Gravenhurst is a town in the southern part of the District of Muskoka in Ontario, Canada.
Gravenhurst's economic prosperity stemmed from the construction of a colonization road in the 1850s. Steamboating on the Muskoka lakes began in the 1860s. The town is located strategically at the northern terminus of the Toronto, Simcoe and Muskoka Junction Railway. The town is positioned as the "Gateway to Muskoka".
Nearby Muldrew Lake was named after the lake's second cottager, Dr. William Hawthorne Muldrew. He was the principal of the first Gravenhurst high school in 1894. In 1901 he published a book called Sylvan Ontario, A Guide to Our Native Trees and Shrubs. It was the first book published on this subject in Ontario, and the drawings were his own. All the different types of trees and shrubs of Muskoka could be seen at the school, as he transplanted many of the specimens from Muldrew Lake.
In 1942 the Royal Norwegian Air Force started to move their training camp from Little Norway in Toronto to Muskoka airfield near Gravenhurst. The Norwegians remained in Gravenhurst almost to the end of World War II in 1945. From 1940 to 1946 Gravenhurst was the site of Camp XX, the Gravenhurst Internment Camp, for Nazi Prisoners of War, known locally as "the Muskoka officers club". Before the war it was the Calydor Sanitarium. After the war it was turned into a TB sanitarium, again, and later became a kosher resort called The Gateway.
Ontario GenWeb has a sketchmap of the original townships of Muskoka County.
The map of Muskoka County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, city, towns and villages of the county.
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