Cornwall is a city in eastern Ontario, Canada, and the seat of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Cornwall is Ontario's easternmost city, located on the Saint Lawrence River, in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor along Ontario Highway 401, and is the urban centre for surrounding communities, including Long Sault and Ingleside to the west, Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne to the south, St. Andrew's and Avonmore to the north, and Glen Walter, Martintown, Williamstown, and Lancaster to the east.
Cornwall lies on the 45th parallel, approximately southeast of Ottawa, the national capital, southwest of Montreal, Quebec's largest city, and northeast of Toronto, the provincial capital. It is named after the English Duchy of Cornwall; the city's coat of arms is based on that of the duchy with its colours reversed and the addition of a "royal tressure", a Scottish symbol of royalty.
Aboriginal peoples have lived in and around the area of present day Cornwall for millennia.
The first serious European settlement was established in 1784, by United Empire Loyalists, primarily from New York. Disbanded soldiers and their families began to settle at the site of Cornwall, then called New Johnstown.
They were led by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Johnson and were soldiers from the First Battalion King's Royal Regiment of New York and a contingent of the 84th Royal Highland Emigrants. Following the success of rebellious colonists in the American Revolution, the United Empire Loyalists (as they were later called) migrated to Canada. The British government helped them settle there in reward for their loyalty and compensation for their losses in the United States.
They founded a settlement on the site formerly called Pointe Maligne by French colonists and renamed it New Johnstown. It was later renamed Cornwall by the British for the Duke of Cornwall, by proclamation of Prince George, and in 1834 the town became one of the first incorporated municipalities in the British colony of Upper Canada. The construction of the Cornwall Canal between 1834 and 1842 accelerated the community's development into an industrial centre.
Situated west of Cornwall, along the St. Lawrence River, were several smaller communities. Now known as the Lost Villages, the communities were permanently flooded in 1958 by the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The massive Moses-Saunders Power Dam at the western end of the city required a reservoir, and the villages were flooded when it was filled.
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
Some websites with more local information on Stormont County