Place:Newcastle District, Upper Canada, Canada

NameNewcastle District
TypeAdministrative region
Located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1802 - 1841)
Also located inCanada West, Canada     (1841 - 1849)
See alsoHome District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministration region from which Newcastle District was formed in 1802
Colbourne District, Upper Canada, Canadaformed in 1837 to cover Peterborough County
Northumberland and Durham, Ontario, Canadaadministrative county that took on powers after the districts were abolished in 1849.
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 Newcastle District was formed from the eastern section of the Home District in 1802. It consisted of lands that now make up the present counties of Durham, Northumberland, Peterborough, Victoria, Haliburton, as well as parts of Muskoka, Nipissing, and Parry Sound. The district town was originally Newcastle, but afterwards Amherst, which was renamed Cobourg.

In 1838, the northern part of the District was separated to create the Colbourne District, containing the new Peterborough County which, at that point, contained all the other northern counties listed above.

The remaining part of Newcastle District, namely the Counties of Northumberland and Durham, was abolished in 1849. The administration of the area continued under the title: the United Counties of Northumberland and Durham.

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 Wikipedia article on the Newcastle District states:

The legislature had enacted in 1798 that "as soon as there are one thousand souls within the said counties, and that six of the townships therein do hold town meetings according to law" (there were ten townships in the District) the government shall declare them a separate district; which was done in 1802.

It is not known if this ruling applied only to the counties of Northumberland and Durham or to all groups of counties that were made into districts between 1798 and 1838 when the last districts were formed.

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.