Niagara-on-the-Lake is an independently incorporated town geographically located in the former Niagara Township in Lincoln County in southern Ontario. Niagara-on-the-Lake has been amalgamated with Niagara Township and the entire township is now called Niagara-on-the-Lake. The change took place in 1970 when the regional municipality was created.
Niagara-on-the-Lake (Cayuga: Tganawai:ˀ) (2011 population 15,400) is a Canadian town located in Southern Ontario where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in the Niagara Region of the southern part of the province of Ontario. It is located across the Niagara River from Youngstown, New York, USA. It is also the only town in Canada that has a Lord Mayor.
The settlement, known from about 1781 as Butlersburg, in honour of Colonel John Butler, the commander of Butler's Rangers, was renamed West Niagara to distinguish it from Fort Niagara. It was a British military base and haven for pro-British loyalists fleeing the United States during the volatile aftermath of the American Revolution. Renamed Newark by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792, he made it the first capital of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario), The first provincial parliament was convened at the Navy Hall on September 17, 1792. Due to Newark's close proximity to the American border, Simcoe moved the capital in 1797 to York and Newark was officially renamed 'Niagara' in 1798.
Niagara played a central role in the War of 1812. Niagara was taken by American forces after a two day bombardment by cannons from Fort Niagara and the American Fleet, followed by a fierce battle. Later in the war the town was razed and burnt to the ground by American soldiers as they withdrew to Fort Niagara. Undaunted by this setback, often referred to as the "burning of Newark," the citizens rebuilt the town after the war, with the residential quarter around Queen Street and toward King Street, where the new Court House was rebuilt out of firing range of the cannons of Fort Niagara. In 1859 the town built its first public school, Niagara Public School.
The town's present name was adopted around 1880 as a Postal Address to distinguish the town from Niagara Falls. The name was not officially adopted until 1970, when the Town of Niagara and the Township of Niagara were merged.
Most of the former military sites, such as Fort George, Navy Hall, and Butler's Barracks, have been restored. Fort George's restoration was done as a "Make Work Project", guided by plans from the Royal Engineers, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, an early example of historic preservation. Fort George National Historic Site is a focal point in a collection of War of 1812 sites which, collectively, are managed by Parks Canada under the name Niagara National Historic Sites. That administrative name includes several national historic sites: Fort Mississauga, Mississauga Point Lighthouse (1804, the first on the Great Lakes), Navy Hall, Butler's Barracks, and Queenston Heights.
Other significant sites in NOTL:
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 Lincoln County