Place:Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Alt namesRegional Municipality of Waterloo (since 1973)source: Wikipedia
Region of Waterloo (since 1973)source: Wikipedia
Waterloo Region (since 1973)source: Wikipedia
Waterloo County (until 1973)source: common parlance
Coordinates43.467°N 80.533°W
Located inOntario, Canada     (1849 - )
Also located inUpper Canada, Canada     (1792 - 1841)
Canada West, Canada     (1841 - 1867)
See alsoWellington District, Upper Canada, Canadaadministrative district 1840-1849
Contained Places
Former municipality
Galt ( 1827 - 1973 )
Hespeler ( - 1973 )
Preston ( - 1973 )
Former village
Blair ( - 1973 )
North Woolwich
Strasburg ( - 1973 )
Zuber Corners
Inhabited place
Bloomingdale ( - 1973 )
Breslau ( - 1973 )
Bridgeport ( - 1973 )
Cambridge ( 1973 - )
Doon ( - 1975 )
Erbsville ( - 1973 )
Freeport ( - 1973 )
New Dundee
New Hamburg
Saint Agatha
Saint Clements
St. Jacobs
West Montrose
Berlets Corner
North Dumfries ( 1816 - )
Waterloo (township) ( 1796 - 1973 )
Wellesley (township) ( 1837 - )
Wilmot ( 1824 - )
Woolwich ( 1807 - )
Unincorporated area
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names

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

The Regional Municipality of Waterloo (Waterloo Region or Region of Waterloo) is a metropolitan area of Southern Ontario, Canada. It contains the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo (KWC or Tri-Cities), and the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich. Kitchener, the largest city, is the seat of government.

The region is in area. The population was 587,165 at the 2021 Canada census. In 2016, the Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo area was rated Canada's third-best area to find full-time employment.

The region was formerly called Waterloo County, created in 1853 and dissolved in 1973. The county consisted of five townships: Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot, Waterloo, and North Dumfries.


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

Up to the 17th century, the Attawandaron (Neutral) nation inhabited the Grand River area. European explorers admired their farming practices.

In the wake of a smallpox epidemic and European incursions, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and the Wendat (Huron) Confederacies waged war from 1642-1650. Invasion by the Haudenosaunee's Seneca and Mohawk nations ended Attawandaron independence.

In 1784, in recognition of Haudenosaunee support during the American War of Independence and the consequent loss of its land in New York state,[1] the British government granted the Grand River valley to the Confederacy. The latter settled in the lower Grand River Valley, the present Brant County, and sold land in the upper Grand, now part of Waterloo Township, to Loyalist Colonel Richard Beasley. In 1816, William Dickson, a Scottish-born land speculator, acquired along the Grand River, in present North and South Dumfries Townships, and the city of Cambridge.

North and South Dumfries Townships

Dickson planned to divide the tract into lots to sell to Scottish settlers. He and American-born miller, Absalom Shade, chose the confluence of Mill Creek and the Grand River to found Shade's Mills. In 1825, the growing settlement had a post office.

Despite settlers' reluctance, Dickson renamed the settlement Galt in honour of John Galt, a Scottish novelist and Canada Company Commissioner. Galt's visit in 1827 brought wider acceptance to the name change.

Initially serving local farmers, Galt's industrial development in the late 1830s eventually earned it the nickname "The Manchester of Canada". It remained the area's main town until Berlin overtook it at the beginning of the 20th century.


Pre-modern era

According to the City of Waterloo, indigenous people lived in the area, including the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and the Neutral Nation.

One report states that at least two "aboriginal settlements from the 1500s can now be identified near Schneider and Strasburg Creeks" in Kitchener. The finds include the remains of a First Nations village, estimated to be 500 years old, discovered in 2010 in the Strasburg Creek area with "artifacts going back as far as 9,000 years". In 2020, a site at Fischer-Hallman Road was found to include artifacts from a "Late Woodland Iroquois village" that was inhabited circa 1300 to 1600. Archeologists found some 35,000 objects including stone tools and a 4,000 year old arrowhead.

1800 to 1820

Settlement of the later Waterloo Township started in 1800 (in an area that is now Kitchener) by Joseph Schoerg (later called Sherk) and Samuel Betzner, Jr. (brothers-in-law), Mennonites, from Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Joseph Schoerg and his wife settled on Lot No.11, B.F. Beasley Block, S.R., on the bank of the Grand River opposite Doon, and Betzner and his wife settled on the west bank of the Grand River, on a farm near an area that is now the village of Blair.

As of March 2021, the homes built by these families' next generation still stand on Pioneer Tower Road, Kitchener. Built circa 1830, they are listed as historically important: the John Betzner homestead (restored) and the David Schoerg farmstead (not yet restored).

Other settlers followed, mostly from Pennsylvania, and also purchased land in Block Number 2, German Company Tract from Richard Beasley who had acquired a massive territory previously owned by the Six Nations.

The first school opened in 1802 near the village of Blair, then known as Shinglebridge; it became part of Preston, Ontario and then part of Cambridge, Ontario. The first teacher's name was Mr. Rittenhaus.

After 1803, many Pennsylvania pioneers bought lots from the German Company, established by Mennonites from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The 60,000-acre section included most of Block 2 of the former Grand River Indian Lands acquired by Beasley and previously owned by the Six Nations Indians. Many farms were 400 or more acres in size.

Most settlers before 1830 were Pennsylvania Mennonites, often called Pennsylvania Dutch (an anglicization of Deutsch) because of the German dialect they spoke from their origins in Germany and Switzerland.

By the early 1800s, a corduroy road had been built along what is now King Street in Waterloo; its remains were unearthed in 2016. The road was probably built by Mennonites using technology acquired in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, between the late 1790s and 1816. The log road was buried in about 1840 and a new road built on top of it. A historian explained that the road had been built for access to the mill but was also "one of the first roads cut through (the woods) so people could start settling the area".

In 1806, Abraham Erb, from Franklin County, bought 900 acres (360 ha) from the German Company in what would be later part of the City of Waterloo. The putative founder of the city, Erb built a sawmill in 1808 and a gristmill in 1816; the latter operated for 111 years and still stands in Waterloo Park.

Benjamin Eby arrived from Lancaster County in 1806. The putative founder of Kitchener, he purchased a large tract in that area. The settlement, Ebytown, was on the south-east side of present-day Queen Street. Ordained a Mennonite pastor in 1809, and later a bishop, Eby oversaw the building of the first church in 1813 and the confession's subsequent growth. Many Mennonite meeting houses, or places of worship, were basic frame buildings, a structure still common among Old Order Mennonites in rural Waterloo Region. Settlers often held a "bee" to help newcomers erect large buildings, a custom that persists today among traditional Mennnonite communities.[2]

In 1806, Joseph Schneider, of south German stock, arrived from Lancaster County. He bought lot 17 of the German Company Tract of block 2. A farmer, he helped build what became "Schneider's Road". By 1816, he had built a sawmill.

In 1807, Pennsylvanians John and Jacob Erb, among others, purchased 45,195 acres (182.9 km2) of Block 3 (Woolwich township).

The War of 1812 interrupted immigration from the United States. The pacifist Mennonite settlers were employed in camps, hospitals and transportation.

Samuel and Elia Schneider arrived in 1816.

A network of small settlements emerged. Abram Weber settled on the corner of later King and Wilmot Streets, and David Weber by the later Grand Trunk Railway station.[2][3]

Benjamin Eby encouraged manufacturers to move to Ebytown. Jacob Hoffman arrived around 1830 to start the regions's first furniture factory.

1820 to 1852

Immigration continued strongly in the 1820s, driven by a severe agricultural depression in Lancaster County.[4] John Eby, druggist and chemist, arrived from Pennsylvania about 1820 and opened a shop west of present-day Eby Street. In the same year, after clearing a farm and creating a rough road, Joseph Schneider built a frame house on the south side of the future Queen Street ; the renovated home still stands. The settlement around "Schneider's Road" became the nucleus of Berlin.[3]

In 1830, Phineas Varnum established the centre of later Berlin (Kitchener). Leasing land from Joseph Schneider, he opened a blacksmith shop on the site of the later Walper House (now the Walper Hotel). A tavern and store opened there at the same time.[2] Still considered a hamlet,[5] Ebytown became Berlin in 1833.

By 1830, the village of Preston was a thriving business centre under the impulse of Jacob Hespeler, a native of Württemberg. He later moved to the village of New Hope, renamed Hespeler in 1857 in recognition of his enterprise and public service. Jacob Beck, from the Grand Duchy of Baden, founded the village of Baden in Wilmot Township and started a foundry and machine shop. Jacob Beck was the father of Sir Adam Beck, founder of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.

By 1835, many immigrants were coming to Waterloo County from Germany and the British Isles. The Germans settled in areas like New Germany in the Lower Block of Block Two. In 1835, some 70% of the population was Mennonite; by 1851, that number had declined to 26% of a much larger population.[4]

The county's first newspaper, Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung, came off the press on August 27, 1835. Written mostly in German with some English articles, it was published for five years.

By the 1840s, the growing German-speaking population had made the area a popular choice for German immigrants. They founded communities in the south of the Mennonite area. The largest was Berlin (now Kitchener).

In 1841, the population count was 4,424. Smith's Canadian Gazetteer of 1846 states that the population of Waterloo Township, within Waterloo County, consisted primarily of Pennsylvania Mennonites and German immigrants who had brought money with them. Many spoke no English. There were now eight grist and twenty saw mills in the township. In 1846 the village of Waterloo had a population of 200, "mostly Germans". It had a grist mill, a sawmill and some tradesmen. Berlin (Kitchener) had a population of about 400, also "mostly German", and more tradesmen than the village of Waterloo.

After 1852

Previously part of the United County of Waterloo, Wellington and Grey, Waterloo became a separate entity in 1853, with five townships. Galt and Berlin contended to be the county seat; one requirement was the construction of a courthouse and jail. When local merchant Joseph Gaukel donated a small portion of his land for that purpose at the corner of present current Queen and Weber streets, Berlin was selected. A courthouse and gaol were built within a few months.

The first county council meeting was held in the new facility on 24 January 1853. Both buildings figure in the Canadian Register of Historic Places. The council included 12 members from the five townships and two villages; Dr. John Scott was appointed as the first warden (reeve). In the following years, the region's physical and social infrastructure developed to include roads, bridges, agricultural societies, markets, and schools.

The Grand Trunk railway reached Berlin in 1856, accelerating industrial growth. Over the next decade, comfortable homes replaced the early settlers' log cabins.[5]

House of Industry and Refuge

In 1869, the county built a large "Poorhouse" with an attached farm, the House of Industry and Refuge. It accommodated some 3,200 people before being closed down in 1951 and later demolished. Located on Frederick St. in Kitchener, behind the now Frederick Street Mall, it sought to help indigents and convicts before social welfare programmes became available. A 2009 report by the Toronto Star stated that "pauperism was considered a moral failing that could be erased through order and hard work".

Electric streetcar

A new streetcar system, the Galt, Preston and Hespeler electric railway (later called the Grand River Railway) began operation in 1894, connecting Preston and Galt. In 1911, the line reached Hespeler, Berlin (Kitchener) and Waterloo; by 1916 it had been extended to Brantford/Port Dover. The electric rail system ended passenger services in April, 1955.

German heritage

Some sources estimate that roughly 50,000 European Germans arrived in the Waterloo area from 1830-1860. Unlike the largely German-speaking Mennonites from Pennsylvania, the later arrivals – from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and present day and Poland, France and Russia, were of other denominations. The first groups were predominantly Roman Catholic; those who arrive later were primarily Lutheran.

In 1862, German-speaking groups held a Sängerfest ("Singer Festival") that attracted an estimated 10,000 people. The festival continued for several years.

By 1863, Berlin's German population exceeded 2,000. the community started the Friedenfest to celebrate the German victory in the Franco-Prussian war. The event continued annual until the start of World War I.

By 1871, nearly 55 percent of the population had German origins, including the Pennsylvania Mennonites and European Germans. This group greatly outnumbered the Scots (18 per cent), the English (12.6 per cent) and the Irish (8 per cent).[6] Berlin, Ontario was a bilingual town, with German being the dominant language spoken. More than one visitor commented on the necessity of speaking German in Berlin.

In 1897, the Canadians with origins in Germany raised funds to erect a large monument, with a bronze bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I, in Victoria Park. The monument would be destroyed by townspeople just after the start of World War I.

By the early 1900s, northern Waterloo County – the Kitchener, Waterloo, Elmira area – exhibited a strong German culture and those of German origin made up a third of the population in 1911. Lutherans were the primary religious group. There were nearly three times as many Lutherans as Mennonites at that time. The latter primarily resided in the rural areas and small communities.

Before and during World War I, there was some anti-German sentiment in Canada and some cultural sanctions on the community, particularly in Berlin, Ontario. However, by 1919 most of the population of what would become Kitchener-Waterloo and Elmira were Canadian by birth; over 95 percent had been born in Ontario. Those of the Mennonite religion were pacifist, so they could not enlist, while others who were not born in Canada refused to fight against the country of their birth. Anti-German sentiment during World War I was the primary reason for renaming Berlin Kitchener in 1916 to honour British Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, who had died that year when his cruiser was sunk by a German submarine.

The Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower built in 1926 commemorates the settlement by the Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch or Pennsylvania German) of the Grand River area in what later became Waterloo County.

The region is still home to the largest population of Old Order Mennonites in Canada, particularly in the areas around St Jacobs and Elmira.

Over time, after WW II, the anti-German sentiment faded. The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest event, with beer halls and German entertainment, and a large parade, was established in 1969 to honour the Region's German heritage. The events typically attract an average of 700,000 people to the county. During the 2016 Oktoberfest parade, an estimated 150,000 people lined the streets along the route.

In the year 2000, the Government of Ontario declared an annual German Pioneers Day to recognize the achievements of settlers from Germany. Each year since then, the Waterloo Region area honours the current families of several such pioneers who had settled in the area.

The Waterloo region remained predominantly German-speaking until the early 20th century, and its German heritage is reflected in the region's large Lutheran community and the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest.

There are still traditional Mennonite communities located north of Kitchener-Waterloo. While the best known is St. Jacobs, with its very popular thrice-weekly outdoor market, the community of Linwood has attracted increased tourist volume in recent years due to its highly authentic Mennonite lifestyle.


In 1973, the regional municipality style of government was imposed on the county by the provincial government. The cities of Galt, Kitchener, and Waterloo were previously independent single tier municipalities prior to joining the newly formed regional municipality. In that major reorganization, the fifteen towns and townships of the county were reduced to just seven in the new Region of Waterloo. The new city of Cambridge was created through the amalgamation of the City of Galt, the towns of Preston and Hespeler, the Village of Blair, and various parcels of township land. One township vanished when the former Waterloo Township was divided among Woolwich Township and the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. The settlement of Bridgeport was annexed to the city of Kitchener. The settlement of Erbsville was annexed to the city of Waterloo. The former county government was given broader powers as a regional municipality.

Regardless of the resistance, the amalgamation proceeded and became effective 1 January 1973, creating the Region of Waterloo, with Jack A. Young appointed by the provincial government as the first Regional Chair. The region took over many services, including police, waste management, recreation, planning, roads and social services.

Further municipal amalgamation began discussions in the 1990s, with little progress. In late 2005, Kitchener's city council voted to visit the subject again, with the possibility of reducing the seven constituent municipalities into one or more cities. A new proposal in 2010 would study only the merger of Kitchener and Waterloo, with a public referendum on whether the idea should be looked into. Kitchener residents voted 2–1 in favour of studying the merger while Waterloo residents voted 2–1 against. Waterloo city council voted against the study.

end of Wikipedia contribution

Early Administrative Organization

Until 1840 the townships that made up Waterloo County were in Halton and Simcoe Counties (and under the administration of the Home District and later the Gore District) and in Huron County which was under the administration of the Western District, then the London District, then the Huron District). In 1840 an new administrative district named Wellington was established to cover the Waterloo County area. When the district system of administration was abolished in 1849, the Wellington District became Waterloo County.

The map of Waterloo County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the communities and physical features of the county. (Click at the bottom of the page to see the map enlarged.)

A sketchmap from Ontario GenWeb gives an outline of the 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.

    (Template:Waterloo local provision pending)
source: Family History Library Catalog
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Regional Municipality of Waterloo, 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.