Chatham (2011 population 44,074) is the largest community in the modern municipality of Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada which was previously the county of Kent in southwestern Ontario. In 1998 Chatham, the administration of the county of Kent, and all its townships were merged into one administration that was named the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.
The former city of Chatham began as a naval dockyard in the 1790s, as it straddles the Thames River, just as does its namesake, Chatham in Kent, England. The town was named after the William Pitt (the Elder) who was the Earl of Chatham (in England) and the father of England's Prime Minister of the time, William Pitt, the Younger. Following the American Revolution and the Gnadenhutten Massacre, a group of Christian Munsee Indians settled in what is now Moraviantown.
During the 19th century, the area was part of the Underground Railroad. As a result, Chatham-Kent, the county, is now part of the African-Canadian Heritage Tour. Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site is a museum of the Dawn Settlement, established in 1841 by Josiah Henson near Dresden as refuge for the many slaves who escaped to Canada from the United States. John Brown, the abolitionist, planned his raid on the Harpers Ferry Virginia Arsenal in Chatham and recruited local men to participate in the raid. The small village of North Buxton, part of the African Canadian Heritage Tour, also played an important role in the Underground Railroad.
Wikipedia covers the sectors of Economy and Industry as it applies in the 21st century for the whole of the former county of Kent. Chatham's economy has a base in the agricultural and automotive sectors.
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