Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Upper Canada? Canada
- How can I learn more about what life might
have been like for my ancestors in Upper
- I am new to genealogy. How should I start
tracing my family tree?
- Can I trace my family tree on the
- When should I hire a professional to
research my family tree?
- What are your
- Can you guarantee that you will find my
- Can you find living
- What are your fees and how do you determine
- What methods of payment do you
- Can I pay in installments?
What is Upper Canada? Canada West?
Upper Canada and Canada West are earlier names
for what, generally, is considered the southern
half of what we now call the Province of
Ontario. The boundaries changed over time as the
population expanded, but they were never
precisely drawn. Surveying and cartography,
while relatively well established disciplines at
the time, were neither prevalent nor vital when
it came to charting the exact boundaries of what
was then dense, inhospitable, and for the
majority of settlers unimportant terrain in the
northern regions, leaving the exact boundaries
up for historical debate.
Formed in 1791, Upper Canada was created as a
separate province for the United Empire
Loyalists and their families. Previous to 1791
the new settlements west of the Ottawa River
were part of the Montreal District of the
Province of Quebec. This, however, meant that
they were subject to French patterns of land
ownership and governance (despite being a
British Colony since 1763). As the United Empire
Loyalists had a strong preference for British
institutions, they argued strongly for a new
province of their own.
The legal description of Upper Canada was "all
that land lying west of the Ottawa River" (Lower
Canada - now Quebec - was "all the land lying
east of the Ottawa River"). This was a rather
loose description; it extended west only so far
as Thunder Bay and did not include the land to
the north, then called Rupert's Land, which was
governed by the Hudson's Bay Company (Rupert's
Land consisted of "all the land draining into
the Hudson's Bay"). The designations "Upper" and
"Lower" referred to the provinces' respective
elevations, with Upper Canada being
significantly higher than Lower Canada. The
settlements tended to follow and remain close to
the water routes, as they were the only reliable
means of transportation during these early days.
In 1841 Upper Canada was renamed Canada West,
and, along with what was formerly Lower Canada
(renamed Canada East) became the United Province
of Canada. These names were in place until
Canadian Confederation in 1867 when Canada West
became the Province of Ontario and Canada East
became the Province of Quebec. For a series of
excellent maps that help show the evolution of
these territories and the northward expansion of
their boundaries, please see the following Archives
of Ontario webpage.
How can I learn more about what life might
have been like for my ancestors in Upper
First, you can read excerpts from first-hand
accounts of life in Upper Canada here.
Next, I have provided a handy reading list of
published first-hand accounts that you can take
to your local library. Depending on where you
live, your local library may have a great deal
of material on the history of Ontario, Canada
West, and Upper Canada, or very little. Wherever
possible, you should also try to read local
histories for the area where your ancestors
lived, and biographies of people who lived in
that place and time. If your local library
doesn't have many publications about Ontario,
ask about interlibrary loan. Most libraries will
borrow books from other libraries for you to
Finally, you can learn about life in Upper
Canada by visiting museums. There are a great
many museums in Ontario, some of which offer
"living history" demonstrations. You can find
names, addresses and visiting information by
searching the Virtual
I am new to genealogy. How should I start
tracing my family tree?
Always begin with what you know for sure. In
some cases, this may mean starting by getting a
copy of your own full birth certificate that
gives the full names of your parents and where
and when you were born. Then you move to your
parents. Find out when and where they were
married and get a certificate, if you can. Then
search for their birth certificates, and so on.
If you are not already the oldest living person
in your family, make it a point to visit, or at
the very least telephone or write to all of your
older relatives, as soon as you can. Ask them to
tell you everything they can about your
ancestors. Don't push too hard for exact dates,
but if they know them, that's great. Ask
especially about places your ancestors have
lived, occupations, religion, and military
service. Make sure you make careful records of
who you talked to, when, and what they told you.
If you can use a tape recorder, do so. You can
transcribe it later, but in the meantime you'll
have a permanent record of their voice and story
Ask everyone you can if there are any old
documents, papers, letters, diaries, photographs
or heirlooms in their possession. If at all
possible, arrange to make copies or take
photographs of these items for your files.
Next, you should visit your local library and
borrow a few genealogy guidebooks. You'll
probably want one all purpose guidebook, and one
that specializes in each country or region where
you may be researching. Read through these
guidebooks thoroughly. They will introduce you
to all kinds of records and techniques that I
can't possibly cover here!
Finally, join your local genealogy society.
There you will find lots of like-minded folks
who can help you along the way.
Can I trace my family tree on the internet?
The internet is a wonderful medium for sharing
information and there are a huge number of
genealogy related websites - enough to boggle
the mind! Each of these sites probably has
something useful to offer, but none of them will
have your family tree unless one of your own
relatives has put it there!
You may find websites that provide information
about your ancestors (either for free or as part
of a subscription), but be sure to carefully
assess the source of this information before you
trust it. It is a good research practice to
always keep track of where and when you obtained
your information. In internet research, this
means keeping the URL (the address at the top of
your screen), and the details of who owns the
site and where they got the information. As
internet information will always be a secondary
source, you are well advised to try to examine
the original source of the information, if at
all possible. For example, if you find a
transcript of a census page, see if your local
library can borrow the microfilm of the original
handwritten manuscript census for you. This way
you can make sure that the person who
transcribed the records didn't make a mistake,
or miss something important!
For a list of quality websites that provide
useful resources for research in Upper Canada,
please see my links
Finally, no matter how much information there is
available on the internet, it will never be all
that there is. Archives, libraries, churches,
court houses and cemeteries will always have
vast stores of additional records and
information that may help you learn about your
ancestors! So don't despair if you can't find it
on the internet.
When should I hire a professional to research
my family tree?
There are many reasons to hire a professional
researcher. Here are just a few:
- You want to learn about your family history,
but you don't want to do it yourself.
- You're short on time.
- You live too far away from the relevant
library or archive.
- You don't feel confidant about doing
research in this particular location, type of
record or time period.
- You've been researching your family history
for a long time, and now you're stuck.
With 25 years of research experience, I can
quickly determine which sources are most
appropriate for your objective, thus saving you
hours of time and frustration. My expertise
allows me to accurately interpret difficult
records such as those written in old script or
"legalese". I have access to many records that
are difficult to research from a distance,
including my own exclusive indexes. Genealogical
research is my passion and every new family tree
is an exciting challenge, so solving your puzzle
is not just a job for me, it is what I love to
What are your qualifications?
- Over 30 years experience
- More than 500 clients served
- Experienced in Canadian, American and
- My own family tree has over 2200 names
including 121 direct ancestors (including
United Empire Loyalists, Fur Traders, Native
Canadians, and English, Irish, German
- Regular contributor to Family Chronicle,
Internet Genealogy and Your Family
- Author of the following genealogical
|Women and Property
in a Nineteenth Century Ontario
Ethnic Identity Among the
Nineteenth Century Descendants
of Hudson's Bay Company Fur
The Chant Family History, or
descendants of Robert Chant
(1758-1836) of Somerset, England
- Author of the following genealogy how-to
Thirty-one ways to discover
your immigrant ancestor's
How to locate an ancestor in
Ontario, Canada West or Upper
- Master of Arts, anthropology
- Member of the Association of Professional
- Past Chair of the Ontario Chapter of the
Association of Professional Genealogists
Can you guarantee that you will find my
No. Unfortunately, the nature of historical
research prevents me from being able to
guarantee specific results. In order to find
records of your ancestors, they first have to
have been created (someone had to write it
down), then they have to have been preserved
(not lost or destroyed), then they have to have
been placed in some kind of relevant repository
(usually an archives), and finally they have to
be open for access (not restricted by the
government or some other agency). Amazingly,
even with all these potential problems, most
people's ancestors can be successfully traced
back at least four generations (generally back
I can guarantee that I will search diligently
and that all of the information I provide will
be accurate, thoroughly documented, and fully
Can you find living relatives?
Locating living relatives can be very difficult.
Much depends on how common the surname of the
family is, whether the family owned property,
and whether the descendants you are looking for
remained in Ontario. If you are interested in
having this kind of research done, please
contact me by
email with the details of your specific
situation, and I'll be happy to provide a free
assessment of what I can do for you.
What are your fees and how do you determine
My fees are based primarily on the amount of
time required to complete the research. This
includes time spent analyzing the research
problem, developing a research plan, ordering
records, scanning/searching/reading microfilms,
making photocopies, and preparing reports. My
hourly rate is $55.
On my research page,
I provide a list of individual record searches
that I can do for specific flat rates and
descriptions of my three types of research
plans. In these cases, the fees are set and
include photocopying and mailing costs. If you
prefer to pay by the hour, I am happy to work
that way, in which case incidental expenses will
be billed separately. The research plans are
popular because they offer predictability (you
know exactly what your total cost will be) and
extra value (no time is wasted reviewing
previous stages of research and additional
elements such as charts, maps and narrative
summaries are included).
What methods of payment do you accept?
You may pay by Personal Cheque, Money Order,
PayPal, or Electronic Money Transfer (aka
Can I pay in installments?
Yes. If the total fees will be more than $200,
you only need to pay 50% up front, as a deposit.
You will be sent an invoice for the remainder
with your final research report.