Place:Essex, Ontario, Canada

Coordinates42.2°N 82.8°W
Located inOntario, Canada     (1792 - )
Also located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1792 - 1841)
Canada West, Canada     (1841 - 1867)
See alsoWestern District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative district covering Essex 1792-1849
Hesse District, Quebecadministrative district covering the area 1763-1792
Contained Places
District municipality
Kingsville (district) ( 1998 - )
Lakeshore ( 1999 - )
Leamington (district)
Tecumseh ( 1998 - )
Former community
Ford City ( 1912 - 1935 )
Sandwich ( 1817 - 1935 )
Walkerville ( 1890 - 1935 )
North Ridge
North Woodslee
Ruscom Station
St. Joachim
Inhabited place
Amherstburg ( 1867 - )
Belle River
Essex ( 1890 - )
LaSalle ( 1999 - )
Leamington ( 1876 - )
Lighthouse Cove
New Canaan
Riverside ( 1921 - 1966 )
South Woodslee
St. Clair Beach
Stoney Point
Windsor ( 1792 - )
River Canard
Point au Pelee Island
Anderdon ( - 1998 )
Colchester (township) ( 1800 - 1885 )
Colchester North ( - 1999 )
Colchester South ( 1885 - 1999 )
Gosfield (township) ( 1867 - )
Gosfield North ( 1885 - 1998 )
Gosfield South ( - 1998 )
Maidstone (township) ( 1867 - 1999 )
Malden ( - 1998 )
Mersea ( - 1999 )
Rochester ( 1867 - 1999 )
Sandwich East ( - 1991 )
Sandwich South ( 1890 - 1999 )
Sandwich West ( - 1991 )
Tilbury (township) ( 1800 - 1894 )
Tilbury North ( 1890 - 1999 )
Tilbury West ( 1890 - 1999 )
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this article is based on an article in Wikipedia

Essex County is located in southwestern Ontario and is the southern-most county in Canada. The administrative seat is the Town of Essex. Essex County, excluding the independent city of Windsor and the offshore island of Pelee, has a population of 177,891. Including Windsor and Pelee brings the total for the county to 388,782. These figures are based on the Canadian Census of 2011.

end of Wikipedia contribution

Essex is very much in the centre of the Great Lakes chain with Lake Erie on its southern border and Lake St. Clair to the north. On the west it faces the Detroit River and the state of Michigan; on the east it has a land border with the Ontario county now known as Chatham-Kent and formerly known simply as Kent. Windsor and Detroit are joined both by an international bridge and by a tunnel under the river.


the text in this article is based on an article in Wikipedia

Essex was one of the first counties to be settled in Upper Canada, later to become Ontario, mostly by French people in the mid-18th century. Around 1749, when the area was still held by the French, the first permanent settlements began to appear on what is now the Canadian side of the Detroit River. The Mission of Bois Blanc (French for "white wood" or birch trees) was established opposite the island of the same name. At this time Essex County was covered by extremely thick forests. Clearing these was the first task of the new farmers. The soil beneath was fertile and very suitable to food crops.

The first settlements were along the eastern side of the Detroit River, the Petite Côte, so named because the bend of the river meant that there was less river frontage on the eastern side. When river frontage along the Petite Côte was occupied, settlement began to extend toward Lake St. Clair, which became known as the "Assumption Settlement". In the late 18th Century and early 19th century the French had ventured east along the south shore of Lake Saint Clair and settled in the present-day areas of Belle River (Belle-Rivière), Rochester, Tecumseh, St. Joachim and Stoney Point (Pointe-aux-Roches). These communities still have a large francophone population.

During this period of settlement the ownership of the country changed hands. In 1763 Britain took over from France after the Treaty of Utrecht ceded all of eastern North America to them. The American Revolution which ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris resulted in the lands to the west of the Detroit River being acquired by the new nation of the United States. This included the British-held Fort Detroit. Essex County continued to be in British hands and English settlers, including some of the troops previously stationed at Fort Detroit, joined the French in claiming land in Essex County. In 1796 Amherstburg and Sandwich were the first towns English-speaking towns established in Essex County. Fort Malden was built near Amherstburg, opposite Bois Blanc Island, separating the British military presence from the more heavily populated area of Sandwich upstream, and positioned strategically to control the entrances of the river both from Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Essex County became a safe have for those choosing to remain British subjects and who became known as "United Empire Loyalists" or, in short, "Loyalists".

After the American Revolution, and the War of 1812 (1812-1815), people continued to migrate north to the area, and coming from the east from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River of Lower Canada (Quebec) seeking land. Settlers began to move eastward along the north shore of Lake Erie. Land was purchased from the Indians in the southern half of the current county, located in the townships known originally as Gosfield and Colchester. The British Court made land available for settlement, provided that the land bear certain improvements within a year and that it not be used for speculation. This area became known as the "New Settlement" (as compared to the "Old Settlement" of the towns of Amherstburg and Sandwich. Settlers in this area included Hessians, of German origian, who fought for the British against the American rebels and also Pennsylvania Dutch pacifists (Mennonites). Prior to the setting up of Upper Canada, the area was known as the Hesse District of Quebec.

Formation of Essex County

In 1791, the province of Upper Canada was formed. The following year the new province was divided into nineteen counties, of which Essex was the eighteenth and part of the Western District. In 1800 an "Act for the Better Division of the Province" established the Townships of Rochester, Mersea, Gosfield, Maidstone, Sandwich and Malden. (The townships of Anderdon, Colchester and Tilbury are missing from Wikipedia's list. They may have been set up at this time or earlier. Sandwich Township was later divided into Sandwich East and Sandwich West.) Although the adjacent map is dated 1885, it portrays the layout of Essex up from soon after 1800, through the eras of Upper Canada (1800-1840) and Canada West (1841-1867) and into the early years of the Province of Ontario.

Settlement 1820 to 1850

Longer roads began to appear in the County after the War of 1812, the first of which followed Indian trails. Colonel Thomas Talbot contributed to road development, and Talbot Road was named for him. Talbot Road followed a natural ridge of glacial moraine which stretched from Windsor to Point Pelee.

The establishment of good roads led to further settlement along the 'Middle Road' and in the area of what is now Leamington. Settlers of this era were often emigrants from Britain and Ireland; in the 1840s the Potato Famine led to significant immigration from the latter. The village of Maidstone was the centre of the Irish community, and an area known as the "Scotch Colony" appeared along the shore of Lake St. Clair to the north.

In the 1850s Essex County was also a destination of the "Underground Railroad" by which African slaves in the 19th-century United States escaped to freedom. The John Freeman Walls Historic Site in Maidstone is testament to this period. Many of the descendants of the fugitives moved back to the United States to support the Northerners (Union Army) in the American Civil War, (1861-1865), or to reconnect with family after emancipation.

Economic development 1850 to 1990

In 1841 the province of Upper Canada changed its name to Canada West. This was part of the province-wide changes brought about after the Mackenzie Rebellion of 1837.

In 1854 the Great Western Railway (Ontario) connected the Detroit frontier with the east, crossing Essex County. The Canadian terminal was in Windsor, which consequently forged ahead of the other towns of the county. Other railway lines were built that connected settlements in Kingsville, Harrow, Essex and Leamington.

By the late 19th century Essex County had seen fur trading and logging, land clearing and farming, road building and railway development, saw mills and gristmills, railway stations and water ports. By this time the forests were disappearing, replaced by fertile farmland.

In 1867, with Canadian Confederation, the name of the province changed again to Ontario.

By 1900 oil pumps had appeared in some farmers' fields, particularly near Belle River and Leamington, in the northern and eastern parts of the county, respectively. This is petroleum procured from oil shale within the bedrock of the Marcellus Formation.

Image:Essex 1951 OntArch redraw.png

Between 1885 and 1900 the population of Essex County had increased sufficiently to increase the number of townships. Communication at this time was still dependent on horse and buggy with the railway only contributing a limited amount of transporation for the average rural resident. As a result the townships of Gosfield and Colchester were each divided into North and South townships. Tilbury was divided into Tilbury North and Tilbury West. Sandwich Township was divided into three: North, West and South, with Windsor becoming an incorported city.

Essex County Restructuring, 1990s

In 1992, discussions began to take place to reduce the number of individual municipalities (townships and incorporated towns and cities), which at the time numbered 21 in the county. This culminated on January 1, 1999 when a Minister's Order by the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was implemented, putting in place the new municipal structure for the County of Essex. The new subdivisions or municipalities within Essex County are:

The City of WindsorIncorporated previously and governed as a separate municipality
The Town of Amherstburgthe The Township of Anderdon, The Township of Malden and the previously independent Town of Amherstburg
The Town of Essexthe The Township of Colchester North, The Township of Colchester South, the Town of Harrow and the Town of Essex (now considered the "county town").
The Town of Kingsvillethe Township of Gosfield North, the Township of Gosfield South and the Town of Kingsville
The Town of Leamingtonthe township of Mersea and the Town of Leamington.
The Town of Lakeshorea merger of the townships of Maidstone, Rochester, Tilbury West and Tilbury North along with the Town of Belle River.
The Town of LaSalleSandwich West Township.
The Town of TecumsehSandwich East and Sandwich South Townships and the Town of St. Clair Beach.
The Township of Pelee (Pelee Island), eight miles out into Lake Eriehad always been a separate township.

Research Tips

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.

Early Records

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.
Images and indexes of civil registrations for the "viewable" years can be found on paid websites, and indexes only on FamilySearch. The FamilySearch Wiki on Ontario Vital Records explains how these records are organized and their availability.
In September 2014 announced that its paid website has been subjected to a "houseclean" of its Ontario BMD database, adding data that had been omitted and making many corrections. Its provision now includes

  • Births, with 2,172,124 records covering 1869-1913.
  • Marriages, with 3,393,369 records for 1801-1928 including Ontario county, district and Roman Catholic origins as well as province-wide civil registration.
  • Deaths, with 2,190,030 records comprising Ontario civil registrations of deaths, 1869-1938 and registrations of Ontario overseas deaths for 1939-1947.

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 1921. 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.
Other websites, some paid and some free, also provide Canadian census originals and/or indexes online. One can also view censuses on microfilm at the LAC, at the Archives of Ontario (see address above), or at large libraries throughout Canada.

Hard-to-Find Places

E-books, Books and Newspapers

  • The Internet Archive, particularly texts from Canadian universities, can contain interesting material
  • Our Roots is a Canadian website similar to The Internet Archive
  • Global Genealogy is an online bookshop specializing in Ontario material who will ship anywhere in the world.
  • The Ancestor Hunt is a blog listing old Ontario newspapers that are available online, both free and pay websites. This is a very extensive list.

Some websites with more local information on Essex County

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Essex County, Ontario. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.