Blog originally posted February 16, 2018.
Updated March 25, 2021.
Discover Family History at Simcoe County Archives
This page will highlight a few resources we have available to help researchers learn about their family histories. Information regarding the resources listed below can also be found in our Guide to Family History Research at Simcoe County Archives.
988-59 Mr. and Mrs. Hunter and Family, ca. 1880 - 1890. Copyright: Public Domain
Canadian census records are an excellent place to begin researching family history. The national census was designed to capture demographic information about persons living in Canada. With some basic facts about your relatives, such as name and place of residence, family historians can use census records to trace families or individuals throughout history.
Personal Census records for Simcoe County are available for the following years:
1851 (Rama and Mara Townships only), 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 and 1921.
Each census is divided by township or municipality, and provides personal details such as name, age, occupation, marital status, birthplace, ethnic origin, and religious affiliation. In the case of the 1861
Census, the type of dwelling is also described.
The 1842 Census of the Home
District (precursor to Simcoe County) is also available, although it mainly includes aggregate totals and
limited nominal information.
982-56, Members of the Robinson/ Roberston ca. 1884 Copyright: Public Domain.
Names of some of the Robinsons as they appear on the 1871 Canadian Census, Schedule No. 1- Nominal Returns of the Living.
1871; Census Place: Medonte, Simcoe North, Ontario; Roll: C-9964; Page: 8.
All but the 1921 Census records are available on microfilm at the Simcoe County Archives. Many census records can also be searched using the County's subscription to AncestryLibrary. Access to microfilm and the AncestryLibrary databases are freely available at the Archives.
If you are interested in accessing national census records for the entirety of Canada, these are also available through the Library and Archives of Canada.
1875 Census of the Unincorporated Village of Penetanguishene
Not all census records were created at the federal level. An example of this can be seen in the 1875 Census of the Unincorporated Village of Penetanguishene. This census was taken 7 years prior to the incorporation of the Town of Penetanguishene. It includes the Heads of Household of those living in the village at the time.
2007-170, Gendron family group photo, ca. 1875, Copyright: Public Domain
Back row, L-R: John Albert, Margaret, Harriette, Frank. Middle row, L-R: Josephine, Charles, Alexander, Carollus Front row, L-R: Delia, Aimee Anne
Charles Gendron, a resident of Penetanguishene in the 1870s, can be found listed on the 1875 census. In the picture above he is second from the length in the middle row.
The original census is held at the Simcoe County Archives. It has also been digitized, and can be viewed in its entirety here.
Tax Assessment Rolls
Tax Assessment rolls offer a wealth of information about families and individuals. These records provide the name of the head of each household (and often the names of others entitled to the municipal franchise), the type of occupancy (ownership, tenancy, etc.), age, occupation, religion, a description of the property, the school section into which taxes were paid, assessed property values. Certain other details including assessed statute labour days for males between the ages of 16 and 60, livestock inventories and the number of family members in particular age groups. Simcoe County Archives holds a comprehensive collection of County Tax Assessment Rolls which covers the period from 1858-1912. Many municipalities have also deposited post -1912 Tax Assessment Rolls with the Archives.
997-39 Plough team on 8th Line in Innisfil Township, ca. 1890-1910
Copyright: Public Domain
Unlike census records and most Vital Statistics, Tax Assessment Rolls are not accessible through online services. These records are available as hard copies or on microfilm at Simcoe County Archives.
County and Municipal Records
Municipal records are often overlooked as sources of genealogical information. While they won't necessarily indicate place of birth or marital status, they can nevertheless provide insight into the lives of individuals and families. If a family member were involved in local politics, one may well find their name listed within Council Minutes or By-laws. If they participated in local committees or served on any boards, their activities would have been noted in meeting Minutes.
966-1 Simcoe County Council Members,1915, Copyright: Public Domain
Petitions are yet another source of genealogical information available through municipal records. If a relative signed a petition to establish a local school, for instance, it would provide evidence of their place of residence and activities within the community.
These are a few examples of how the records of local governments can provide insight into family history. SCA holds municipal records for the County of Simcoe, more than 50 lower-tier municipalities that they have governed, or are currently governing, as well as records from the City of Barrie. These records date back to the nineteenth century, and capture an incredible amount of information about the County and those living here.
Simcoe County Council Minutes from1846-1952 have been digitized and can be accessed online here.
The resources noted above are a small sample of the records available to help researchers discover their family history in Simcoe County. Other popular resources include:
- Patent books for the County of Simcoe and District of Muskoka
- Tombstone transcriptions
- Community newspapers
- School and church records
2016-25 Class photo for School Section No. 6 (Edgar) in Oro Township, 1893
Information regarding these resources and more can be found in our Guide to Family History Research at Simcoe County Archives. SCA staff are also always happy to help visitors to the Archives.