After the American Revolution, several thousand families came to settle in the western part of Quebec, later called Upper Canada, then Canada West and today Ontario. These settlers were former members of American Loyalist regiments, discharged British and German servicemen, and some civilians and refugees. They were offered grants of 200 acres of land on condition that they take an oath of allegiance and remain loyal to the British regime. The military and Loyalist arrivals who had come earlier received larger grants, generally in relation to their services to the Crown, their rank or status, and family size.
All settlers received certificates showing the location of the lots on which they were to clear land and build houses. First, however, it was necessary to establish who had the right to obtain title deeds, and in 1796 a proclamation was issued that required Loyalists and others to surrender their certificates in exchange for title deeds and to make a statement under oath in the district court as to their right to hold them.
Subsequently, thousands of settlers appeared before the magistrates in district courts throughout Upper Canada. The magistrates provided additional information in the records, which have been preserved in the National Archives of Canada and are usually called the District Loyalist Rolls of 1796. These rolls have been carefully transcribed for the first time by Dr. E. Keith Fitzgerald, who has supplemented the 4,000 entries with further data from his own research. Details supplied by the settlers, the magistrates, and by Dr. Fitzgerald now provide a rich source of information on the early inhabitants of Ontario. Some entries show, for example, relationships, deaths, military service, maiden names of married women, and remarriage of widows.
The author of Loyalist Lists, published in 1984 by the Ontario Genealogical Society, Dr. Fitzgerald points out that these important rolls are undoubtedly the initial source of the Old United Empire Loyalists List, and while both books appear to have a common core, it is not surprising that they complement each other.