Altona is now a ghost town located in Pickering, Ontario, at Sideline 30 and the Pickering-Uxbridge Town Line. It is just east of Whitchurch-Stouffville in York Region.
In 2010 the Canadian government put forward a plan for a second international airport in the Greater Toronto Area. Under the current plan, the approach for one of the three landing strips for the Pickering Airport would be directly over the former hamlet of Altona, with planes descending at an elevation of approximately 300 metres.
Today, the churches, school, store (former hotel) and homes remain, but all have been expropriated and most boarded up while the planning stages for the new airport continue.
Altona was founded by ethnic Swiss-German Mennonites who had migrated from Pennsylvania in the United States, and named after Altona, now a borough of Hamburg, Germany. The first flour and saw mills in Altona were built by Abraham Reesor, son of Peter Reesor and a nephew to Abraham Stouffer, in 1850, on Lot 30, Concession 9, a short distance south of the Uxbridge-Pickering Townline. In the same year, Joseph Monkhouse built a general store and William Cooper an inn.
In 1852, the Altona Mennonite Meeting House was erected, constructed by area Mennonite settlers. The bricks were made at the Cherrywood brick yard. Local families included the Barkeys, Reesors, Widemans, Nighswanders, Hoovers and Stouffers. The first grave is dated 1835. The founder of Stouffville, Abraham Stouffer and his wife Elizabeth Reesor Stouffer, are buried here.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1834; in 1856 there were 256 inhabitants, "unable to read and write, about 30%." By 1869 the hamlet had 200 residents and a regular stage coach to Stouffville and Toronto. In 1910 there was still a daily stage to Stouffville, but Altona's population had fallen to only 100 people. A house still remaining is the "Old Barkey Home," built in 1856 by the Mennonite farmer and preacher Daniel Barkey.
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