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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Complete Your Research using One Set of Records before jumping to the next

Karen asked:
John Dill, was my husband's great-grandfather. A family member having done some research on him advised of the following, but did not specify where he got info. He believed John Dill came from Germany and arrived in Canada West in the 1840's. He was married before arriving there and settled in Hullett Township. He had a son, christened Matthew, after his father - son born 1849. The mother died soon after childbirth - name unknown. John hired a girl next door to be nanny and housekeeper, her name was Clara Gatzemeyer.

Clara was my husband's great grandmother. Accordingly to some church records I found, John and Clara married on 18 Feb 1852 in St. Columban "Irishtown". John's parents were listed as Matthew Dill and Anna Zahnt. Clara and John Dill had 6 children [list of children edited by Lorine]

I found an 1871 cenus listing for Canada-Ontario (Huron South district, Tuckersmith sub-district) which I think may be the correct John Dill - but could not find the actual census. Plus I thought sure I found an 1851 census listing for John, his son Matthew and housekeeper Clara Gatzemeyer, but for the life of me I cannot find it again.

I just can seem to find anything on him, nothing on his son's birth, his wife's (name unknown) death, not even his death which family has said was 1875 - but when, where?? Any suggestions on places I might search? I sure need some help.

Answer: Hi Karen, You have some good information, both factual and second hand, but it looks like you don't have sources. You might find it helpful to focus on one area of research, gather your information and sources for it and study it for further clues before jumping ahead. I suggest you start with those census records. Don't look for deaths or marriages or the son's birth until you've exhausted census. You can include tax and assessment records in with those census records too.

Bookmarking Websites

So let's start with 1851 census of Canada. You said you saw it but can't find it again. It may be time for you to bookmark certain sites that have links to various records. It's easy to forget where we were online and it helps to keep some sites in your web browser favourite list. If you follow my sites, you'll know that I have one called That's one you can bookmark and use to find out where various census years for Canada (and USA) can be found online.

1851 Canadian Census

The 1851 Canadian census is online at LAC (Library & Archives Canada) but it is not searchable there. You can browse the images but you will need to have a very precise location. 1851 Canadian Census has been transcribed by volunteers and the transcription is online at AutomatedGenealogy. Lastly has the 1851 Canadian Census indexed and linked to images. So you have several choices for consulting that census online.

1861 Ontario Census

The 1861 Ontario census is not online (yet) but it is coming this year. However you can check at to see if the location you need has been transcribed, as there are bits and pieces of 1861 done and available for searching at two websites - OGSPI and Ontario GenWeb Census Project

1871 Ontario Census

As for the 1871 Ontario Census, that is available as an index only on LAC. If you read their instructions as to what to do after you have found a name in the index, you will see you can order a copy of the census page from LAC. It's easy to do and affordable. You can also follow the instructions found at Obtaining Copies of the 1871 Ontario Census

At you will find all the links there that I am giving you here (plus more). So go, and bookmark the site for future research.

Agricultural Census Returns

When you are getting all these census records, be sure you check the agricultural census return if there is one for the year you are searching. It has very important clues and information that will guide you to further records later. Besides it's just plain interesting to find how many bee hives or milk cows your ancestor had!

Tax & Assessment Records

There are many early tax and assessment records for Ontario. Some have been lost so you have to check your location to see if any have survived for it. There are also the 1842 and 1848 census records which are often overlooked. has links and information on some of these earlier records for Ontario. You may be in luck because an 1842 Assessment for Hullet Twp in Huron County exists and is online.

Reading Introductions to Records

I can't stress enough how important it is to read the introduction to any set of records, offline or online. When you read the intro you will find out exactly what is available (perhaps there is more to the record than you think!), how to order copies or obtain more detail, when and where the record was taken (for example the 1851 Canada census was not taken until 1852 - that's an important detail to note!) and more. Some sites call it a HELP file, others call it an INTRODUCTION. My advice is to read them before you start searching.

I hope this has helped. Once you have found all the census records available for your ancestors, then I'd turn to other records - births, deaths and so on.

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