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Discover Family History at Simcoe County Archives

Blog originally posted February 16, 2018

Discover Family History at Simcoe County Archives

February 19th marks Family Day in the Province of Ontario. To celebrate, the Simcoe County Archives is highlighting a few of the resources we have available to help researchers learn about their family histories.

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter and Family
988-59 Mr. and Mrs. Hunter and Family, ca. 1880 - 1890. Copyright: Public Domain

Census Records

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:

  • 1861
  • 1871
  • 1881
  • 1891
  • 1901
  • 1911
  • 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 1851 personal Census for Rama and Mara Townships is also available, as well as aggregate totals, and limited nominal information from the 1842 Census of the Home District (predating the incorporation of the County of Simcoe). These records are available on microfilm at 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.

 Plough team on 8th Line in Innisfil Township

997-39 Plough team on 8th Line in Innisfil Township, ca. 1890-1910
Copyright: Public Domain

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 Tax Assessment Rolls with the Archives.  

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.


Simcoe County Council Members,1915 
  966-1 Simcoe County Council Members,1915, Copyright: Public Domain

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 was 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 will have been noted in meeting Minutes. 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 40 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 it. 

Other resources

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:

  • Directories
  • Patent books for the County of Simcoe and Muskoka
  • Cemetery Studies
  • Newspapers
  • School and Church Records

Information regarding these resources and more can be found in our A Guide to Genealogical Research. SCA staff are also always happy to help visitors to the Archives.