Port Carling is an unincorporated community in the Township of Muskoka Lakes in the Canadian province of Ontario. It has been the municipal seat of the township since 1971. It has several hundred year-round residents and is a service centre for thousands of other seasonal residents in the area.
History and economy
The Ojibway Indians settled in the area in the 1850s. They called their settlement Obajewanung or Obogawanung, while Europeans called it Indian Gardens. Before white settlers moved into the newly surveyed Medora Township starting in the 1860s, the Ojibway moved to Parry Sound but continued to summer in Port Carling.
In 1869, Benjamin Hardcastle Johnston established a post office here and called it Port Carling. John Carling, the Ontario Minister of Public Works, was a booster of the locks between the lakes which were completed in 1871. This led to an economic boom fuelled by tourism and logging, resulting in the building of four resorts, two sawmills and three Protestant churches of the 1870s. The Orange Order was active in the area, and few Catholics settled here.
The Port Carling Boat Works Ltd. traces its origins to an enterprise started in 1868 by William J. Johnston. It captured a niche market after his relatives developed the disappearing propeller boat and operated the company under that name for a while.
Port Carling became independent of Medora Township and was incorporated as a village in 1896 (a status it would keep until 1971). As it grew, the locks were widened in 1903 to permit steamship traffic and in 1922 smaller pleasure boat locks were installed. The Port Carling Volunteer Fire Department began in 1912 and got its biggest workout in 1931 when a series of fires ravaged the boat works and much of the downtown.
James Bartleman has been Port Carling's most prominent government official outside the community. The part-Ojibway man was a diplomat and lieutenant governor of Ontario. He wrote Out of Muskoka, a personal reminiscence of his upbringing and some of the less savoury aspects of local history.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1915 are now available [October 2014]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada, known to Canadians as "LAC". Copies of original microfilms are online at the LAC website for all censuses up to 1911. Each census database is preceded with an explanation of the geographical area covered, the amount of material retained (some census division material has been lost), the questions on the census form, and whether there is a name index. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited. The 1921 census is only available through Ancestry.ca, but it is free-to-view.
E-books and Books