Oxford County is a regional municipality of the Canadian province of Ontario, located in the southwestern portion of the province. The regional seat is in Woodstock. Oxford County has functioned as a regional municipality since 2001, despite still containing the word county in its official title.
Current Subdivisions or Municipalities
Since becoming a regional municipality, Oxford is separated into the following municipalities
In 1788, the Hesse District was established within Upper Canada covering the territory of what is today southwestern Ontario. Four years later it became the Western District with the establishment of Norfolk County which included the territory of present-day Oxford County. In 1793, Abraham Canfield a United Empire Loyalist from Connecticut, settled in the "Township of Oxford on the Thames". In 1798, these lands were included into a new London District. The Brock District, containing the Oxford County territory, was then split off from the London District in 1840, after Upper Canada had been replaced by the Canada West portion of the Province of Canada governance.
The boundaries of Oxford county for most of its existence were established in 1850 with the implementation of the Baldwin Act. In 1855, Norwich Township in the county's southeast was divided into North and South townships to accommodate significant population levels in that area. Except for this adjustment, the township boundaries within the county remained intact until the late 20th century.
On 1 January 1975, major revisions to Oxford County's structure took effect when the townships were reduced to the current five under an amalgamation. Three urban municipalities also remained, namely Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and Woodstock. Today's county boundaries also show slight adjustments to include the urban areas of Tavistock in the north and of Tillsonburg in the south.
The map of Oxford County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, towns and villages of the county.
A sketchmap from Ontario GenWeb provides a simple illustration of the location of the former townships.
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 Oxford County