Wentworth County, Ontario Genealogy
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Guide to Wentworth County ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
- 1 History
- 2 Civil Registration
- 3 Census Records
- 4 Church Records
- 5 Cemetery Records
- 6 Populated Places Table
- 7 Websites
Wentworth County, area 269,057 acres (1,089 km2), is a historic county in the Canadian province of Ontario.
It was created in 1816 as part of the Gore District (1816-1849) in what was then Upper Canada and later Canada West (1841-1867). It was named in honour of Sir John Wentworth Last Governor of colonial New Hampshire, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia (1792 to 1808) and intimate friend of William Jarvis, the first Provincial Secretary of Upper Canada. The Wentworth County originally consisted of seven townships which formerly belonged to Haldimand, Lincoln and York Counties.
For a brief period between 1850 and 1854, Wentworth County and Halton County were joined for government purposes as the United Counties of Wentworth and Halton, although for administrative purposes they remained distinct.
In 1973, Wentworth County was replaced by the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. In 2001, the Regional Municipality and its six constituent municipalities were amalgamated as the "megacity" of Hamilton.
- 1869 - 1911 Ontario Births, 1869-1911 at FamilySearch — index and images
- 1858 - 1913 - Ontario, Canada Births, 1858-1913 at Ancestry.com--index and images. ($)
- 1869 - 1912 - Ontario Births, 1869-1912 at --index. ($)
- 1801-1858 - Ontario, District Marriage Registers, 1801-1858 at FamilySearch — index and images.
- 1801-1928, 1933-1934 - Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928, 1933-1934 at Ancestry.com--index and images. ($)
- 1858-1869 - Ontario, County Marriage Registers, 1858-1869 at FamilySearch — index and images.
- 1869-1937, and some 1939-1947 - Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947 at FamilySearch — index and images
- 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and some 1939-1947 - Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947 at Ancestry.com--index and images. ($)
Writing for a More Recent Birth, Marriage, or Death Record
- ServiceOntario, Birth Records is the only government-authorized source for obtaining birth certificates. Go to the section entitled "Order a Birth Search". This is the most economical, searches the widest time period, and allows searches for people not immediately related. A letter of information is provided rather than a certificate.
- ServiceOntario, Marriage Records offers a marriage search option and a historical certificate option.
- ServiceOntario, Death Records offers a death search option and a historical certificate option. Also official death certificates are available to a wider range of relatives than birth and marriage certificates.
FamilySearch Library Microfilmed Records
Some of the church/civil records have been microfilmed by FamilySearch.These microfilms may be available for viewing at various Family History Centers around the world. To find a microfilm:
- a. Click on records for Canada, Ontario, Wentworth County. You will see a list of available records for the county.
- b. You will also see above the list the link Places within Canada, Ontario, Wentworth County. This will take you to a list of towns in the counties, which are links to records for the specific town.
- c. Click on any topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- d. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. . The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.
|Census||Districts and Sub-Districts||Links|
Ontario and Nova Scotia Census, 1800-1842
Canada Census, 1851
|Wentworth County (District 41)
Census of Canada, 1861
Ancaster, Barton, Beverly, Binbrook, Dundas,
East Flamboro,West Flamboro, Glamford,
Census of Canada, 1871
|Wentworth South (District 22)
Wentworth North (District 23)
Census of Canada, 1881
|Wentworth South (District 147)
Wentworth North (DIstrict 148)
Census of Canada, 1891
|Brant North (District 48)
Wentworth North (District 128)
Wentworth South (District 129)
Census of Canada, 1901
|Wentworth and Brant North (District 127)
Census of Canada, 1911
|Wentworth (District 135)
Census of Canada, 1921
Church records can include baptisms, marriages, burials, membership lists, financial business, and other records for a particular congregation. They may be available online or on microfilm, but frequently they are still with the local church or in centralized archives by religion. The Canadian census records asked for the religion of those listed, so you will be able to narrow down which archives to consult. For help with writing a letter requesting copies of records, see Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy.
- Link to Anglican church archives
- Link to Baptist church archives
- Link to Catholic church archives
- Link to Lutheran church archives
- Link to Moravian church archives
- Link to Presbyterian church archives
- Link to United Church of Canada (including Methodist) church archives
Online Church Records
These records are incomplete.
- Ontario Births and Baptisms, 1779-1899 collection includes indexed Ontario church records.
- Ontario Marriages, 1800-1910.
- Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923., images only.
- Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923, index and images, ($).
- Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1802-1967
- Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Marriages, 1827-1870, ($).
- Various individual church records at FindMyPast, ($).
See, Ontario Cemeteries for information on cemetery record collections not yet digitized, but available in published sources and on microfilm.
Online Cemetery Records
- Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid website has a free, searchable database of over 2 million burials in Ontario. It can be searched by name, cemetery, county and town, but its references do not include dates of death. Although it does not include any gravestone inscriptions, it can be used to locate graves in Ontario.
- Ontario Cemetery Ancestory Index
- Ontario Name Index (TONI)
- The Ontario section of Canada GenWeb Cemetery Project
- Ontario, Canada Headstones.com
- Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Canada, Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current
To begin at the very beginning, Wentworth County’s nature is tied to the two geographical features that dominate it: the Great Lakes and the Niagara Escarpment. The Saint Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Burlington Bay, the Desjardins Canal and Coote’s Paradise, provided means of transport well into the interior, assisted in settlement and made possible the establishment of shipping and industry. The escarpment, part of a formation over 700 miles long, forms a cliff 300 to 330 feet high running about 2-2.5 miles from the lake and bay, with a deeply eroded western section where the Dundas and Ancaster valleys lie. The combination of water and height would result in mills.
Exploration and Settlement
The earliest settlers were, of course, First Nations people, the Neutrals (refusing to engage in the wars between the Iroquois and the Hurons), who occupied much of Southwestern Ontario. They left their permanent mark in the making of two trails, now called King Street and York Street, in the City of Hamilton. By the end of 1652, the Neutrals had been completed annihilated by conquering Seneca, a tribe of the Iroquois. So, the area was inhabited by the great Five Nations (later Six Nations).
The first Europeans to come to the interior were Étienne Brulé and Robert de La Salle, French explorers in the 1600’s. But they formed no settlement, leaving the land as they found it.
Settlement began in earnest in the wake of the American Revolution, as those who preferred to remain under British rule left, or were forced from, their American homes. They moved to many areas of what was then Upper and Lower Canada, where their loyalty was rewarded by free land.
Famously (at least locally) was Richard Beasley, a man of many parts but mostly merchant, who settled on Burlington Heights at the Head of the Lake in 1777, on the land now occupied by Dundurn Castle. He was followed by Robert Land, in 1778, a member of the King’s Forces who lost his land and his family in the Revolution. There is a nearly unbelievable story of how the family was reunited in 1791.
About 10,000 loyalists came to Ontario settling near the Bay of Quinte, Niagara Peninsula, and along the Saint Lawrence River. They were followed by many non-Loyalists in search of cheap land, and by many of the Native people who had fought for Britain.
In 1788 through 1793, the townships at the Head of the Lake were surveyed and named. This included all the townships of what became Wentworth, Haldimand and Halton Counties. The land was claimed only very slowly. Meanwhile, the village of Ancaster had been founded and was rapidly becoming a bustling centre of industry with mills. Dundas also had mills.
The principal historical divisions of the county were:
Ancaster, Barton, Beverly, Benbrook, Flamborough East, Flamborough West, Glanford, Saltfleet. All but Benbrook and Glanford are separated at least in part by the escarpment.
At various times the townships of Caistor, Seneca (both in Haldimand County) and Onandaga (Brant County) were part of Wentworth.
The new land was barely scratched at when the War of 1812-14 broke out. All adult men had to belong to the local militia, and some joined the regular troops, most of whom were British. Burlington Heights was a critical defensive point across the harbour and the Head of the Lake. But the famous local battle was the Battle of Stoney Creek in 1813, resoundingly won by the British forces.
The area had had many names, just as the province had many divisions. In 1816, Halton and Wentworth were named the District of Gore; at this time Wentworth included some townships now in Haldimand County. In 1853, Wentworth County was declared a separate entity.
In 1833, the Town of Hamilton was incorporated with a population of about 1,000, far smaller than neighbouring Ancaster. The 1837 Rebellion interrupted life (briefly) and the local Militia was lead by Alan MacNab, whose “castle” was completed. He was knighted the following year for his actions. In 1846, the City of Hamilton was chartered, the first telegraph wire (to Toronto) was strung and The Hamilton Spectator was founded. “The Spec” is still publishing.
In 1973, under Provincial order, the county and city reluctantly united into the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, with two tiers of government. In 2001 the Region was further amalgamated into the City of Hamilton. Although the name of Wentworth County has officially disappeared, it lingers in the names of many organizations, just as the many local historical groups preserve the old townships.
Halton, Wellington, Waterloo, Brant, Haldimand, Lincoln
Halton, Wellington, Waterloo, Brant, Haldimand, Niagara
The Canadian County Digital Atlas Project is a wonderful site generated by McGill Univeristy, and has a searchable database of digitized county maps of Ontario (and can be narrowed down to township) and by property owner at the time the atlas was created. These maps date from the 1870s (date specific to each county, but most were created in the 1870s).
Figures from History
Robert Land -- First UEL arrival
Richard Beasley -- first settler at the Head of the Lake
Sir Alan MacNab -- Prime Minister
George Hamilton -- settler and founder of City of Hamilton
James Durand -- a founding father
Nathaniel Hughson -- a founding father
William Osler -- the father of Modern Medicine
Elizabeth Bagshaw -- early female physician, founder of the first planned parenthood clinic in Canada
Societies and Libraries
- Hamilton Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society Hamilton is currently a VIRTUAL branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, via this link. There are new digital resources being added to this site, and many of their publications can be purchased from the Ontario Genealogical Society main page Marketplace (https://ogs.on.ca/shop/).
- Hamilton Public Library has a Local History room that provides many helpful resources for genealogists, both online at this link, and on site at the Main Branch of the library.
- Please check out the many local township Archives in this county, as they may provide assistance with more township-specific resources and information. One example is the Flamborough Archives and Historical Society (https://flamboroughhistory.com/).
Populated Places Table
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|Dundas||Link bgcolor="#ffffcc" | Link|
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The Forebears website will give you an extensive list of websites that could have information for people who lived in this county. Some sites cover just the county, some cover all of Ontario, and some cover all of Canada. Some sites are databases of names and facts about people; other sites cover background information such as maps, history, geography, or genealogy strategies and methods for the region.
Pioneer Families of Wentworth County (one that settled in Wentworth County Ontario prior to 1860).