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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Early Ontario Records

Randy's Question:
I have been stuck looking for John Wilson born in County Tyrone in 1831 (we have his obit) and his wife Ellen McGowan born 1834. The John and Ellen Wilson family is identified as Irish in the census and was composed of at least eight children four girls and four boys. (Ellen, Leah, Rachel, Anna, George, Joseph, Johnston and James L.) The Wilsons were living in Mulmur township probably in the 1840’s and 1850’s which is approximately 30 miles east of Meaford. By 1857 the Wilson family was in St. Vincent township living approximately 4 miles south of Meaford on the fourth line. I am stuck finding info on where in Tyrone he was born. I have even done the DNA testing but the closest relative would be 20 generations ago.

Olive Tree Answer: It's a challenge finding information in early 1800s Ontario. But there are some records you may not have checked.

First, to narrow the timeline for the family arrival in Ontario, you will want to check for tax and assessment records for Mulmur.

Have you checked land records for John Wilson? If he filed a petition for land, there could very well be information on his origins in it. BRIEFLY -- land records are very important and they are plentiful. Here's what's available for Ontario:

CLRI (aka Ontario Land Record Index) summarizes land grants from sales of Crown Land, from Canada Company sales or leases and from Peter Robinson settlers' grants.

UCLP are the actual Petitions for land which were submitted in Upper Canada (Ontario) . They frequently contain information about the petitioner and his or her family. Loyalists and discharged soldiers often mentioned the regiment in which they served.

Land Books are basically a summary of land grants. They rarely contain more info than name, date and location. Sometimes they have little gems in the comment section. But they're helpful because if you can't find a petition in the UCLP it may be in the Land Book so at least you have some record of the event.

Township Papers are a miscellaneous group of land-related records have been arranged by township name, then by concession and lot or by town name and lot number. They're a mixed bag - they may contain correspondence re land, some petitions, copies of orders-in-council, etc

Cemetery and church records sometimes have specific towns of origins for individuals. I found an Irish ancestor's town of origin in the cemetery books (not on his tombstone) and another in his marriage record in the church register. Perhaps those will be some help to you.

1 comment:

  1. You can sometimes "triangulate" an Irish family by looking for the surnames in Griffith's Valuation. For instance there are 599 Wilsons in Co. Tyrone, according to, but only 30 McGowans. It lists the parishes within Tyrone where these men lived, so you can find one family living near the other.

    He could also try searching at

    If the inquirer knows either or both of the mother's maiden names, he might be able to narrow it down further. -- This all assumes that the couples met and married in Ireland, and didn't travel too far to find a mate. My sister was successful doing this for a co-worker, and I also think I have figured out where my wife's Carrigans/Brackens/and Gleesons
    were from, namely Co. Fermanagh bordering Co. Cavan.

    Another possible method is to figure out where other Irishmen in Mulmur Township and St. Vincent Township had come from. A local history might say. Can he locate any of their descendants who might know? Do message
    boards for the area consistently mention certain locations in Ireland?

    (My Irish mother made us memorize where all her grandparents were from,right down to the townlands, so we had no problem there!)