Island History

Visitors quickly recognize the Island is steeped in history, where the past is still visible and embraced. Its oral histories, genealogy and academic research per capita surpasses all other Ontario townships but then, its very size and distinctiveness attracts this inquiry.

The name Isle Tonti still lingers from the French period, Henri Tonti was LaSalle’s lieutenant; both searched for China. Settlement of the Bay of Quinte region and the Island dates to the Loyalist period, following that unfortunate American Rebellion 1776-83 [Editor’s Note: This is obviously a very late Loyalist speaking]. Sir John Johnson, the most influential Loyalist leader, was granted the entire Island in 1788. The legacy of his feudal ownership and administration dominated the community for nearly a century.

The early community was composed of numerous wealthy Loyalists, some late loyalists, and a proportion of French Canadian fishermen. These settlers of the Island frontier had been attracted by its accessibility, water was virtually the only transportation in the Loyalist period. The shoreline of the Island was settled by the close of the 1820s. An Irish wave of immigration to the Island followed, with the population peaking at 2,000 in 1842. The Island was a convenient stepping stone; almost urban in its accessibility and its Estate policy encouraged temporary residency. Most moved on to the frontiers of Ontario and the American Midwest. The Island became insular, independent and conservative when the monopoly of marine transportation was surpassed by mainland roads and railroads.

Visitors today appreciate that the Island community still reflects an earlier time. Many descendants of those 19th century Islanders are retracing their ancestor’s steps and rediscovering their Island heritage.

  • Discovery Tour of Amherst Island 1982 Guide
  • Walking Tour of Historic Stella
  • Tales of Amherst Island Historic Stone Houses of Amherst Island
  • Amherst Island: a Detailed Survey circa 1790 and Land Ownership
  • A New Lease on Life: Landlords, Tenants, and Immigrants in Ireland and Canada
  • Early Residents of Amherst Isle
  • Genealogy
  • History of the Brother Islands
  • research in progress


The strong sense of family and Island community is reflected in the extensive genealogy sources compiled and available. Current expertise covers 1792 to present.

  • Amherst Island Loyalist Links
  • Early Residents of Amherst Isle
  • Published family genealogies
  • The Glenn Family of Amherst Island
  • The Howard Family of Amherst Island
  • The McMullen Family of Amherst Island: Descendants of John McMullen.
  • Genealogy of the Wemp Family
  • Genealogy manuscripts/works in progress
  • Ontario Genealogy Society Publications
  • 1851-52 Census of Amherst Island
  • 1861 Census of Amherst Island
  • 1871 Census of Amherst Island
  • OGS Cemetery Booklets
  • The Islands – Genealogy & History Website

For more information, please visite Amherst Island’s Community Museum.