Place:Ottawa, Carleton, Ontario, Canada


Alt namesBytownsource: Encyclopædia Britannica (1988) VIII, 1044; Webster's Geographical Dictionary (1988) p 905
Coordinates45.417°N 75.717°W
Located inCarleton, Ontario, Canada     (1827 - present)
Contained Places
Beechwood Cemetery
Capital Memorial Gardens
Notre Dame Cemetery
Burritts Rapids ( 2001 - present )
Carlsbad Springs ( 2001 - )
Carsonby ( 2001 - )
Corkery ( 2001 - )
Dwyer Hill ( 2001 - )
Galetta ( 2001 - )
Woodlawn ( 2001 - )
Inhabited place
Ashton ( 2001 - present )
Bells Corners ( 2001 - present )
Billings Bridge ( 2001 - present )
Britannia ( 2001 - present )
Carp ( 2001 - present )
Cyrville ( 2001 - )
Edwards ( 2001 - present )
Fallowfield ( 2001 - present )
Fitzroy Harbour ( 2001 - )
Gloucester ( 2001 - present )
Greely ( 2001 - )
Hazeldean ( 2001 - present )
Huntley ( 2001 - present )
Kars ( 2001 - present )
Kenmore ( 2001 - present )
Kinburn ( 2001 - present )
Malakoff ( 2001 - present )
Manotick ( 2001 - present )
Marchhurst ( 2001 - present )
Merivale ( 2001 - present )
Metcalfe ( 2001 - present )
North Gower ( 2001 - present )
Osgoode ( 2001 - present )
Ramsayville ( 2001 - present )
Richmond ( 2001 - present )
Rockcliffe Park ( 2001 - present )
South Gloucester ( 2001 - present )
South March ( 2001 - present )
Spring Hill ( 2001 - present )
Stittsville ( 2001 - present )
Vanier ( 2001 - present )
Hawthorne ( 2001 - )
Kanata ( 2001 - present )
Orléans ( 2001 - present )
Osgoode ( 2001 - present )
Cumberland (township) ( 2001 - present )
Fitzroy ( 2001 - present )
Gloucester (township) ( 2001 - present )
Goulbourn ( 2001 - present )
Huntley (township) ( 2001 - present )
March ( 2001 - )
Marlborough ( 2001 - present )
Nepean ( 2001 - )
North Gower (township) ( 2001 - present )
Osgoode (township) ( 2001 - )
Rideau ( 2001 - )
Torbolton ( 2001 - present )
West Carleton ( 2001 - present )
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

NOTE: Hintonburgh and Mechanicsville (mentioned in the Family History Library Catalog and redirected here) were neighbourhoods within Ottawa in the late 19th century.

The text in this section is a precis of an article in Wikipedia.

Ottawa is the capital of Canada. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in southeastern Ontario. Ottawa borders Gatineau (once known as the City of Hull), Quebec, located on the north bank of the river; together they form the National Capital Region.

The Rideau River and the Rideau Canal both flow from the south through the outlying townships/suburbs and then through the centre of Ottawa and into the Ottawa River. The construction of the Rideau Canal was significant in the growth of Bytown into Ottawa in the middle of the 19th century.

image:250px-Newottawamap.png Map of Ottawa and Carleton County from Wikipedia Commons


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia


With the natural draining of the Champlain Sea around ten thousand years ago, the Ottawa Valley became habitable. Local Indigenous populations existed in and around Ottawa for approximately 6500 years, engaging in foraging, hunting and fishing activities as well as trade and travel. These activities are evidenced by archaeological findings of arrowheads, tools and pottery.[1] Ottawa is situated on the traditional land of the Algonquins, Indigenous peoples who are closely related to the Odawa and Ojibwe peoples. The Algonquins call the Ottawa River Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi meaning "Great River" or "Grand River". Three major rivers meet within Ottawa, making it an important trade and travel area for thousands of years. This period ended with the arrival of settlers and colonization of North America by Europeans during and after the 15th century.


Étienne Brûlé, widely regarded as the first European to travel up the Ottawa River, in 1610 navigated the Ottawa River by what would become Ottawa Ottawa on his way to the Great Lakes. Three years later, Samuel de Champlain wrote about the waterfalls in the area and about his encounters with the Algonquin Indians, who had been using the Ottawa River for centuries. Many missionaries followed the explorers and traders. The first maps of the area used the word "Ottawa", derived from the Algonquin word ('to trade', used in reference to the area's importance to First Nations traders), to name the river.

The first non-Indigenous settlement in the area was created by Philemon Wright, a New Englander, who founded a lumber town in the area on 7 March 1800 on the north side of the river, across from the present-day city of Ottawa in Hull. He, with five other families and twenty-five labourers, also set about to create an agricultural community called Wrightsville. Wright pioneered the Ottawa Valley timber trade (soon to be the area's most significant economic activity) by transporting timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to Quebec City. In 1826, news of the impending construction of the Rideau Canal by the British military led to land speculators founding a community on the south side of the Ottawa River. The following year, the town was named after British military engineer Colonel John By who was responsible for the entire Rideau Waterway construction project.

The Rideau canal provided a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario. It bypassed a vulnerable stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering the state of New York that had left re-supply ships bound for southwestern Ontario easily exposed to enemy fire during the War of 1812. Colonel By set up military barracks on the site of today's Parliament Hill. He also laid out the streets of the town and created two distinct neighbourhoods named "Upper Town" west of the canal and "Lower Town" east of the canal. Similar to its Upper Canada and Lower Canada namesakes, historically "Upper Town" was predominantly English-speaking and Protestant whereas "Lower Town" was predominantly French, Irish and Catholic. Bytown's population grew to 1,000 as the Rideau Canal was being completed in 1832. Bytown' early pioneer period saw Irish labour unrest that attributed to the Shiners' War from 1835 to 1845 and political dissension evident from the 1849 Stony Monday Riot. In 1855, Bytown was renamed Ottawa and incorporated as a city. William Pittman Lett was installed as the first city clerk, guiding it through 36 years of development.

Selection of Ottawa as the Capital of Canada predates the Confederation of Canada, and was contentious, with the parliament of the united Province of Canada holding more than 200 votes on the matter to attempt to settle on a legislative solution to the capital. The governor-general of the province had designated Kingston as the capital in 1841, but major population centres of Toronto and Montreal, as well as former capital of Lower Canada, Quebec City all had legislators dissatisfied with Kingston. In 1842, a study of a future capital included the then-named Bytown, but that option proved less popular than Toronto or Montreal. In 1844, the Queen's acceptance of a parliamentary vote moved the capital to Montreal, with a motivation of moving the capital further from the American border. In 1838, after violence in Montreal, the capital was split into two rotating cities, Quebec City and Toronto. Logistical difficulties made this an unpopular arrangement, and though an 1854 vote passed the lower house of parliament to relocate permanently to Quebec City, the upper house refused to approve funding. This contention led to the breaking of the dynamic legislative role in frequently relocating the seat of government. The legislature deferred authority to the Queen to make a final determination, who acted on the advice of her governor general Edmund Head, who after reviewing proposals from various cities, selected recently renamed Ottawa. The Queen sent a letter to colonial authorities selecting Ottawa, effective December 31, 1857. Later Prime Minister of the province, George Brown, attempted to reverse this decision, unsuccessfully, and the Queen's choice was ratified by the Parliament in 1859.[2]

The choice turned out to be Ottawa for two main reasons: Firstly, Ottawa's isolated location surrounded by dense forest far from the Canada–US border and situated on a cliff face would make it more defensible from attack. Secondly, Ottawa was approximately midway between Toronto and Kingston (in Canada West) and Montreal and Quebec City (in Canada East). Additionally, despite Ottawa's regional isolation, water transportation access to Montreal over the Ottawa River and to Kingston via the Rideau Waterway, except its consistent freezing in winter months. By 1854 it also had a modern all-season Bytown and Prescott Railway that carried passengers, lumber and supplies the 82 kilometres (50 miles) to Prescott on the Saint Lawrence River and beyond.[3] Ottawa's small size, it was thought, would make it less prone to rampaging politically motivated mobs, as had happened in the previous Canadian capitals. The government already owned the land that eventually became Parliament Hill, which it thought would be an ideal location for the Parliament Buildings. Ottawa was the only settlement of any substantial size that was already directly on the border of French-populated former Lower Canada and English-populated former Upper Canada, thus additionally making the selection an important political compromise.

Starting in the 1850s, entrepreneurs known as lumber barons began to build large sawmills, which became some of the largest mills in the world. Rail lines built in 1854 connected Ottawa to areas south and to the transcontinental rail network via Hull and Lachute, Quebec in 1886. The original Parliament buildings, which included the centre, East and West Blocks, were constructed between 1859 and 1866 in the Gothic Revival style. At the time, this was the largest North American construction project ever attempted and Public Works Canada and its architects were not initially well prepared. The Library of Parliament and Parliament Hill landscaping were completed in 1876. By 1885 Ottawa was the only city in Canada whose downtown street-lights were powered entirely by electricity. In 1889, the Government developed and distributed 60 "water leases" (still in use) to mainly local industrialists which gave them permission to generate electricity and operate hydroelectric generators at Chaudière Falls. Public transportation began in 1870 with a horsecar system, overtaken in the 1890s by a vast electric streetcar system that operated until 1959.


The Hull–Ottawa fire of 1900 destroyed two-thirds of Hull, including 40 percent of its residential buildings and most of its largest employers along the waterfront. It began as a chimney fire in Hull on the North side of the river, but due to wind, spread widely throughout many wooden structures, leading to the destruction of approximately 40% of Hull. In Ottawa, it destroyed about one-fifth of Ottawa from the Lebreton Flats south to Booth Street and down to Dow's Lake. The fire had a disproportionate effect on west end lower-income neighbourhoods, but also spread among many lumber yards, a major part of Ottawa's economy. The fire ultimately destroyed approximately 3200 buildings and causing an estimated $300 million in damage (2020 Canadian dollars). An estimated 14% of Ottawans were left homeless.

On 1 June 1912, the Grand Trunk Railway opened both the Château Laurier hotel and its neighbouring downtown Union Station. On 3 February 1916, the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings was destroyed by a fire. The House of Commons and Senate was temporarily relocated to the then recently constructed Victoria Memorial Museum, now the Canadian Museum of Nature until the completion of the new Centre Block in 1922. The centrepiece of the new Parliament Buildings is a dominant Gothic revival styled structure known as the Peace Tower. The location of what is now Confederation Square was a former commercial district centrally located in a triangular area downtown surrounded by historically significant heritage buildings which includes the Parliament buildings. It was redeveloped as a ceremonial centre in 1938 as part of the City Beautiful Movement and became the site of the National War Memorial in 1939 and designated a National Historic Site in 1984. A new Central Post Office (now the Privy Council of Canada) was constructed in 1939 beside the War Memorial because the original post office building on the proposed Confederation Square grounds had to be demolished.

Post-Second World War

Ottawa's former industrial appearance was vastly altered by the 1950 Greber Plan. Prime Minister Mackenzie King hired French architect-planner Jacques Greber to design an urban plan for managing development in the National Capital Region, to make it more aesthetically pleasing and more befitting a location for Canada's political centre. Greber's plan included the creation of the National Capital Greenbelt, the Parkway, the Queensway highway system, the relocation of downtown Union Station (now the Senate of Canada Building) to the suburbs, the removal of the street car system, the decentralization of selected government offices, the relocation of industries and removal of substandard housing from the downtown. It also recommended the creation of the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River pathways.[4] In 1958, the National Capital Commission was established as a Crown Corporation from the passing of the National Capital Act to implement the Greber Plan recommendations-which it conducted during the 1960s and 1970s.

In the previous 50 years, other commissions, plans and projects had failed to implement plans to improve the capital such as the 1899 Ottawa Improvement Commission (OIC), The Todd Plan in 1903, The Holt Report in 1915 and The Federal District Commission (FDC) established in 1927. In 1958 a new City Hall opened on Green Island near Rideau falls where urban renewal had recently transformed this former industrial location into green space. Until then, City Hall had temporarily been for 27 years (1931–1958) at the Transportation Building adjacent to Union Station and now part of the Rideau Centre. In 2001, Ottawa City Hall returned downtown to a relatively new building (1990) on 110 Laurier Avenue West, the prior home of the now-defunct Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. This new location was close to Ottawa's first (1849–1877) and second (1877–1931) City Halls. This new city hall complex also contained an adjacent 19th-century restored heritage building formerly known as the Ottawa Normal School.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the National Capital Region had a building boom, which was followed by large growth in the high-tech industry during the 1990s and 2000s. Ottawa became one of Canada's largest high tech cities and was nicknamed Silicon Valley North. By the 1980s, Bell Northern Research (later Nortel) employed thousands, and large federally assisted research facilities such as the National Research Council contributed to an eventual technology boom. The early adopters led to offshoot companies such as Newbridge Networks, Mitel and Corel.

In 1991, provincial and federal governments responded to a land claim submitted by the Algonquins of Ontario regarding the unceded status of the land Ottawa sits on. Negotiations have been ongoing, with an eventual goal to sign a treaty that would release Canada from claims for misuse of land under Algonquin title, as well as affirm various rights of the Algonquins and negotiate other conditions for this release.

Ottawa's city limits had been increasing over the years, but it acquired the most territory on 1 January 2001, when it amalgamated all the municipalities of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa–Carleton into one single city. Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli was elected as the new city's first mayor in the 2000 municipal election, defeating Gloucester mayor Claudette Cain. The city's growth led to strains on the public transit system and road bridges. On 15 October 2001, a diesel-powered light rail transit (LRT) line was introduced on an experimental basis. Known today as the Trillium Line, it was dubbed the O-Train and connected downtown Ottawa to the southern suburbs via Carleton University. The decision to extend the O-Train, and to replace it with an electric light rail system, was a major issue in the 2006 municipal elections, where Chiarelli was defeated by businessman Larry O'Brien. After O'Brien's election, transit plans were changed to establish a series of light rail stations from the east side of the city into downtown, and for using a tunnel through the downtown core. Jim Watson, the last mayor of Ottawa prior to amalgamation, was re-elected in the 2010 election.

In October 2012, City Council approved the final Lansdowne Park plan, an agreement with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group that saw a new stadium, increased green space, and housing and retail added to the site. In December 2012, City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the Confederation Line, a light rail transit line, which was opened on 14 September 2019.

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.

Researching in Eastern Ontario

The website of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society offers a number of search engines for databases of material they maintain:

The Society covers the counties of Carleton (combined with the city of Ottawa), Lanark, Renfrew, Prescott and Russell. There is a note on the website that the URL will be changing soon (Jun 2012). It may be best to “google” the Ottawa Branch of OGS.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Ottawa. 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.