Back in October, I attended the Family Search United States and Canada Research Seminar. This was a week-long series of onsite classes and webinars that covered various topics on both the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian sessions were eye-opening for me. I didn’t realize how little I knew about Canada. I guess I thought that the Canada was always pretty much the same as it is today. I knew that there had been French settlers and I had heard of the battle of Quebec during the Revolutionary War but that was the extent of my Canadian knowledge. By the way the classes given in this seminar are now online; you must search for them individually in the Learning Center.
What I learned was that Canada was first settled in the early 17th century by the French and was called “New France”. Due to France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War, the New France colony was turned over to Great Britain and renamed the Province of Quebec. From the English point of view, at the time of the American Revolution, there 15 American Colonies, Quebec and Nova Scotia being the extra two. After that there were various changes to these colonies.
In 1784 the colony of Nova Scotia was partitioned, and the colony of New Brunswick was created.
In 1791 the colony of Quebec was divided into two provinces: Upper Canada (later Ontario), which was mainly Loyalist, Protestant and English-speaking, and Lower Canada (later Quebec), heavily Catholic and French-speaking.
In 1840, a single province was named Canada was formed from Upper and Lower Canada. The Ontario area was then called Canada East and the Quebec area was Canada West.
In 1867, the Dominion of Canada was formed by the confederation of the provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario were created from the old Canada province. Canada became a self-governing dominion with four provinces
Why does all this matter? When researching Canadian records, depending on the time period, they will reference the different names for these four provinces. I happened to be able to put this new-found knowledge to use the very next week. A family I was researching had its North America roots in Canada, going back to the 18th century. As I looked at various records, I saw abbreviations that would not have made sense to me before the class.
In the 1851 Canadian Census, the birth location was given as UC meaning Upper Canada.
It wasn’t until the 1881 Canadian Census that the birth location was given as Ontario abbreviated as O.