The Regional Municipality of Waterloo is a regional municipality located in Southern Ontario, Canada. It consists of the cities of Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo, and the townships of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot, and North Dumfries. It is often referred to as the Region of Waterloo or just Waterloo Region. The Region is 1369 square kilometres in size and its regional seat of government is in Kitchener. The Region's population was 507,096 as of the 2011 census.
Historical accounts differ on exactly how the Attawandaron tribe was wiped out, but it is generally agreed that the Seneca and the Mohawk tribes of the Six Nations destroyed or forced out the smaller Attawandaron tribe while severely crippling the Huron around 1680-85. After the invasion of the Six Nations into the Grand River Valley, the Neutral tribe ceased to have any political existence. Any dispersed survivors were taken captive or escaped to other tribes such as the Mississaugas and were assimilated in that culture. There are no distinct Attawandarons today.
In 1784, the British government granted the Grand River Valley to the Iroquois, who had supported the Loyalists in the American War of Independence, to compensate them for the loss of their land in New York. The Iroquois settled in the lower Grand River Valley (now The County of Brant), and sold parts of the land which was part of Waterloo Township to Colonel Richard Beasley, a United Empire Loyalist. Another developer was William Dickson who, in 1816, came into sole possession of of land along the Grand River that was later to make up North and South Dumfries Townships.
North and South Dumfries Townships Area Settlement
It was Dickson's intention to divide the land into smaller lots that would be sold primarily to the Scottish settlers that he hoped to attract to Canada. In the company of Absalom Shade, Dickson immediately toured his new lands with the intention of developing a town site that would serve as the focal point for his attempts to populate the countryside. They chose the site where Mill Creek flows into the Grand River and in 1816 the settlement of Shade's Mills was born. The new settlement grew slowly but by 1825, though still very small, was the largest settlement in the area and was important enough to obtain a post office. Dickson decided that a new name was needed for the Post Office and consequently the settlement and he chose Galt in honour of the Scottish novelist and Commissioner of the Canada Company, John Galt. The settlers resisted the introduction of the new name preferring the more familiar Shade's Mills. However, after Galt visited Dickson in the settlement in 1827 the name Galt received more widespread acceptance. In its early days Galt was an agricultural community serving the needs of the farmers in the surrounding countryside. By the late 1830s, however, the settlement began to develop an industrial capacity and reputation for quality products that in later years earned the town the nickname "The Manchester of Canada". Galt was the largest and most important town in the area until the beginning of the 20th century when it was finally overtaken by Kitchener.
Waterloo Township Area Settlement
The land owned by Beasley appealed to a particular group of Pennsylvania German Mennonite farmers. They collected resources to purchase all of the unsold land from Beasley, forming the German Company Tract and dividing the lands into 128 farms of 18,100 square metres and 32 farms of 12,000 square metres each for distribution. By the 1840s, the presence of the German-speaking Mennonites made the area a popular choice for German settlers from Europe. These Germans founded their own communities in the south of the area settled by the Mennonites, the largest being the town of Berlin (changed to Kitchener, named for Lord Kitchener, due to anti-German sentiments during World War I).
The Waterloo region remained predominantly German-speaking until the early 20th century, and its German heritage is reflected in the region’s large Lutheran community and the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest.
There are still traditional Mennonite communities located north of Kitchener-Waterloo. While the most famous is St. Jacobs, with its well-known thrice-weekly outdoor market, the community of Linwood has attracted increased tourism volume in recent years due to its highly authentic Mennonite lifestyle.
In 1973, the regional municipality style of government was imposed on the county. In that major reorganization, the fifteen towns and townships of the county were reduced to just seven in the new Region of Waterloo. The new city of Cambridge was created through the merger of the city of Galt, the towns of Preston and Hespeler, the village of Blair and various parcels of township land. One township vanished when the former Waterloo Township was divided among Woolwich Township and the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. The settlement of Erbsville was annexed to the city of Waterloo. The former county government was given broader powers as a regional municipality.
Further municipal amalgamation began discussions in the 1990s, with little progress. In late 2005, Kitchener’s city council voted to visit the subject again, with the possibility of reducing the seven constituent municipalities into one or more cities. A new proposal in 2010 would study only the merger of Kitchener and Waterloo, with a public referendum on whether the idea should be looked into. Kitchener residents voted 2-1 in favour of studying the merger while Waterloo residents voted 2-1 against. Waterloo city council subsequently voted against the study.
Early Administrative Organization
Until 1840 the townships that made up Waterloo County were in Halton and Simcoe Counties (and under the administration of the Home District and later the Gore District) and in Huron County which was under the administration of the Western District, then the London District, then the Huron District). In 1840 an new administrative district named Wellington was established to cover the Waterloo County area. When the district system of administration was abolished in 1849, the Wellington District became Waterloo County.
The map of Waterloo County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the communities and physical features of the county. (Click at the bottom of the page to see the map enlarged.)
A sketchmap from Ontario GenWeb gives an outline of the townships.
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