Original Correspondence : Canada (CO 42) : 1760-1823, 1840.

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .G7C6C3C6
Category: Great Britain
Creator: Great Britain. Colonial Office.
Description: 43 microfilm textual records (107 volumes) ; 35 mm
            Most of the documents, save the very early years which derive from the Board of Trade and its predecessors and successors, came under the purview of the Secretary of State responsible for the colonies.  The organization and arrangement of Colonial Office records was simple, yet utilitarian. The papers were first arranged by geographical area after which they were subdivided internally by type of record.  The usual groupings were:  Correspondence (in-letters), Entry Books (out-letters), Acts, Sessional Papers, Government Gazettes, and Miscellanea.  Colonial Office 42 is the designation assigned to correspondence (in-letters) from Canada.

The correspondence includes despatches from governors or other senior officials responsible for administering the colonial government, as well as interdepartmental and private communications. These despatches were being sent from Canada to the Colonial Office in Great Britain. In general, the arrangement is chronological by date of issue, or at times, by date of receipt for the in-letters. The internal arrangement of documents in Colonial Office 42 reflects the political development of Canada, i.e. Volumes 1-88 relate chiefly to Quebec (1750-1791); Volumes 89-315 concern Lower Canada (1791-1840); Volumes 316-476 pertain to Upper Canada (1791-1841); Volumes 477-661, the Province of Canada (1841-1866); and Volumes 662-1045, the Dominion of Canada (1867-1922).


Online: All or some of the documents have been digitised; see Finding Aid section.

The Loyalist Collection holds some, not all, of the records from Colonial Office 42, specifically: volumes 1-51, 315 (Quebec, Lower Canada 1750-1787, 1840); and volumes 315-370 (Upper Canada, 1791-1823). The correspondence includes despatches from senior officials, located in present day Ontario and Quebec, to the Colonial Office in Britain.

Due to the administrative nature of this collection, there is a wide variety of topics found within the despatches. Some of the main subjects includue trade, natives, religion, transportation (eg. navigation and roads), land, fisheries (eg. Labrador and protection of), mining, law (eg. administration of justice), the west (eg. Illinois country, expeditions, exploration, land), natives, military (eg. American revolution, militia, events, troops, administration, fortifications, navy), manufacturing, government (eg. Quebec Act, Legislative Assembly, constitution) and war (eg. Pontiac's War, loyalists, Machias, invasion, prisoners, negotiations).

Detailed Contents:

Information on trade focuses on both imports (such as molasses) and exports (such as lumber), as well as, the fur trade, natives, upper country, free trade with Vermont, liquor, correspondence with the Board of Trade, mercantilism (primarily in relation to French Canadians and natives), smuggling, wheat sales, distilleries, etc. Records relating to land concern, for example, boundary lines with America, surveys, the Seigniorial system, land settlements or claims pertaining to loyalists, reaction to immigration, Native land claims, land grants such as New Hampshire grants, plantations, etc. Religious aspects include the appointment of clergy and bishops (both Catholic and Anglican), the reaction of the Catholic Church to British rule, the establishment of the Church of England, the Jesuits and their struggle for survival in Quebec after British rule, ecclesiastical affairs, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Moravian group Unitas Fractum,s mission in Labrador. (Researchers interested in the study of religion should see "Religion in CO 42" in the Electronic Finding Aid section below.) Also included in these records is the British reaction towards the Acadians in the 1750’s.

One of the most prominent topics in these records is the government’s interaction with the native population through the Department of Indian Affairs. Documents include correspondence with Joseph Brant (Mohawk Chief) and Sir John Johnson (Indian department official); documents regarding meetings between native groups, trade, native settlements, and disputes/conflicts. Some groups noted in these documents are the Mi'kmaq (Micmac), Six Nations, Mohawk, Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee. Particular focus is put on the disputes between native groups and America after the American Revolution.

Note - CO 42 volume numbers in this collection are from the originals and differ from the transcripts at Libraries and Archives Canada known as “Q” Series. If you are using a finding aid which lists the “Q” volume, please see the microfilm shelf list and conversion chart located with the Electronic Finding Aid section (below).

Archival Ref. No.: TNA CO 42/1-51, 315-370; LAC MG 11, CO 42 for the "Q" series transcripts.
Finding Aids:
            Reminder:  Loyalist Collection holds the originals; Library and Archives Canada holds transcripts of the originals, arrangement differs between the two.

Finding Aids include:
  • Some or all the documents are digitally available and searchable: Canadiana.org.
  • Online: Report on Canadian Archives (HIL-Gov FN45 R426) contains abstracted document listings (calendars), chronologically arranged for the transcripts (Q Series). Original book volumes are not indexed. Available online at archive.org and hathitrust.org. Report for 1890 has Q1 to Q57 (Canada) Report for 1891 has Q58 to Q84 (Lower Canada); Q278-290 (Upper Canada) Report for 1892 has Q85 to Q106 (Lower Canada); Q291 to 310 (Upper Canada) Report for 1893 has Q107 to Q124 (Lower Canada); Q311 to Q317 (Upper Canada) The "Q" Series volumes in The Loyalist Collection are vols. 1-28 (matching the originals, vols. 24-51) and vols. 277-333 (matching our volumes 315-370). See Conversion List below to correlate the "Q" Series volumes, the volumes for the originals in The Loyalist Collection, the corresponding reel numbers and Report.
  • Guide to the Documents in the Manuscript Room at the Public Archives of Canada (HIL-MICGDL CD3626 .P37 vol. 1) provides an overview and brief description of each "Q" volume, pp. 99-161, noting the principal subjects and correspondents. Includes an index.
  • Nominal Index to "Q" Series transcripts provides dates, to whom addressed, places and volume numbers; includes some subjects. It's a separate reel shelved at the end of this collection.
  • Conversion List and Microfilm Shelf List, see below for link.
Electronic Finding Aid Record: CO 42 Conversion List.pdf
Religion in CO 42. Focus on Quebec (Lower Canada) 1760-87.pdf
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