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Dr. William Canniff Papers

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Records of the Bay of Quinte

Why I am interested in these papers
Thanks to Shirley Sutherland for letting me know about the Canniff Papers while researching the McArthur family. Shirley sent me her transcription of Mrs Maybee's story and my curiosity grew. Canniff captured many interesting stories around 1865 while interviewing elders.
Below are transcriptions of interviews and other items relating wonderful stories of social history of the early Quinte days and genealogical bits as well.


Use these links to go to transcriptions of selected pages from various folders

COMMENT about the Canniff Papers
Dr. William Canniff wrote the well known book, History of the Settlement of Upper Canada, published in 1869. The William Canniff Fonds at the Archives of Ontario is comprised of about 50 cm of papers in file folders from his active life. It includes papers for the above book, speech notes, papers for his later book titled The Medical Profession in Upper Canada, 1783-1850, letters relating to the UEL Association and other items.

A number of folders have pages of interviews with elderly people in the Quinte area about their recollections of the early days in Upper Canada. These include stories that they heard from their parents and grandparents. Generally Canniff made note of the date of the interview, name of the person, their age, where born, etc. The interviews were done from 1864 to 1866 and the people range from 50 to 80+ years of age thus born between 1790 and 1810.

Canniff used the stories as material for his book and either related the whole story or blended it in with other stories to make a point about some aspect of early life. The genealogical material in these notes did not always make it into the book.

Canniff's various manuscripts and loose pages are notes made in haste during interviews. They were never intended for publication and thus his punctuation, spelling and paragraphing is rough as one would expect. The transcription adds some punctuation and paragraphing to make the text easier to read. However archaic spelling is left to give a taste of the times. It is clear that his objective in interviewing the elders was to learn their stories about the early days of loyalist experience. For example, we hear stories about the "hungry year" of 1789 a number of times from each family's perspective. Capt John W. Meyers also gets a lot of attention.

Thanks to Carm Foster and Doug Smith for doing much of the transcription work.

Source: Dr William Canniff Fonds, F1390, Archives of Ontario, transcribed from the original folders, also at the archives, MS 768 (3 films). The Lennox and Addington Museum has a set of the films.



GLOSSARY of some terms used in these notes.
Many elders refer to the townships as 3rd town or 4th town, etc.
1st town - Kingston
2nd town - Ernestown (Bath)\
3rd town - Fredericksburgh
4th town - Adolphustown
5th town - Marysburgh
6th town - Sophiasburgh
7th town - Ameliasburgh
8th town - Sidney
9th town - Thurlow

The "Head of the bay" generally refers to Carrying Place in Ameliasburgh Township where travellers could portage between the Bay of Quinte and Wellers Bay in Lake Ontario. It may also refer to the mouth of the Trent River which is about one mile from the portage.

Capt. John W. Meyers is frequently mentioned in the interviews and the surname is most often spelled Myers, sometimes Miers and rarely Meyers.