Windsor is the southernmost city in Canada and is located in Southwestern Ontario. It is part of the Essex County census division although administratively separated from the county government. Separated by the Detroit River from the United States, Windsor is located directly south of the city of Detroit, Michigan. Windsor is known as "The City of Roses" and residents are known as Windsorites.
Prior to European exploration and settlement, the Windsor area was inhabited by the First Nations and American Indian people. Windsor was settled by the French in 1749 as an agricultural settlement. It is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Canada west of Montreal. The area was first named Petite Côte ("Little Coast" – as opposed to the longer coastline on the Detroit side of the river). Later it was called La Côte de Misère ("Poverty Coast") because of the sandy soils near LaSalle.
Windsor's French Canadian heritage is reflected in many French street names, such as Ouellette, Pelissier, François, Pierre, Langlois, Marentette, and Lauzon. The current street system of Windsor (a grid with elongated blocks) reflects the Canadien method of agricultural land division, where the farms were long and narrow, fronting along the river. Today, the north-south street name often indicates the name of the family that at one time farmed the land. The street system of outlying areas is consistent with the British system for granting land concessions. There is a significant French-speaking minority in Windsor and the surrounding area, particularly in the Lakeshore, Tecumseh and LaSalle areas.
Windsor was established as a village in 1854 (the same year the village was connected to the rest of Canada by the Grand Trunk Railway/Canadian National Railway), then became a town in 1858, and ultimately gained city status in 1892.
The Windsor Police Service was established, on July 1, 1867.
A fire consumed much of Windsor's downtown core on October 12, 1871, destroying over 100 buildings.
On October 25, 1960, a massive gas explosion destroyed the building housing the Metropolitan Store on Ouellette Avenue. Ten people were killed and at least one hundred injured. The 45th anniversary of the event was commemorated by the Windsor Star on October 25, 2005. It was featured on History Television's Disasters of the Century.
The Windsor Star Centennial Edition in 1992 covered the city's past, its success as a railway centre, and its contributions to World War I and World War II fighting efforts. It also recalled the naming controversy in 1892 when the town of Windsor aimed to become a city. The most popular names listed in the naming controversy were "South Detroit", "The Ferry" (from the ferries that linked Windsor to Detroit), Windsor, and Richmond (the runner-up in popularity). Windsor was chosen to promote the heritage of new English settlers in the city and to recognize Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. However, Richmond was a popular name used until the Second World War, mainly by the local post office.
Sandwich, Ford City and Walkerville were separate legal entities (towns) in their own right until 1935. They are now historic neighbourhoods of Windsor. Ford City was officially incorporated as a village in 1912; it became a town in 1915, and a city in 1929. Walkerville was incorporated as a town in 1890. Sandwich was established in 1817 as a town with no municipal status. It was incorporated as a town in 1858 (the same year as neighbouring Windsor).
These three towns were annexed by Windsor in 1935. The nearby villages of Ojibway and Riverside were incorporated in 1913 and 1921 respectively. Both were annexed by Windsor in 1966. During the 1920s alcohol prohibition was enforced in Michigan while alcohol was legal in Ontario. Rum-running in Windsor was a common practice during that time period.
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 Essex County