NOTE: One should not confuse Perth County with the town of Perth in Lanark County.
Perth County is a county in the Canadian province of Ontario, in the southwestern section of the province, 100 kilometres or 62 miles west of Toronto. The county seat is at Stratford. It encompasses 548,179 acres (856.53 sq mi; 2,218.40 km2). 90% of the county's land is classified as "prime agricultural (Classes 1, 2, and 3)". According to the 2011 census, the population of Perth County was 75,112.
Originally Perth County was part of the Huron Tract, an area owned by the Canada Company. The company sold land to settlers (as opposed to the government who gave free grants) and preference was given to those who would make good farmers or who were tradesmen or members of the professions. The population 15,545 in 1852.
The county was named for Perthshire in Scotland where the first settlers of the Easthope townships had emigrated from. Most of the early settlers were German, followed closely by British emigrants.
Since the restructuring of the county's municipalities on 1 January 1998, it is comprised of:
Perth County was mainly settled through the agency of the Canada Company which opened a road from the site of Stratford to Goderich. It was officially created in January 1850 out of the former Huron and Wellington Districts and had 11 original townships:
Over time, another four additional towns were incorporated as urban municipalities: St. Marys, Mitchell, Listowel and Milverton.
The map of Perth 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 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 Perth County