Waterloo Township was originally an area of land known as "Block Two" of the Grand River land grant. This was given by the British to Joseph Brant and the Six Nations First Peoples in 1784 for their loyalty to the Crown in the American Revolutionary wars.
In 1796 Block Two was sold to Richard Beasley, a United Empire Loyalist, who in turn sold it to a group of Mennonites from Pennsylvania. This was followed in 1803 by the First Nation Peoples selling further tracts of their remaining land to the German Company of Pennsylvania, another Mennonite group, represented by Daniel Erb and Samuel Bricker.
Waterloo Township was thus the first of the townships of Waterloo County to be settled and the majority of its settlers were Mennonites from Lancaster and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania. Other immigrant groups settled in the area at this time including Pennsylvanian River Brethren (also known as Dunkers or Tunkers). Some settlers came from Britain or Germany.
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 (renamed 1916 to Kitchener, for Lord Kitchener. The change of name was caused by the strong anti-German sentiments which occurred during World War One.
The Waterloo region remained predominantly German-speaking until the early 20th century. 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 the municipal restructuring of 1973 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 and the settlement of Freeport was annexed to Kitchener. The independent village of Bridgeport was also annexed to Kitchener (which had once upon a time been larger than Kitchener, but failed to grow when the railways passed it by).
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