Brantford is a city in Brant County, Ontario located on the Grand River in southern Ontario, Canada. It was incorporated in 1877. While geographically surrounded by the County of Brant, the city is politically independent of the county.
It is called "the telephone city" because Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance telephone call from his summer home there. The Bell homestead is open to the public.
Until 1999 the County of Brant included 6 townships including one called Brantford Township.
The Iroquoian-speaking Attawandaron, known in English as the Neutral Nation, lived in the Grand River valley area before the 17th century; their main village and seat of the chief, Kandoucho, was identified by 19th-century historians as having been located on the Grand River where present-day Brantford developed. This town, like the rest of their settlements, was destroyed when the Iroquois declared war in 1650 over the fur trade and exterminated the Neutral nation.
In 1784, Captain Joseph Brant and the Six Nations Indians of the Iroquois Confederacy left New York State for Canada. As a reward for their loyalty to the British Crown, they were given a large land grant, referred to as the Haldimand Tract, on the Grand River. The original Mohawk settlement was on the south edge of the present-day city at a location favourable for landing canoes. Brant's crossing of the river gave the original name to the area: Brant's ford. By 1847, European settlers began to settle further up the river at a ford in the Grand River and named their village Brantford. The Mohawk Chapel, built in the original Mohawk settlement, is Ontario's oldest Protestant church. Brantford was incorporated as a city in 1877.
The history of the Brantford region from 1793 to 1920 is described at length in the book At The Forks of The Grand.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both the United States and Canadian governments encouraged education of First Nations children at Indian boarding schools, which were intended to teach them English and European-American ways and assimilate them to the majority cultures. These institutions in Western New York and Canada included the Thomas Indian School, Mohawk Institute Residential School (also known as Mohawk Manual Labour School and Mush Hole Indian Residential School) in Brantford, Southern Ontario, Haudenosaunee boarding school, and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Decades later and particularly since the late 20th century, numerous scholarly and artistic works have explored the detrimental effects of the schools in destroying Native cultures. Examples include: the film Unseen Tears: A Documentary on Boarding School Survivors, Ronald James Douglas' graduate thesis titled Documenting Ethnic Cleansing in North America: Creating Unseen Tears, and the Legacy of Hope Foundation's online media collection: "Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools".
Brantford's First Nations and European-Canadian development began in the 18th century with the arrival of the Six Nations tribes from New York State, and the later arrival of colonists and European immigrants. A number of historic monuments have been erected within the city marking those events and Brantford's contributions to the Commonwealth's defense of the realm.
Among the Anglo-Canadian residents were Alexander Graham Bell and his family, whose first residence in North America was a farmhouse on Tutela Heights (named after the First Nations tribe which settled the area and later absorbed into Brantford.) Bell invented the telephone here in July 1874, later building his first working model in Boston. He developed early improvements to it in 1876.
As part of the invention and development of the telephone, Canada's first telephone factory was built here, and the city was called "Brantford, The Telephone City". Associated with those events in the present day are the Bell family's museum home on Tutela Heights Road, Melville House, now called the Bell Homestead National Historic Site, and the Bell Telephone Memorial (below), dedicated by the Governor General of Canada in 1917 to mark the invention of the telephone in Brantford.
Brantford generated controversy in 2010 when its city council took the controversial step of expropriating and demolishing 41 historic downtown buildings on the south side of its main street, Colborne Street. These buildings constituted one of the longest blocks of pre-Confederation architecture in Canada. Included in the list of demolitions were one of Ontario's first grocery stores and an early 1890s office of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, now Bell Canada. This decision was highly controversial and was widely criticized by Ontario's heritage preservation community.
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 1915 are now available [October 2014]; 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, known to Canadians as "LAC". Copies of original microfilms are online at the LAC website for all censuses up to 1911. Each census database is preceded with an explanation of the geographical area covered, the amount of material retained (some census division material has been lost), the questions on the census form, and whether there is a name index. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited. The 1921 census is only available through Ancestry.ca, but it is free-to-view.
E-books and Books
Brant County additional sources