An Immigrant Ancestor is a person, in your direct lineage, (grandparent, great-grandparent, etc), who was born in another country and came to Canada to live. To search for that person you often need to supply personal information such as names, birth dates or deaths etc. Those details were sometimes recorded for the first time during a federal census which occurred every ten years.
This area of Eastern Ontario, to the East of Muskrat Lake, and encompassing present day Westmeath, LaPasse, Perretton and the Village of Beachburg was at one period part of the Province of Quebec. The first council meeting of the municipalities of Ross and Westmeath was in March of 1837 and the earliest census was taken 5 years later in 1842. The Historic Westmeath Township, continued until amalgamation with adjacent municipalities to become part of the new Township of Whitewater Region in 2001.
This special census taken in 1851 profiled 166 settler households with the emphasis on tabulating crop and livestock production. It is available in its entirety in the Plant & Livestock Breeding section. It also gives the Concession and Lot where these crops were under cultivation. No other document gives as good an insight into how the new settlers were faring in providing for their families. This was a time when the great majority of the land taken up by settlers was labelled “under woods or wild“, and the clearings in the forest were often only 40 or less acres. We can’t imagine how hard-fought each cleared acre was. 1851 Agricultural Census.
In the Census of 1851-2, the whole of Renfrew County, in which Westmeath Township sits, had 1,260 habitations. More than half of these dwellings (750) were but shanties, crudely built and temporary structures. There were 1,312 families with 2,254 children under 15 years old.
What these hard-working pioneers weren’t to know was that two years later in 1853 – known as the Black Year,- “a ferocious holocaust” would sweep these clearings burning everything in its way. See Goulds’s Line.
Census records are usually consulted as a first step in starting to search your genealogy records. Many internet sites are available to help you trace your immigrant ancestor. The largest of these is Ancestry.ca. These are “User Pay” and will require that a membership fee be paid before you can access the record you seek. To avoid the fees the websites listed below are carefully chosen because they offer free online access to the census records.
Readers Please Note: The following census records are transcripts of the originals. Transcribing is not always easy because these old documents were all handwritten and were not checked for accuracy. Problems with language fluency and illiteracy left the enumerator with the task of interpreting names and spellings as best he could. It is a matter of what you see is what you get because these records cannot be changed with hindsight.
This early census lists only male heads of households by name, occupation and religion. There are 86 households. Other nameless household members are only listed by gender and ages. Take the time to open the glossary of abbreviations used as headings, to help you make sense of the spreadsheet. Do that by clicking on: “What do the headings mean?” found above the surname column.
More settlers had arrived with the Census enumerator listing 167 households. Now all members including wives and children of the household are listed by name.
In 1851 the names Canada West or Upper Canada were in use until the Province of Ontario came into being at Confederation in 1867. Canada East or Lower Canada was present day Quebec and many Canada East residents were coming from that area as labourers in the fast growing lumbering industry. Clearing land for settlement was hard back-breaking work. The forests had to come down first so that the settlers could homestead and begin cultivating the land.
Familiar names: This census is taken only 6 years after William Logan’s 1845 Survey and travels by canoe expedition upriver through this area, Please refer to “William Logan’s 1845 Survey of the Upper Ottawa Valley”, on this website. Some of these settler names are familiar because Logan describes visiting the homesteads.
The number of households in 1861 had grown to 300. Country of birth and the immigrant’s religion is listed. You can also see the occupation of the settler and the type of house. Only women who were female servants were listed as having an occupation.
Since Canada didn’t become a nation until 1867, this 1861 census is not a truly “national” one but a collection of the census data from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Canada East (Lower Canada, or roughly southern Quebec), and Canada West (Upper Canada, or roughly southern Ontario). The first true Canadian national census was held in 1871.
You’ll see that only the Townships of Horton and Ross in Renfrew County are available at this time. Westmeath Township is not available on this free site. The work of transcribing continues to be done by volunteers. No easy task.
However on the National Archives site you can see each Westmeath township residents listed by name. Click on each name for full details about that person.
The number of households had grown to 527 and two enumerators were needed to take the census that year. The majority were listed as having been born in either Quebec or Ontario rather than in another country.
This is the last census that has thus far been transcribed by the volunteers at the Ontario GenWeb Project. Their hard work has given us a much more easily readable and free rendering of census information. All users of the site thank them for their hard work.
Readers Please Note: When using the Automated Genealogy website for 1901 and 1911 : Click on “View” when you want to see the transcribed page. Each page contains 50 names; so many pages are needed to list the whole area’s population. Most documents are several pages long so you’ll need to click “View” for each page until you find what you are seeking. “Splitview” will show both the transcribed listing and the original document.
It is much easier if you know the family name that you are seeking. Then you should use the “Surname Index” to get a full listing of all members of that family. You can also open and read a pdf file; using Adobe Reader available for download on the bottom of the ______________section of this website, of each original page in the enumerator’s handwriting. The original documents can be enlarged and using a magnifying glass is useful as well.
Census 1901 transcribed records for Westmeath Township; its countryside and villages. Where the transcribers had difficulty reading either the original handwriting on the original document or the original had errors, a question mark was used. Misspellings could happen when the citizen was illiterate or when the census enumerator was unable to get correct spellings. Thick accents or not being fluent in English could also lead to names being misheard and incorrectly transcribed.
1911 Census transcribed pages for areas of Perretton, LaPasse, Westmeath and Beachburg Villages and surrounding countryside. 543 households were enumerated.
The 1921 Canadian Census was released in 2013. Current Canadian laws dictate that the country’s census records must be kept private for 92 years. Library & Archives Canada has allowed the website Ancestry.ca to offer free access to the 1921 Census online.
How did all these newcomers arrive here? It is estimated that 1 in 3 Canadians will find an ancestor on ships passenger lists 1865-1935.
Free Use Sites: The University of Waterloo site should be a first stop in any search of vessels carrying emigrants first to the colonies, and after Confederation in1867, to the new nation of Canada. The ships coming from the four corners of the world are there – an international listing of vessels. There are also Handbooks, Letters and other documents from the emigrant experience. Your search will be easier if you know the name of the ship or the year your ancestor sailed. But for all students of Canadian history the harrowing tales of hardship and overcoming obstacles contained on this site are awe inspiring.
The amount of material about emigration on this University of Waterloo site is huge and varied. Be sure to scroll all the way to the end to see its depth and breadth. It is truly one of the best free reference sources available.
The National Archives of Canada (NAC) holds immigration records on passenger lists from before 1865 to 1935. However, the records before 1925 are not indexed. To find an immigrant ancestor you will need to know an exact date of arrival or the vessel sailed on. There is no easy way to search Canadian arrival records for the unindexed period other than reading microfilm during a visit in person to the National Archives in Ottawa.
User Pay Site: Well established genealogical search websites such as www.Ancestry.ca are treasure-troves of information and well worth the membership fee if you will be continuing your search online. Passenger lists are explained on that site:
“There are no comprehensive ships passenger lists of immigrants arriving in Canada prior to 1865. Until that year, shipping companies were not required by the government to keep their passenger manifests.
Passengers from mainland Europe usually sailed to Great Britain, where they boarded trans-Atlantic ships at ports such as Liverpool, London, and Glasgow, and some Canadian immigrants arrived at American ports. Ships arriving on the West Coast carried passengers from Asia, Australia and Honolulu. Any immigrant destined for western Canada having landed in the U.S. could continue their journey by train from their port of arrival; however, none of the names of train passengers were recorded.
Lists for the port of Quebec include passengers who disembarked at Montreal between 1865 and 1921 because those ports were closed during the winter months when the St. Lawrence River was frozen. “
Those later voyages from 1865 on were under healthier and safer conditions. Tough lessons had been learned in the 1840s and a high price was paid for those lessons.
From the Ottawa Citizen, March 30,2013
Postmedia News April 5, 2013
Here are a few of the many genealogical websites and aids to make your hunt easier. There may be a fee for using them.
FamilySearch (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), familysearch.org. Draws on the church’s decades of record-keeping and research, including birth, death, probate and other records.
Library and Archives Canada, (collections canada.gc.ca/022/index-e.html. Varied collections, including Home Children and very old land records.
Ontario Genealogical Society. ogs.on.ca. Public records, tips on building a family tree, and the site lets you post family photos needing identification.
ancestry.ca (Canada) and ancestry.com (international). Multiple records, including censuses, military records and city directories; family trees submitted by users and others; tutorials; and software for building a family tree.
Family-tree builder download.findmypast.com. Claims to have one billion records from the British Isles.
Expanding collection of United States records.rootsweb.com (part of ancestry.com). Allows family-tree builders to find and share information through message boards, mailing lists and the like.Other sources: Facebook, Google and other search engines.