NOTE: In 1974 Port Hope and the surrounding Township of Hope were separated off from Durham and transferred to [Place:Northumberland, Ontario, Canada|Northumberland County]]. At this point they were independently incorporated from each other, Hope as a township and Port Hope as a town. In 2001 Port Hope and Hope Township amalgamated to form the Municipality of Port Hope within Northumberland County.
In 1793, United Empire Loyalists became the first permanent settlers of European heritage in Port Hope, which they called Smith's Creek after a former fur trader. Mills and a town plot were developing by the turn of the century. After the War of 1812, more British settlers were wanted, and a better name was required. After a brief fling with the name Toronto, the village was renamed in 1817 as Port Hope, after the Township of Hope of which it was a part, which in turn had been named for [[wikipedia:Henry Hope (Quebec lieutenant governor)|Colonel Henry Hope, lieutenant governor of the Province of Quebec. In 1834 Port Hope was incorporated as a town.
Relatively slow growth from 1881 to 1951 resulted in much of the town's original architecture not being demolished in the name of progress. Port Hope's downtown is celebrated now as the best-preserved 19th-century streetscape in Ontario.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Port Hope, Ontario.
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 Durham County
Some websites with more local information on Northumberland County