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Genealogy and Local History moves Downtown

June 2, 2016 | TRL Humanities and Social Sciences | Comments (0)

Genealolgy wordle -4
The genealogy and local history collection housed in the Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library was recently transferred downtown to the Toronto Reference Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Department (HSS).
This included a variety of materials in different formats:

  • genealogical periodicals  Pcr-2191
  • church and parish histories
  • historical atlases
  • city directories
  • yearbooks
  • indexes to births, marriages and deaths
  • passenger lists and census on microfilm
  • local histories
  • general works on conducting genealogy research
  • how-to guides for those starting to explore their family history

To search for these items you can use the Toronto Public Library catalogue or the Local History & Genealogy webpage.

The HSS department is also continuing the library’s partnerships with three Genealogical Societies:  the Canadian Society of Mayflower Descendants (CSMD), the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto (JGS) and the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS).   Materials in these collections include:


  • self-published family histories
  • cemetery transcriptions
  • family charts
  • genealogical newsletters and periodicals. 

Ohq-pictures-s-r-616These collections are now located in the closed stacks of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department (2nd floor) where they will complement and augment the existing local history and genealogy collections.

Search their unique catalogues for items of interest at the following links: OGS Catalogue, JGS Catalogue, CSMD Catalogue.

Materials are for use in library only and can be requested at the Humanities Social Sciences Reference desk on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library, in person, by phone (416-393-7175) or by email .

Family history buffs will have a much larger collection to aid them in their research, as well as access to  online resources such as Ancestry Library Edition (in library access only) and the Digital Archive, in one location.

Remembering the Abolition of the Toll Gates of York County: December 31: Snapshots in History

December 31, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

On December 31 and beyond, take a moment to delve back into history to the time when the toll gates were abolished in York County (including the Toronto Area) on December 31, 1896. Road tolls began in the town of York (Toronto’s forerunner) in 1820 as a means to build and maintain passable roads. York’s first tollhouse was constructed at the corner of Yonge and King Streets which in those days was a crossroads in the countryside.

Robert R. Bonis, author of The History of Scarborough (1968), wrote on page 267 that York citizens had been clamouring for road improvements for some time and made their feelings known to members of the Legislative Assembly. A resolution was introduced into the Assembly on February 2, 1833 that called for the issuance of debentures in the amount of £10,000 Pounds to provide for road improvements on the three approaches to the Town of York using the process of Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam (i.e. “macadamizing”). An Act encompassing the principles of the resolution was passed by the Assembly on February 8, 1833 with the purpose of raising £10,000 Pounds on the credit of collecting tolls. Five prominent citizens, Jesse Ketchum, Charles Thompson, George Denison, D’Arcy Boulton Jr. and Charles Coxwell Small, were appointed as trustees overseeing the project and erecting the toll gates. Yonge Street was allocated £4,000, Kingston Road was assigned £2,000 and Dundas Street was to receive £1,500, while the remaining £2,500 was to be assigned as needed at the discretion of the project’s trustees.

The project ran into some problems. No one was buying debentures so the trustees purchased bonds to secure the raising of funds to continue with the project. The macadamizing process turned out to be very expensive for constructing roads so cost-cutting was implemented by switching to the less expensive planking process. The trustees of the Kingston Road project authorized the laying of  a “sixteen-foot-wide plankway of stout four-inch pine planks, spiked to sleepers, out along the Kingston Road for eighteen miles from Toronto to the Rouge Hill, and in 1839 set up toll gates there, at Washington Church and at Norway Village…” (Bonis, page 268). However, over time, repairs required to maintain a plank roadway would increase the cost above that of the macadamized alternative.

In spite of the costs, there were benefits to the local economy. Traffic increased on the Scarborough roadways with farmers taking their produce to market; consequently, this resulted in taverns and inns springing up along the route, allowing weary travellers to break up their journey (Bonis, pages 268-269).

Adam Bunch, writing in Spacing in 2013, noted that many people in the York/Toronto area were opposed to paying tolls and tried to avoid them by speeding past toll gates. One lumber dealer, tired of paying tolls in order to make deliveries to the British army garrison at Fort York, bought a land plot adjacent to the toll gate and had his men build a road through roads to bypass the toll gate. That road, Rebecca Street, still exists to this day in the Ossington-Queen area in downtown Toronto.

Chris Bateman, writing on BlogTO in 2013, noted that in the 1800s, toll booths with large gates blocking the roadway were placed at all major routes in/out of York/Toronto, such as Broadview and Danforth, Dundas and Bloor, Queen and Bathurst, and King and Yonge. Not all drivers of delivery wagons had the option of building their own roadway to deliver goods to Fort York or the St. Lawrence Market so they had to deal with the toll gates and pay the tolls. Unfortunately, the tolls could vary by route taken, the type of load being delivered, the amount being delivered on the wagon and the reason for passage. However, exemptions were made for military vehicles, those travelling to church on Sundays and for funeral processions.

Sometimes, those in opposition to toll payment would take matters into their own hands, including an extreme example in 1895 where someone burned down the wooden toll gates (only to see the City of Toronto propose their replacement by fire-proof iron gates) during the time when York County was considering the abolition of toll gates altogether.

Toll gates and toll roads also had to deal with competition from the railways as Harvey Overton Currell pointed out in The Mimico Story on page 78. An 1850 scandal over the sale of the Lake Shore and other main roads in the Toronto district to a private company did not help the public perception towards the toll road system.

Some of those interested in the local history aspect of toll gates might ask if there are any enduring reminders from this earlier time period. Chris Bateman reminded us that the original Tollgate #3 at Bathurst and Davenport was saved from destruction in 1993 and relocated nearby to become the Tollkeeper’s Cottage museum in Tollkeeper’s Park. David Wencer, writing in 2010 about “The Hidden Etobicoke Village of Claireville”, highlighted the continuing existence of 2095 Codlin Crescent, which was believed to have been a tollhouse on the old Albion Plank Road.

Please enjoy exploring some of the resources available through Toronto Public Library collections, including digitized images of items available at the Baldwin Collection at the Toronto Reference Library. Below are some examples:


Toll Gate, Dundas Street west, north side, at St. Clair Avenue West, showing toll house, Toronto, Ont. b3-27a

Toll Gate, Dundas Street west, north side, at St. Clair Avenue West, showing toll house, Toronto, Ont., circa 1896. (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, B-3-27a)


Toll Gate, Yonge St., n. of Marlborough Ave. circa 1870 pictures-r-5436

Toll Gate, Yonge St., n. of Marlborough Ave., 1870? (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, S 14-7)


Upper Yorkville toll-gate weigh scales 1875tollgatevs

Upper Yorkville toll-gate weigh scales (billhead), 1875. (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, 1875. Toll-Gate. VS)


Toll Gate, Dundas St. W., n. side, between Sheridan & Brock Aves. (Brockton toll gate) John Wesley Cotton circa 185- pictures-r-5832

Toll Gate, Dundas St. W., n. side, between Sheridan & Brock Aves. (Brockton toll gate), 185-?. Artist: John Wesley Cotton. (Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection, JRR 932 Cab IV)

Some books in Toronto Public Library collections also provide information on the history of toll gates in the Toronto area. Below is such an example:

A History of Scarborough Robert R Bonis

Available in Book or eBook formats.

The Rouge Toll Gate Kingston Road 1840 Approx page 76 RR Bonis A History of Scarborough

(Source: Robert R. Bonis, A History of Scarborough, 1968, page 76. Illustrator: David I. Adolphus)


The Mimico story

Available in eBook PDF format.

Remembering the December 20-23, 2013 Ice Storm: Snapshots in History

December 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)



December is a good time to reflect back upon the 2013 North American Ice Storm that plagued much of central and eastern Canada, parts of the Central Great Plains and the northeastern United States from December 20-23, 2013 with large amounts of freezing rain and snow that damaged electrical power transmission capability as well as much of the tree canopy. In Ontario, over 600,000 customers were without electrical power at the height of the storm. In the case of Toronto, over 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers were lacking electrical power or heat at the storm’s zenith.  The City of Toronto responded with temporary community reception centres as well as Toronto Police Service facility community warming centres to offer people without electricity and heat a place at which to eat and sleep. By December 24, 2013, almost 70,000 Toronto Hydro customers were still without electrical power will 1,000 people spending Christmas Eve 2013 in the warming centres. Crews from Hydro One, Manitoba Hydro, and other electrical utilities assisted Toronto Hydro crews in connecting up the remaining 6,000 customers still without electrical power on December 29, 2013. Regrettably, at least 27 deaths were as a result of the storm, particularly from carbon monoxide poisoning in enclosed and not well ventilated areas as people attempted to keep warm and cook with gas generators and charcoal stoves.

When looking back to remember the ice storm of 2013, consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Ice storm, Ontario 2013 the beauty, the devastation, the aftermath


This book visually captures the effects of a devastating ice storm that brought power outages to central and eastern Ontario, parts of southern Québec, and New Brunswick. 40% of power transmission lines in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were affected on account of the 2013 ice storm, while more than 20% of the City of Toronto’s tree canopy was destroyed. Transportation chaos reigned with the airlines, on trains, on the roads, and with public transit. A new challenge emerged in the aftermath with the cost and logistics of the storm clean-up and repair.  


ICESTORM1 Photograph by Shelley Savor December 2013

(A portion of the downed tree canopy somewhere in Toronto, December 2013 – Photograph and Copyright © by Shelley Savor – Permission was given to use this photograph.)


Let us not forgot about the North American ice storm of January 1998 and its devastating effect upon the power grid and people’s lives in eastern Ontario, southern Québec, parts of the Maritimes and the northeastern United States. Consider the following title for comparative purposes from Toronto Public Library collections:


The ice storm an historic record in photographs of January 1998

Up to 100 millimetres of freezing rain fell over five days in sections of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States in early January 1998. Over five million people living in two million homes languished in the cold darkness of winter without power for up to a month in some instances. Various newspapers in eastern Ontario and southern Québec collaborated on producing this book.


Aussi disponible en français comme:


Le grand verglas récit en images de la tempête de janvier 1998

Farewell to Honest Ed’s, 1948 to 2016

December 28, 2016 | Barbara Myrvold | Comments (3)

Honest Ed’s is closing its doors for good on December 31. The legendary bargain store has been a major feature of the Bloor West streetscape since 1948 when 34-year-old Toronto entrepreneur Edwin “Honest Ed” Mirvish started Canada's first discount retail store at the southeast corner of Bloor and Markham streets. Mirvish eventually extended his retail complex eastward along Bloor to the southwest corner of Bathurst Street, and connected the east and west sections by a walkway crossing “Honest Ed Alley”.

Honest Ed exterior

Honest Ed's, 1986 (Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Archives)

Touted on its website as “A landmark for tourists and an entertaining shopping experience for all,” Honest Ed's is renowned for the thousands of colourful lights on its exterior advertising the name of the store. 

The bright lights - described as being "lit up like a theatre marquee" "giving the area a bit of a Las Vegas look" - are a reminder of the enormous contribution that the Mirvishes have made to Toronto's performing arts scene since Ed saved the Royal Alexandra Theatre from destruction back in 1963. 

Books by and about Ed Mirvish at Toronto Public Library

Honest Ed's is also famous for its humorous, pun-heavy signs declaring such messages as

  • “Welcome, don't faint at our low prices, there's no place to lie down”
  • "Only the floors are crooked!"
  • "We don't offer service. We have a slogan - serve yourself and save a lot of money."

Honest Ed's quirky signs Honest Ed's, 1982 (Toronto Public Library. Toronto Star Archives)

Many of the store's hand-painted show card signs were offered for sale this fall, and Toronto Public Library purchased three small ones for the Baldwin Collection of Canadiana. They list "'Ed's' Price!" for juice glasses (35 cents each), assorted tarts ($2.99) and a stainless steel sauce pan with lid ($7.99).  The Library also will keep the plastic shopping bag that held the signs, which proclaims “There is only one Honest Ed’s in the world! Aren’t you glad it’s here in Toronto! Bloor and Bathurst”.    

  Honest Ed's sign sale 2016 Nov 3Sign sale, November 3, 2016

The store often has attracted large crowds looking for bargains ... 

Honest Ed's Bargains Boxing Day 27 December 1986                Boxing Day, 1986 (Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Archives)  

or celebrities such as actor and professional wrestler Mr. T. (Laurence Tureaud)...

  Honest Ed's Mr T 1984

Mr. T fans at Honest Ed's, 1984 (Toronto Public Library. Toronto Star Archives)

or turkey giveaways at Christmas or free hot dogs, cake and candy at the annual public birthday parties that Ed started for himself in 1988 and which were continued after his death in 2007 as anniversary parties for the store itself.  

In the late 1950s, Mirvish began to buy the houses on the east side of Markham between Bloor and Lennox Street, with the intention of replacing them with a parking lot for "Honest Ed's". When the City refused the proposal, Mirvish opened the "Markham Street Art Colony" (Mirvish Village) with restaurants, outdoor cafes, crafts and antique shops, and artists' studios. 

Markham Street Village Mirvish Village, 1964 (Toronto Public Library. Toronto Star Archives)

Mirvish also acquired houses on the west side of the street where he reserved buildings for wife Anne’s sculpting studio and son David's art gallery (started in the early 1960s to exhibit abstract artists and colour field painters and sculptors) and book store (operated 1974-2009). 

David Mirvish Gallery exhibition catalogues at Toronto Public Library

The gallery had exhibited abstract artists and colour field painters and sculptors since the early 1960s, - See more at:

  Jack Bush at David Mirvish Gallery 1975

Canadian artist Jack Bush (1909-77) at David Mirvish Gallery, November 1975

(Toronto Public Library. Toronto Star Archives)

On July 16, 2013, it was announced that the Mirvish site was for sale for $100 million; the purchase by Vancouver-based Westbank Properties was announced in October 2013.  The redeveloped property is to be subdivided into zones with residential rental towers, retail storefronts, new pedestrian lanes, and a woonerf on Markham Street. However, the iconic Honest Ed's signs will not be part of the redevelopment. 

The redevelopment proposal has generated some concerns, and in 2015-16, the city undertook a major planning study of the “Bloor Bathurst Four Corners”. 

Whatever happens, this block of Bloor Street will never be the same. Huge thanks to the Mirvish family for providing bargains and entertainment for the last 68 years.

Celebrating the Beaches Branch: December 13: Snapshots in History

December 14, 2016 | John P. | Comments (4)

Excerpt from Toronto Public Library Annual Report 1916

 Excerpt from Toronto Public Library Board Annual Report, 1916

On December 13 and beyond, please take a moment to remember the opening of the original and permanent Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library on December 13, 1916. The Toronto Daily Star reported in its “suburban news” section on December 14, 1916 that “(t)he opening of the Beaches branch of the Public Library took place in the auditorium of the building in Kew Gardens. There was a large attendance, the main room…being well filled…” Then-Chief Librarian George H. Locke spoke of how the architecture of the Beaches, High Park and Wychwood Branches (which all opened in 1916) was based on the grammar schools that existed in England during the times of William Shakespeare. All three branches were built with a $50,000 grant from the (Andrew) Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Prior to this permanent location, Toronto Public Library had opened a temporary storefront library at the northeast corner of Hambly Avenue and Queen Street East on February 23, 1914. Initially, some local residents as well as the City of Toronto’s Parks Committee were opposed to having a building on parks property. However, then-Mayor Tommy Church was in a position to lay the cornerstone of the Beaches Branch on October 29, 1915. Eden Smith & Sons was the architectural firm hired for the project.

Beaches Branch was listed on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1979. In 1980, Stinson Montgomery Sisam Architects directed the renovation and expansion of the branch with its re-opening on September 26, 1980. The 1980 addition to the building was demolished in 2004 in conjunction with the renovation and expansion of the Beaches Branch by Phillip H. Carter and Kingsland + Architects Inc. The branch closed on April 17, 2004, and re-opened on January 20, 2005 with an official re-opening two days later on January 22, 2005. Recent visitors to the Beaches Branch have noticed the one tonne cast bronze owl statue named “Woodsworth”, designed by architect Phillip H. Carter and artisan Ludzer Vandermolen, that was installed near the entrance on July 7, 2005. Heritage Toronto installed a plaque outside of the building in 2006.

You can read a brief 19-page history of the building of Beaches Branch during the 1910-1916 time period written by library service specialist, Barbara Myrvold by clicking here.


Toronto Public Library; Beaches Branch, Queen St. E., s. side, w. of Lee Ave pictures-r-5429

Toronto Public Library; Beaches Branch, Queen St. E., s. side, w. of Lee Ave., 1916 (Photographer: Unknown).

Click here (or on the following image) to view a PDF (portable document format) version of the slide show that was constantly playing during the Beaches Branch Open House on October 22, 2016.

Library service at the Beach 1908-2016


When one visits the branch, please stop by the front desk and view the following collage: Beaches Branch History: Prepared by Toronto Public Library staff for the 2016 Centennial. Produced by Preservation and Digitization Services, Toronto Public Library, 2016.



Chinese Canadian Archive Project - What's New?

November 22, 2016 | Suk Yin | Comments (8)

This 1945 graduation photo of nine preschool students, all age five, helps tell the story of Chinese Canadian life in Toronto over the past century. It was taken at the Chinese Canadian Institute located at University and Dundas in the heart of Toronto's old Chinatown

1945 CCI pre-school graduation on University Ave
CCI preschool graduation, 1945  (Courtesy of Mavis Chu Lew Garland)

These second or third generation children, now all 76 years old, are planning a reunion in early December at Toronto Reference Library to reconnect with childhood friends, share old memories and support Toronto Public Library's Chinese Canadian Archive Project. 

CCI Preschool class with teachers Miss MacTavish and Miss Mah,1945 (Photo courtesy of Mavis Chu Lew Garland)

Many of these people are now the guardians of historical documents and photos left by their parents and grandparents and are looking for a place to safely and permanently preserve their family records and make them available to future generations.

Quong Sing First Class Laundry
Quong Sing's First Class Laundry in 1920s    (Photo courtesy: Valerie Mah)


Head tax certificate $500 - Jim Ng 1918
Chin Ng paid $500 Head Tax to join his father in Canada in 1918. The amount paid was sufficient to buy two houses at that time. (Photo courtesy of Jim Rosenthal)

Since the inception of the Chinese Canadian Archive Project last April, we have had the opportunity to meet many "low wah kiu" or "old timers" who have generously shared their stories of perseverance, joy, success and community contributions as Chinese Canadians living and working in Toronto.

First Chinese Canadian Woman received Order of Canada 1976
Jean Lumb -- the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada, 1976   (Photo courtesy of Arlene Chan)

On Tuesday, November 29, at 7 pm, Toronto Public Library is hosting a special event for the Chinese Canadian Archive in the Toronto Reference Library Atrium. Author Judy Fong-Bates is our keynote speaker and she will discuss the relationship between the themes of her book, The Year of Finding Memory and TPL's Chinese Canadian Archive. You will also have the chance to hear from community members sharing family stories and personal experiences. You can also get a first peek at some of the unique items already donated to the Archive.

The Chinese Canadian Archive will collect and preserve documents, photographs and memorabilia which reflect the rich heritage of the Chinese Canadian community in Toronto. Please join us to learn more about this exciting project.


The Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive

October 28, 2016 | Stacey | Comments (1)


Conducting research into your family history? Writing a research paper on an aspect of Toronto history? Seeking first-hand coverage on major historical events?

Historical newspapers are invaluable sources of information for genealogists, students, and general researchers. Proquest Historical Newspapers: The Globe and Mail features digitized copies of the newspaper dating from 1844 to 2012. Learn more about local history by reading about more than 160 years of life in Toronto. Read articles, editorials, classifieds, check out old advertisements, and view birth, marriage, and death announcements. The paper is searchable from cover to cover.

This resource is a wonderful way to get a sense of what life in Toronto was like during a particular time period, and to gain an understanding of the impact of major events on the city. Or just for fun, find out what was in the news on the day you were born!

And don’t forget that the original newspapers are in the Toronto Reference Library’s Special Collections and also available on microfilm.

For more information, check out this blog post on digitized Toronto newspapers or watch our introductory video tutorial to the Globe and Mail.

Researching British Military Ancestors

October 27, 2016 | Irena | Comments (0)


Getting Started

This guide focuses on resources available at the Toronto Reference Library. Most of the resources listed are available through the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, located on the second floor.

Questions to think about before beginning:

  • To what branch of the military did your ancestor belong (army, navy, militia, etc.)?
  • In what type of unit did your ancestor serve (cavalry, infantry, etc.)?
  • Was your ancestor an officer or an enlisted soldier?

In order to locate records, it may be necessary to know your ancestor’s regiment. For advice on determining the British Army regiment, see:

Searching the Library Catalogue

Many different subject headings apply to military sources, so keyword searches may be most effective. Choose keywords from the name of a place, the name of a conflict, and/or the name of an armed forces division. Lists of participants will have the subheading Registers. Lists of casualties will have the subheading Registers of dead.

Suggested Subjects and Keywords

  • Great Britain. Army. [Name of regiment]

E.g., Great Britain. Army. East Yorkshire Regiment

  • [Name of conflict] – Registers of dead – Great Britain

  E.g., World War, 1914-1918 – Registers of dead – Great Britain


Suggested Titles

Armed Forces Lists

These publications list commissioned officers, not enlisted men.

Handbooks and Guides

Medal Rolls

Regimental Histories

The following bibliography, available at the Special Collections information desk, has been annotated to reflect the Toronto Reference Library’s holdings:

Registers of Dead


Additional Print Resources

                           ---. Scottish soldiers in colonial America 

                           ---. Scottish soldiers in Continental Europe 

  • Deserter Index 1828-1840: an index to soldiers of the British Army regiments, Royal Marines & the Honorable East India Company's Service who deserted their units & whose names were published in the Police Gazette between 1 January 1828 & 31 December 1840 

External Websites

Library and Archives Canada -- Military Heritage

National Archives (United Kingdom) -- Military and Maritime Research Guides

Additional Online Sources

For further assistance, contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

Humanities and Social Sciences Department, 2nd Floor, Toronto Reference Library: 416-393-7175

or use the "Ask a Librarian" feature on

Ukrainian Genealogy

October 27, 2016 | Irena | Comments (0)

Slavic and East European Collections, The New York Public Library. "Karta Ukrainy V.Boplana 1650g. Tekst str. 15" The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

This guide has had minor revisions in October 2016.

Getting Started

This guide focuses on resources at the Toronto Reference Library. For help with your genealogy research, please visit the Humanities and Social Sciences Department on the 2nd floor.

Searching the Library Catalogue

Suggested Subjects and Keywords:

Suggested Titles

General Works

Maps and Gazetteers

Ukrainians in North America


Jewish Genealogy


For further assistance contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

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

Use our Ask A Librarian service to chat with us online.

Remembering Hurricane Hazel: October 15: Snapshots in History

October 15, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

On October 15 and beyond, take a moment to reflect upon the destructive power and aftermath of Hurricane Hazel which struck southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area on October 15, 1954 after affecting various Caribbean countries and several American states along the eastern seaboard. Hurricane Hazel merged with a strong cold front over the state of Pennsylvania and turned northwest towards Ontario. Ninety five people in the United States lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Hazel. Consequently, Hurricane Hazel (a category 1 hurricane) hit southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area as an extra-tropical storm, resulting in major flooding from overflowing rivers and streams and an already saturated water table. Eighty-one people in Canada died from Hurricane Hazel, including 35 individuals who lost their lives when much of Raymore Drive and 32 adjacent houses in Etobicoke were swept away. More than 1,800 families in Toronto were left homeless due to Hurricane Hazel out of a total of 4,000 families affected in southern Ontario.

One of the lasting legacies from Hurricane Hazel was the creation of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) in 1957. TRCA used land use planning and regulations to encourage the creation of parkland and dam construction along floodplains to avoid future occurrences of the damage and loss of life that resulted from Hurricane Hazel. For example, the Scouts’ Camp of the Crooked Creek in Scarborough closed down in June 1968 and was taken over by the then-Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority, which did not permit people to inhabit flood-prone areas. This area is now the Morningside Park area of the Highland Creek Park.  

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


Rain tonight a story of Hurricane Hazel

(Children's Non-Fiction Book)

The author was born the evening that Hurricane Hazel struck and parlayed his fascination with the subject into this book. Follow the account of eight-year-old Penny Doucette, her family and their elderly neighbour clinging to a house roof as the neighbouring house floated away on the Humber River.


  Hurricane Hazel Canada's storm of the century        Hurricane Hazel Canada's storm of the century

(Adult Non-Fiction Book)                        (Adult Non-Fiction eBook)

Read a fiftieth anniversary account of the destruction and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Hazel. Eighty-one people died in southern Ontario, including 32 residents of Raymore Drive in Etobicoke. The latter had to contend with an eight-foot rise in the Humber River in the span of one hour, and five volunteer firefighters who drowned attempting to reach motorists trapped in their automobiles.


Hurricane Hazel Betty Kennedy

(Adult Non-Fiction Book)

Broadcaster and journalist Kennedy authored this book to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel striking southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area.

Consider the following novel which encompasses Hurricane Hazel in the storyline:


The carnivore a novel

 (Adult Fiction Book)

 A young police officer named Ray Townes emerges as a hero in saving trapped Humber River residents from the wrath of Hurricane Hazel. Meanwhile, Ray’s wife Mary, a nurse, is wracked with doubts about Ray’s heroism when she meets a disoriented woman near death in the emergency room at the hospital whose recollection of events differ from Ray’s story.

Children wishing to read a story including Hurricane Hazel can try the following easy-to-read title:

Written on the wind / Anne Dublin and Avril Woodend, 2001.

(Children’s Easy-to-Read Book)

This story is set in the 1950s around the time of Hurricane Hazel. Sarah is afraid when her Ouija board forecasts that terrible things are going to happen.

Please visit the TPL History: Hurricane Hazel hits Toronto (October, 1954) page to view additional images about Hurricane Hazel.




Is There an Archive in Your Attic? Check Your Old Shoeboxes for Hidden Treasure!

September 1, 2016 | Suk Yin | Comments (2)

Farmer in the 19th century
On the farm in Nova Scotia, c. 1900 (Photo courtesy of Carl MacKenzie)

When my mother-in-law passed away 10 years ago, she left some precious family heirlooms. While my husband took pride in using the silver, bone china and crystal for special events, nothing gave him more joy than discovering, tucked away in our basement, shoeboxes of old family photos documenting his family’s early days as farmers in Nova Scotia, homesteaders in Saskatchewan and social workers in northern Manitoba.

Homesteaders in Saskatchewan
The homestead in Saskatchewan, c. 1910 (Photo courtesy of Carl MacKenzie)

It was exciting to go through all these family records which brought to life our family’s early history in Canada. Many of the photos had been labeled by his father and others were identified through a bit of detective work and delving into the memories of family members. For years, the photos were hidden away, until we got them organized and used a scanner and some common on-line tools to turn them into a large hardcover book showing life in the North. The photos are now well documented with names, places and faces permanently recorded in the scanned image files or on paper. Anyone can view the book online.

Our shoeboxes yielded treasures and memories that will enlighten and inform future generations and help them understand where they came from and how they got here.


York Street Public School 1923
York Street Public School 1923 (Toronto Public Library Digital Archive)

Chinese-Canadian Archive Project

This past April, the Toronto Public Library began the task of establishing a Chinese-Canadian archive to document the stories of the struggle, survival, joy, sorrow, failure and success of the Chinese immigrants in Toronto.

Hence we are seeking any related archival materials such as photos, letters, manuscripts, scrapbooks, documents, certificates, videos, etc. to help document the daily life of the Chinese in Toronto and Canada from 1878 to the present. With their blood, sweat, loneliness, suffering and desire for political justice, these pioneers worked hard to pave an easier road for today’s immigrants. The Toronto Public Library wants to document it all and build a collection that presents a holistic picture of the Chinese in Canada.


Archive in your attic: discovering family treasures

We are sure there are many shoeboxes, hidden in the basements and attics of many homes in Toronto (and even perhaps beyond) that will yield rich and poignant family stories that will make our archive come alive.

If you want to know more about discovering your family treasures through archiving, we invite you to join one of two upcoming sessions for Archive in Your Attic: Discovering Family Treasures:


Denise and her siblings reprise their parents' wedding
Denise Chong and her siblings reprise their parents’ wedding (Courtesy of Denise Chong)

Sat. Sept. 10, 2-3:30 at the Hinton Learning Theatre 3rd floor, Toronto Reference Library – presented by renowned author, Denise Chong.

Denise Chong had a nagging curiosity about the handful of black and white photos—all that was left from her grandparents’ time—and it ultimately led to her writing a family memoir, “The Concubine’s Children.” Denise will discuss how a writer, working with available materials, is a detective and inquisitor, triggering memories, documenting and imagining life as it was.



Lumb Family 1955
Lumb’s Family 1955 (Courtesy of Arlene Chan)

Sat. Oct. 22, 2-3:30 at the Hinton Learning Theatre, 3rd floor, Toronto Reference Library – presented by Chinatown historian, Arlene Chan.

Arlene Chan is the author of “The Chinese in Toronto from 1878: From Outside to Inside the Circle,” a book which documents the history of her community for young and old. Arlene is a 3rd generation Canadian and grew up in Toronto’s original Chinatown, an area now occupied by Toronto City Hall. Chan’s parents owned a grocery store before opening a popular restaurant in Chinatown. Arlene will share with us about the importance of archiving family materials, preserving family histories and sharing family stories for future generations.





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