Thornhill (2011 population 110,430) is a suburban neighbourhood in the Greater Toronto Area of Southern Ontario, Canada, located on the northern border of the city of Toronto. Once a municipal village, Thornhill is now a community and postal designation geographically split into two municipalities along Yonge Street, the city of Vaughan to the west and the city of Markham to the east. According to the 2001 Census, the population of Thornhill-Vaughan was 56,361, and the population of Thornhill-Markham was 47,333. It is immediately south and south-west of Richmond Hill.
Thornhill was founded in 1794. Its first settlers on Yonge Street in Thornhill were Asa Johnson (who settled on the Vaughan side) and Nicholas Miller (who settled on the Markham side). Of particular importance was the arrival of Benjamin Thorne in 1820, who was operating a gristmill, a sawmill, and a tannery in the community. The settlement came to be known as Thorne's Mills, and later, Thorne's Hill, from which its current name is derived. (Thorne committed suicide in 1848, after a serious wheat market crash.)
Between 1830 and 1848, Thornhill experienced a period of continued growth and prosperity. The business district of Thornhill developed on its portion of Yonge Street, between Centre Street and John Street. Stagecoaches travelled between Holland Landing (Lake Simcoe) and York (after 1834, Toronto) as Yonge Street's road conditions improved with new stonework. During this prosperous period, several churches, many of which are still standing today, were constructed.
Thornhill's location along Yonge Street, a major transportation route, proved to be beneficial to the community's growth throughout much of the twentieth century. The implementation of an electric street railway north from Toronto to Holland Landing along Yonge Street in 1898 meant that, for the first time, it was possible for people to reside in Thornhill and work in Toronto. By the 1920s, the prevalence of the automobile further facilitated travel along Yonge Street. The electirc railway closed in 1947.
In 1931, Thornhill became a "Police Village"; before that time, Thornhill had no independent status and was split between the townships of Vaughan and Markham along Yonge Street, since the creation of municipal government in 1850. Before 1931, each township administered its own half of the village. The creation of the Police Village gave Thornhill its own political boundaries. The village was headed by a reeve.
In 1971, York Region was created, part of a wave of municipal re-organization which converted many townships into towns and eliminated many of the municipal forms of organization which had existed within those townships. The establishment of a regional administration effectively eliminated the Police Village of Thornhill. Thornhill's administration reverted to the newly-formed towns (previously townships) of Markham and Vaughan at this time.
While the old village of Thornhill revolved around Yonge Street between Centre and John Streets, the community is typically thought to be located between Dufferin Street to the west, Highway 7 to the north, Steeles Avenue to the south, and Highway 404 to the east.
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