Fonds - Archives of Ontario - Ministry of Natural Resources fonds, RG 1-470

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Archives of Ontario - Ministry of Natural Resources fonds, RG 1-470

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  • Cartographic material

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  • 1793-1844 (Creation)
    Office of the Surveyor General for Upper Canada

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33 maps

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Administrative history

The Office of the Surveyor General for Upper Canada descended from the earlier position of Surveyor General for the Province of Quebec; with the passing of the Constitutional Act of 1791, this structure was kept for the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. The Surveyor General was responsible for surveying, maintaining, and selling Crown lands in the province (via land grants and leases), and would report to the Lieutenant-Governor and the Legislative Assembly. David William Smith was appointed at the first Surveyor General of Upper Canada in 1792, although surveying work had been done prior to this.

The physical act of surveying was a difficult one, and required a team of around eight to ten men per surveyor, including two chain bearers (used to determine measurements) and axemen to clear paths. The surveyors were required to keep both diaries and field books outlining their operations, and taking note of characteristics such as vegetation, soil type, topography, and the suitability of the land for agriculture. Upon the completion of a survey, the notes and other records were handed to the Office of the Surveyor General, where draftsmen or surveyors would assemble finished plans based on the material. The maps created by this office established a visual standard, including the use of coloured inks for specific areas (red ink for Crown reserves; black ink for Clergy reserves; blue for water; yellow-green for swamps) and the units of measurement.

Around 1827, the Surveyor General position was slowly superseded by the newly-created office of Commissioner for Crown Lands, and by 1845 the Surveyor General’s Office was fully integrated into the Department of Crown Lands. From that point on, surveying duties were done under a new branch, the Surveying Department of Canada West.

Custodial history

The Elgin County Archives is proud to participate in the Archives of Ontario's Digitization Loan Program, whereby qualifying archival institutions are granted permission to borrow and digitize original Archives of Ontario records and, under license, to publish and host the resulting digital archives online. The Elgin County Archives has now completed a project to digitize and publish online both the Archives of Ontario's Thomas Talbot fonds, F 501, and the Ministry of Natural Resources fonds, RG 1-470.

Scope and content

The Ministry of Natural Resources fonds consists of 33 large-scale plans (registered 1793-1844; incorporating annotations dating up to 1981) created by the Surveyor General’s Office documenting 23 townships along the north shore of Lake Erie. The plans show lot and concession numbers, major roads, First Nations settlements, mills, creeks, swamps, and local geographic information. Many maps contain an assortment of notes on specific geographic features and have settler names written in; others are blank. The maps were frequently used as working documents, and bear revisions and annotations dating years after their apparent creation.

Seven maps lack any sort of date; in these cases, the Archives of Ontario’s estimation has been used. In other cases, a map bears dates of annotation but no written date of registration; in these cases the date range of the annotations has been used as an approximate date.

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Archives of Ontario - Ministry of Natural Resources fonds, RG 1-470

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Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

The records digitized and made accessible through this program remain the exclusive property of the Archives of Ontario. Use of these records is for research and private study only. Requests for reproduction of the records must be directed to the Archives of Ontario:

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Due to their similarities in geography, scope, and time frame, the Archives of Ontario’s Thomas Talbot fonds and the Ministry of Natural Resources fonds have been published together as the Talbot Settlement and Survey Maps.

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