Elmira in Ontario, Canada is the largest community within the Township of Woolwich in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo and is located to the north of the city of Waterloo. The community was listed as a population centre in the Canada 2011 Census, with a population of 9,931 living in the community.
While the land comprising Woolwich Township originally belonged to the Huron followed by the Mohawk Indians, the first settlers arrived in Woolwich Township in the late 18th century. In 1798, William Wallace was one of the first settlers in the area after he was deeded of land on the Grand River for a cost of $16,364. Originally Block three of Indian Lands, this area now comprises a large part of Woolwich Township. The parcel of land called "Woolwich' was named in honour of a government surveyor.
In 1806, Wallace sold the major portion of his tract to Mennonites. Benjamin Eby, the secretary of the Germany Company had come to the area, along with his friend Henry Brubacher. On a tour of exploration, the young men wandered into Wallace's Woolwich. Enamoured by the country, Eby formed a land company in Pennsylvania. The following year, he returned with a barrel of silver dollars, plus prospective settlers - the Musselmans, Martins, Hoffmans, and Gingerichs. Wallace sold the Germany Company of land at $1.00 an acre. On May 1, 1807, Eby received the deed and the release of the mortgage. Woolwich Township gained recognition as an official township in 1816.
In 1861, the Elmira House was erected as numerous artisans and merchants came to Elmira to earn a living. As a result, Elmira became known as an 'enterprising' community. In December 1886, Elmira entered a new chapter of its history with the incorporation of the settlement as a village by charter. At this date, the population of the newly incorporated village stood at 760 people. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Elmira acquired various cultural trappings, including a brass band (1873) and a library (1885), which boasted an initial membership of 20 people.
The Bandstand, located in Gore Park, is a reminder of the centre of entertainment in a small town in the early 20th century. It was built in 1912 by A.M. Bowman, from a design prepared by members of the Elmira Musical Society. On January 1, 1923, Elmira, with a population of 2500, became an incorporated town.
During the 1960s under contract with the U.S. government, Elmira's Uniroyal chemical plant (which changed its name to Crompton Company in 2001 and then to Chemtura in 2006) was one of seven manufacturers supplying the U.S. military with the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. Due to the poor disposal practices of the toxic waste associated with the manufacture of Agent Orange and other chemicals, contamination has seeped down to the aquifer in and around Elmira. This contamination, NDMA (N-nitrose dimethylamine), forced local water wells to close in 1990. Water is now delivered via a pipeline from Waterloo and other near local areas.
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