The list of "Contained Places" shown here includes communities and townships that have been part of Durham County only since 1974 (before that they were part of Ontario County). Provincial records for events that occurred in these places prior to that time will be filed in Archives under county "Ontario".
This drawing from Wikipedia shows the municipalities of Durham Region. It can be compared with a similar map from Ontario GenWeb illustrating Durham County prior to 1974.
Durham County was created in 1792. It was composed of the townships of Cartwright, Manvers, Cavan, Darlington, Clarke and Hope, and portions of what is now Peterborough County, created in 1838. It was united administratively with Northumberland County as the United Counties of Northumberland and Durham from 1850 until Durham County was dissolved on January 1, 1974.
Effective January 1, 1974, about half of Durham County was merged with Ontario County to create the Regional Municipality of Durham. The township of Manvers was transferred to Victoria County, which is now the city of Kawartha Lakes, Cavan was transferred to Peterborough County, where it is now part of Cavan-Monaghan, and Hope was transferred to Northumberland County, where it is now part of the town of Port Hope.
The townships of Darlington and Clarke were amalgamated with the Town of Bowmanville and the Village of Newcastle as the Town of Newcastle, and the township of Cartwright was combined with the Ontario County townships of Scugog and Reach to create a new Township of Scugog. In 1993, Newcastle was renamed Clarington.
Most genealogical research will oblige checking the records of the former Durham County and the original townships within the boundaries of those counties. However, records of events after 1974 will be found under The Regional Municipality of Durham. Locally held records for the municipality will be found at its seat of administration:the Town of Whitby
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 Durham County