Swansea is a neighbourhood in the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, bounded on the west by the Humber River, on the north by Bloor Street, on the east by High Park and on the south by Lake Ontario. The neighbourhood was originally a separate municipality, the Village of Swansea, which was annexed by the City of Toronto in 1967.
Through the 19th century the area later known as Swansea was divided between two farm lots;
The western half of what is now Swansea was originally the home of Toronto's first European inhabitant, M Jean Baptiste Rousseau, who was permitted to occupy the site of a former French Fort at the foot of the Humber River after the fall of the French Regime. M. Rousseau was living at his 'Rousseau House' when John Graves Simcoe arrived with Toronto's first settlers and the French Fur Trader guided the new Governor's ship into Toronto Bay (now Toronto's Harbour). When Toronto was first surveyed, however, the entire area along the Humber River was designated as a Mill Reserve (forest to be left intact for the use of the King's Sawmill, now called 'Old Mill'). M Rousseau refused an offer to relocate across the river to Etobicoke and left the area. By the 1880s, the mill reserve in Swansea was still unused and the area was subdivded into 'wood lots' (sections of forest to be sold to families living further away for use as timber fuel). The site of 'Rousseau House' is today marked by a plaque.
The western half of Swansea became surveyed as lots 39 and 40. The lots were laid out south of Bloor Street, lot 1 starting to the east, and the numbers increasing in the western direction. Lot 40 was directly south-east of Jane Street extending east to where Windermere Avenue intersects Bloor Street. Lot 39, the next to the east saw the first development, on property owned by John Coe. By 1884, along Bloor Street, several blocks were subdivided as far south as today's Morningside Avenue, then known as Grenadier Road, and as far east as the today's Kennedy Avenue. These are the only streets in Swansea laid out on a grid pattern, possible because this section is relatively flat.
The eastern half of what is now Swansea was a forested lot purchased in 1838 by early Toronto artist, philanthropist and architect John Ellis whose home, 'Herne Hill', stood on Grenadier Heights overlooking Grenadier Pond. The north-south street that connects to Grenadier Heights was named 'Ellis' in honour of Swansea's first family. Despite the building of a railway along the south of his estate in the 1850s, Mr Ellis did not develop his lot. With the death of John Ellis' widow in 1884, the Ellis estate became the property of John Ellis Jr. who sold off the land to the north of Herne Hill. The house itself was demolished in 1925. of former Ellis lands on the east side of Grenadier Pond were bought by Toronto and merged with High Park in 1930.
By the 1880s, the area south of Bloor was known as 'Windermere' after England's 'Lake District' which it is said to have resembled. To the south, industry developed on Coe's land along the railway line, including the Ontario Bolt Works, just east of the Humber, which replaced a factory on the site of today's streetcar yards at Roncesvalles. Built in 1882, its cornerstone laying attended by Sir John A. Macdonald, the factory lands extended north to today's Morningside Avenue. In 1889, the factory was bought by James Worthington and the name changed to Swansea Works, Worthington himself being from the Swansea area of Wales. The factory became the major employer in the area with subsidiary industrial lands to the north of today's The Queensway. A settlement of workers' cottages built by Worthington dating from the 1880s grew around the plant. Several of the cottages still exist on Windermere Place today. The factory, burnt down in 1906 and rebuilt, became part of Stelco in 1910, and it remained in operation until 1989.
In the centre of Swansea were several elongated ponds running north-south. The largest, Catfish Pond, is the only one that has survived. Some of the ponds were filled in for the railway line and industrial area. One of the ponds on the former Coe property, on the site of today's Swansea Mews public housing project, was turned into a dump and filled in with tailings.
By 1890, the area was known as Swansea, with a train stop on the Great Western at Windermere. The post office was in the Works building, and church services were also held there. Worthington promoted the community, giving land for Swansea Public School in 1890 and the mission church. Worthington's ownership of the Bolt Works ended not long afterward, and the Works was eventually absorbed into Stelco in 1910. Swansea, including Windermere, was incorporated as a village in 1926. The largely forested village saw the building of many upper-middle-class homes on the former Ellis estate as a quiet 'leafy' neighbourhood developed.
In 1954, the Village of Swansea left York County and joined the new region of Metropolitan Toronto. With the extension of Toronto's Queen Street and Queen streetcar line as 'The Queensway' along the southern limits of the village, Swansea quickly urbanised with many apartment buildings being built in the western half of the area. In 1967, Swansea became on of the two last independent villages (along with Forest Hill) to be annexed by the City of Toronto. Amalgamation resumed towards the end of the 20th Century as the other municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto formed the new 'Mega' City of Toronto in 1998. With the deindustrialisation of Swansea, the small stip of land between The Queensway transportation corridor and Lakeshore Road (and the railway) is under development as a high density residential mix of towers and townhouses.
The Swansea Village corporate seal reveals a great deal about the colourful history of this neighbourhood. Included on the Swansea seal is explorer Étienne Brûlé, who in 1615 became the first European to set foot on what is now Swansea and also shown is a First Nations member. This is symbolic in that it recognizes that First Nations members were the first people to inhabit Swansea, thousands of years ago. The hills in the Swansea Village seal represent Swansea's rolling countryside. The water in the Swansea seal refers to Swansea's natural boundaries, which include Lake Ontario, the Humber River and Grenadier Pond.
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