Oshawa (2011 population approximately 150,000) is a city in Ontario, Canada. It is located on the shore of Lake Ontario, approximately 60 kilometres east of downtown Toronto. It is commonly considered to be the eastern limits of two geographical regions of Ontario: the Greater Toronto Area, and the Golden Horseshoe which stretches around the western end of Lake Ontario to the international border at Niagara Falls. The name Oshawa originates from the Ojibwa term aazhaway, meaning "the crossing place" or just "(a)cross".
Oshawa was incorporated as a city in 1924 and thus governed independently from East Whitby Township which surrounded it. In 1974, as part of a major municipal reorganization involving the whole of the Counties of Ontario and Durham, Oshawa was amalgamated with all of East Whitby that lay outside its borders, with the new municipality continuing to be named The City of Oshawa. At the same time, almost all of Ontario County was transferred to Durham County. As a result, since 1974 Oshawa has been located in Durham County, Ontario, Canada.
The automobile industry, specifically the Canadian division of General Motors Company, known as General Motors Canada, has always been at the forefront of Oshawa's economy. Founded in 1876 as the McLaughlin Carriage Company, General Motors of Canada's headquarters and major assembly plants are located in the city.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Oshawa.
The following notes are condensed from an article in Wikipedia
Historians believe that the area that would become Oshawa began as a transfer point for the fur trade. Beaver and other animal pelts were trapped by local natives and traded with the coureurs des bois or voyageurs). Furs loaded onto canoes by the Mississauga Indians at the Oshawa harbour were transported to trading posts located to the west at the mouth of the Credit River in what is now Mississauga. Around 1760, the French constructed a trading post near the harbour location; this was abandoned after a few years, but its ruins provided shelter for the first residents of what later became Oshawa.
In the late 18th century a local resident, Roger Conant, started an export business shipping salmon to the United States. His success attracted further migration into the region.
A large number of the founding immigrants were United Empire Loyalists, who left the United States to live under British rule. These early settlers were offered grants of land in areas throughout southern Ontario. When Colonel Asa Danforth laid out his York-to-Kingston road, it passed through what would later become Oshawa. Later Irish and then French Canadian immigration increased as did industrialization. Oshawa and the surrounding Ontario County were also the settling grounds of a disproportionate number of 19th century Cornishmen from the furthest west county of England.
In 1822, Simcoe Street, a "colonization road" (a north-south road to facilitate settlement), was constructed. It more or less followed the path of an old native trail known as the Nonquon Road, and ran from the harbour to the area of Lake Scugog. This intersected the "Kingston Road" at what would become Oshawa's "Four Corners." In 1836, Edward Skae relocated his general store to the southeast corner of this intersection. As a result the growing settlement took on the name "Skae's Corners". In 1842, Skae, the postmaster, applied for official post office status, but was informed the community needed a better name. Moody Farewell was requested to ask his native acquaintances what they called the area; their reply was "Oshawa," which translates to "where we must leave our canoes." Thus, the name of Oshawa, one of the primary "motor cities" of Canada, has a name meaning "where we have to get out and walk!" The name "Oshawa" was adopted and the post office named accordingly. In 1849, the requirements for incorporation were eased, and Oshawa was incorporated as a village in 1850. The village became a town in 1879, in what was then called East Whitby Township.
The newly established village became an industrial centre, and implement works, tanneries, asheries and wagon factories opened (and often closed shortly after, as economic "panics" occurred regularly). In 1876, Robert Samuel McLaughlin moved his carriage works to Oshawa from Enniskillen to take advantage of its harbour and a not-too-distant rail link. His original two-story building, was soon expanded. Around 1890, the carriage works relocated from its Simcoe Street address to an unused furniture factory a couple of blocks to the northeast, and this remained its site until the building burnt in 1899. Offered assistance by the town, McLaughlin elected to stay in Oshawa, building a new factory across Mary Street from the old site.
In 1907 the McLaughlin Motor Car Company began to manufacture Buick automobiles under the McLaughlin name. This was the result of a contract between McLaughlin and "Billy" Durant of the newly-formed American firm General Motors. In 1915 the firm acquired the manufacturing rights to the Chevrolet brand. Within three years McLaughlin's firm and the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada merged, creating General Motors of Canada. McLaughlin became the head of this new operation and in 1918 a Director and Vice-President of General Motors Corporation (source: GM archives). His factory expanded rapidly, eventually covering several blocks.
The popularity of the automobile in the 1920s generated rapid expansion of Oshawa, which grew in population from 4,000 to 16,000 during this decade. Its land area also expanded. In 1924, Oshawa annexed the area to its south, including both the harbour and the community of Cedardale. This growth allowed Oshawa to seek incorporation as a city, which took place March 8, 1924.
Rail service had been provided in 1890 by the Oshawa Railway; this was originally set up as an electrically driven streetcar line for passengers. Around 1910 a second "freight line", also electrically driven, was built to the east of Simcoe Street. This line provided both streetcar and freight service, connecting central Oshawa with the Grand Trunk (now Canadian National) Railway, as well as the Canadian Northern (which ran through the very north of Oshawa) and the Canadian Pacific, built in 1912-13. Freight traffic fell after 1950 and most of the tracks were removed in 1963, one line into Oshawa remained until 2000.
In 1950, the city annexed a portion of East Whitby Township west of Park Road. Some of this area had been developed during the 1920s boom period, although it was not within the boundaries of the city proper.
The opening of what later became Highway 401, then known as Highway 2A, shortly after WW2 sparked further residential growth in Oshawa and the other lakeshore municipalities of Ontario County. This ultimately led to the creation of the Regional Municipality of Durham in 1974 in which Oshawa was amalgamated with the remaining portions of East Whitby Township and took on its present boundaries, which included the outlying villages of Columbus, Raglan and Kedron.
Much of Oshawa's industry has closed over the years; however, it is still the headquarters of GM Canada as well as its major manufacturing site. Current industries of note include manufacturing of railway maintenance equipment, mining equipment, steel fabrication, and rubber products. Oshawa is also recognized as an official port of entry for immigration and customs services.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Oshawa., subsection History
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
Some websites with more local information on Ontario County