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Getting around Canada: Townships and concession roads

In most of Ontario and southern Quebec, the land is nicely divided into squares and grids of roads. This was done by the British Army’s Royal Engineers in the 1800s to ensure that the newcomers would be able to find their “land grants” easily.

The modern secondary (country) roads reflect that orderly system to this day. If you look at the maps, you will immediately see the magic that this really is. Every township has a checker board appearance from the air, and it is really easy to find a location such as, say, “10th sideroad, lot 12, of Caledon Township”, if you know how it works.

And of course every farm and every rural house in Ontario has a big reflective number sign by the entrance lane that identifies it at night in an emergency. So if somebody says that they live at Number 12,990 Heritage Road, find the road, then find the number and you are there. This applies anywhere in the whole Province of Ontario, with a population of 13 million people.

The term “concession road” refers to the original land holder having had a concession, or a commission in the British Army. My ancestors, although Irish, had all served in the British Army, prior to coming to Canada, so they got 120 acres each, free, and all they had to do was build a 20-foot square cabin, within two years, to be the certified owner of that land. Of course that was not easy, as the trees that they had to cut down were about 150 to 200 feet high and as much as 12 feet around at the ground. This was virgin forest, never cut before.

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