Welland County is an historic county in the Canadian province of Ontario. The county was established from sections of Lincoln and Haldimand in 1845, but until 1851 continued to be unified with them, first as the Niagara District, and then from 1849 onwards as the Unified Counties of Lincoln, Welland and Haldimand.
The county was named after the Welland River which, in turn, had been named by John Graves Simcoe after a stream in Lincolnshire, England. Niagara Falls, and the townships surrounding it were among the earliest settlements in Upper Canada.
The most significant thing in the history of Welland County was the building of the Welland Canal and the canal's effect on transportation since its completion. Niagara Falls made the Niagara River impassible to shipping, yet there was a great impetus to get goods from the inland of Canada down to Lake Ontario and onward to the ports on the St Lawrence River.
The first Welland Canal was completed in 1829 and during the 19th century two further canal improvement projects took place. A third occurred between 1913 and 1932. The steepness of the Niagara Escarpment obliged the building of 26 locks on the final canal of the 19th century which were reduced to eight in the 20th century Welland Ship Canal.
In 1970, Lincoln and Welland Counties were amalgamated to form the Regional Municipality of Niagara. NOTE: In some census and election records from the late 19th century, the townships of Pelham and Wainfleet (which can be seen on the map below) were enumerated as part of Monck County. However, Monck never existed as a county in the political sense, but only as an electoral district.
The map of Welland County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual townships, city, towns and villages of the county. (Click at the bottom of the page to see the map enlarged.)
A sketchmap from Ontario GenWeb provides a simple illustration of the location of the former 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 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
Some websites with more local information on Welland County