Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

Research Guide to York - Township, Borough and City - 1793-1997

April 15, 2016 | Barbara | Comments (0)

Getting Started

This research guide focuses on Toronto Public Library's resources on the former City of York, a municipality that was located northwest of the old city of Toronto, southwest of the former city of North York and east of the Humber River and the former city of Etobicoke. It was one of seven municipalities that were amalgamated in 1998 to form the current City of Toronto.

York logo

City of York coat of arms.

Background History

The history of the former City of York dates back to 1791 when Upper Canada (Ontario) was first surveyed and divided into townships. Originally known as Dublin, York Township was a large area surrounding Toronto, designated as the provincial capital and renamed York in 1793. The name Toronto was resumed when the Town of York became a city in 1834.

On January 1, 1850, the Township of York was incorporated within the large County of York. Between 1853 and 1926, about a dozen areas separated from York Township and became incorporated as individual municipalities, considerably reducing the size of the township. From 1883 to 1912, several of these municipalities, including Yorkville, Brockton, Parkdale, East Toronto, West Toronto and North Toronto, were annexed to the city of Toronto. East York, Forest Hill, Leaside, North York, Swansea and Weston were other break-away municipalities from York Township.

On April 15, 1953, York became one of thirteen municipalities in the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. York and the neighbouring Town of Weston amalgamated on January 1, 1967 and were incorporated as the Borough of York. In turn, it was incorporated as a city on June 10, 1983.  York ceased to be an individual municipality on January 1, 1998, and became part of the amalgamated City of Toronto.


City of York time capsule.

Searching the Library Website

Subject headings 

York (Ont. : Township)

York (Ont. : Borough)--History.

York (Ont. : Borough)

York (Toronto, Ont.)

Toronto (Ont.)--History.


“Borough of York” Ont*

“City of York” Ont*

Old Catalogue

For more refined searching, follow these steps:

1. Go to the Library's homepage

2. Click on "Old Catalogue" to the right of the search button

3. In the "Exact Search" field, select "Subject Heading"

4. In the search bar, type:

York (Toronto, Ont.)

York (Ont. : Township)

York (Ont. : Borough)

Digital Archive

York (Ont. : Township)--Maps

County of York

York (Ont. : Township). Municipal Council--Periodicals

 Map of Toronto Neighbourhood Historical Resources

Bloor West Village (includes Baby Point)

Books, Pictures & Maps: Bloor West Village

Websites: Bloor West Village


Books, Pictures & Maps: Cedarvale

Websites: Cedarvale


Books, Pictures & Maps: Fairbank

Websites: Fairbank


Books, Pictures & Maps: Lambton

Websites: Lambton

Mount Dennis

Books, Pictures & Maps: Mount Dennis

Websites: Mount Dennis


Books, Pictures & Maps: Oakwood-Vaughan

Websites: Oakwood-Vaughan


Books, Pictures & Maps: Silverthorn

Websites: Silverthorn


Books, Pictures & Maps: Weston

Websites: Weston


Recommended Reading

Books at Maria A. Shchuka Branch Local History Collection

This reference collection is housed on the second floor of the library. Circulating copies of some titles may be available at Toronto Public Library.

Child, Youth and Family Services Directory: for the City of York, by City of York Community and Agency Social Planning Council. 1992.

Community Profile of the City of York: a Social Report of the Metro, by the York Community and Agency Social Planning Council. 1992.

City of York: A Local History, by Gene Miller. 1987.

City of York Municipal Code, by Michael J. Smither and Nicholas R. Smither. 1994

Heritage of York: a Bibliographical Study Related to the History of the Township of York, 1793-1840. 1973.

A Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)-funded research project, sponsored by the Borough of York. Note that Volume II has the title: Township of York: Historical Sources.

History of the County of York, Ontario: Index. 2005.

Book coverHistory of Toronto and County of York, Ontario. 1885.

Outline of the history of the Dominion of Canada and a history of the City of Toronto and the County of York. See "The Township of York," volume I, pages 77-96. Read both volumes online at Internet Archive (Volume IVolume II).

A History of Toronto Fire Services, 1874-2002, by Jon Lasiuk. 2002.

History of Weston, by Fredrick D. Cruickshank. 1937.

The Legacy of York: (a Survey of the Early Development of the Communities of York), by Wilbert G. Thomas. 1992.

Lights... Camera... York!: In the City of Toronto. 1998.

Mount Dennis Redevelopment Study: Phase I Report; Background Research & Analysis for: City of York, by Macaulay Shiomi Howson. 1990.

Pioneer Life in the County of York, by Edwin C. Guillet. 1946.

Volume 1 of the County History Series.

Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto, by John Ross Robertson. 1974.

The Settlement of York County, by John Mitchell. 1952.


St. Clair West in Pictures: a History of the Communities of Carlton, Davenport, Earlscourt and Oakwood, by Nancy Byers and Barbara Myrvold. 2008.


St. Phillip's Church: 150 Years Beside the Humber, 1828-1978. 1978.

Stories of York, edited by Bill Bailey. 1980.

York Memorial Presbyterian Church: a Brief History, edited by Jean Ann Lowry. 1994.

York Township: An Historical Summary, by J. C. Boylen. 1954.

York, Upper Canada Minutes of Town Meetings and Lists of Inhabitants, 1797-1823, edited by Christine Mosser. 1984.


Books available at other Toronto Public Library branches

Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of York, Ontario: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and Many of the Early Settled Families, by J. H. Beers & Co. 1907

From Methodist Episcopal and Wesleyan Methodist to Central United: The History of Central United Church, Weston, Ontario, by Stanley V. Musselwhite. 1970

Heritage: A History of Riverside Mission, Riverside Church, Weston, Ont., Riverside-Emry Church, Weston, Ont., with History of Claremont Methodist Church (the old Emery Church) also the new Emery Church, by C. J. Ware. 1978

I Was There: A Book of Reminiscences
, by Mary Edith Carey Tyrrell. 1938

1878york-titleIllustrated Historical Atlas of the County of York, by Miles & Co. 1969

Originally published in 1878, this was one of approximately forty county atlases published in Canada between 1874 and 1881. Consists of a historical text, township and town maps, portraits, views, and patron directory / business cards. In addition, names of residents are marked on lots of the township maps.

Life in Ontario: A Social History, by Adrian Dingle. 1968

Lost Toronto: Images of the City's Past, by William Dendy. 1993

41G7v+njeVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Old Toronto: A Selection of Excerpts from Landmarks of Toronto, John Ross Robertson. 1954



One Hundred Years: A Retrospect, 1857-1957: Weston Grammar School to Weston Collegiate and Vocational School. For the Centenary Celebration, October 18 to 20, 1957, by Dora E. Wattie. 1957

Ontario Since 1867, by Joseph Schull. 1978

A Pictorial History of Weston, by Weston Historical Society. 1981

A Picture History of Ontario, by Roger Hall. 1978

Pioneering in North York: A History of the Borough, by Patricia W. Hart. 1968

The Story of Etobicoke, by Robert A. Given. 1973

A Thread in the Gardhouse Family Tapestry, by Wilbert W. Gardhouse. 1969

Toronto During the French Régime: A History of the Toronto Region form Brûlé to Simcoe, 1615-1793, by Percy James Robinson. 1965

The Trail of the Black Walnut, by George Elmore Reaman. 1957

William Tyrrell of Weston, by Edith Lennox Morrison. 1937


Resources at City of Toronto Archives

York Records

A finding aid to the City of Toronto's "records, created by municipal governments as well as private groups and individuals, about York, including personal papers; published books and reports; and visual material, including maps and photographs."


This research guide was developed by Toronto Public Library staff: Barbara Baillargeon, Librarian, Maria A. Shchuka Branch and Barbara Myrvold, Senior Services Specialist, Local History. They were assisted by Abby Sharon, Graduate Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Updated May 6, 2016

Wychwood Branch Turns 100!

April 14, 2016 | Barbara Myrvold | Comments (0)

Wychwood branch-architectural drawing from 1915 annual report
Architectural plan for Wychwood Branch Library, Eden Smith & Sons Architects, 1915

Wychwood Branch officially opened 100 years ago on Saturday, April 15, 1916. The branch was the prototype of three identical libraries that Toronto Public Library built in 1915-16 with a $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The other two branches, High Park and Beaches, opened later in 1916, and centennial celebrations for all of the “triplets” will take place this October. 

Festivities for the opening of Wychwood Branch extended over a few weeks in spring 1916, and they must have provided a welcome diversion from the Great War. Chief Librarian George H. Locke and his wife, Grace Moore, received more than 150 library staff and their friends on Tuesday March 28 at the new Bathurst Street branch (at the northeast corner of Melgund Road, south of St. Clair). Locke started the party with a ceremonial lighting of fires in the huge hearths in the adult and children’s reading rooms. As the evening progressed there was dancing to an orchestra, refreshments and the presentation of a large basket of roses to the popular and charismatic Locke whose 46th birthday was the following day.

Children have been an important part of the service at Wychwood Branch since the beginning. The children’s room was opened on the Thursday and Friday afternoons immediately before the official opening. “Throngs of kiddies flocked … to the beautiful Elizabethan building up Wychwood way,” the Globe reported, “till benches all were occupied, and the weeniest boys and girls sat on the floor about the great fireplace and listened wide-eyed while Miss [Lillian H.] Smith, Miss Jackson and Miss Endicott told them tales of the Good People of Beowulf, of Arthur and His Table Round and the noble men and women … [of] the romantic days of Early Canada.” The tradition is being continued with a “Happy 100th Birthday Wychwood Library Storytime” at the branch on Friday morning, April 15, 10:30 -11:00 am.

A large number of neighbourhood residents attended the formal opening ceremonies on Saturday evening, April 15, 1916. They heard speeches by local politicians, community leaders and library officials, and had an opportunity to view the new library, which Locke proclaimed was “a decided revolt in style from the traditional library architecture."

In recognition of Wychwood’s centennial, several new pages have been created for the Library’s website, Toronto’s Carnegie Libraries, and two dozen images from the our collections have been added to the Digital Archive.

Stay tuned for more centennial activities this October.

Snapshots in History: March 19: Remembering the Royal Ontario Museum

March 19, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Royal Ontario Museum,Queen's Park Road, s.w. corner Bloor St. W.


On March 19 and beyond, take a moment to celebrate and remember a treasure in Toronto: the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the largest museum in Canada. Although the ROM was established on April 16, 1912 by the ROM Act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the museum officially opened its doors to the public on March 19, 1914 at 3:00 pm with Canada’s then-Governor General, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, officiating.

The ROM has close ties to the University of Toronto and was directly under the university’s control until 1968 when it began an independent agency of the Ontario government. The ROM is Canada’s largest field-research institution with conservation and research initiatives all around the world. Originally, the ROM location housed five separate museums of archaeology, paleontology, mineralogy, zoology and geology. Expansion of the museum’s collections and staff resulted in overcrowding that necessitated a physical expansion into a new wing facing Queen’s Park that opened on October 12, 1933. The ROM was consolidated into a single museum entity in 1955. In the late 1970s, the ROM began a $55 million renovation to facilitate increased collection and research activities, including the addition of a curatorial centre and a new library. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2 opened the Terrace Galleries, the new exhibition and gallery space, in 1984. On June 3, 2007, the ROM opened the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal (named after Jamaican-Canadian billionaire and philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin) to symbolize the museum and Toronto’s place in the 21st century as a cultural attraction and destination.

The ROM has 40 galleries and holds greater than 6,000,000 items divided into diverse collections promoting natural history and world cultures. Visitors enjoy viewing collections of dinosaurs, minerals and meteorites, the world’s largest fossil collection from the Burgess Shale (150,000-plus specimens), Near Eastern and African art, European history and Canadian history. The museum also has strong collections of design and fine arts, including clothing and Art Deco.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


The entire city project Royal Ontario Museum Every object has a story extraordinary Canadians celebrate the Royal Ontario Museum Gems & minerals earth treasures from the Royal Ontario Museum Iconic the must-see treasures of the ROM Position as desired exploring African Canadian identity photographs from the Wedge Collection Bold visions the architecture of the Royal Ontario Museum Glass worlds paperweights from the ROM's collection Déco Lalique creator to consumer High style masterworks from the Bernard and Sylvia Ostry Collection in the Royal Ontario Museum Journey to the Ice Age discovering an ancient world Rococo to rustique early French-Canadian furniture in the Royal Ontario Museum The museum makers the story of the Royal Ontario Museum


Click here for a list of the 50 Toronto Public Library branches from which one-time use Sun Life Financial Museum & Arts family passes for the Royal Ontario Museum are available for borrowing. Five ROM passes per week are available for borrowing from each of those 50 branches, which are valid anytime excluding the Family Day weekend, March Break, ROM for the Holidays and for separately priced exhibits.

Click here for frequently asked questions and answers about the Sun Life Financial Museum & Arts Pass program.

Snapshots in History: March 15: Remembering King’s College, University of Toronto

March 15, 2016 | John P. | Comments (1)


On March 15 and beyond, take a moment to remember the establishment of King’s College on March 15, 1827, initially a Church of England-sponsored institution of higher learning that has since morphed into the more pluralistic University of Toronto. King’s College was granted a Royal Charter by then-King George IV for the "establishment of a College… for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature… at or near our town of York… to continue forever, to be called 'King's College.'"

The intention was for King’s College to be operated by members of the Church of England, with the university’s president being the archdeacon of York (soon to be Toronto) who at the time was John Strachan. Students of any faith were permitted. The current site of the downtown St. George campus (150 acres of vacant forested land) was bought for £3,750. English architect Thomas Fowler completed the design of King’s College in 1829. However, the institution’s close ties to Anglicanism became a topic for political debate in Upper Canada. Consequently, King’s College’s first students would not be enrolled until the year 1842 and new legislation in 1849 from the newly-instituted “responsible government” would result in the more secular University of Toronto on January 1, 1850, following failed attempts by reformer Robert Baldwin in 1843 and conservative William Henry Draper in 1844-1845. Strachan had already left King’s College and lobbied for a charter and funding for a religious university -– the cornerstone of the University of Trinity College was laid on April 30, 1851 with classes commencing in January 1852. As a counterpoint, the non-religious, non-denominational University College was created as a Provincial College and as a constituent college of the University of Toronto on April 22, 1853, carrying out teaching responsibilities of the former King’s College. Following the advent of the secular University College, Knox College (Presbyterian) and Wycliffe College (Anglican Church seminary with emphasis on Protestantism) affiliated with the University of Toronto in 1885 and became federated schools in 1890. Victoria University (formerly in Cobourg) was initially opposed to federation but financial benefits persuaded this institution to join in 1890. Following the death of Strachan, Trinity College followed suit in 1904. St. Michael’s College, a Roman Catholic institution, joined the federation in 1910.

The addition of New College (1962), Innis College (1964) and Woodsworth College (1974) provided the University of Toronto with three additional constituent colleges that are monetarily dependent upon and accountable to the University’s central administration. Massey College, a college for graduate students, was established in 1963 with support from the Massey Foundation. Regis College, a Jesuit seminary, agreed to federation with the University of Toronto in 1979. The University of Toronto also has campuses in Scarborough (1966) and Mississauga (1967).

The University of Toronto has followed a decentralized governance model with authority shared amongst its affiliated colleges, academic faculties and central administration. Currently, the University has a unicameral Governing Council; previously, it had a bicameral board of governors and a university senate.

The University of Toronto has a variety of faculties, including the Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Forestry, Faculty of Information, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Music, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Pharmacy, Faculty of Social Work, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Rotman School of Management, Toronto School of Theology, and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The University of Toronto also has the third-largest academic library system in North America, following those of Harvard University and Yale University in size -– measured by the number of volumes held.

Consider the following titles held by Toronto Public Library collections:


A meeting of the minds the Massey College story Partnership for excellence medicine at the University of Toronto and academic hospitals Arts and science at Toronto a history 1827-1990 For the record the first women in Canadian architecture

Historical distillates chemistry at the University of Toronto since 1843 The University of Toronto a history A not unsightly building University College and its history

The University of Toronto and its colleges 1827-1906 We will do our share the University of Toronto and the Great War




The University of Toronto and its colleges 1827-1906

Snapshots in History: March 11: Remembering Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine

March 11, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)


On March 11 and beyond, take a moment to remember the contributions of Robert Baldwin (Born: May 12, 1804 in York, Upper Canada; Died: December 9, 1858 near Toronto, Canada West) and Louis Hippolyte-La Fontaine (Born: October 4, 1807 at Boucherville, Lower Canada; Died: February 26, 1864 at Montréal, Canada East) who are best known for their contributions to the notion of responsible government as a stepping stone towards the eventual independence of Canada from Great Britain.

In fact, Globe and Mail columnist (and author) Lawrence Martin  deftly provided the context for March 11, 1848 when Baldwin and La Fontaine were sworn in to serve as co-prime ministers of a Reform government in the Province of Canada in the aftermath of the 1837-1838 rebellions in Lower and Upper Canada. (In fact, the experiment in the Province of Canada followed slightly behind Joseph Howe’s responsible government initiative in Nova Scotia in February 1848.)

Consider the broader revolutionary context in 1848 in Europe and the counter-revolutionary responses in 1849. Baldwin and La Fontaine were of a similar mind that a democratically elected assembly needed to take precedence over an appointed, colonial executive council to fend off anarchy and revolution. Yes, history reminds us that the parliament buildings in Montréal were burned down on April 25, 1849 as a culminating event of the Montréal Riots by a reactionary, Loyalist mob (encouraged by the political opposition Tories), expressing opposition to the Rebellion Losses Bill passed by the La Fontaine-Baldwin government. Governor-General Lord Elgin endorsed the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill by a majority vote in the legislative assembly, affirming the principle of responsible government but having to endure the egging and stoning of his carriage by rioters.

The Montréal Riots revealed that ethnic tensions could be brought to the surface as the city at that time was both half-English and half-French speaking, resulting in the capital city of the Province of Canada being moved to Toronto (1849-1852, 1856-1858) in alternation with Quebec City (1852-1856, 1859-1866) while the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa were being built in conjunction with its choice as the permanent capital of the Province of Canada by Queen Victoria – which ultimately became the capital of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin

It is no accident that academic John Ralston Saul wrote this dual biography of Baldwin and LaFontaine for the Extraordinary Canadians series, given that almost single-handedly, he advocated for public recognition of the 150th anniversary of the advent of responsible government in the Province of Canada on March 11, 1998, resulting in the annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lectures.

Also available in eBook format and Talking Book (Restricted to Print Disabled Patrons) format.

Aussi disponible en français comme Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine et Robert Baldwin . Read the review in the Literary Review of Canada.


My dear friend

My dear friend: letters of Louis Hippolyte LaFontaine & Robert Baldwin

Read through this collection of primary source material symbolizing the political partnership between Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine.


Baldwin lafontaine hincks

Baldwin, Lafontaine, Hincks: responsible government

Political scientist Stephen Leacock (who is also the humorist) authored this 1907 book on the roles of Baldwin, La Fontaine, and Sir Francis Hincks in the push for responsible government in the Province of Canada prior to Confederation in 1867.



Snapshots in History: February 25: Remembering John Graves Simcoe and York

February 25, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Colonel Simcoe

(Credit: Government of Ontario Art Collection, 694156 - Portrait of Colonel John Graves Simcoe, [ca. 1881] - Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, 1791-96 - George Theodore Berthon (1806-1892) - Oil on canvas - 109.2 x 83.8 cm (43" x 33") - This image is in the public domain.)

On February 25 and beyond, take a moment to remember the life of John Graves Simcoe (born: February 25, 1752 in Cotterstock, England; died: October 26, 1806 in Exeter, England) who served as the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from 1791-1796. Simcoe served with British forces during the American War of Independence, being invalided home to England before the surrender of Yorktown in 1781. During the war, Simcoe had been promoted from lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel and became one of the more successful regimental commanders. He demonstrated his penchant for tactics with the publication of his Journal of the Operations of the Queen’s Rangers. During his convalescence, Simcoe resided at the home of his godfather Admiral Samuel Graves in Exeter, England. There, Simcoe met and married Admiral Graves’ ward Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim (“Mrs. Simcoe”) who was an heiress in her own right, owning a 5,000-acre estate in Devon, England.

Simcoe briefly served as a Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons in 1790 before being promised and appointed to the position of Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in September 1791. Upper Canada, as it was then known, was comprised of southern Ontario and the watersheds of Lake Superior and Georgian Bay. Under Simcoe’s stewardship, Upper Canada’s bicameral legislature founded York in 1793 (previously Fort Toronto (French) and afterwards Toronto as of 1834) which became the capital on February 1, 1796 (as Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) was too prone to American attack) and introduced elements of the British legal system into Upper Canadian society, including English common law, trial by jury, and freehold land tenure. Upper Canada also abolished slavery with the passage of the Act Against Slavery on July 9, 1793, resulting in no slaves present by 1810 which predated the rest of the British Empire by 23 years. 

Ill-health cut short Simcoe’s time in service in Upper Canada as he left in 1796 and resigned as Lieutenant-Governor in 1798 after a brief stint serving as British force commander in 1797. Simcoe also commanded the Western District in Britain subsequently but died in 1806 before taking up his new post as commander-in-chief in India to succeed Charles Cornwallis who had also died after shortly assuming the post himself.

To learn more about Simcoe, consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

Mrs Simcoe's diary

Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary offers those interested in Canadian history a primary source snapshot of the 1791-1796 time period. She met aboriginal Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant and explorer Alexander Mackenzie. She was interested in the First Nations peoples as well as the fauna and flora and the developing social customs of the British settlers in Upper Canada. Follow Elizabeth Simcoe’s journey (and that of her husband) from September 17, 1791 to October 16, 1796.

See also: copies of the 1965 edition. Or, consider the following version:

The diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe: wife of the first lieutenant-governor of the province of Upper Canada, 1792-6 / Elizabeth Simcoe; with notes and a biography by J. Ross Robertson, and 237 illustrations, including 90 reproductions of interesting sketches made by Mrs. Simcoe, 1973, [c1911].

Consider this edition of Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary edited in 1911 by journalist and publisher John Ross Robertson.

John Graves Simcoe 1752-1806 a biography

Also available in eBook format.

Follow the military career of John Graves Simcoe from his time as commander of the Queen’s Rangers during the American Revolution through to his appointment as the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and founder of York (now present-day Toronto), followed by his ill health, additional military appointments and eventual death.

Simcoe's choice celebrating London's bicentennial 1793-1993

John Graves Simcoe wanted present-day London, Ontario to be the capital of Upper Canada in 1793 but was overruled by Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester, who agreed to Simcoe’s second-place choice of York. However, this historical development did not stop London from becoming the largest municipality in southwestern Ontario and a centre of higher learning with the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College.

For additional resources, please consider the following items:

Infant Toronto as Simcoe’s folly / John Andre, 1971. 

Read about the role of German artist and settler William Berczy (founder of Markham, Ontario) in the founding of York (predecessor to Toronto) in co-operation with John Graves Simcoe.

Click here for more copies.

Governor Simcoe and his lady / Marcus Van Steen,1968. 

This biography of the Simcoes recounts the death of John and Elizabeth Simcoe’s infant daughter Katherine (January 16, 1793 to April 19, 1794) and her burial in the old military burial ground at Victoria Memorial Park (now Square) at Portland and Niagara Streets, several blocks northeast of Fort York. 

Toronto stories from the life of a city, Part 1: York / Lynx Images Inc., 1994. VHS. Documentary. 

Learn about the early history of York (Toronto) from 1793 to 1834 through quotations attributed to early inhabitants and through the narration of a facsimile of “Mrs. John Graves Simcoe”.

Click here to view digitized images associated with John Graves Simcoe (including pictures and photographs and posters and printed ephemera) in Toronto Public Library collections.


Snapshots in History: February 16: Remembering Yonge Street and its Beginnings

February 16, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Notice to settlers on Yonge Street

On February 16 and beyond, take a moment to remember the beginnings of what would become Yonge Street on February 16, 1796, when Upper Canada’s Deputy Surveyor General Augustus Jones and his work party of Queen’s Rangers, under the direction of John Graves Simcoe, completed the cutting out of a trail from present-day Eglinton Avenue (in what was then York, Upper Canada) to St. Albans (now known as Holland Landing) on Lake Simcoe that began on January 4, 1796. Augustus Jones also surveyed the routes for Dundas Street and supervised its building. Jones developed good relationships with indigenous peoples in the area, including the Mississauga Ojibwa and Mohawk. Augustus Jones also became fluent in many of the indigenous languages and earned the trust of many people, including Joseph Brant, with whom he became friends.

What about the name “Yonge Street” itself? Yonge Street was named at the insistence of Upper Canada’s Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe for Sir George Yonge (1731-1812), governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and a Member of Parliament of the British House of Commons from 1754-1761 and 1763-1796.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

200 years Yonge a history

Book – also available as eBook

The Yonge Street story 1793-1860 an account from letters diaries and newspapers

Book – also available as eBook

Opportunity road Yonge Street, 1860 to 1939

Book – also available as eBook

For additional titles, please consult the We Recommend Discover Yonge Street book list.

Do you have any experiences and remembrances to share involving Yonge Street? Consider visiting the youryongestreet website to share your memories in textual, visual, audio-visual, and audio formats. Please also visit the library’s Digital Archive to view visual images from Toronto Public Library collections related to Yonge Street.

Guide to Census Records

January 25, 2016 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0)

Getting Started

Census :  an official enumeration of populations that can help you discover birth dates, the names of parents and siblings, immigration details and much more.

Searching the Library website 

 Suggested Titles:

    Additional material on Great Britain census handbooks

    Additional material on the American censuses

    Additional material for 1871 census of Ontario

Online Resources

Recommended Websites


Canadian Census Records Online

Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada
Provides access to a set of detailed maps showing federal electoral boundaries. Most of the electoral districts described in this 1895 atlas are identical to the 1901 census districts. Detailed ward maps for cities are also available.

All  Canadian census returns from 1825 to 1921 have been digitized and are currently available on multiple websites in addition to Ancestry Library Edition.   Ancestry Library Edition can be used in any Toronto Public Library branch and has all Canadian censuses from 1851. It also has Canada East/Lower Canada censuses for 1825 and 1842 though not 1831, nor the 1842 for Canada West/Ontario .

There is FREE access on to the 1921 Census of Canada only, for those with a Canadian IP address. Free account must be set up at

Below are websites that have census information. Note: some are indexes, some have images, some are only searchable geographically.

Library and Archives Canada : Censuses 

Gives an overview of the complete (1825- 1916) census collection with links to LAC census databases and finding aids. Searchable by names and with images. There is also digitized microfilm for the 1871 and 1916 censuses. Note: 1906 and 1916 censuses are of western Canada only.

Canadian Censuses on FamilySearch  includes provincial censuses prior to 1842, and censuses 1851 - 1916.  The 1861 census is listed by individual province. Early censuses 1825-1842 have images. FamilySearch is provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Automated Genealogy has indexed the 1852 census (Ontario and Quebec and New Brunswick), 1901, 1906 and 1911 censuses. Select "split view" to view the original census page from Library and Archives Canada along with the transcriptions.

The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), has the 1851/2 and 1881 census data.

Alberta Genealogical Society, Edmonton Branch   has indexed the 1901 census for Alberta and Saskatchewan.

 Newfoundland (prior to entering Confederation in 1949)

Transcriptions for various years (Newfoundland's Grand Banks Genealogical and Historical  Data).  Some are incomplete. Censuses for 1921, 1935, 1945 are also on microfilm in the Canadiana Department, North York Central Library. Consult the finding aid in the branch or go online to LAC to search the place name index to determine which microfilm reels to consult.


US Census Records Online

1790 - 1940 US censuses  (FamilySearch)
 Indexed and usually linked to images. Free

Digitized microfilm of 1790 - 1930 US census on Internet Archive. For help in using the microfilm try Donslist Finding Guides

Note: 1890 US census largely destroyed by fire.


British and Irish Census Records Online

1841 - 1911 Census for England,Wales and Channel Islands   (FamilySearch)
Indexed. Access to images is not available to home or library users.

1901 Census of England, Scotland and Wales
Free to search, pay to view records

1911 census of England and Wales
Free to search, pay to view records


Scotlands People
Census records for 1841 - 1911. Free surname searches; pay to view records.

1841 - 1891 censuses  free on Family Search. No images



Tithe Applotment Books 1823-1837

   The tithe applotment books were compiled to determine the amount which occupiers of agricultural holdings over one acre should pay in tithes to the Church of Ireland (main Protestant church).  Names of occupiers of each townland - head of household only. Information is for rural areas, not towns.

Griffith's Valuation 1847 -1864
    First full-scale valuation of property in Ireland

Census of Ireland 1901/1911  and census fragments 1821-1851.

    Includes images.

Census fragments 1821-1851 (FamilySearch)

    includes images


In Library Resources

North York Central Library's Canadiana Department has all the available Canadian census records on microfilm. It also has an extensive collection of Ontario census indexes published by various genealogical organizations. The Toronto Reference Library  has microfilm census records for provinces outside Ontario. Prior to the 1911 census, its Ontario holdings are limited to Toronto & York County only. To identify which microfilm reel to search, consult the Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666 - 1901 .

The Toronto Reference Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Department houses many CD-ROMs and materials for U.S. and British and Irish census resources as well as early Quebec censuses (1660's) and the 1681 census of New France.

Ancestry Library Edition can be used on any computer in a Toronto Public Library branch, but is not available from home.  It allows individual name searches, often with original images to:

Canadian censuses 1825 - 1921 [except 1831 for Lower Canada and the 1842 census for Canada West i.e.Ontario] ; UK Census Collection for 1841 - 1911;  American  Census Records 1790 - 1940 and some European census records

Quebec  (available at North York Central and Toronto Reference Library)
French Canadian genealogy resource includes census information for Quebec and Ontario in 1881 and for Quebec in 1901.  


 Additional Library Collections

Ontario Genealogical Society Deposit Collection  at the North York Central Library has an excellent collection of materials on British, American and Canadian censuses.


Toronto Public Library contacts:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

Canadiana Department, North York Central Library, 416-395-5623

Humanitites and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library 416-393-7175


Genealogical Biography

January 11, 2016 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (1)

Getting Started

Could your ancestors have been prominent in their community? Did they belong to a group or association, or were  they members of a profession or trade? They may well appear in publications produced by these organizations. Toronto Reference Library (TRL) and the Canadiana Department at North York Central Library hold numerous examples of such resources, ranging from biographical dictionaries to membership directories.

Searching the Library website

Suggested keywords and subjects:

The terms "biography", "dictionaries" and "directories" can be useful in combination with the group/occupation/place for instance:


Suggested Titles

General Biography

Arts & Education


Business, Government and Legal





Early Immigrants - Lists

    There are numerous titles about early immigrants from various European locations. Check our Passenger List Research Guide.

Online Resources

Available through the TPL website with a TPL library card:

Available on the Internet:

In Library Resources

  • Newspapers  on microfilm  such as:
    •  Toronto Telegram (1876-1971)
    •  Ottawa Citizen (1850-1991; 1992-current at TRL)
    •  Winnipeg Free Press (1874-2001; 2002-2010 at TRL)
    •  Montreal Gazette (1785-1949 and 1989-2009 at NYCL; 1950-current at TRL)


For Further Assistance: 

  • Contact Us (choose from telephone, email or real-time chat) 
  • Canadiana Department, North York Central Library,  416-395-5623
  • Humanities and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library,  416-393-7175

Canadiana Display Celebrates the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

July 13, 2015 | Andrew | Comments (0)

Celebrating Pan Am/Parapan Am 2015 Display
In celebration of Toronto’s hosting of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the North York Central Library’s Canadiana Department staff have produced an exciting and colourful display showcasing Ontario’s fascinating summer sports and games history.

The display highlights books on a number of summer sports and games in Ontario held in the Canadiana Department’s collections.

Staff chose a number of books about popular sports and games in Ontario including Tennis, Rowing, Swimming, Golf, Wrestling, Boxing, Shooting, Baseball and sports equipment catalogues and price lists.

Below is just a snapshot of the books on display and we encourage you to visit us on the 6th floor at North York Central Library to view this fabulous display and discover more books about Ontario sports history within our collections!

Click on the photos below to access our catalogue records for these books on display:

A Love of Tennis
Wilson's Summer Sports Catalogue
A Love of Tennis Wilson's Summer Sports Catalogue

The Founding of the Donalda Golf Club
The Founding of the Donalda Club

If you cannot visit us, here are a few interesting items about the Pan American Games you can borrow or place a hold from Toronto Public Library:

Are you a statistics fanatic? Try The Pan American Games: a Statistical History.

Want to learn about Pan American Games venue architecture? Try Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects. 

The Canadiana Department holds a reference collection of Canadian genealogy, Ontario local history, North York history, and materials related to Canada. The Department also houses collections from these genealogical societies:

  • Ontario Genealogical Society
  • Jewish Genealogical Society (Toronto Branch)
  • Canadian Society of Mayflower Descendants
  • York Pioneer and Historical Society
  • North York Historical Society

Discover the history of your family, your Toronto neighbourhood, or places in Ontario and across Canada.

Research online or at Toronto Reference Library and North York Central Library.

Learn about exciting programs and events.