Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from the Mississaugas of the New Credit. The settlement was later established as the Town of York and proclaimed as the new capital of Upper Canada by its lieutenant-governor, wikipedia:John Graves Simcoe:John Graves Simcoe. In 1834, York was incorporated as a city and renamed to its present name. The city was ransacked in the Battle of York during the War of 1812 and damaged in two great fires in 1849 and in 1904. Since its incorporation, Toronto has repeatedly expanded its borders through amalgamation with surrounding municipalities, most recently in 1998.
With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth most populous city in North America. Its cosmopolitan and international population reflects its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, with about 49% of the population born outside Canada.
When Europeans first arrived at the site of present-day Toronto, the vicinity was inhabited by the Huron tribes, who by then had displaced the Iroquois tribes that had occupied the region for centuries before c. 1500. The name Toronto is likely derived from the Iroquois word tkaronto, meaning "place where trees stand in the water". It refers to the northern end of what is now Lake Simcoe, where the Huron had planted tree saplings to corral fish. A portage route from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron running through this point, the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, led to widespread use of the name.
French traders founded Fort Rouillé on the current Exhibition grounds in 1750, but abandoned it in 1759. During the American Revolutionary War, the region saw an influx of British settlers as United Empire Loyalists fled for the unsettled lands north of Lake Ontario. In 1787, the British negotiated the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of New Credit, thereby securing more than a quarter million acres (1000 km2) of land in the Toronto area.
In 1793, Governor John Graves Simcoe established the town of York on the existing settlement, naming it after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Simcoe chose the town to replace Newark as the capital of Upper Canada, believing the new site would be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans. Fort York was constructed at the entrance of the town's natural harbour, sheltered by a long sand-bar peninsula. The town's settlement formed at the eastern end of the harbour behind the peninsula, near the present-day intersection of Parliament Street and Front Street (in the Corktown–St. Lawrence area).
In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, the Battle of York ended in the town's capture and plunder by American forces. The surrender of the town was negotiated by John Strachan. American soldiers destroyed much of Fort York and set fire to the parliament buildings during their five-day occupation. The sacking of York was a primary motivation for the Burning of Washington by British troops later in the war. York was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, reverting to its original native name. The population of only 9,000 included escaped African American slaves. Slavery was banned outright in Upper Canada in 1834. Reformist politician William Lyon Mackenzie became the first Mayor of Toronto and led the unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 against the British colonial government. The city grew rapidly through the remainder of the 19th century, as a major destination for immigrants to Canada. The first significant population influx occurred when the Great Irish Famine brought a large number of Irish to the city, some of them transient and most of them Catholic. By 1851, the Irish-born population had become the largest single ethnic group in the city. Smaller numbers of Protestant Irish immigrants were welcomed by the existing Scottish and English population, giving the Orange Order significant and long lasting influence over Toronto society.
In the 19th century, an extensive sewage system was built, and streets became illuminated with gas lighting as a regular service. Long-distance railway lines were constructed, including a route completed in 1854 linking Toronto with the Upper Great Lakes. The Grand Trunk Railway and the Northern Railway of Canada joined in the building of the first Union Station in downtown. The advent of the railway dramatically increased the numbers of immigrants arriving, commerce and industry, as had the Lake Ontario steamers and schooners entering port before which enabled Toronto to become a major gateway linking the world to the interior of the North American continent.
Horse-drawn streetcars gave way to electric streetcars in 1891, when the city granted the operation of the transit franchise to the Toronto Railway Company. The public transit system passed into public ownership in 1921 as the Toronto Transportation Commission, later renamed the Toronto Transit Commission. The system now has the third-highest ridership of any city public transportation system in North America.
The Great Toronto Fire of 1904 destroyed a large section of downtown Toronto, but the city was quickly rebuilt. The fire caused more than $10 million in damage, and resulted in more stringent fire safety laws and expansion of the city's fire department.
Following the Second World War refugees from war-torn Europe and Chinese job-seekers arrived, as well as construction labourers, particularly from Italy and Portugal. Following elimination of racially based immigration policies by the late 1960s, immigration began from all parts of the world. Toronto's population grew to more than one million in 1951 when large-scale suburbanization began, and doubled to two million by 1971. By the 1980s, Toronto had surpassed Montreal as Canada's most populous city and the chief economic hub. During this time, in part owing to the political uncertainty raised by the resurgence of the Quebec sovereignty movement, many national and multinational corporations moved their head offices from Montreal to Toronto and Western Canadian cities.
In 1954, the City of Toronto and 12 surrounding municipalities were federated into a regional government known as Metropolitan Toronto. The postwar boom had resulted in rapid suburban development, and it was believed that a coordinated land use strategy and shared services would provide greater efficiency for the region. The metropolitan government began to manage services that crossed municipal boundaries, including highways, police services, water and public transit. In that year, a half-century after the Great Fire of 1904, disaster struck the city again when Hurricane Hazel brought intense winds and flash flooding. In the Toronto area, 81 people were killed, nearly 1,900 families were left homeless, and the hurricane caused more than $25 million in damage.
In 1967, the seven smallest municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto were merged into their larger neighbours, resulting in a six-municipality configuration that included the old City of Toronto and the surrounding municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York. In 1998, the metropolitan government was dissolved by the Provincial Government in the face of vigorous opposition from the smaller component municipalities and all six municipalities were amalgamated into a single municipality, creating the current City of Toronto, with Mel Lastman as its first mayor (after being mayor of North York). David Miller was the second mayor and Rob Ford is the third and current mayor.
The city celebrated its 175th anniversary on March 6, 2009, since its inception as the City of Toronto in 1834. Toronto hosted the 4th G-20 summit during June 26–27, 2010, for which the largest security operation in Canadian history took place amidst large-scale protests. Toronto will host the Pan American Games in 2015.
This map of Toronto shows downtown Toronto (or Toronto in the mid 1800s) as compared to the City of Toronto as designated following the amalgamations of 1998.
This map of Toronto illustrates the size and location of Toronto in 1950 in relation to the City of Toronto as designated following the amalgamations of 1998.
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
Websites with more local information on the City of Toronto