|Alt names||C.W.||source: abbreviation|
|Upper Canada||source: former name of province|
|U.C.||source: former name of province|
|Located in||Canada (1841 - 1967)|
|See also||Upper Canada, Canada||name of province 1777-1841|
|Ontario, Canada||name of province 1867-present|
Political uprisings in both Upper and Lower Canada in 1837 led to the initiation of a form of more responsible government and new names for the provinces. These reforms came in in 1841 and at that point the provinces became Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec).
The Archives of Ontario has an online exhibit of the evolution of the original Canada (i.e. Ontario and Quebec) into the provinces they became. The map dated 1840 illustrates the whole of Canada as it was then. The 1791 map includes the dividing line between the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada which remained when they were called Canada West and Canada East and even later when they became Ontario and Quebec.
The new names for the provinces were not used universally. Even in the 1861 census many enumerators gave many birthplaces as "Upper Canada", even for young people under the age of 20.
Ontario Districts: an Explanation
When Upper Canada was formed in 1788 it was immediately divided into four districts: Hesse, Nassau, Mecklenburg and Lunenburg. In 1792 these names were changed to Western, Home, Midland and Eastern respectively. The expansion in population of the province, and in the area settled, obliged the number of Districts to increase. By 1849 there were twenty individual districts, each with a number of counties under its jurisdiction.
After 1841, when the government of Upper Canada was reorganized and the province became known as Canada West, some of the responsibilities of the districts were transferred to local municipal councils in cities and towns (e.g. property tax collecting), although the districts still retained complete control over judicial matters.
From 1788 until 1849 in the area which is now Ontario, the District was the layer of government responsible for all judicial and administrative functions that could be carried out at a level below that of the province itself. Counties existed in the province from 1792, but they were little more than electoral and census divisions.
In 1849 the Districts were abolished and their functions were taken over by the individual counties or by united counties working within one municipal administration.
Most of the government documents the genealogist may require—those dealing with land, the registration of marriages, and minor criminal proceedings--will have been produced by the District before 1849 and by the Counties after that date. Serious land conflicts, or those concerning more than one District, will have found their way into Provincial Records. The same will have been true of criminal matters. Divorce was not even a provincial matter, but a federal one, until 1930.