Renfrew County is in the eastern part of Ontario, Canada. It is situated northwest of Ottawa and extends southward and westward from the Ottawa River. The seat of county government is in Pembroke, a city that is politically independent of the county. In terms of area it is the largest county in Ontario. (end of Wikipedia contribution)
This section is based on the article on Renfrew County in Ontario GenWeb.
The first settlers to the area arrived in the 1820's. "A survey was conducted in 1825 by Quinn and the county was for a time known as Horton." (source: Places In Ontario by Nick & Helma Mika, 1977)
The county, named for Renfrewshire, Scotland, was established in 1838. "The townships of Packenham, McNab, Horton, Ross, Westmeath and Pembroke, together with the unsurveyed lands within the district of Bathurst, and all the Islands in the Ottawa River, wholly or in greater part opposite to the said townships and unsurveyed lands, do from the time that the said new district goes into operation, compose a county, to be called the county of Renfrew." (source: A Statutory Chronology of Eastern Ontario, 1788-1981 by Thomas A. Hillman) Pakenham Township has since been moved into Lanark County.
When the District form of administration was abolished in 1849, Renfrew joined with the neighbouring county of Lanark in a judicial union. This was dissolved in 1866 and the counties have since been independent of each other.
The reorganization of county administration that took place in 2000 and 2001 replaced the 37 original townships with 17 new towns and townships. In the list of Contained Places the newly renamed townships and towns are referred to as "municipalities".
Ontario GenWeb has a sketchmap of the original townships.
The map of Renfrew County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, city, towns and villages of the county.
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 Renfrew County