Place:Johnstown District, Upper Canada, Canada

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NameJohnstown District
TypeAdministrative region
Located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1798 - 1841)
Also located inCanada West, Canada     (1841 - 1849)
See alsoEastern District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative region before 1798
Bathurst District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative region after 1822 for a portion of Johnstown District
Dalhousie District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative region after 1838 for a portion of Johnstown District
Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, Canadaadministrative county for area after 1849

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.

The Johnstown District was separated from the Eastern District of Upper Canada in 1798. Although it had only been ten years since the setting up of the four original districts of Upper Canada, pressures of population over this large area necessitated breaking this administration into two geographically parallel sections: the Eastern District remained taking the area along the Ottawa River until it reached the boundary of Carleton County; the Johnstown District taking the portion further inland.

The Johnstown District consisted of the counties of Leeds, Grenville and Carleton. The district town was originally Johnstown, but Elizabethtown, later Brockville, became the district town in 1808. Johnstown should not be confused with New Johnstown, or Cornwall, which remained the district town of the Eastern District.

Carleton County, as it was first drawn up, was very large. Settlement in the area north of the Rideau River began in 1815 and by 1824 the County of Lanark was established in that area. Later, in 1838, the County of Renfrew was established from lands previously in Lanark. This whole area which had started out as Carleton County became Bathurst District in 1822.

In 1838, further parts of the Districts of Johnstown, Bathurst and Ottawa were reorganized to form a new Dalhousie District which covered the present Carleton County, leaving only Leeds and Grenville remaining in the Johnstown Distict.

In 1849, the district was replaced by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.

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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