|Located in||Upper Canada, Canada (1792 - 1841)|
|Also located in||Canada West, Canada (1841 - 1849)|
|See also||Niagara District, Upper Canada, Canada||administrative region formed in 1798.|
|Newcastle District, Upper Canada, Canada||administrative region formed in 1802.|
|Gore District, Upper Canada, Canada||administrative region formed in 1816.|
|Simcoe District, Upper Canada, Canada||administrative region formed in 1837.|
- Much of the information in this article has been gathered from Ontario GenWeb and The Archives of Ontario online article: The Changing Shape of Ontario
The Home District was called Nassau District from 1788 to 1792. It was originally bounded to the east by a line running north from the mouth of the Trent River and to the west by a line running north from Long Point on Lake Erie. The southern boundary was Lake Ontario and the northern boundary (probably not well surveyed at the time) was Lake Nipissing and the Nipissing River. The district town was originally Newark, later named Niagara-on-the-Lake, but it was moved in 1801 to the Town of York, later Toronto. The original counties making up the Home District were, from east to west, Northumberland, Durham, York, Lincoln, and Haldimand. Simcoe County was established from the northern part of York County in 1821. Other counties were also established as the later districts were formed.
The Home District's population increased at a much faster rate than the other districts and its administration was soon hard-pressed to carry out all its duties. As a result some of its land area was broken away to form new districts.
- The Niagara District was formed in 1800 from the area between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie (further described at that time as the counties of Lincoln and Norfolk, but the land facing Lake Erie was actually in Haldimand and Welland).
- In 1802 a substantial piece of territory on the east of the Home District was formed into the Newcastle District (the counties of Durham and Northumberland and the unsettled lands to the north) and reduced once again the territory of The Home District.
- Its area was yet again reduced, this time to the west, when the Gore District was separated off in 1816. The Gore District was made up of the newly established counties of Halton and Wentworth.
- Finally, in 1838, Simcoe District, including only the very large county of Simcoe, became a separate district.
The formation of the new districts eventually left the Home District with only the County of York which, in 1838, stretched from the borders of Halton County in the west to those of Durham in the east. Further division came with the establishment of the counties of Ontario (to the east) and Peel (to the west). When the districts were dissolved in 1849, the three counties remained for a time the "United Counties of York, Ontario and Peel" but they had all formed independent administrations by 1866.
Maps of the Early Ontario Districts
The Archives of Ontario provides two Maps of the original Districts of Upper Canada as they were in 1788 before Upper Canada was created and three years later in 1791. Note that the only surveyed townships in 1788 were in Mecklenberg and Lunenburg Districts, but by 1791 there were surveyed townships all around the shore of Lake Ontario, and along the St Lawrence and the Ottawa Rivers.
A further series of maps illustrate the growth of the District system across the province.
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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