Elgin County, Ontario, Canada
Addresses of Church Archives are found after the Introduction
Please read the Introduction for a description of this material
The concept for a project of this nature was developed in the mid 1980’s, and a committee was formed in 1986 to begin gathering information on various religious denominations within the province of Ontario in existence prior to 1900, with the exception of Methodist, Congregational and most Presbyterian churches which amalgamated in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada. The project at this time was called Church Records Inventory, but was later changed to reflect the fact that not every “place of worship” is called a “church”.
In 1989 the project was reorganized into a format whereby the branches of the Ontario Genealogical Society would gather the information and arrange it by township and county, rather than a province-wide publication arranged by religious denomination.
The project was divided into two phases. Phase One involved compiling a list of all known places of worship. Phase Two consisted of gathering an inventory of all known records relating to that congregation.
The type of information gathered included: name and location of church; religious denomination; date of formation; date of closing; affiliated congregations or circuits; and a brief history. Information about the records included: what records are available; location and accessibility of records; and information about copies, microfilmed or published records.
The Project in Elgin County
After compiling a great deal of the requested information, Elgin County Branch decided to go a step further and include places of worship up to the present time. Lists of ministers, where available, and a photograph of the church building were also included. It was also decided to publish the inventory in several volumes, using the boundaries of the former townships of Elgin County prior to municipal amalgamation in 1998. The resulting publications are in volumes as follows:
Researchers should note that while a portion of the Village of Springfield geographically lies in Malahide Township, it was decided to include the entire village in the South Dorchester volume.
Where possible, in addition to the street address or lot and concession, the current 911 addresses of existing places of worship have been included in brackets.
There will be several references to a “Union Church”. A Union Church was a place of worship used by more than one religious denomination.
Description of Some of the Religious Denominations
There are references in this publication to several religious denominations which have since amalgamated with other bodies, or merged to form new ones. Requiring the most explanation are the various Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches which eventually formed the United Church of Canada in 1925.
1. The Methodist Episcopal was the earliest Methodist church in Ontario, and was connected with the Episcopal Methodists in the United States. In 1828, the body in Ontario became known as the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada
2. The Wesleyan Methodist had its origins with the British Wesleyan Methodist church. The body in Ontario became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada in 1833
3. The Methodist New Connexion church came to Ontario in 1840, and became known as the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion Church in 1843; the name was further changed in 1865 to the Methodist New Connexion Church of Canada
4. The Primitive Methodist church began in Ontario in 1829.
5. The Bible Christian church began in Ontario in 1831, and became known as the Bible Christian Church in Canada
There were two main unions of the above denominations:
1874 – The Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada joined with the Methodist New Connexion Church of Canada to form the Methodist Church of Canada
1884 – The Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada; the Primitive Methodist Church in Canada, and the Bible Christian Church of Canada joined with the Methodist Church of Canada and was the largest Protestant denomination in Canada at this time.
Note: The Free Methodist Church was founded in New York in 1860 and expanded into Canada in 1880, and continues as a separate Canadian denomination
Several Presbyteries of this denomination were organized in Ontario after the Revolutionary War under the Established Church of Scotland, with ministers from the United States
1829 The Church of Scotland began its work in Ontario, and by 1831 had organized the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Connection with the Church of Scotland
1834 The United Associate Synod of the Secession Church in Scotland sent missionaries to Ontario, and the Presbytery was eventually renamed the United Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1847
1840 The United Presbytery Synod of Upper Canada and the Synod of Presbyterian Church in Connection with the Church of Scotland merged to form the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in Connection with the Church of Scotland
Some ministers remained out of this union in 1840 and continued to use the name Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Connection with the Church of Scotland
1844 A group of ministers left this newly-formed Synod connected to the Church of Scotland, and formed the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, better known as the Free Church
1861 The Free Church merged with the United Presbyterian Church of Canada and took the name of Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church
1867 By 1867, there were two separate Presbyterian denominations in Ontario – the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Connection with the Church of Scotland and the Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church
1875 These two denominations, along with two denominations in the Atlantic Region joined to form the Presbyterian Church in Canada
1819 The first Congregational church in Ontario was organized by Rev. Joseph Silcox at Frome, Elgin County in 1819; and was organized into the Congregational Union of Western Canada
1853 this union joined with the Congregational Union of Eastern Canada to form the Congregation Union of Canada
1867 the denomination became known as the Congregational Union of Ontario & Quebec
1906 the name was changed to the Congregational Union of Canada
1907 a small American, German speaking group known as the United Brethren in Christ joined the Congregational denomination and it became known as the United Brethren Association of Congregational Churches
Church Union of 1925
In 1925 the United Church of Canada was formed from the merger of the Methodist Church of Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada and its affiliated bodies, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. However, about 30% of Presbyterian congregations chose not to enter the union, and organized themselves as the Continuing Presbyterian Church in Canada
Note: most records for former Presbyterian congregations have been deposited at the Central Archives of the United Church of Canada in Toronto. Records of congregations of the Continuing Presbyterian Church are housed at the Presbyterian Church Archives in Toronto.
Evangelical United Brethren
1839 This American-based denomination with German background began work in Canada in 1812 and the first congregation in Ontario was organized in 1839
1923 became known as the Evangelical Church in 1923
1946 the Evangelical Church in the United States amalgamated with the United Brethren in Christ to form the Evangelical United Brethren church; and the name was also adopted in Canada
1968 the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren joined with the United Church of Canada
For more detailed information on the background of Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational and Evangelical United Brethren churches, see Guide to Family History Research in the Archival Repositories of the United Church of Canada, compiled by the Committee on Archives and History, the United Church of Canada; published by the Ontario Genealogical Society in 1996; from which the information for these denominations in this outline was taken.
A useful source for genealogical information on Methodist families are two newspapers, the Christian Guardian (Wesleyan Methodist), and the Canada Christian Advocate (Episcopal Methodist). Donald A. McKenzie has published extractions and an index to these papers, from 1836 to 1884, in nine volumes. Also included are extracts from two other Methodist newspapers, the Christian Journal (Primitive Methodist), and the Bible Christian Observer. Elgin OGS has these publications in its library collection.
Another source not listed under each Methodist church throughout this publication is the Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register. These records are contained in four volumes, on four reels of microfilm in the collection of the Elgin County Library. The microfilm numbers are 1456, 1457, 1458 and 1459. These registers are housed at the United Church Archives in Toronto, and are a central registry of births and baptisms set up the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada in 1843. The bulk of the entries fall between the years 1840 and 1873. The Elgin County entries and those for North Dorchester Township, Middlesex County were transcribed and indexed by Robert A. Jones for Elgin OGS in 1991. The transcription of these registers has since become a province-wide OGS project, and the volume for Elgin and North Dorchester was revised in 2001.
The Archives of the United Church of Canada has microfilmed a large portion of their holdings and have made them available through interlibrary loan. These records will be listed throughout this publication. Their website address will be given in the listing of Church Archives, following this section.
There were several types of Baptist denominations in existence, as evidenced from listings in census records. Some of these are:
Regular Baptist, African Association Baptist, Free Will Baptist, Close Communion Baptist, and Union Baptist.
It is suggested that the researcher contact the Canadian Baptist Archives in Hamilton for further information about these groups.
It should be noted that Baptists do not practice infant baptism. Therefore, church records will not contain traditional christening records, but will list names of people who have been baptized as an adult throughout their minute books. It is possible to find information about a child’s date of birth and parents in the record of the church’s “Cradle Roll” (sometimes published in the church’s annual report book), or the church’s Sunday School records. These two sources are not likely to exist prior to 1900.
Most Baptist churches have a “Marriage Register”, in which the details of the bride & groom, their occupations, the names of their parents, and the witnesses to their wedding are recorded. The difficult task is locating the whereabouts of this register. Many churches have deposited their records at the Baptist Archives in Hamilton, but churches are under no obligation to send their records to the Archives. As a result, some church records remain in private hands or end up in some other archival collection (i.e. County, Provincial or even National).
If the names of the ministers who served the church during a particular period are known, it may be these individuals left behind their own private record of the weddings, child dedications and funerals they performed during the course of their ministry. These records, if and when they exist, are either in private hands or at the Baptist Archives.
Another important source for researching Baptist ancestors is the Christian Messenger, a Baptist newspaper which recorded births, deaths and marriages of Baptist families throughout southwestern Ontario beginning in 1854. Microfilmed copies of this newspaper are available at the Canadian Baptist Archives in Hamilton. Hamilton Branch OGS has published an extraction and index to this paper from 1854 to 1883 in nineteen volumes. Elgin OGS has these publications in its library collection.
In Elgin County, the earliest Roman Catholic church established was Holy Angels Church in St. Thomas. The researcher is advised to consult the records of Holy Angels for any early Elgin County families belonging to the Roman Catholic church.
Church of England
The Church of England later became known as the Anglican Church. In Elgin County, the two earliest congregations established were in St. Thomas and St. Peter’s Church, Tyrconnell. Ministers from these churches or visiting clergy conducted baptisms and marriages throughout the entire county, and these records are often found in the registers of these two churches.
Religious Society of Friends
There were at least two congregations of Friends in Elgin County, also known as Quakers.
Some other denominations with organized places of worship found in Elgin County are Mennonite, Plymouth Brethren, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, United Missionary, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
From census records, other denominations were listed by those enumerated, but no record has been found of any organized congregation. Some of these were Universalist, Adventist and Messiah.
The Verschoyle Philip Cronyn Memorial Archives
1349 Western Road
London, Ontario N6G 1H3
(519) 645-7956 fax (519) 645-8669
Hours: Tues 9 – 12:30; 1:30 – 4:30
It is advisable to contact the Archivist to arrange a visit. A very useful guide to the records of the Anglican Church of Canada in Ontario is Guide to the Holdings of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, No. 2, 1990″, by the Archivists of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario
Anglican Church of Canada
General Synod Archives
600 Jarvis Street
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2J6(416) 924-9192
Canadian Baptist Archives
McMaster Divinity College
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1
(905) 525-9140 ext. 23511fax (905) 521-9183
The Hekman Library
Calvin College Archives
3201 Burton Street S.E.
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546-4388
(616) 957-6000fax (616) 957-8551
Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Conrad Grebel College Library
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
Archivist: Sam Steiner
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
St. Thomas Family History Centre
436 Elm St.
St. Thomas, ON (519) 631-2641
phone for hours and reservation
London Family History Centre
1139 Riverside Drive
London, ON (519) 473-2421
phone for hours and reservation
The Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives & Records Office
The Presbyterian Church in Canada
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1J7
(416) 441-1111, or toll free 1-800-619-7301
fax: (416) 441-2825
Archivist: Mrs. Kim Arnold
The website contains an online catalogue of records held by the Presbyterian Archives
The Society of Friends in Canada (Quaker)
Dorland Friends Historical Collection
16945 Bayview Ave.
Newmarket, Ontario L3Y 4X2
Archivist: Jane Zavitz Bond
In the United States:
Swarthmore Friends Historical Library
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, USA
Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto
355 Church Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1Z8
phone: (416) 977-1500ext. 141
fax: (416) 977-6063
Roman Catholic Diocese of London
1070 Waterloo Street
United Church of Canada
United Church Archives
3250 Bloor St. W., Suite 300
Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4
Lutheran Church Archives
Wilfrid Laurier University
75 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5
(519) 884-1970 fax (519) 886-9351
George Scott Railton Heritage Centre
Salvation Army Archives
2130 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4N 3K6
Church of Christ (Disciples)
(at) St. Thomas Christian Church, 451 Wellington St., St. Thomas
Archivist: James McCallum