Ajax came into being in 1941 and in 2006 had a population of 90,167. It was located in Pickering Township, Ontario County until 1974. In that year Ontario County merged with part of Durham County as the Regional Municipality of Durham. It is located approximately 25km east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario.
The town is named for the HMS Ajax, a Royal Navy cruiser that served in World War II.
Before the Second World War, the territory in which Ajax is situated was a rural part of the township of Pickering. The town itself was first established in 1941 when a Defence Industries Limited (D.I.L.) shell plant was constructed and a townsite grew around the plant. By 1945 the plant had filled 40 million shells; employed over 9,000 people at peak production; boasted of its own water and sewage treatment plants; a school population of over 600; of railroad and of roads. The entire D.I.L. plant site included some . People came from all over Canada to work at D.I.L.
The burgeoning community received its name in honour of the first significant British naval victory of the war. From December 13 to December 19, 1939, a flotilla of British warships—HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles—commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood—engaged and routed the powerful German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate, near the Uruguayan port of Montevideo in South America. Ajax was chosen as the name of this war-born community.
After the war, the University of Toronto leased much of the D.I.L. plant to house the flood of newly discharged soldiers who had enrolled as engineering students. War machines were moved out and the buildings were converted to classrooms and laboratories. By 1949, the last year of the University of Toronto, Ajax Division, some 7,000 engineering students had received their basic training there.
Following the departure of the University of Toronto, the town's growth was largely due to the vision of George W. Finley of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Ajax became a planned modern community using the wartime base for its post-war foundation.
From 1941 to 1950, Ajax had no local municipal government of its own. In 1950, as a result of a petition, the community became the Corporation of the Improvement District of Ajax with three trustees appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. By 1953, the desire for full and active participation by its citizens in an elected council and school board was strong. The Ajax Citizens' Association, formed by many civic-minded persons, presented a brief to the Ontario Municipal Board urging that the Improvement District of Ajax become the Corporation of the Town of Ajax. The Municipal Board approved this step, and on December 13, 1954, the people elected the first Town Council and the first Public School Board.
On June 22, 1973, the Ontario Legislature enacted Bill 162 to amalgamate the Town of Ajax and the Village of Pickering and annex certain portions of the Township of Pickering to the Town of Ajax, as part of the creation of the new Durham Region; this also included the remote lakeside Town of Pickering Beach. The Region and Town both officially came into being on January 1, 1974.
Today, Ajax has a busy downtown, but plans are underway to begin construction on the Ajax city center (ACC) what is now a rundown low rise industrial and commercial area in Ajax along Harwood Avenue, and Bayly street will soon become a large Urban modern area, with high rise condos, office towers, malls, squares, and mixed use areas along landscaped streets. Projects such as Pat Bayly Square are already underway.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books
All documents relating to people and families in the period up to 1974 continue to be found in files relating to Ontario County. However, the local branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society is called Durham Region Branch.