Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ontario Land Settlement Surveys from The Thomas Talbot Fonds Digitized by Elgin County Archives

It looks like another bright shiny object (BSO) has come to my attention. Though it really looks like it has the potential to be a big rabbit hole to get lost in if you have a lot of ancestors in this particular area and time period.
Thomas Talbot Fonds Digitized
Elgin County Archives

Over at Olive Tree Genealogy today, I discovered that part of what is on my To-Do List for a return trip to the Archives of Ontario has been digitized and is now available online. Yeah!

The Elgin County Archives, as part of  the Archives of Ontario's Digitization Loan Program, has digitized from the Archives of Ontario The Thomas Talbot Fonds F 501.

Besides individuals petitioning for a grant of Crown Land to eventually earn a patent to that land, there were land promoters who leased or sold land for settlement. The Archives of Ontario Research Guide 215: From Grant to Patent: A Guide to Early Land Settlement records, ca. 1790 - ca. 1850 tells us about a half million acres of land in southwestern Ontario between 1802 and 1837 were entrusted to the control of Col. Thomas Talbot. Though a large portion of the "Talbot Tract" remained unimproved by 1837 when the government took over, Talbot settled about "6,000 families in present-day counties of Norfolk, Elgin, Middlesex, Kent and Essex" in the province of Ontario.

These original records were initially non-governmental records. So for certain areas if your people were in Ontario very early and you haven't found a petition/grant/patent in the governmental records, they may have gotten their land through Talbot, The Canada Company or Peter Robinson. (At this time, I am not sure if there were other land promoters.) These non-governmental records were later obtained by the government.

There is a description of the Thomas Talbot fonds F501 on the Archives of Ontario website. It consists of 45 large maps with names (F 501-1) and one lease book (F 501-2) for just ten townships. The Olive Tree Genealogy blog post (link above) gives some good background information about Talbot and there is good background information atop the chart on the Talbot digitization project page (link above) on the Elgin County Archives website. Don't forget to read the fonds description at the Archives of Ontario.

So I promised myself I would only snoop around to learn about this digitization project and not "go down the rabbit hole." So far, so good.

I learned of Talbot back when at the Archives of Ontario in 2012 and we were researching a lot of early land records. I hadn't been able to find a possible relative in the land petition papers or books. Researching the county's history brought to light that early on for that area of Essex that individuals got land through Talbot. Unfortunately, the Talbot papers were offsite and I'd have to wait until another visit or hire a researcher to learn what might be there.

George Rider 1837 Conc. 4, Lot 13
Archives of Ontario
What did I learn from these digitized records today? Since the lease book does not cover the township where my possible relative settled, the information from the map simply places him in Essex County, West Tilbury township Concession 4, Lot 13 (that I knew already) with "George Rider 1837."

Though this helps put him in a certain place at a certain time earlier than what I had already, I had really been hoping for something more like what can be found in some of those land petitions.

So how did I find George? Currently, almost all of the Talbot maps are not indexed. Indexing is a future part of the project. So at present you need to browse the images. I knew George's concession and lot location from other research. Sometimes this can be learned from the census or a city directory or when you find a later land sale. I know George eventually moved to a nearby township so I'll next check the map for that township. (Yes, I know that concession and lot also. I just don't know if George got that land from Talbot, bought it or if it was the property of his wife's first husband.)

Today's peek was not a total loss. I did discover another digitization project that is new to me and is also related to land. I hope to share that one tomorrow. Hopefully I don't succumb to that rabbit hole.

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