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Archived Articles
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Upper Canada (Ontario) Sundries, 1766-1841 now online
August 13, 2013

By Rick Roberts

In responding to questions from Shirley L. Sturdevant, President of the Ontario Genealogical Society about the 1921 Census of Canada, M. Fabien Lengellé, Director General, Content Access Branch of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) mentioned that the Upper Canada Sundries are digitzed and available on the Canadiana website - Héritage project. This was news to me so I am sharing it with you.

What are the Upper Canada Sundries?
The Heritage Project website describes the Upper Canada Sundries "series as part of the Civil Secretary’s Correspondence for Upper Canada and Canada West . It consists of letters, petitions, reports, returns and schedules, certificates, accounts, warrants, legal opinions, instructions and regulations, proclamations and other documents received by the Civil Secretary of Upper Canada, 1791-1841, together with copies of some documents of 1766-1809, made for reference purposes.

As every aspect of Ontario life was covered in the correspondence, there is much to offer for those interested in Ontario’s early history. There is also much material of genealogical interest: character references, land and settler petitions, family histories, licenses, pardons, requests for war losses compensation, etc.
" [ (Library and Archives Canada RG 5 A1)]

About the online documents [finding aids/calendars]
The online pdf documents are chronological finding aids for locating specific original correspondence between individuals and government on the 87 rolls of microfilm that they are recorded on. The documents provide the date of the correspondence; from who to whom; what the document is about; persons mentioned, and the page numbers where the original documents are reproduced on microfilm. The microfilm is organized by page number range making it easy to identify the correct microfilm, and easier still to scroll forward on that film to the original document.

Examples of entries on the pdf finding aids/calendars:
  • July 15, 1826 Monaghan [township] -- John Donaldson to Hillier. Application for Land. pp42261-42262 [pp42261-42262 identifies the page numbers on microfilm where the original hand-writtten document is available]
  • July 15, 1826 Ancaster [township]-- Samuel Andross to Maitland. The conduct of John Burwell, who assaulted him. pp 42263-42266
  • September 4, 1821, Niagara -- Claus to Hillier. Reports the death of Benjamin Geale on the 30 August pp.26787-26788
Many entries including long lists of names -- some times on petitions, or lists of settlers, and requests regarding everything from roads to maps to rations and more.

The online documents were originally typed, now presented as digital images in pdf format, but not searchable (as of this date). That means that you have to know exactly what date or date range that the party you are interested in contacted the government, or manually search the documents line by line for names, places and events.

It took me hours to go through the first document (over 500 pages of entries). I speeded up the process dramatically by downloading each of the pdf files and making them searchable. If you want do the same, right mouse button click on any pdf document and download to your computer (save as). To make a pdf document searchable it needs to be OCR'd (optical character recognition [all words indexed]). We have Adobe Acrobat professional so it was easy enough to do. If you don't have a the software to OCR the document, you can buy the full Adobe Acrobat software to do it (pricey) or you can download free software that can ocr pdf documents. There are several sources of free ORC software online, none of which I have used so can't vouch for a specific provider. A Google search with the words "ocr pdf documents" results in a long list of options. Hopefully the Heritage Project website will soon make the documents searchable from within their website.

Using the Adobe search tool on the downloaded pdf documents I found a series of references to documents on microfilm that I didn't know about previously. They will greatly help my research (e.g. A land petition for Charles Devlin and his four sons Nov 1, 1825, Perth; Petition from William Harvey, late Sergeant Royal Artillery for rations Sept 8, 1821, Perth;... etc)

In the case of the land petition mentioned above for Charles Devlin and his sons, the petition is on two pages. I'm hoping that when I access the original petition on microfilm, it shines some new light on precisely where they came from in Ireland. That and any other details about the family may help me break through a long-time road block.

If you have access to the Archives of Ontario (Toronto), Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa) or a Family History Center (LDS) you can personally access the required microfilm to view the original document and print off copies. If not, there are professional researchers who can do it for you for a reasonable fee. Check with the institution for a list of approved researchers.

Here is the link to Canadiana website - Héritage project where you will find the digitized (pdf) lists.

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