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September 21, 2013

Finding a Black Ancestor Using Circumstantial Evidence, Part 2

Upper Canada Land Book Entries
Looking for Land Records

I hoped to find an exact land location because then my search could extend to the Abstract Indexes to Deeds. That would allow me to learn exactly when Jonathan obtained his farm land and under what conditions, and when he left and who the land passed to. But the only clues were vague..... "West of Grand River" and a possible lot number of 88.  

Jonathan could not be found after this 1840 assessment. There are no early census records for Ontario before 1851 although there is an 1841/1842 and an 1848 Census which is head of house only.  Many of the 1851 census records are missing for several locations so that quickly became a dead end.

Land records such as the CLRI were no help. There was no record of Jonathan as a first time land owner anywhere in Ontario. I could not find a death record for Jonathan or his wife, Elizabeth Ginkins or Jenkins [Source: 1851 baptism for their son Allen]

Analyzing & Assessing Documents

For several years I was stalled. I mulled over what I had found. I did a lot of examining and re-examing the records I'd found, thinking about my next step. I didn't know where in Toronto (or Toronto Township) Jonathan had resided. It seemed to me that land records were the answer but Jonathan was nowhere to be found on the few indexed records available. I knew that a Jonathan Butler had been granted land in the Wilberforce Settlement which was an area of Ontario settled by men of colour as early as 1819. But was this "my" Jonathan Butler? 

A Serendipitous Email

And then a break. Gary French, the author of "Men of Colour: An Historical Account of the Black Settlement on Wilberforce. Street and in Oro Township, Simcoe County, Ontario 1819-1949", wrote to tell me had found what he was sure was Jonathan's petition for land, and that it gave information on his origins in the USA.

A look at the online petition in the Upper Canada Land Petitions found on Library and Archives Canada provided this information: 

March 9, 1819 Petition for Land Johnathan [sic] Butler, farmer of Toronto Township, Home District. Has a farm of 50 acres, has developed 30, desires some Crown Land. Is a man of colour, a native of Pennsylvania, been in the province upwards of 11 years. 

This wonderful document  narrows the time of Jonathan's arrival in Upper Canada, making his immigration year circa 1808. It also reveals that he lived in Toronto Township and not the city of Toronto. 

A close look of the envelope containing this land petition revealed, in very tiny hard-to-read writing:   Entered in Land Book K, page 93 which is C-103, Vol. 29. Granted 100 acres in Wilberforce.  And now the question: Men of colour who were granted land in Wilberforce were War of 1812 military men. Jonathan Butler was the only non-military man granted land there. Why was he included?

Next stop: Upper Canada Land Books

Armed with these new facts, I next went through the online Land Books on, which believe me is not an easy or quick task. They are not indexed, but I was able to narrow my search to Land Book K on film C-103. From there it was a case of scrolling until I found the reference to Jonathan on page 93. 

26 April 1819. Land Book K page 93: Jonathan Butler praying for a grant of land as a settler. Granted 100 acres in Wilberforce Street.

The entry did not reveal much more than the original petition in March but that's the thing with genealogy and family tree research. You must track down and follow every clue, every reference, no matter how small. Sometimes you find something huge, sometimes nothing at all. But if you don't retrieve the document you will never know what you might have missed.

Although Jonathan was granted land in the Wilberforce Settlement, Gary French tells me it does not appear he ever lived there. But finding the exact location would give a date he gave the land up and that might lead to knowing when he went to the Queen's Bush settlement in Waterloo.  

Part 3 to be posted tomorrow

1 comment:

Derek said...

Hi Lorine, this was great info for everyone. I was not aware of the Upper Canada land records online. I searched and found my ancestor Matthias Follick/Vollick's land petition from 1825. (Believed to be brother to your Richard Vollick). Along with the land petition was a character reference from Captain Henry Pawling, First Regiment, Lincoln Militia vouching for the character of both Cornelius Volick and Matthias Volick who served under him as Privates during the late war (War of 1812). Now the father Cornelius Vollick would have been 38-42 years old during the War versus his son Cornelius would have been 8-12 years old and Matthias would have been 14-17 years old. So wondering if this provides a little more proof that Matthias was the son of Cornelius as we have suspected? The letter from Captain Pawling was from Louth which is the area where Isaac/Cornelius/Matthias were from. Also, in case you weren't aware previously, this provides evidence of Cornelius' service in War of 1812. Any thoughts or info would be appreciated. Thanks, Derek