Researching Land Records in Ontario

Land records have been an important resource in documenting the history of the Fleming families in Derby Township, Grey County. The most useful record has been the “abstract index to deeds” adopted in the land record offices in 1865. The abstract is a summary of the transaction showing dates, instrument number, transaction type, lot and concession, acres, grantor and grantee, dollar amount. Transaction codes indicate “bargain and sale,” mortgage received, discharge of mortgage, release, grant, and other events. In a nutshell it shows the history of the changes in ownership and financing arrangements, and sometimes the disposal of an estate. For further detail, it was sometimes necessary to find the memorialization of the deed or transfer by the instrument number in the copybook for the township or locate the original document.

Previously, researchers had to go to the county land registry office or Archives of Ontario. Today the Ontario Land Registry Access (OnLand) website provides online access to digital images of the index pages. This posting is a short guide for searching that service.

Land records are organized by concession and lot. In our case, we knew the concession and lot numbers of the properties Alexander Fleming bought in 1847 and 1858. Another source for this information are farmers’ directories – especially the Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Grey  1865-6 (Toronto: W W Smith, 1865)

In this example, we are looking for the history of “Forest Lawn” on the north half of Lot 9 Concession 6. James Fleming obtained the lot from his father in 1853 and during his lifetime developed it into an estate of orchards and gardens. Continue reading

Home to Perthshire: July 11 – July 23, 1903

After a long day’s journey across Scotland, Roy Fleming, his Aunt Jennie, his Uncle James and his cousin Minnie arrived in Dunkeld, Perthshire, 11 July 1903.

We land at Dunkeld 8:10+. Bella and Jeannie Smith are there to meet us. Send our grips down to Mrs. Duff’s with Mr. Fisher, and we six walk down and call at Smith’s house where we are welcomed. [From Roy’s Journal]

The Smiths were relatives on the Stewart side – Roy’s father’s mother. Jean Stewart’s sister Margaret married Alexander Robertson, and their daughter Elizabeth married Hugh Smith. Roy said of Elizabeth – “Mrs Smith is very much like Aunt Jessie [Jessie Agnew]– inclined perhaps to be a little more jokey.” Bella and Jeannie, delightful young women of 26 and 24 years, were Mrs. Smith’s (Elizabeth’s) daughters – Jeannie was a bookkeeper and Bella “a 1st assistant in P.O and a telegraph operator”. Roy later praised Bella to his cousin C.A. Fleming in Owen Sound as “handsome, clever and bright” and “the most genteel person” he met in Scotland. (Perhaps Roy was smitten.)(1)  Tom and Andrew, who are often mentioned in the journal, were young men of 25 and 21 years, both employed as blacksmiths. (There were three other daughters: Margaret, Jessie, and Elizabeth). (2)

The next day, the Flemings joined the Smith family at the Sunday service in the Dunkeld Cathedral, and repaired to the Smiths afterwards. They would spend the next ten days, until July 23, touring old family haunts, visiting relatives and friends, walking the hills of Perthshire, and absorbing every moment.

Dunkeld Bridge, July 1903, photo taken by Roy Fleming
Dunkeld Bridge over the Tay River, photo taken by Roy Fleming, July 1903 (Fleming Family Papers)

They were staying at Mrs. Duff’s on Atholl Street in Dunkeld. During their stay, James told the story that when he was a schoolboy he had been egged on to fight Duff – he refused until Duff called him a coward. Later Mrs. Duff, rather than scolding James, gave him “a piece of head cheese and oat bannock and asked him not to hurt her boy anymore.” Might this family have been related to the “young Duff” James had known?

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Touring Robbie Burns’ Country

Previous blog postings introduced The Trip of a Lifetime that the Flemings took in 1903 to the British Isles and Europe and described their ocean voyage on the R.M.S. Tunisian. In this posting, we follow them in their pilgrimage to Ayrshire, land of Robbie Burns; a quick trip to Belfast; and a tour through Loch Lomand and the Trossachs. Many thrills lay ahead for Roy, his cousin Minnie, their Aunt Jennie, and James (Minnie’s father, Jennie’s brother), as they visited places they had read about in literature and Scottish histories.

They travelled at a pace so dauntingly fast it would challenge young people today, let alone more senior-aged travellers like Jennie and James. On arrival in Liverpool, July 6, 1903, the Flemings moved quickly, taking a cab to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Station on Lime Street in the centre of town. Not a moment to waste, they visited St George’s Hall and Walker’s Art Gallery (where they noted the statues of Michelangelo and Raphael at the entrance), before boarding the London and North Western Railway to head north to Robbie Burns’ country. With their luggage – we hope they were travelling light – they changed trains in Carlisle to the Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle Railway, which passed through Gretna Green (famous for “runaway marriages”), and arrived in Dumfries at 7 pm that evening. After finding their hotel – the Palmer’s Temperance Hotel – and seemingly energized, they went for a walk around town – for Dumfries was where Robert Burns had lived his last three years.

Palmer's Temperance Hotel, Dumfries
Palmer’s Temperance Hotel, Dumfries

Jennie found Dumfries a “beautiful clean city – streets so pretty and clean and situated on the Nigh River.” They came upon the Globe Inn where Burns used to drink. Jennie did not dare to enter, but Roy and James did and James, sitting in Burn’s chair, sang a stanza of “Willie brewed a peck o’ malt”. They made their way through narrow, crooked streets to 16 Burns Street where Mrs. Brown, Burns’s granddaughter, showed them the house in which he had died in 1796.

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Trip of a Lifetime: Introduction

jennie-fleming-1935-passport
Jennie Fleming – Passport photo – c 1903

Nearly sixty years to the day that the Fleming family arrived in Quebec City from Glasgow, Scotland, Jennie Fleming, with her nephew Roy Fleming, her older brother James Fleming, and his daughter Minnie, boarded a steamer in Montreal bound for Liverpool, England.

Roy-Fleming-NewYork-1906-050.tif
Roy Fleming in New York City, 1906

They were embarking on an eight-week trip through the British Isles and Europe that included a pilgrimage to their homeland in Perthshire. Roy had proposed the trip to his family in October of 1902 and they decided at Christmas. They must have been very busy over the next few months deciding on itinerary, arranging accommodations, and contacting family in Scotland.

It was Friday, June 26 1903. Their ship was the passenger liner R.M.S. Tunisian, built in 1900 for the Allan line. They were comfortably settled in two second-class cabins, the men in one with two other cabin mates, and the women in another across the passageway. James, who had been only a boy of thirteen when his parents Alexander and Jean emigrated from Perthshire Scotland with their children, must have remarked more than once on the luxury of the modern steamer with its dining saloons and decks compared to the cramped and harsh conditions of the Jeannie Deans, the wooden three-masted barque that had brought them to Canada.

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Birth, Marriages, and Deaths

Much can be learned from the announcements in newspapers for births, marriages, and deaths. For  marriages, in addition to the names of married couple, the  location, and name of the presiding minister,  the notice might mention the number of guests and names of attendants.  Birth notices were much less informative – limited in most cases to the father’s name, the date, and the gender.  Obituaries vary widely, from a sparse  statement of  name, date, place, to more effusive ones with a brief biography and names of immediate family.

For the Fleming families of Derby Township and Owen Sound we turn to the papers published in Owen Sound from 1850 onward.  Thankfully, the Bruce and Grey Branch Ontario Genealogy Society has transcribed these announcements to CD ROMs that may be purchased from the branch or may be viewed at the Toronto Public Library, the Owen Sound Public Library, and perhaps others.  [Price list: https://brucegrey.ogs.on.ca/?page_id=62 ] Continue reading

Derby Township Assessment Rolls

In investigating the lives of our ancestors much can be inferred from the tax assessment rolls.  In researching the Flemings of Derby Township we can see  acquisition of acreage, clearance of forests for pasture and crops, and the growing value in real property. Five of Alexander’s sons (James, John, Alexander II, Donald, and Charles), and his son-in-law (James Agnew)  became established as farmers. William, the sixth son, left his farm and moved to Owen Sound in the early 1880s.

Assessment rolls were completed annually by the township in order to determine taxes payable by its residents.

Assessment rolls are used to record information about a resident’s property in order to determine the amount of taxes payable on real property.  The following information is recorded: land and building value; status as residence or business, religion (for school taxation purposes), age, and occupation of head of household and number of people living on the property.  Other information is collected from time to time reflecting local or provincial requirements. [Source: Finding Municipal Record, Research Guide 209, Archives of Ontario]

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