Questions Frequently Asked by Ontario GenWeb Visitors
Please read the following FAQ before sending an email question to an Ontario GenWeb county host.
Note: An effort has been made to include as many links as possible. Don't forget to click "Back" on your browser to come back to this page!
This page was last updated Sept 28, 2002
I know this is a long page, but I've tried to answer as many questions as I could think of!
Table of Contents - Click to JumpGenWeb area questions: What Ontario GenWeb area is this city / town / township in? Why are there some counties the Ontario GenWeb doesn't have county pages for? Is a district the same thing as a county? Have you heard of this surname in your GenWeb area?
Query Questions: How long will it take for my query to be posted? What makes a good query? Why didn't I get an answer? How long will my GenWeb query stay up? There's a mistake in my query! I posted a query and now my email address has changed!
Cemetery questions: Can you look up this OCFA entry for me? If not, what do I do? Can you give me a cemetery address? Can I get cemetery transcriptions, and how much do they cost?
Census questions: Is there an index to this census? My census record refers to Bothwell/Cardwell/Monck County - and I can't find this county! I found someone in the 1871 census index, now what? What are the film numbers for ILL? What about census records after 1901?
Vital Statistics questions: How can I get a birth, marriage or death record for Ontario? What are the film numbers for ILL?
Research questions: Can you give me research advice? Can you look something up for me at a local library or archives? (If not, who can?) Will you do my research for me? (If not, who can?)
Ontario GenWeb itself: I really like these web pages! Can I help Ontario GenWeb?
GenWeb area questions - the counties and townships of Ontario
Q. How can I find out what Ontario GenWeb area a city/town/township is in?A. Check the Ontario Locator and find out. Almost all genealogical records in Ontario are filed according to county and then township, so you will find the Ontario Locator a very useful site - it's a good one to bookmark. It has a database you can scroll through to find out where a place is.
Q. Why are there some counties the Ontario GenWeb doesn't have county pages for? They don't match the counties on my map of Ontario.A. Some counties have ceased to exist, county borders were changed and changed again, and new counties have been created which you won't find listed on old documents like census records. Also, many counties have been amalgamated, like Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, which was originally three separate counties. The Ontario Locator is the best source here; it will tell you about those places which seem to have disappeared. Also, further on in this FAQ, in the census section, you will find information on the "fictional" counties of Monck, Bothwell and Cardwell, which have never actually existed. :-)
Q. My reference isn't to a county, it's to a district. Is this the same as a county?Nope. The system of districts was in use before the county system was created. The districts stopped being used in the late 1840s. The districts were divided into counties. However, there's some overlap between the two systems. You can compare the two systems with these two maps:
The districts of Canada West, 1845 (shows southern Ontario only)
The present counties of Ontario (shows the whole province)
However, there are some modern districts, such as Nipissing District, or Kenora District, which cover too large an area to be called a county.
Q. Where can I find information on a certain town, township or county of Ontario?A. OntarioGenWeb covers information on a provincial level only. For information specific to a place in Ontario, you need to go to the specific County GenWeb site. All are linked from the OntarioGenWeb main page. If you are unsure of which County the place you're looking for belongs to, visit the Ontario Locator.
Q. Have you, the county host, heard of my surname in your GenWeb area? Can you tell me where my ancestor came from, within your county?A. Maybe, maybe not. But the county host is just one person, and unless by some rare coincidence s/he's a cousin, the fact that he's heard of Smiths in his area probably won't be much help to you. There are many other people out there who have access to the web site. Instead of asking the county host this, why not place a query where everyone can see it? Each county should have its own query page, and there's a page for Unknown location in Ontario too.
Q. How long will it take for my query to be posted?A. That depends on the page you post it to, and whether they are using the Ancestry Message Boards system or a manual posting system. For Ancestry Message boards, it's instantaneous. Most county pages are now using this system. But if the county host posts queries manually, it may take a day, or as long as two to three weeks. The page where you submitted the query should have some information on this. Go back and check.
Whether a county page is using an Ancestry query board, or posting queries manually, each query is reviewed by a human being. This means that your query can be rejected if necessary. The administrator can delete messages that don't belong on the board.
Q. What do you mean, reject or delete? If I submit it, you have to post it, right?A. Queries can be rejected or deleted:
- If they do not fall into the geographical area covered by the page you posted it to. This is common sense. If your query covers Toronto, and you post it to the Middlesex County GenWeb page, the people who can help you won't even see it. If your query doesn't get posted, or goes missing after being posted, and you think maybe it's because you submitted it to the wrong county, check the Ontario Locator. If the board administrator isn't swamped with work (and we can be), he may take the time to email your query back to you, so at least you don't have to remember all that stuff you typed! However, you may not even receive any notice that your query has been deleted.
- If they are too long, or aren't a query. A descendancy chart, for example, is not a query. The words "Send me my family tree" or "anyone researching?" are not a query either. This sort of query will not be posted, & most moderators should delete them. For the format of a proper query, please look at some of the queries which are already there, and also visit this page:Writing an Effective query. A good size is five to fifteen lines, and if your query takes up too much space some hosts may not post it.
What makes a good query?A. See this page: Writing an Effective query
I didn't get an answer to my query - why not? and what next?A. Don't think that just because you posted a query your work is done, and you can sit back and wait for someone to bring you the information. One thing you can do is to browse through some of the query boards and see if your surname has already been posted by someone else. You should also check the Surnames of Ontario page.
If you didn't get an answer to your query, there could be several reasons. Most likely, no one else researching that family is online and looking at the right place. You should also place queries on the newsgroups and mailing lists.
Another reason you may not get an answer is that you didn't write a query which will get results. A query like "Researching Smith in Toronto, does anyone have any Smiths in Toronto?" will not get results. People are not obligated to respond to your query. Most people just browse them by surname - they do not read each query.
Q. How long will my query stay up?A. Again, it depends on the page, and what system the host is using. It should be a minimum of three months, but on some pages it may stay up longer. Some hosts leave queries up as long as there's space for them; others have limited space on their server and can't leave them up more than the minimum three months.
With the Ancestry board system, there is a search function so that even when your query no longer shows, people can still find it. Search for it yourself to see if you need to resubmit - chances are there is no need to resubmit.
Q. There's a mistake in my query, or my email address is wrong or has changed. What do I do?A. Contact the person who runs the page where your query was posted. Usually he or she will be the only one who can go in and change things. Or, you can simply reply to your own message with the corrected information.
Q. Can you look up this OCFA information for me?A. Only if it says so on my web page. If you don't see it, the answer is probably no. Some county pages have a lookups section, which is the place to check. If you don't see a lookups section, there isn't one. There's a lookups page which covers all of Ontario in addition to the county pages.
Another good place to check for lookup offers is the Canada Helplist, part of Canada GenWeb. Also, try mailing lists for Ontario.
Q. Well, then how do I get the complete info from this OCFA search?A. This is covered in the OCFA FAQ! You usually have to contact the branch of OGS which has the transcription. Most branches have a small fee for OCFA lookups. Check on the relevant Ontario GenWeb county page and see if they have any info about the branch of OGS which covers the area. When you do write to OGS, include the fee and be sure to ask if it is enough. In my experience, OGS is much more helpful when they receive the fee up front. Also, you should ask for a publications list, because you might find that purchasing the entire cemetery transcription is only a few dollars. Some branches are putting their publication lists online - yay!
See also this page: OCFA: What it is and how to use it, an article written by a member of the Perth County Branch OGS in response to OCFA queries.
Q. Can you give me the address for a certain cemetery?A. If it's not on the county page, the county host still might be able to tell you, if you email and ask. It may be left off the county page for a reason. In Ontario, transcribing cemeteries is the responsibility of Ontario Genealogical Society. Some of the Ontario GenWeb pages do not include cemetery addresses because we do not want to intrude upon OGS's territory - they should be the ones to list cemetery addresses, not us. Your OGS branch will be able to tell you where a cemetery is, and they may even do a better job of locating it than the GenWeb host, because if they have transcribed the cemetery, they have actually visited it (and the GenWeb host hasn't necessarily been there!). You can get the mailing address for a particular branch of OGS from the OGS Branch List - and some of the branches have web pages, too.
Can I buy cemetery transcriptions? How much would it cost?A. Again, this is the domain of Ontario Genealogical Society, who for years have been trying to locate and transcribe all cemeteries in Ontario. They do sell transcriptions of the ones they have done. See if there's a web page for the county branch of OGS, where you might find a price list. If they don't have a web page, snail mail is your other option. What you should ask for is a publications list. The prices of transcriptions vary depending on the size of the cemetery; one can be anywhere from $1 or $2 to $40 or $50. The larger cemetery transcriptions tend to be sold in sections, so you won't necessarily have to buy the whole thing if it's a big one.
Some OGS branches have finished transcribing all cemeteries in their area (YAY OGS!), but some branches just have too many cemeteries to handle and not enough volunteers - yes, OGS is run by volunteers. Just to name one, Mount Pleasant in Toronto has about 180 000 burials in it! That's bigger than most Ontario cities, and it's still growing! Also keep in mind that if a cemetery is still in use, a transcription will become outdated after a few years because new stones will have been added, but if you're just looking for older stones, then that won't matter.
Q. Is there an index to the census for a certain township, for a certain year or for all years?A. The only census index which has been done for all of Ontario is 1871, which can be searched online. This was a massive province-wide effort by Ontario Genealogical Society about 10 years ago. Some other census years have been indexed, but not for the whole province at once. Check the Ontario GenWeb county page for the area you're interested in. If it doesn't say there, contact the county branch of OGS and ask them.
Don't panic if the census you want isn't indexed. Any census can be anywhere from 5 to 1000 pages, but in my experience most townships cover about 40-100 pages and take about half an hour to an hour to scroll through, as long as you know which township you should be looking under. The only ones I've ever had a problem with are the large cities like Toronto, Ottawa and London.
You also need to know the specific area to be looking in, like which particular township your ancestor lived in - plus, many of the borders changed over time; don't assume that your ancestor will be listed in the same township for every census. My ancestors in Whitchurch were listed in York township in 1851, in Whitchurch township in 1861 & 1871, and in the town of Aurora after that! They did not move; it was border changes.
If you can't scroll through census films because of your eyes, or if you can't get the films by Inter-Library Loan, consider hiring a researcher to do it for you. Check the Ontario Researchers page or the Research Trading Post.
Q. The census record I found is for Monck County, Cardwell County or Bothwell County. I can't find these counties on a map! They don't seem to exist! What's going on?A. You're right, they don't exist. :-) Monck, Cardwell and Bothwell were three counties "created" for the 1871 and later census enumerations. They exist only in the heads of the people who set up the census districts. (However, there are townships by these names!)
This is from Brenda Merriman's Genealogy in Ontario, pg 81:
Bothwell County was made up of townships from Kent and Lambton counties. From Kent: Bothwell, Camden, Dresden, Howard, Orford, Ridgetown, Thamesville and Zone. From Lambton: Dawn, Euphemia and Sombra.
Cardwell County was made up of townships from Simcoe and Peel counties. From Simcoe: Adjala and Mono. From Peel: Albion, Bolton, Caledon.
Monck County was made up of townships from Lincoln, Haldimand, and Welland Counties. From Lincoln: Caistor and Gainsborough. From Haldimand: Canborough, Dunn, Dunnville, Moulton, Sherbrooke. From Welland: Pelham and Wainfleet.
In the 1851 and 1861 census records, all these townships were enumerated with their proper counties.
Q. I found someone in the 1871 census index and I want more information on this person. Now what?A. Don't assume that what you see in the index is all there is - this index shows heads of households and strays, so to get the rest of the family's names, you are going to have to order the microfilm. This is worth the extra time and effort! It will tell you the names and ages of every family member, as well as place of birth, religion, occupation, and other information too. See if you can order it by Inter-Library loan through your local library or Family History Center.
You also shouldn't stop at the 1871 census. You can start there because of the online index, but look into the other census years too. Most places in Ontario have census records for 1851 (missing for some areas), 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901. There are some earlier records like 1842, but that was head of the household for the most part, and in some places it was just an aggregate census - an aggregate census means it contains only numbers, no names, not much use. :-(
Q. When I searched the 1871 census, I got too many hits. How do I limit the search?The National Archives has changed the format of this database. You used to limit your search to a particular county by scrolling down a list of counties and clicking on the one you want. Now, you limit it to a county by putting the county name in the Keywords field. You could even limit it to a particular township, an occupation, or whatever. Try it!
Q. What are the census film numbers for Interlibrary Loan?Well, I haven't yet found a site which has all of them posted. The National Archives published them in a book called Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm. Actually, there are two books; one covers 1666-1891 and 1901 has a book all to itself.
If anyone knows of a site which lists the Ontario numbers, please let me know and I will add a link. For now, your local library or Family History Center may have the numbers; if they don't, ask if they can purchase the above-named books.
Q. What about census information online?A. Ontario GenWeb volunteers are working on the Ontario GenWeb Census Project, the goal of which is to transcribe all Ontario census records & put them online. It's a big project, so if you want to speed it up, Volunteer! :-)
There are a few other census sites online, but many just have indexes. For example, there's Granny's Garden.
Vital Statistics questions
Q. How can I get a birth, marriage or death record for Ontario?A. That depends on the date of the record. I have put an explanation of the way it works on my Perth County Vital Statistics page - this info applies to all of Ontario.
Q. Are any of these records online?A. Volunteers have begun transcribing the records, but it will be some time before even a small dent is made in the records which exist. Try the following sites, and if you think that this list is too short, then volunteer to help! :-)
- Canadian Birth, Marriage and Death exchange at the Olive Tree covering the whole country (lots of Ontario entries)
- Ontario Marriages at Mary Crandall's site
- Ontario GenWeb Vital Statistics Project
Q. Can I get Ontario Vital Statistics by Inter-Library Loan?A. If they are among those held at the Archives of Ontario, you should be able to. However, if you live in Ontario, first try your local Family History Center - most of them have these records on permanent loan, so you don't even have to order them.
Outside of Ontario, you still should be able to get them by inter-library loan on microfilm through your library or Family History Center. Here's how the films work: Records are indexed, and the indexes are on separate films, arranged first by year and then alphabetically by surname within the year. So you need to know the year and then the surname to order the index film. Once you find a record in the index, you will get a six-digit reference number to find the actual record. The index gives name, date, place and reference number.
Film numbers can be found on Bill Martin's sites as follows:
To order Vital Statistics from the Archives of Ontario, use the numbers given at this link
To order through your Family History Center, use these links: Births, Marriages, Deaths.
Research questions for the County Host
Q. Can you give me research advice?A. If you email the county host with a specific question, he or she will do his best to try to answer it, or to point you to someone else who can. Please limit this to questions pertaining to that host's county of interest. Also, please make sure that the answer to your question isn't right there on their county web page - hosts become frustrated when visitors email with questions which are answered by the web page. And when a host helps you, please take the time to say thank you!
Q. Can you look something up for me in a local library or archives?Maybe, maybe not. The thing is, very few county hosts actually live in the county they have the web page for. For example, I host the Perth County page and people email me asking if I will look things up at the Stratford-Perth Archives. This is a bit difficult since I don't live in Stratford! A county host's job requires knowledge of the local resources, but it does not require actually living in that area of Ontario (or in Ontario at all!).
Q. So, who can do this lookup for me?A. I know that we can't all afford to buy every single book out there, especially when we only need the index checked or one page photocopied. Each county page may have a lookups page. Also check the Ontario GenWeb lookups page and Helplist Canada.
If the book you need checked isn't listed on any of these pages, try posting on a mailing list or two to see if anyone out there has it. Please don't email the county host, who, believe it or not, doesn't have a list of who owns what books worldwide!
Q. Will you do my research for me?A. Errr... Probably not. Giving advice is one thing, doing the work for you is another matter. We hosts are all volunteers, and we all put a lot of time into our web pages, and it leaves us little time for research, even our own. We aren't allowed to accept money as a Canada GenWeb host (although some of us also work as professional researchers for pay), and most of us will not do extensive research for free. Some of us may offer to do lookups for free, but that is an offer. We are not obligated to do research for anyone, and many of us feel that by giving our free time to maintain the web site (and to put the information online in the first place) we are doing our part.
Q. But I really don't have time to do all this work. I just want something fast, and I don't mind paying for it.A. GenWeb hosts aren't allowed to accept payment, but we do have a list of Ontario Researchers who work for a fee.
The Trading Post is for people who will do some research in their area in exchange for some work they need done elsewhere.
Ontario GenWeb itself
Q. Who owns Ontario GenWeb? What about copyright?Copyright belongs to the county host who created the page.
Q. I really like these GenWeb pages!A. That's what hosts love to hear! Let us know by email, or let Sherri know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q. Can I help Ontario GenWeb?A. Absolutely! If you see a note saying Host needed on the county list, and you think you can do the job, we welcome you! There's more than just web-page hosts needed - Ontario GenWeb also needs typists, transcribers, and other types of volunteers. See the Volunteers Information Page. OGW also has projects such as the Census Project and the Vital Statistics Project, both of which need volunteers!
Enjoy your search for your Ontario roots!
If you have a Q & A to add, or a comment, please email me
But - If you're emailing me because of this FAQ, please say so, I have many other webpages and sometimes I don't know why people are emailing me!
About Perth County, Ontario
Welcome to Perth County GenWeb, your online guide to Perth County Genealogy since February 1998! I am Meg Fuller, Your Coordinator for this County site.
I hope you enjoy your visit. Please email me if you have any suggestions or contributions you would like to make.
I hope you find my efforts helpful in your research of your County roots. I am unable to do additional research on your family as I do not have direct access to records. I post everything I have for all to use.
Perth County is located in south-western Ontario in about the middle of the peninsula. There are many small towns and hamlets in this area, and the largest city is Stratford. Stratford currently has a population of about 30 000. This population swells in the summer tourist season! For the most part Perth County consists of rural agricultural land. The other major industry is tourism because of the Stratford Festival.
It is one of the few counties in South-Western Ontario that doesn't touch any of the Great Lakes. Because of its location, and distance from the Great Lakes, it was one of the last areas in Ontario to be settled. People who aren't familiar with Ontario often confuse it with Perth, a city in Lanark County. If it's Perth, Lanark County you're after, or if your reference just says Perth, here's a link to the Lanark County GenWeb. But it was nice of you to visit.