842 assessment record for Huron District is now available at

The assessment record is a heads-of-families census, with indications of others in the family in statistical form. In addition it tells you the exact location of the farm and its size. The complete assessment has been transcribed and can be found under each township. Since this is Huron District (from the time before founding of the counties) it includes all townships from North and South Easthope and westward to Lake Huron. There are 21 townships in all, plus Goderich town.

All the individuals listed in all townships have been combined into a central Master List or index. If you are unsure where your relations lived, they can easily be found this way. There is also a Preamble which explains the project and how it works.

Arlyn Montgomery of Belgrave says the site is "interesting, user friendly and clearly explained, with great research potential." I agree.

This kind of resource, which brings archival resources right into your home office, will be the wave of the future once other forward-thinking organizations start transcribing documents and uploading them to the internet. Transcriptions are easier to read than scanned documents. Indexes make them quicker to use. The original tax rolls are on microfilm at the Huron County Library, so you can verify the information.

The website is linked with the rest of Huron County Library's information. Although their catalogue is not yet available online, most of the branch libraries have their own pages. If you want to find out about libraries in Huron before visiting, this is the way. There are also internet links.

Here is the URL of an interesting website: At the moment, it is offering a variety of Victorian pictures which can be downloaded and used free of charge.

Sher Brown brought it to my attention. She says, "I took a quick glimpse and they have Victoriana, lighthouse, genealogy, Disney,  just to name a few. I believe all are downloadable and free."

I looked at it too. The ones which you see first are flowery and are meant as offerings to Mother. A number of them would come in handy decorating pages of a family history or any genealogical material (newsletter, one-page publication). As Sher says, the others cover a vast variety of topics. She suggests there are more than half a million images on offer. Check it out.

Recommended Reading

A delightful new book is Halton Sketches Revisited, by John McDonald. McDonald is a resident of Halton Hills who wrote a tiny book of historical essays twenty years ago.

These are now reissued with much new material added, and all heavily illustrated. The articles are short, but McDonald has a talent for making everything interesting. The various small communities in northern Halton (Georgetown, Norval, Acton, Glen Williams) are described and events summarized. The pictures are well chosen and reproduced in a size that makes the details come out well. There are respectable people such as L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables, who lived here) and some who are more exciting, such as T.J. Hill who ran a hotel in Glen Williams. He was so fond of horses and racing that he sometimes let a horse and sulky come into the bar of his hotel, and McDonald includes a picture to prove it. (call Global at 1 800 361 5168 or email for price & availability)

If your family lived in Mount Forest, there is a new book which might list them. Jeff Stewart and Sherilyn Bell have transcribed the 1871 census and some tax records to produce Mount Forest in 1871: Census and Assessment Roll. It is very handy to be able to check the census in printed form, and also to see who your ancestors’ neighbours were.

Tax records are useful in a number of ways, including some fascinating information about our ancestors’ financial status. The authors have also included information from two published directories of the time and the Dun & Bradstreet business reference books for 1871.

Winfield’s earlier publication on Grey County Marriages 1869-1873 is still available.

The government has published two new books on Grosse Ile, the quarantine stations for ships landing at Quebec City.

1847, Grosse Ile, a Record of Daily Events,, by Andre Charbonneau and Andre Sevigny, chronicles the daily events as they happened. During the summer of that year, 90,000 people, mostly Irish, came through, in ‘deplorable conditions of disease and misery.’. 5000 of them were buried on the island. The stories recorded in this book, told by eyewitnesses, demonstrate how our ancestors began their North American lives. We might wonder how they managed to continue the difficult journey down the St. Lawrence to make homes in the forests of Ontario. More information

A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Ile in 1847, by Andre Charbonneau and Doris Drolet-Dube tries to reconstruct the lost lists of emigrants, employees and sailors who died as a result of the crossing. Since we have always been told this information would never be available, it is very exciting to think that we will now be able to discover if some family members were buried at sea or on Grosse Ile as the family emigrated. More information


One of the reason for doing genealogy is to see how our ancestors lived. The most dramatic experience was emigrating across the ocean, but how much do we know about what it was like? It would be terrific to hear an actual emigrant describe the trip.

Clearing A Road In Early Upper Canada Across the Waters: Ontario Immigrants' Experiences, 1820-1850
by Frances Hoffman and Ryan Taylor gathers together selections from firsthand accounts so that today's readers can discover what it meant to be a pioneer in Ontario. From the day they decided to strike off across the Atlantic to the first harvest in their own clearing, the settlers will tell you about the seasickness, the quarantine station, the mosquitoes--the fish you could scoop out of streams with your bare hands, the pride of owning your own land and the joys of helping one another build a house.

Hoffman's and Taylor's previous book, Much to be Done, gave diarists from the Victorian era the chance to tell us about their lives. Their new book offers the same opportunity to those diarists' parents and grandparents.

Across the Waters: Ontario Immigrants' Experiences, 1820-1850 will be published in March 1999 ( originally planned for May '99) by Global Heritage Press in softcover and hard cover (library binding) versions. Reserve your copy today!.

Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)

The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)