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A Short History Lesson to help you navigate through Durham County Records
Old Durham County had 6 townships... Darlington, Clarke and Hope along the "front", and Cartwright, Manvers and Cavan along the "back".
Doing research in Old Durham County can be pretty tricky - Old Durham doesn't exist anymore! Let me explain.....
In 1974 the Region of Durham was formed. The townships were not kept together. Darlington and Clarke were kept, but more on that in a minute. Cartwright was kept, but was amalgamated with the old Ontario County townships, and became part of Scugog Township along with Scugog Island. Hope Township was sold to Northumberland County, Manvers Township was sold to Victoria County, and Cavan Township was sold to Peterborough County.
At that time, Darlington and Clarke townships were amalgamated into one municipal area, and was called Newcastle, due in part to the importance of Newcastle in the early days as a commercial centre, in part to the old name of the local school district (which went as far east as Port Hope) and in part to the old judicial and ecclesiastical districts that stretched east to the Bay of Quinte.
Today, records from the early days of both townships are housed in the Sarah Jane Williams Heritage Centre at Bowmanville, part of the Clarington Museums and Archives. This is an amalgamation of all the heritage organizations in Clarington, along with an affiliation with the Newcastle Historical Society, whose history room in the Newcastle Village Community Centre is chuck-full of documents, photos, artifacts, memorabilia, etc.
Other Old Durham townships had their share of problems too, and today it is often difficult to find exactly where the old records were housed when the division took place in 1974, or shortly thereafter. Enquiries at the Municipal offices in Port Perry found that some people thought the old Cartwright records were deposited at the registry office in Bowmanville, while others said they had gone directly to Bowmanville Town Hall for storage. Neither suggestion is true. No one knows where the old Cartwright records went. Some old records that had been in private hands, such as diaries, can be found at the Scugog Shores Museum Village on Scugog Island. These, along with their photo archive and census microfilm help to fill in a few blanks in Cartwright's history, as do the books about the Township written prior to 1974 when records were known and available.
A note to update you: There has been a new facility built at Port Perry to house the archives and historical documents, as the old school on Scugog Island was not suitable for storing these valuable records. To contact the new archives building please get in touch with the Scugog Shores Historical Society or e-mail: Scugog Shores Heritage Centre
Scugog Shores Heritage Centre & Archives click their name to go to their website
1655 Reach Street, Port Perry, Ontario L9L 1P2
Those who have roots in Hope Township can count yourselves very lucky indeed, as the bulk of records for that township, as well as Port Hope, are housed in a few places within the town - the library, in their very nice history room, the Port Hope Archives (formerly the Ganaraska Region Archive), the Municipality of Port Hope Historical Society who operate Dorothy's House Museum in Garden Hill. Private researchers like Peter and Barbara Bolton have volunteered many, many hours to the researching, transcribing and publishing of the township records and family stories and many of these are on-line.
Manvers was sold to Victoria County and the records were housed at the Victoria County Historical Society premises in the Provincial building at Lindsay. There was a small museum there, but they had little room for displaying the vast amount of documentation they retained. I used to ask at the main desk for the material I wanted and they would fetch it to me for transcription. That facility is now gone and apparently the material is housed in the Lindsay library in the history room on the second floor. I have not had occasion to look for very many records from that area lately, so do not know if their holdings are very extensive. However, they are very helpful, knowledgeable, and the collection I HAVE seen is very interesting and helpful. Land records are held at the Registry Office in the Provincial building on Kent St., Lindsay. Manvers township also had/has an Historical Society, though I do not know at this time if they are still meeting, as I have not heard from them in a very long while. If they are still in existence, they operate a small museum in the original post office at Bethany.
The records for Cavan Township have been spread around. The Millbrook and Cavan Historical Society used to look after quite a few of them, however, their storage facility is now inadequate in size to house anything very substantial. Most of their collection is now housed at the Bata Library Archive, Trent University. The Trent Valley Archives on Carnegie Ave in Peterborough have a very large Cavan content, and some material may well be found in the Kawartha Archives held at the Delafosse Library on Park St., S. Old Cavan Township has now been amalgamated with South Monaghan Township and is called Cavan-Monaghan Township.
Trent University also houses a massive archive that covers much of the Trent River Valley System counties, and this includes documents for the old Durham townships too. These documents are housed in the Bata Library Archives, and the archivist is very helpful and knowledgable. The collection includes some of the very first census conducted prior to 1820, as well as old assessment books, family papers, land and legal documents, gazetteers, etc.
For books about old Durham, go to publishing company, Lynn Michael-John Associates pages.
Scugog Shores Heritage Centre & Archives then click "contact us" for a web form e-mail
Smith Ennismore Historical Society - many early settlers from the "front" received grants for their children in places other than old Durham. People like Squire Fletcher, who married most, if not all the people on Durhams First Marriage Register (see bits and pieces) acquired many thousands of acres "in the Peterborough area". His children and grandchildren settled there and it is highly possible that some of your own old Durham settlers went there too. SEHS has a very good database and is willing to share.
Sher Leetooze if you have a query
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