Etobicoke (with a silent 'ke') is a former municipality within the western part of the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. First populated by First Nations, and then settled by European immigrants in the 1790s, the municipality grew into city status in the 20th century. Several independent villages and towns developed within the area of Etobicoke, including Mimico, only to be later absorbed into Etobicoke during the era of Metro Toronto. Etobicoke itself was dissolved in 1998, when it was amalgamated with other Metro Toronto municipalities into the city of Toronto. Etobicoke is bordered on the south by Lake Ontario, on the east by the Humber River, on the west by Etobicoke Creek, the city of Mississauga and Toronto Pearson International Airport (though a small portion of the airport extends into Etobicoke) and on the north by Steeles Avenue West.
Today, Etobicoke's population (347,948 in 2011) is very diverse, with people from all over the world including Europeans, Asians, Middle Easterners, West Indians, Africans and South Asians. Etobicoke is still primarily suburban in development, with a lower population density than central Toronto, larger main streets, shopping malls and cul-de-sac housing developments. Etobicoke has several expressways within its borders, including the Queen Elizabeth Way, Gardiner Expressway, Ontario Highway 427, Ontario Highway 401 and Ontario Highway 409. Etobicoke is connected to the rest of Toronto by the Bloor-Danforth subway, which has its western terminus at Kipling Avenue. Etobicoke has one post-secondary institution: Humber College, which has two campuses.
Etobicoke is marked on this sketchmap of modern-day Toronto. The three Lakeshore Towns of Mimico, New Toronto and Long Branch are included within its boundaries--the map reflects the period 1967-1998.
Different groups of First Nations peoples used the land that is now Etobicoke at different times. As the Algonquins gradually moved west from the Atlantic to Lake Erie, it is almost certain that they would have occupied this land at some point. By the time they were mostly settled on the shores of Georgian Bay, The Huron-Wendat were the primary residents of the north shore of Lake Ontario and, somewhere in the 17th century, they were pushed out by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people. After continued harassment from the south, a coalition of the Ojibway, Odawa and Potawatomi Algonquin nations, known as the Three Fires, gradually pushed the Haudenosaunee off this land and the Mississaugas settled there by 1695, fishing and growing crops more locally in the summer and hunting further afield in the winter.
The name "Etobicoke" was derived from the Mississauga word wah-do-be-kang (wadoopikaang), meaning "place where the alders grow", which was used to describe the area between Etobicoke Creek and the Humber River. The first provincial land surveyor, Augustus Jones, also spelled it as "ato-be-coake". Etobicoke was finally adopted as the official name in 1795 on the direction of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.
Etobicoke was intended by the British to be included in the Toronto Purchase of 1787. However, whether the western boundary of the purchase was the Humber River or the Etobicoke River (now, Etobicoke Creek) was disputed. The Mississauga Indians allowed British surveyor Alexander Aitkin to survey the disputed land, and the British paid an additional 10 shillings for the purchase, although the purchase was never formally agreed to. The dispute was eventually settled between the Government of Canada and the Mississaugas in 2010.
Settlers began to move in from Britain. Early settlers included many of the Queen's Rangers, who were given land in the area by Simcoe to help protect the new capital of Upper Canada. In 1793-95, the Honourable Samuel Smith, a colonel in the Queen's Rangers, received land grants of , extending from today's Kipling Avenue to Etobicoke Creek, and north to Bloor Street. The first land patent was issued to Sergeant Patrick Mealey on March 18, 1797 for a plot on the west side of Royal York Road on Lake Ontario. This was part of the First Military Tract, or "Militia Lands", which extended from today's Royal York Road to Kipling Avenue, south from Bloor Street. More land was granted the members of the Queen's Rangers in the First Military tract, but most Rangers did not occupy their land and many sold their acreage to others after a short time.
The census of 1805 counted 84 people in the township of Etobicoke. In 1806 William Cooper built a grist mill and saw mill on the west bank of the Humber river, just south of Dundas Street. The 1809 census counted 137 residents. The Dundas Street bridge opened in 1816, making the township more accessible.
On May 18, 1846 the Albion Road Company was incorporated. Its purpose was to build and maintain a road to the north-west corner of Etobicoke, where a new community was planned. At the same time, John Grubb, who had already founded Thistletown, hired land surveyor John Stoughton Dennis to plan a community at the intersection of Islington Avenue and Albion Road, to be named Saint Andrew's. Plan 6 for this community was registered on October 15, 1847. The French master of Upper Canada College, Jean du Petit Pont de la Haye, contracted land surveyor James McCallum Jr to create a plan for the community planned by the Albion Road Company, and Plan 28 was registered for Claireville on October 12, 1849.
In 1911, the community of Mimico was incorporated on land taken from Etobicoke township. New Toronto was incorporated on January 1, 1913. Early on there was talk of merging Mimico and New Toronto. A 1916 referendum on amalgamating the two communities was approved by the residents of Mimico, but rejected by residents of New Toronto. In 1917, Mimico became a town and in 1920, New Toronto became the Town of New Toronto. Long Branch was incorporated in 1930 as a village.
In 1954, Etobicoke Township became a part of the newly formed regional government, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto ("Metro"). In 1967, the township of Etobicoke was merged with three small lakeside municipalities — the Village of Long Branch, the Town of New Toronto, and the Town of Mimico — to form the Borough of Etobicoke. The borough was reincorporated as a city in 1984. In 1998, six local municipalities (including Etobicoke) and the Metropolitan Toronto government merged to form the amalgamated city of Toronto.
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
Websites with more local information on the City of Toronto