Place:Oxford, Ontario, Canada

Coordinates43.123°N 80.8°W
Located inOntario, Canada     (1850 - )
Also located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1792 - 1841)
Canada West, Canada     (1841 - 1867)
See alsoWestern District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative district 1792-1798
London District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative district 1798-1840
Brock District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative district 1840-1850

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

Oxford County is a regional municipality of the Canadian province of Ontario, located in the southwestern portion of the province. The regional seat is in Woodstock. Oxford County has functioned as a regional municipality since 2001, despite still containing the word county in its official title.

Current Subdivisions or Municipalities

Since becoming a regional municipality, Oxford is separated into the following municipalities


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

The geographical area which is now Oxford County was populated with Neutral/Attawandaron longhouse villages for many centuries but was abandoned to First Nations nomadic peoples by the 1650s as a result of warfare with Iroquois and epidemics resulting from European contact. The land was acquired by the Crown through three treaties, signed in 1792 (by chiefs of the Mississaugas First Nation), in 1796 (by chiefs of the Chippewas First Nation) and 1827 (by chiefs of the Chippewas). These depended for their certainty on an earlier treaty known as the McKee Purchase of 1790, signed at Detroit with thirty-five chiefs from the Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Odawa First Nations.

Oxford County was created by the legislature of the province of Upper Canada in 1798, by an enactment which came into force at the beginning of the year 1800. The immediate purpose was to better organize the local militia and improve social order through the appointment of a lord lieutenant, part of the aristocratic framework for the new province which had been put in place by Governor Simcoe. The county lieutenant appointed for Oxford was William Claus, a grandson of Sir William Johnson, and at the time head of the Indian Department responsible for oversight of the Six Nations settled along the Grand River tract running north and south on the eastern boundary of Oxford.

As first established, Oxford County consisted of the townships of Blenheim, Burford, Oxford-on-the-Thames, Blandford, Norwich and Dereham (lands to the north of the Thames River had not yet been purchased by the Crown). The first three of these had been receiving settlers since the summer of 1793, under the leadership of Thomas Hornor (Blenheim), Benajah Mallory (Burford) and Thomas Ingersoll (Oxford-on-the-Thames), each of whom was also captain of the militia in his respective township. Claus remained resident in Niagara and his appointment as the Crown's head for the county set off a rivalry between Hornor and Mallory for the prestige of appointment as Claus' resident deputy lieutenant within the county, eventually won by Hornor. Thomas Ingersoll left the county, but the rivalry between Hornor and Mallory for pre-eminence continued for more than a decade, as Mallory was elected as the county's representative in the legislative assembly for Upper Canada in 1804 and again in 1808. All this was swept away with the coming of the War of 1812. Appointed temporary administrator of the government, General Isaac Brock moved Claus to the head of the Lincoln Militia and appointed Henry Bostwick to head the Oxford Militia, passing over Hornor for any role in the war effort (Bostwick was the son of a former associate of Thomas Ingersoll). Mallory lost the 1812 election and turned traitor during the war, defecting to the American side as a captain in a volunteer corps.

By the end of the first quarter century of its development, Oxford's population was nearing 2,000 people, but many problems were holding back development. Robert Gourlay, a Scotsman whose wife had inherited nearly 1,000 acres in Dereham township (around today's Mount Elgin), made the journey to Oxford in 1817 to inspect the prize, but could not believe the township was still a complete wilderness. He began a public movement to find solutions through public gatherings and newspaper advocacy all over Upper Canada, but in return was prosecuted and jailed by the government for sedition. Gourlay's two-volume Statistical account of Upper Canada, compiled with a view to a grand system of emigration published in London in 1822 presented a detailed analysis based upon reports submitted to him by citizen groups in 57 townships who yearned for improvements. Gourlay spent the next 35 years away from Canada, but returned to his land in Oxford in 1856 to run for election.

Gourlay was just one of many voices that created dissatisfaction in Oxford and area over the slow pace of growth that continued in the 1820s and 1830s. American-born settlers were again making their way to the county, such as George Tillson, founder of Tillsonburg, and Abraham Beach, founder of Beachville. By 1821 all of Thomas Ingersoll's sons had returned to create the village that became Ingersoll. Thomas Hornor was elevated again as the county's champion, appointed in 1820 to head the Oxford Militia and serving as the county's representative in the legislative assembly throughout the next decade. There he was amongst members who sought repeal of the law used to imprison Gourlay and opposed laws aimed at restricting rights of settlers who had come from the United States. The Crown entered into a treaty to purchase the lands north of the Thames River and two more townships were added to the county, Zorra and Nissouri. This was followed by an influx of Scottish and Irish immigrants displaced from their homes, such as the large numbers of Sutherlandshire Highlanders who created a Gaelic-speaking enclave around the village of Embro in Zorra township. Many of them arrived destitute in Oxford after suffering brutal evictions from their homeland, often by mass burnings of homes described by their countryman, Donald McLeod, who lived out his remaining days in Oxford after completing his book Gloomy Memories. A new government program which gave preferential grants to encourage retired British military officers to settle in Upper Canada in the 1830s was successful in bringing many to Oxford who showed a determination to make Woodstock the seat of a new local aristocracy, just as Simcoe had envisioned forty years earlier. The "father of the settlement" at Woodstock was Rear-Admiral Henry Vansittart, surrounded by an assortment of retired army and navy officers who had been schooled in the Napoleonic wars.

Resentment amongst the old settlers grew to rebellion, with Oxford's elected member in the legislative assembly, Dr. Charles Duncombe, taking on the role as leader of an uprising in December 1837. In the aftermath, Duncombe was driven into exile and one of the Woodstock retired Royal Navy veterans, Captain Andrew Drew (Vansittart's right-hand man), created an international incident still studied by legal scholars, when he led a raid into the United States to seize and burn a paddlewheel steamer being used in the Niagara River by the exiled rebels, leaving it to drift over Niagara Falls.

The decade of political turmoil which followed resulted in greater democratic government at the local and provincial levels, as Oxford repeatedly elected reformers to serve as the county's representative in the legislative assembly. These included a Prime Minister (Sir Francis Hincks) and two Fathers of Confederation (George Brown and Sir Oliver Mowat). Enormous growth in the 1840s through to the 1860s also became a cure for past grievances. The population chart on this page tells the story. It shows the county eventually reached a population plateau in the 1870s which continued well into the first half of the 20th century.

A new era of urbanization starting in the 1950s has added 25,000 people to Woodstock, 10,000 to Tillsonburg, and 6,000 to Ingersoll, which has been most of Oxford County's modern growth.

The map of Oxford County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, towns and villages of the county.

A sketchmap from Ontario GenWeb provides a simple illustration of the location of the former townships.

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 Oxford County

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Oxford 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.
source: Family History Library Catalog