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A Guide To Historic Places in Ontario

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WikiTree’s Location Field Style Guide requires the use of place names used at whatever time period is covered by the profile ("use their conventions instead of ours" using the “names that people at the time used, even if they now no longer exist”). Here are a few tips regarding Ontario place names:

  • Today’s Ontario was Province of Quebec from 1763-1791, Upper Canada from 1791-1841 and Canada West from 1841 until Confederation in 1867.
  • Our Ontario ancestors were often unimaginative. A county, township and town can all carry the same name; for example, Waterloo (town), Waterloo (township), Waterloo (county). This is why it’s important to check census data to find out if the person profiled lived in a town or a township.
  • In the 1990s and early 2000s, politicians decided to amalgamate various townships and towns and attached new names that many Ontarians don’t use. Unfortunately, FindAGrave uses these new designations and you’ll find many Ontario profiles with 19th-century folk living in Minden Hills, for example, rather than plain old Minden.


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Sadly, FamilySearch has "forgotten" many of these historical places. For example, the township of Lavant, Lanark County is nowhere to be found. It's currently part of the township of Lanark Highlands but that's fairly recent. Search the FamilySearch Places database and you'll find it as a hamlet or populated place in Lanark Highlands but no sign of the township.

Curiously, FamilySearch has retroactively put Lanark Highlands township into both Canada West and Upper Canada. There was no such township until several Lanark townships and communities were amalgamated in 1997. (I've pointed this out on there message board; no response yet).

posted by Jim Patterson
You're absolutely right, Jim. I've spent a lot of time establishing the categories for Lanark County here on WikiTree and have most of the historical names included. If you are researching is this area (I grew up in Lanark Township, Lanark County) I'm happy to share any information I have that may help.
posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
My father grew up in Renfrew County, so I have a lot of relatives in both Renfrew and Lanark counties. One family lived in Darling township, another township that FamilySearch "forgot", and I discovered that the FamilySearch automated normalization process had relocated them all to Darling, Haldimand, Ontario (just a hamlet and actually called "Darling Road" in the CGNDB). Very frustrating!
posted by Jim Patterson
We could very well be related then, Jim. Many of my family originally settled in Darling/Lavant/Pakenham Townships. Some stayed, but some moved to Lanark or Dalhousie. Patterson is a very common name in the area! There's even a great little fishing lake named Patterson!

It's very sad to see that records cannot be found due to errors in location names on other websites. Another issue of course, is Perth County, vs. Town of Perth, Lanark County. They are confused SO much, I've started looking at everything associated with a Perth, Ontario!

posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin