Place:Colbourne District, Upper Canada, Canada

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NameColbourne District
TypeAdministrative region
Located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1837 - 1841)
Also located inCanada West, Canada     (1841 - 1849)
See alsoNewcastle District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministration district from which Colbourne District was formed

The Colbourne District was formed from the Newcastle District in 1838. The Newcastle District was cut in half by this move. Colbourne took the northern half, the county of Peterborough; Newcastle retained Durham and Northumberland to the south. The counties of Peterborough and Durham were much larger in 1838 than they were later, following the abolition of the District system and the expansion of population into lands not facing directly onto the Great Lakes.

The Archives of Ontario has produced a series of maps illustrating the growth of the District system across the province. Each map ought to be expanded to its maximum size in order to benefit from the information it contains. Return to the collection using the "back" button on your browser.

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.

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