Lucan Biddulph is an incorporated township in the Canadian province of Ontario. It was formed on January 1, 1999, by amalgamating the Village of Lucan with Biddulph Township. The township had a population of 4,338 people in the Canada 2011 Census, and covers an area of 168.76 km² of land within Middlesex County.
The land in the area is almost entirely agricultural, with relatively fertile soils used for crops (grains, tobacco) and livestock. Many of the township's residents are employed in farming and related industries.
The map of Middlesex County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual townships, city, towns and villages of the county. (Click at the bottom of the page to see the map enlarged.)
A sketchmap from Ontario GenWeb provides a simple illustration of the location of the townships.
The Township of Biddulph was surveyed by agents of the Canada Company in 1830. The township took its name from John Biddulph, one of the earliest directors of the Canada Company.
Until its incorporation in 1872, the village of Lucan had been known as Marystown, named in tribute to the wife of John McDonald, who was the original land surveyor of the area. When a duplicate Marystown was found to have already registered with the Post Office the name Lucan was put forth and accepted by the postal authorities. Lucan was named in tribute to Lord Lucan, a prominent landowner in Ireland.
The Underground Railroad
In 1829 despite being more than 500 km (310 mi) to the north, Biddulph became a refuge for a group of freed slaves from Cincinnati, Ohio who were under threat of being re-enslaved, as a result of the Black Codes in Ohio. This group of roughly 200 disenfranchised Blacks were granted refuge and land by the Canada Company and duly set up a colony named Wilberforce. This was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, slave refuge colony in Upper Canada and existed 30 years before emancipation. This was one of many flights of Blacks northward into Canada beginning around this time which came to be known as The Underground Railroad.
Most of the Blacks came from city life and did not adapt well to the harsh farming environment. Large lots of land were cleared (logged) and efforts were made to sustain the colony, but much of it dwindled through the 1840s and many of the original colonists moved on to larger, growing urban centres such as Detroit, Cleveland or Toronto to obtain wage-based employment. A small number remained on to work the land through subsequent generations.
The area was then further logged and settled by whites, many from Ireland, some of whom purchased farmsteads from the departing Blacks or new lots sold to them cheaply by the Canada Company. Nowadays less than 40 descendants of the ancestorial Blacks remain.
Late 19th Century Advances
After this time, about 1850, the majority of the township's landholders were Irish Catholics, a large number originating from then-meagre farming lands in County Tipperary, Ireland.
An important railway route belonging to the Grand Trunk Railway opened in 1856, passing through the village. The village and surrounding township prospered as a result of quicker access to larger marketplaces, such as Toronto farther to the east, and new immigrants settling the area.
The Donnelly Massacre
Biddulph Township is also known for being the site of the brutal massacre of five of the Black Donnellys, an immigrant Irish family caught up in a long-standing local feud. The massacre occurred on 4 February 1880. This story has been written about many times and is etched into the criminal history of rural Ontario and is also known throughout the rest of Canada and the United States.
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
Websites with more local information on Middlesex County