Patterns and Determinants of Wealth among Probated Decedents in Wentworth County, Ontario, 1872-1902


  • Livio Di Matteo
  • Peter George


A micro-data set, comprised of 405 decedents in Wentworth County, Ontario, between 1872 and 1902, was constructed from probate, census, and tax assessment records. The data are analysed for evidence pertaining to patterns of wealth-holding and to various issues in the social and economic history of late Victorian Ontario. In general, wealth increased among decedents who were female, native-born, rural dwellers, Catholic, farmers, and of high occupational status. The average wealth of decedents who were urban dwellers, of low occupational status, and Protestant decreased. The analysis indicates the presence of two motives for saving: to provide bequests for children and to save for an independent old age, without the need to rely on children for support. This suggests that a transition was taking place in Wentworth County from an old-age security system based on family obligations to one based on market relationships.