Map of Dufferin Co provided by Dufferin County GenWeb showing cemeteries and historic communities.
The archeological record in Dufferin County dates indigenous occupation of the area to the "early Paleo-Indian" time period from 9000 to 8400 BCE. What eventually became Orangeville and Dufferin County, was historically the traditional territory of the Tionontati or Petún (Tobaco) People. "The Petun occupied from eight to ten villages located below the Niagara Escarpment along the southwest margin of Georgian Bay". Although described in the Encyclopædia Britannica as "living in the mountains south of Nottawasaga Bay, in what are now Grey and Simcoe counties", according to Sawden's "A History of Dufferin County" the Petún also lived farther south at the source of the Grand River in Dufferin County.
The Petún were decimated by European diseases in 1630s, going from a population of approximately 8000 to 3000, and were subsequently attacked by the Iroquois in December of 1649 further reducing their numbers to fewer than 1000. They then fled along with other Huron peoples into the United States, while other Petún sought refuge with their French allies and settled in Quebec. This Iroqouis attack was not exclusive to the Petún, but was a part of the Beaver Wars, in which the Iroquois sought to expand their territory and monopolize the fur trade, the trade between European markets, and the trade between tribes of the Great Lakes region.
After the decimation and dispersal of the Huron, Petún, and Neutral people of southern Ontario, Algonkian peoples from northern Ontario moved into the area at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, while members of the Three Fires Confederacy (Chippewa, Odawa, Potawatomi) moved into southern Ontario from Ohio and Michigan in the late 1700s. During the pre-confederation Treaty era, Anishinaabe or Chippewa First Nations signed Treaty #18 on Oct 17th, 1818, which included the Dufferin County area. Today, the descendants of Petún call themselves Wyandotte, and despite the 350 years since their displacement from southern Ontario, and despite the heteroglot and diasporic nature of their contemporary communities (located in Oklahoma, Michigan, Kansas, and Quebec), they continue to recognize their shared history and are united through a modern day Wyandotte Confederacy.
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
Dufferin Ontario GenWeb provides a valuable variety of references, including transcribed indexes to most BMDs.