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A Stab at Chancery Court Records

In contrast to the last couple of posts, where I’ve attempted to lead you step by step through a set of records, this time I’m writing about records that mystify me. I can’t give you a straightforward route into them, because I haven’t found one. I have used chancery court records, and I’ve been lucky to find printed extracts of the few cases I’ve looked for—because those cases set precedents and the legal community needed to know about them. But there is so much more!

Ontario’s Court of Chancery was formed in 1837 and continued until it was merged into the Supreme Court of Judicature in 1881. It settled disputes about things like real estate, trusts, inheritance, dower, alimony, the care of infants (ie: everyone under 21) and mentally incompetent individuals, and fraud, particularly connected with real estate transactions or bankruptcy. If you think about that list of subjects, you can see the potential for family history information—rich little deposits of sworn, notarized, and largely undiscovered genealogy gold.

The records of the Court of Chancery are at the Archives of Ontario. There is one group of records that are identified by the surnames of the parties involved in the Archives Descriptive Database. That is RG 22-409 Equity Civil Suits Case Files. Knowing that it might be worth seeking out a still very generic “Smith v Jones” is the tricky part.

Most files contain at least two items, a detailed “Bill of Complaint” from the plaintiff and an “Answer” from the defendant. There may also be supporting affidavits and other documentation.

Equity civil suits case file, Newburn vs Newburn, RG-22-409, file 179/1874, Archives of Ontario

Equity civil suits case file, Newburn vs Newburn, RG-22-409, file 179/1874, Archives of Ontario

For example, file 179/1874 Newburn v Newburn, tells of a son John who emigrated from Ireland to Canada, and lost touch with his family for many years. He eventually visits his two sisters, also in Canada, and decides to visit his father John back in Castlefield, Co. Sligo. From there the father’s version of the story is at odds with the son’s, but the property in Ireland was transferred to the son and sold. Son, father, and father’s new wife all sailed for Canada. Whether the proceeds of the sale belonged to the father or the son was the question, but the file provides names, married names, and locations of all parties in Canada, a timeline for the family’s emigration, and a location in Ireland. Conveniently, they even argued about the numbers of pigs and cows.

Affidavit by Dr. Uzziel Ogden

Affidavit by Dr. Uzziel Ogden, Equity civil suit case file, Ince vs King, RG 22-409, file 188/1874, Archives of Ontario

File 188/1874 Ince v King, is a complaint by Thomas Henry Ince, a barrister who lived on Roxbrough Street in Rosedale. Ince claimed that noxious smells and water pollution from Joseph King’s nearby glue factory were making it impossible for his family to enjoy their home. Ince produced affidavits from a number of doctors and local officials, and King countered with just as many from neighbours and employees, saying that the factory didn’t make them sick. The detailed descriptions of their homes in relation to the factory are a unique resource. Turns out a number of open cesspools were the more likely cause of the stench.

Sketch map of Rosedale

Sketch map of Rosedale showing King’s factory on the west side of Yonge Street (100 yards from Thomas Ince’s home), cesspools to the east, and Yorkville Creek to the south. Equity civil suit case file, Ince vs King, RG 22-409, file 188/1874, Archives of Ontario

Bill of complaint, Ford vs Beasley

Bill of complaint, Equity civil suit case file, Ford vs Beasley, RG 22-409, file 208/1874, Archives of Ontario

File 208/1874 Ford v Beasley is an action by Keziah Eliza Ford, a widow from Hamilton, against family members Thomas and Sophia Beasley and George Burton. She makes a claim for a portion of a trust set up by her late brother Richard to care for his wife and daughters. Only one daughter, Agnes, survives and she is a “lunatic”. The file states the family connections, dates of death for Richard and his family, and details Agnes’ condition.

There are some 4100 case files in this series. They are not microfilmed and are stored offsite, so you will need to order them a day or two in advance of your visit to the Archives of Ontario.

Archives of Ontario box 109503

Archives of Ontario box 109503

The entry for RG 22-409 in the Archives Descriptive Database links to an online list of records, but they must be browsed page by page. Instead of using the list, I recommend searching for your surnames of interest in the Archives Descriptive Database at the “Advanced Search” level. Select “Files and Items” and narrow the results by entering RG 22-409 in the Archival Reference Code field.

It is a bit of a stab in the dark—but it could be very worthwhile.

To give you a taste of the genealogical treasures to be found, I’ve extracted the main names and summarized the “matters” for one box of files in the table below—some 68 cases of the 4100 in the series.

RG 22-409 Equity Civil Suits Case Files: Box 109503 (© Jane E. MacNamara)

File/ Year Complainant/plaintiff Defendant Matter
177/1874 James Stratton Barwick, Jane Crawford Barwick, Frederick Drew Barwick, Agnes Margaret Cameron (née Barwick) Hugh C. Barwick Failure to distribute the proceeds of the sale of a lot in Blanford Township
178/1874 Andrew Norton Buell Isabella Liscombe, executor of the estate of Margaret Watson (deceased) Mortgage debt on several lots in the Town of Whitby
179/1874 John Newburn the elder John Newburn the younger Dispute over the proceeds of the sale of John the elder’s property in Castlefield, County Sligo, Ireland, before his emigration to Canada
180/1874 Canada Permanent Building and Savings Society John Leech and heirs of James Leech: Mary Ann (widow, now married to William Thompson), infants William, James, Henry, Thomas, David, Emma, and Mary Ann Mortgage debt on property in Manvers Township
181/1874 Alexander Leith William Bell and his wife Margaret Mortgage debt on property in Lindsay
182/1874 John Bain, barrister of Toronto George Mearns and the Hon. John Simpson Concerns the will of James Mearns of Darlington Twp, who died in 1845.
183/1874 Michael Scanlan, tinsmith of Toronto Elizabeth Coxwell, spinster of Toronto Mortgage debt on property on Alice Street, Toronto
184/1874 Charles W. Lount of Bracebridge Clarkson Jones Failure to provide accounts for the sale of properties in Flos, Innisfil, Medonte, Mono, Mulmer, Tay, Tiny, Nottawasaga, and Oro townships
185/1874 Royal Canadian Bank William Martin of Cartwright Twp., and his wife Mary Mortgage debt on property in Cartwright Twp.
186/1874 Royal Canadian Bank Mary Martin of Cartwright Twp Mortgage dept on property in Cartwright Twp.
187/1874 Benjamin Halleck of Meaford James Beattie Powell of Elizabethtown, his wife Anna, their son Robert Beattie Powell of New York City, and Edward C.K. Garvey Fraudulent deal to exchange Halleck’s land in Elizabethtown for Garvey’s land in the United States (which never materialized)
188/1874(two fat files) Thomas Henry Ince of Yorkville Joseph King of Yorkville Noxious smells and water pollution from King’s glue factory (many affidavits from neighbours, physicians, local officials)
188b/1874 Charles Stanhope Watson and Samuel Waddell John James Mason assignee of Edward and George Magill of Hamilton Seeking the court’s opinion about the distribution of funds from bankrupt hardware merchants
189/1874 Frederick E. Seymore aka E.F. Seymore Robert Brown Mortgage debt on property in Tilsonburg
190/1874 Charles Baillie of Montreal Abraham Blazey Dispute over ownership of property in Percy Twp involved in the bankruptcy of the hardware store of Benjamin Franklin Lewis and Jasper Terwilligar in Warkworth
191/1874 Robert K. Chisholm of Oakville Kate T. Sumner and husband William C. Sumner Mortgage debt on property in Owen Sound
192/1874 Thomas Cowdry of Toronto, physician John Bethune McKinnon and George Stevenson Dispute over the sale and cutting of timber on property in Moore Twp
193/1874 Hannah Roe Woodward, widow of Cholmley Woodward, of Oro Twp. William Hueston of Howick Twp. and his wife Mary Mortgage debt on property in Howick Twp.
194/1874 Annie Bowes, widow, of Toronto Arthur Todd of Yorkville Mortgage debt on property in Yorkville
195/1874 James Breakenridge McLean of Elizabethtown, farmer Wellington Shepherd McLean (his son) Dispute over assignment of a mortgage on land in Elizabethtown purchased from William Franklin Coleman
196/1874 Josiah Barker Rogers of Aurora Ann Ransom Mortgage debt on property in the Village of Aurora
197/1874 Michael Daintry Cruso of Cobourg Thomas Armstrong Winton Gordon of Fergus and his wife Elspeth Georgina Gordon Mortgage debt on two properties in Fergus
198/1874 Donald Alexander McArthur of the Village of Alexandria, merchant Albert L Catlin, William R Hibbard, Alexander Cameron, and the Montreal and City of Ottawa Junction Railway Company Recovery of money advanced to pay workers while the railway line was built near Alexandria
199/1874 Mary Ann Sullivan, widow of Brighton Twp., and infants  John, James, Mary Ellen, Daniel, Michael, Elizabeth Ann, and Patrick Sullivan Levi Fairbanks the younger of Whitby, auctioneer Agreement to purchase of property in Brighton Twp.
200/1874 Charles Alexander Switzer, bookkeeper of Toronto Thomas Simpson Completion of an agreement to purchase property on Vanauley St., Toronto
201/1874 John Edward Rose of Toronto Thomas Mulholland, William Richards, Harriet Richards, Susannah Carter, George Washington Carter, Sarah Richards, James Burkett Mortgage debt on a property on Vaughan Rd. in York Twp., purchased by the Connexional Society of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada
202/1874 David Galbraith, merchant, of Toronto Frederick Schwarz, tobacco manufacturer, Hamilton Claim on Hugh Wallace’s portion from the proceeds of the recent dissolution of the partnership of Schwarz & Wallace
203/1874 Albert Boltwood Wright and John Charles Fitch, merchants of Toronto Peter Bordean or Bordeau of Haldimand County and his wife Nancy Bordean Allegation that Bordean transferred land in Village of Canfield to his wife to protect it from a judgment in the Court of Common Pleas
204/1874 William Chaplin of St. Catharines, and Edward Jones of Toronto and Welland Vale Manufacturing Company William Henry Rodden and his son William Albert Rodden Claim that the patent for a “balloon tine” hay fork invented by Rodden was purchased from the trustees in bankruptcy
205/1874 Edward Blong of Toronto James McMullen Mortgage debt on property in Arthur Twp.
206/1874 Thomas Douglas Ledyard of Toronto William Blackwood of Montreal, and Alfred Francis Wright of Toronto Sale of land in Prince Arthurs Landing, Thunder Bay District
207/1874 William Purdy, contractor, of Toronto John Harvey Seeking his share of profits in dissolved partnership for work on the Provincial Lunatic Asylum and the American Hotel
208/1874 Keziah Eliza Ford, widow, of Hamilton Thomas Beasley, Sophia Beasley, George William Burton Claim on the residue of a trust set up by her brother Richard George Beasley of Hamilton, which provided for his wife and daughters, now all dead. The last surviving daughter, Agnes, had been a lunatic and the file included details of her condition.
209/1874 William T Munro of Toronto Norman and Donald McInnis Request that a bankruptcy discharge for a dry goods merchant in Walkerton be set aside because a piece of property in West Hawkesbury Twp. was transferred to the owner’s brother keep it off the list of assets
210/1874 Clarkson Jones and Hon. Adam Crooks Neil Campbell of Stayner, baker Mortgage debt on a property in the Village of Stayner
210a/1874210b/1874(two files) Thomas Burke of Niagara and Donald Milloy Donald Milloy of Toronto, executor of the will of Nicol Milloy Debt collection case transferred from the Court of Common Pleas after the death of original defendant Nicol Milloy
211/1874 William Griffith of Toronto, merchant James Watson Henderson Mortgage debt on a property in Artemesia Twp.
212/1874 Elizabeth Beatty of Toronto, married woman Luke Beatty her husband Requesting alimony and child support. Includes a list of his considerable assets
213/ 1874 Joab Scales of Toronto Thomas Alison Sale of land on Wellington Street, Toronto
214/1874 Janet Douglas, widow of Toronto Twp., William J. Montgomery and Jessie Montgomery of Etobicoke Matthew Campbell Mortgage debt on a property in Harwick Twp.
215/1874 Peter Raymer of Markham Twp. Mary Raymer, Henry and Esther Robson, George and Matilda Eckardt, Samuel and Hannah Shank, Colin D. and Elizabeth Reesor, Andrew and Susan Reesor, Christina Raymer (widow of John Noble Raymer), her children Annie Raymer, Albert Reesor Raymer, Ida H. Raymer, Fanny A. Ramer, E. Naomi Raymer, Franklin H. Raymer, and Ira S. Raymer Division of the property of the late Martin Raymer in Nottawasaga Twp. (100 acres). The plaintiff and defendants are all entitled to a share. The plaintiff wants the land sold and the proceeds divided.
216/1874 James Park of Toronto, merchant, and Alexander Shields of Malton, executors of James Shields John Kerr, assignee of insolvent Robert Fowles Mortgage debt on property at Queen and Portland in Toronto
217/1874 John Conn of Bracebridge Warring Kennedy and Thomas McMurray Collection of the purchase price of land sold to McMurray which he has transferred to Kennedy
218/1874 Dr. Alexander Hamilton of Barrie, and Rev. Abraham James Broughall of Toronto, and James Beaty of Toronto Henry William Cuff Mortgage debt on property on Jarvis St., and a leasehold water lot, both in Toronto
219/1874 John Gordon of Goderich Twp. Donald Fraser and Donald Bruce the younger Dispute over timber rights and subletting of leased land in Goderich Twp.
220/1874 Managers of the Ministers Widows and Orphans Fund of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada John Wurtle Marston, David Buchan, John O’Brian, Peter O’Brian, trustees of the Presbyterian Congregation of L’Orignal Mortgage debt on the church property in L’Orignal
221/1874 Alexander Manning of Toronto Cyrus Johnston, William F. Johnston, Walter Sanderson, David Preston, Margaret Jessie Dupont, Charles L. Dupont, Sarah Johnston, Mary Agnes Johnston, Collins H. Johnston, Melinda Johnston, Talitha C. Johnston, George W. Johnston (the last six infants under 21) Mortgage debt on Campment d’Ors Island, near St. Joseph Island (1,260 acres). Island was granted to James Walker in 1861. Mortgage was originally held by Lawrence Heyden.
222/1874 Nicol Kingsmill of Toronto Niven Agnew and his sister-in-law Catherine Agnew Removal of a “fraudulent” mortgage held by Catherine Agnew on Niven Agnew’s property  in Village of Delaware, Caradoc Twp., so a lien can be placed on the property
223/1874 Margaret Ramsay Munro widow of Galt, Mary Richie Logie widow of Hamilton, Susan Leaming Hamilton widow of Galt William Lynn Smart, Eleanor Herbert Mary Charlotte Smart, John Alder Newton Smart, William Catherinus Gregory Smart (the last three infants under 21) Division of property in Hamilton bequeathed in the will of Mary Crooks (mother of the plaintiffs). Defendants are widower and children of another daughter of Mary Crooks.
224/1874 William Barclay McMurrich of Toronto Thomas Beatty, hotel keeper of York Twp. Mortgage debt on a 13-acre property in York Twp. (mortgage was part of a trust for Eliza Ann Helliwell, held by Thomas and George Taylor and William Mills Morse)
225/1874 John C. Secord of Niagara Twp. John Lees Alma Dispute over payment of mortgage principal for property in Niagara Twp. to Alma and whether he was mentally capable of discharging the mortgage.
226/1874 Alexander Smith of Toronto, labourer Mary Carruthers and John Carruthers, Horace Thorne, James J. Foy Recovery of debt of deceased William Carruthers from sale of property on Oak St. in Toronto.
227/1874 Thomas Monkhouse of Pickering, merchant Walter Forsyth of Whitchurch Twp Mortgage debt on property in Whitchurch Twp., assigned by Emma Forsyth of Uxbridge
228/1874 Robert W. Johnstone of the Village of Prince Albert, Reach Twp., gentleman Mary M. Huckins and husband John M. Huckins, bookkeeper of Port Perry Mortgage debt on property in Port Perry
229/1874 John Manly of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and Allan McQuarrie of Sault St Marie, Michigan, explorer Thomas Ryan, Scott and Thomas Ryan the younger Recovery of property purchased in the name of Thomas Ryan in McDonald Twp, Algoma District in trust for the defendants
230/1874 Trust and Loan Company of Canada Adam Lloyd of Rawdon Twp., gentleman Mortgage debt on a property in Rawdon Twp.
231/1874 James B. Boustead of Toronto Margaret Brown of Toronto, administratrix of the estate of her husband Charles Brown of Saint John, New Brunswick Seeking Charles W. Brown’s portion of his father’s estate as part of the bankruptcy of C.W.’s failed wine and spirit merchant business
232/1874 John Strathy of Toronto Janet Wilson (widow of Joseph Wison), William George McLean Wilson, Thomas Gallo Wilson, Janet Elizabeth Wilson, Joseph Silverthorn Wilson (the last 4 are infants under 21) Mortgage debt on property on Vanauley St., Toronto
233/1874 Leo Noecker, Jacob L, Eidt, Adam Johnston William Murray, miller, of the Village of Mildmay, Bruce County Dispute of Murray’s right to raise his dam beyond height the 12-foot limit on title
234/1874 Elizabeth McDermott, wife of John McDermott of Town of Mara Peter John O’Connor, John McDermott, Bridget O’Connor, Mary Ann O’Connor, Margaret O’Connor (last 3 are infants under 21) Dispute over the estate of Elizabeth’s father John O’Connor of Medonte Twp. The defendants are her siblings.
235/1874 Clarence W. Moberly of Toronto, civil engineer Edward King Dodds and Ernest Peel Recovery of debt owed to building contractor Richard Dinnis (and assigned to Moberly) for work done at Carleton Park Race Course
236/1874 George Brewster of Orangeville, and other creditors David Ellis and his wife Sarah Ann Ellis Claiming property in Orangeville, fraudulently transferred to Sarah Ann, when David Ellis absconded to the United States.
237/1874 William H. Howland of Toronto, merchant Archibald Currie Mortgage debt on property in Sunnidale Twp.
238/1874 John Brown, farmer, and William Coe, gentleman, both of Madoc Twp. John Beck of Buffalo, NY, mining captain and John Maule Machar of Kingston, barrister Removal of a “cloud” on the title of a property in Marmora Twp. caused by an agreement to sell subject to mineral rights
239/1874 James Moran of Toronto, cabman Margaret Stock of Toronto Dispute over the “pestilential waters and fluids” from Margaret’s cow shed that flow into Moran’s cellar. They lived side by side on Mutual St. in Toronto.
240/1874 Northern Extension Railways Company George Robinson, North Orillia Twp. Dispute over sale of land for the construction of railway station at Severn River
241/1874 Sarah Harper, wife of defendant.
Plus separate suit by Jane Harper of King Twp., widow
William Harper Recovery of alimony due to Sarah, and tells of her abuse. Jane Harper’s suit is for mortgage debt on property in King Twp.
242/1874 Margaret McMurray of Edwardsburgh Twp., widow of John James McMurray (son of the plaintiff) Dispute over the discharge of a mortgage on property sold to James by his late father John in Edwardsburgh and South Gower Twps., and Margaret’s dower rights to the land
243/1874 Erie and Niagara Railway Company Great Western Railway Company Dispute over the use of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, and a station in the Village of Clifton. Includes affidavits of David H. Thomas (yard master, New York), Henry Edward Osgood (passenger agent, Detroit), Andrew H. Trew  (Tonawanda, civil engineer), James Angus (chief engineer, St. Thomas), William Henry Perry (Buffalo), William Alexander Thomson (Niagara Twp., director), William Moss Kasson (Buffalo, land valuator), Louis Dedrich Rucker (Grosse Isle, Michigan, railway manager), Charles William Winslow (accountant, St. Thomas), Thomas Wilson

© Jane E. MacNamara

3 comments to A Stab at Chancery Court Records

  • Ada Sloan

    Margaret McMurray of Edwardsburgh Twp., widow of John.

    James McMurray (son of the plaintiff)

    Dispute over the discharge of a mortgage on property sold to James by his late father John in Edwardsburgh and South Gower Twps., and Margaret’s dower rights to the land

  • Ada Sloan

    Margaret McMurrays was my 2nd great-grandmother, looking for her maiden name and place of birth, also year of immigration.

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