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Skip Navigation LinksSimcoe County > Archives > Researching Heritage Properties

Researching Heritage Properties

​​​​​Resource originally posted following a presentation by Archives' staff to the Collingwood Branch of Architectural Conservancy Ontario in ​​February 2009.

Resource updated ​​April 2020.

Visitors to the Simcoe County Archives are often looking for information pertaining to their property. The reasons behind their research are many, but the resources they consult are generally the same. By using this guide researchers should gain an understanding what kind of information is available, in what type of record, and at what location. You can follow the guide from beginning to end or chose relevant sections by clicking on the links below.



Identify your PropertyIdentify your Property<div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read 70caf9cc-7d3d-4392-83bf-b98a8c9cf04d" id="div_70caf9cc-7d3d-4392-83bf-b98a8c9cf04d" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_70caf9cc-7d3d-4392-83bf-b98a8c9cf04d" unselectable="on" style="display:none;"></div></div><div class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:center;margin-left:5px;"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-identify/collingwood-town-hall.jpg" target="_blank"> <img alt="Collingwood Town Hall" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-identify/collingwood-town-hall.jpg?RenditionID=9" /></a> <br> <span style="font-size:64%;">Collingwood Town Hall</span></div><p></p><p>There are three different ways to identify a piece of property. To illustrate, we will use the example of the Town Hall of Collingwood.<br></p><div role="tabpanel"><ol><li><p> <strong>Municipal Address:</strong> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">97 Hurontario Street.</span> This description can change over time as roads are renamed or closed and muncipalities amalgamate or change names.<br><br></p></li><li><p> <strong>Assessment Roll Number:</strong> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">043 031 010 002 006 00 00 00</span>. This description is found on your tax bill, and is useful when researching property values.<br><br></p></li><li><p> <strong>Legal Description:</strong> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">Plan 282, Lot 13 & part of Lot 14</span>. This description is found on your tax bill and the property deed, and is necessary when researching at the Land Registry Office or in early tax assessment rolls.</p></li></ol><p>When researching a property you will need any one or all of these identifiers. </p><p>One very useful tool for obtaining this information is <a href="https://maps.simcoe.ca/public/">Simcoe County Maps</a>, a website developed by the County of Simcoe. Using the Advanced tab, users can determine which <strong>Historic Geographic Township</strong> their property was located in, what their <strong>Assessment Roll Number</strong> is, and which <strong>Lot and Concession </strong>their property is on, in addition to much more.<br></p></div>
View Official Land RecordsView Official Land Records<div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read 27ce21f9-3231-4882-97dc-aa99fed455bc" id="div_27ce21f9-3231-4882-97dc-aa99fed455bc" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_27ce21f9-3231-4882-97dc-aa99fed455bc" unselectable="on" style="display:none;"></div></div><div class="ms-rtePosition-2"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-view/abstract-of-title.jpg" target="_blank"> <img alt="Abstract of Title" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-view/abstract-of-title.jpg?RenditionID=9" /> </a> <div> <span style="font-size:64%;">Abstract of Title</span></div></div> <strong>Simcoe County Land Registry Office<br></strong><span style="color:#222222;font-family:arial, sans-serif;font-size:16px;">114 Worsley St, Barrie, ON L4M 1M1</span><div><font color="#222222" face="arial, sans-serif">(Tel) 705-725-7232​​<br></font><a href="https://www.ontario.ca/page/land-registry-offices-lro" title="Simcoe County Land Registry Office">https://www.ontario.ca/page/land-registry-offices-lro</a><br><br>The Simcoe County Land Registry Office holds a number of land records useful to property owners, historians, and researchers. <div><br></div><div>Using the legal description for a property, researchers can obtain the Abstract of Title (Abstract of Conveyances). The Abstract is an index to all of the registered documents pertaining to the property. It gives basic details including the type of document (deed, mortgage, etc.), date, grantor, grantee, and monetary consideration. The left-hand column lists the instrument numbers that were assigned to the documents at the time of registration. <br><br>Early historic land registration records have now been digitized and are available through the Ontario Land Registry Access portal <a href="https://www.onland.ca/ui/" title="Ontario Land Registry Access">OnLand​​</a>.  ​In order to use the portal researchers need the following information about the property:<br></div><div><ul><li><strong>Name of regional municipality​​<br></strong>Example: Simcoe Count<span style="font-size:1em;">y</span></li><li><strong style="font-size:1em;">Name of city or township</strong><span style="font-size:1em;"> - <em>This may include historic townships</em><br></span>E<span style="font-size:1em;">xample: What is now Springwater Township would have included Flos Township </span><span style="font-size:1em;">and Vespra Township</span><span style="font-size:1em;"> prior to amalgama​tion in 1994. <br></span></li><li><strong>Lot and Concession Numbers</strong><br>OR<br></li><li><strong>Plan Number</strong></li></ul><div><span style="font-size:1em;">Staff at the Simcoe County Archives has put together a </span><a href="/Archives/Documents/SCA-Quick%20Guide-OnLand_2021.pdf" title="Guide to Using OnLand" target="_blank" style="font-size:1em;">Guide to Using OnLand</a><span style="font-size:1em;"> to assist researchers. The guide is available </span><a href="/Archives/Documents/SCA-Quick%20Guide-OnLand_2021.pdf" title="Guide to Using OnLand" target="_blank" style="font-size:1em;">here</a><span style="font-size:1em;">​. </span><br></div><div><b><br></b></div></div><div><strong>Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC)<br></strong><span class="w8qArf ms-rteStyle-Normal" style="font-weight:bolder;font-family:arial, sans-serif;"> </span><span class="LrzXr ms-rteStyle-Normal" style="font-family:arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size:16px;">65 Cedar Pointe Dr Unit 800, Barrie, ON L4N 5R7</span></span><br class="ms-rteStyle-Normal"><a href="https://www.mpac.ca/" title="Municipal Property Assessment Corporation">https://www.mpac.ca/</a><br></div><div><span style="font-size:16px;">​<br><a href="https://www.mpac.ca/" title="Municipal Property Assessment Corporation">MPAC​</a> is responsible for property assessment for the Province. A variety of information is available from the Office, including details about the actual assessment. Also available is a “Primary Structure Report” is available, for a fee, and “includes all data elements in the Parcel report with structure code and description of the primary structure(s), year built, heating type, total floor area, air conditioning, total unfinished basement area, total finished basement area. Sale amount, date for all sales that occurred in the last three years are also included.” <br><br><strong>Archives of Ontario<br></strong><span style="color:#222222;font-family:arial, sans-serif;">134 Ian MacDonald Blvd, North York, ON M7A 2C5</span>​<br><a href="http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/">http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/</a>​<br></span></div><div><br>The Early Land Settlement Records held at the <a href="http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/" title="Archives of Ontario">Archives of Ontario</a> contain various types of records, including petitions, land grants, patents, Township Papers, maps, plans, and surveys. Many of the records are available for interlibrary loan; ask a local archivist or librarian for assistance. The Archives of Ontario has produced a guide to the <a href="http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_215_grant_to_patent.pdf" title="Reseach Guide to Early Land and Settlement Records at the Archives of Ontario" target="_blank">Early Land Settlement Records​</a> and a guide to using the <a href="http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_205_land_records.pdf" target="_blank" title="Research Guide to using the Ontario Land Record Index at the Archives of Ontario">Ontario Land Records <span></span>Index</a>. ​<br><br></div></div>
Check Local Resources - For PropertiesCheck Local Resources - For Properties<div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read b40d96be-ceee-48c9-8daa-eafca2c5a864" id="div_b40d96be-ceee-48c9-8daa-eafca2c5a864" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_b40d96be-ceee-48c9-8daa-eafca2c5a864" unselectable="on" style="display:none;"></div></div><div class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:center;margin-right:5px;"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-properties/land-patent-book.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="Land Patent Book" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-properties/land-patent-book.jpg?RenditionID=4" /></a><br><span style="font-size:64%;">Land Patent Book<br>Nottawasaga Township</span></div><p> <strong>Patents</strong></p><p>Once the requirements for fully acquiring a property were fulfilled a grant was issued by the government. The Patent Book for Simcoe County lists the concessions and lots for each township, the name of the person or organization to whom the patent was given, and the date when it was issued.</p><div class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:center;margin-left:5px;"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-properties/survey-of-collingwood.jpg" target="_blank"> <img alt="Wm. Gibbard's Survey of Collingwood" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-properties/survey-of-collingwood.jpg?RenditionID=4" /></a> <br> <span style="font-size:64%;">Wm. Gibbard's<br>Survey of Collingwood</span></div><p> <strong>Maps and Plans</strong></p><p>Maps can show how an area was developed over time. Original surveys can show what was planned for a town site (whether or not a plan was realized is another issue).</p><p> <strong>Tax Assessment Rolls</strong></p><p>Tax rolls were completed annually and included valuations of real property. By going through the rolls you can see the usual pattern of increases and note sudden spikes in the property value. This may suggest that something happened on the property (the construction of a home, the erection of driving shed or barn), especially if it occurs at the same time as record of loan or sale was registered at the Land Registry Office. The Simcoe County Archives’ main collection of tax assessment rolls begins in 1858. Search our database to see a catalogue of our holdings.</p><p> <strong>Local Architecture Conservation Advisory Committees / Local Heritage Committees </strong></p><p>Local Architecture Conservation Advisory Committees / Local Heritage Committees have been established in many communities. Contact your municipal office to find out if such a committee exists for your locality and, if one does, what records it has available for public research. The <a href="http://www.collingwoodpubliclibrary.ca/" target="_blank">Collingwood Public Library</a> holds the “Historical and Architectural Inventory of Collingwood;” a project sponsored byz the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee of Collingwood in 1978.</p>
Check Local Resources - For BuildingsCheck Local Resources - For Buildings<p><br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read 64434ba5-1d8c-4fb1-8525-6e1a830eadad" id="div_64434ba5-1d8c-4fb1-8525-6e1a830eadad" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_64434ba5-1d8c-4fb1-8525-6e1a830eadad" unselectable="on" style="display:none;"></div></div><p> <strong>Building Permits<br></strong><span style="font-size:1em;">U</span><span style="font-size:1em;">nfortunately, it is very difficult to determine the exact date a building was constructed through building permits. The Canadian Building Code was put into effect about 1950 and the Ontario Building Code in 1975. Until then, municipalities did not necessarily issue building permits. As a result, there may be no official record as to when a house, barn or other building was erected. For those buildings which were constructed after the arrival of the Building Code, permits can usually be accessed at municipal offices. Retention periods vary, however, so consult with the clerk or records manager of your municipality. Click </span><a href="/Clerks/Pages/municipalpartners.aspx" target="_blank" title="Simcoe County Municipal partners" style="font-size:1em;">here</a><span style="font-size:1em;"> for a list of contact information for the various municipalities in Simcoe County.</span></p><p><br> <strong>Census Returns of Buildings, Lands, Churches, and Schools </strong><br>As well as information about the populace, data pertaining to agricultural activities as well as buildings, lands, churches and schools was also gathered. The lands and building returns for 1861, 1871 and 1901 still survive and are available on microfilm; and <a href="http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1901/001013-100.01-e.php" target="_blank">on-line</a> for 1901.<br><br><strong>Fire Insurance Plans<br></strong><span style="font-size:1em;">T</span><span style="font-size:1em;">hes</span><span style="font-size:1em;">e plans were created for the use of insurance companies, and were periodically updated. They still exist for a wide number of communities. Information to be found on them includes construction materials, site of water sources for fire suppression, and type of business or industry.</span></p><p><br><strong>Architectural Drawings<br></strong><span style="font-size:1em;">In orde</span><span style="font-size:1em;">r to build a structure, plans of some kind have to be used. Check local directories to see what architects or builders were operating in the area at the time you believe your building was constructed, and then enquire about the evolution of the businesses. The Simcoe County Archives holds drawings by John Wilson (1881-1944) and Carswell & Griesbach (1924-1968), among others.</span></p><p><br></p><div class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:center;border-left:5px none currentcolor;"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-buildings/hurontario-street-collingwood.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="Hurontario Street, Collingwood" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-buildings/hurontario-street-collingwood.jpg?RenditionID=2" /> </a><br><span style="font-size:64%;">Hurontario Street, Collingwood</span></div><p> <strong>Photographs</strong> <br><span style="font-size:1em;">Photographs can assist you in determining a date range for construction. General views, street scenes, and aerials can give you a pictorial history of buildings, landscaping, and structures such as lamps, fences, and gates.</span></p><div><br><b>Newspapers<br></b><span style="font-size:1em;">Newspapers contained the local buzz, so you may find an article where a large new home with all of the latest conveniences was being built for one of the doctors or lawyers.</span></div><p></p>
Check Local Resources - For PeopleCheck Local Resources - For People<div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read 12b174b0-6cb2-40d7-aa58-40431b354878" id="div_12b174b0-6cb2-40d7-aa58-40431b354878" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_12b174b0-6cb2-40d7-aa58-40431b354878" unselectable="on" style="display:none;"></div></div><div class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:center;"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-people/thomas-chevalier-prosser-family.jpg" target="_blank"> <img alt="Thomas Chevalier Prosser family" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-people/thomas-chevalier-prosser-family.jpg?RenditionID=9" style="margin:5px;width:271px;" /></a> <br> <span style="font-size:64%;">Thomas Chevalier Prosser family</span> </div><p>Many homeowners want to know more about their property than the lot size and the age of the bricks and mortar. Information about people can be found in a variety of records.</p> <strong>Census</strong><br> <p>Census returns of the population are available for Simcoe County Municipalities for 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911; returns for the former Ontario County municipalities of Rama and Mara are available from 1851 to 1911. Microfilm copies are held at the Simcoe County Archives. On-line transcriptions of and indexes to Simcoe County census are available for all years, and digital images of the 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 census are available on the Library and Archives Canada website.</p> <strong>Tweedsmuir Histories</strong><br> <p>The ladies of the local branches of the Women’s Institutes deserve a great amount of praise for the work they have done to gather together information about the small communities of the country. Named after Lady Tweedsmuir, who was very interested in the activities of the W.I., the Histories contain a wide variety of document and written summaries about people, farms, homes, churches, schools, halls, parks, and heritage sites.</p><div class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="text-align:center;"> <a class="preview" href="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-people/vernons-directory.jpg" target="_blank"> <img alt="1933 Vernon's Directory" src="/Archives/PublishingImages/Pages/heritage-people/vernons-directory.jpg?RenditionID=9" style="margin:5px;" /></a> <br> <span style="font-size:64%;">1933 Vernon's Directory</span> </div><p> <strong>Directories</strong></p><p>Like census records, directories place people and businesses in a specific place at a specific point in time. The street directory can also help with the placing of buildings within town blocks.<br></p><p> <strong>Business Records</strong></p><p>Records of private businesses, as well as organizations, provide a day-to-day perspective of activities.</p>