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Monday, September 6, 2010

Narrowing the Time Frame for an Ancestor's Immigration

Nancy is trying to narrow the timeline for an ancestor's arrival in Upper Canada (Ontario) from New York before 1861

I understand that the 1851 Humberstone Twp., Welland Co. Census records no longer exist. Can you direct me to any additional Humberstone records in the early 1850's. Was there such an item as an Ag Census at that time? My Humberstone ancestor, Conrad Robert is found in the 1861 census and his land ownership was identified through the 1862 Tremaine Map of Lincoln/Welland Counties. I'm trying to place his arrival in Ontario from New York a bit more accurately
ASK OLIVE TREE REPLY: Hi Nancy. I'm really glad you told me where Conrad was in 1861. I often like to have a look at what has been found so I can see if maybe there's another clue that was missed. Two sets of eyes are often better than one!

In this case, I notice that on the 1861 census, Conrad's children are listed as being born in Germany up to ca 1851 then the next child born ca 1853 is born in U.C. (Upper Canada)

That narrows your timeframe for immigration to ca 1850 to 1854 (allowing a year on either side of the ages given in that census)

Another help is that the 1861 census has an Agricultural Section. This page has a list of all questions asked on this 1861 Agricultural Census. You should also look at Agricultural Returns - an overlooked genealogical treasure trove!

Agricultural returns provide information such as lot and concession number, acreage, livestock and agricultural products. For the 1851 and 1861 Census, the agricultural returns are listed by the name of the head-of-household. The agricultural returns for 1881, 1891 and 1901 were not retained.

You say you found Conrad's land location listed elsewhere, which is a terrific clue but I'd verify it from the 1861. Also the Agricultural census will provide you with interesting details about your family such as numbers of farm animals by type of animal, how much acreage he has cleared, what he's planted, etc.

But the best part of having an exact Lot, Concession number and a township and county is that you can now search the Abstract Indexes to Deeds for that piece of land. This will tell you the exact date when Conrad bought the land (and when it passed from his hands to the next owner).

Because most settlers, especially farmers, bought their land as soon after arrival as possible, and Conrad was a farmer, you may find that this was the case with Conrad. Even if he didn't purchase the land immediately on arrival in Upper Canada, it will help narrow that timeline even further. I've included a link to a page explaining how to obtain the Abstract Indexes to Deeds.

As for finding earlier (pre 1861) assessment or tax records, the best course of action is always to check with the Ontario Archives or the County GenWeb to see what is available for your specific area of interest.

There are Municipal records available (nothing standardized, you must search for your specific township and county of interest). Primarily created between 1845 and 1900, these records include assessment and collector's rolls; local census records (pre-1851); voters lists and poll books; and local Town and Township council records.

The Niagara District has Census & Assessment Rolls, 1828-1849 which may be too early for your needs. In fact a quick check of the Archives of Ontario website shows that Humberstone Township only has one surviving record for 1828 - an early census.

I believe your best plan of attack is the land records.

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