Place:Eastern District, Upper Canada, Canada

NameEastern District
TypeAdministrative region
Located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1792 - 1841)
Also located inCanada West, Canada     (1841 - 1849)
See alsoJohnstown District, Upper Canada, Canadaseparated from Eastern District 1798
Ottawa District, Upper Canada, Canadaseparated from Eastern District 1816
Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, Ontario, Canadaunited county administration after 1849

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.

The Eastern District

The Eastern District was called the Lunenburg District from 1788 to 1792. The district was originally bounded to the west by a line running north from the mouth of the Gananoque River and to the east by Lower Canada. The Eastern District is triangular in shape and its other boundaries are the St Lawrence and the Ottawa Rivers. The district town was New Johnstown, later renamed Cornwall.

The counties that originally made up the Eastern District were Dundas, Glengarry, Stormont, Prescott, Russell, Grenville, Carleton, and portions of Leeds, and Lanark. Renfrew County was not established until 1838.

As population increased the Eastern District was broken up into further districts covering smaller geographical areas. It was first divided it into two strips running parallel to the Ottawa River in 1798. The Eastern District retained the area closest to the river (the counties of Russell, Prescott, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry) and the new district, Johnstown, was made up of Leeds, Grenville, Carleton, and Lanark.

In 1816 Prescott and Russell counties were separated to form the Ottawa District, leaving the Eastern District with the only the counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

When the District system of government was abolished in 1849, these three counties became the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (quite often known as SDG).

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.