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Making Historical Photographs Accessible Online

March 25, 2015 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

The Toronto Public Library Digital Archive is a rich source of Toronto history. From the time an item in the collection is selected for digitization to when it is available in the Toronto Public Library Digital Archive, it undergoes an in-depth process to ensure it is accessible to everyone searching the Digital Archive. As a student at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information, I had the opportunity to be part of the initial steps in this process while working on a project for the North York Central Library Canadiana Department. The objective of the project was to create metadata records for a collection of historical photographs that were recently donated to the library by the North York Historical Society (NYHS).

If you’re not familiar with the concept of metadata it is broadly defined as data about data. In this project metadata was any details about a photograph gathered from a NYHS database and NYHS scrapbooks: date, description, size, format, spatial location and subject headings. The metadata is attached to each photograph on Digital Archive. These metadata records are also what leads to the discovery of a photograph when you search the Digital Archive.

In working with a historical photographic collection there are challenges in gathering descriptive information. For example, in trying to determine the subject(s) of a photograph I had to look closely at them and think creatively. This is where my role in the process got interesting.    

While many photographs in the NYHS photograph collection showcase important landmarks in North York like Gibson House and the Golden Lion Hotel, images of uncommon historical scenes posed an interesting challenge. When creating these metadata records it was important to consider which subjects headings would make scenes like plane crashes and children playing on a farm findable for anyone searching the Digital Archive. 

Golden Lion Hotel when residence of Rev. Pickett
Golden Lion Hotel when residence of Rev. Pickett

Plane that came down during WW1
Plane that came down during WW1

Arlington Tomlinson holding Freddie Wicks on a pig
Arlington Tomlinson holding Freddie Wicks on a pig 

Another challenge was photographs in NYHS collection that had too little or incomplete information and required outside research. The collection includes a photograph of the Weston Foundry and Machine Shop, but no date or location information about it. When I came across this photo, I needed to fill in these gaps with further research in the Canadiana Department. With the help of the Canadiana Department staff, I finally found this information in a Directory of North York from the 1920’s. This type of additional research ensures complete metadata records for NYHS photographs that can be searched to find photographs in the Digital Archive.

Weston Foundry and Machine Shop
Weston Foundry and Machine Shop

Working through the challenges of creating good metadata records is an initial step in the process, but all together this digitization project will help make the collection of the Canadiana Department more accessible to you. While working on this project I also learned about the many historical materials already available through the Digital Archive. Even more, there are lots of easy ways to access these materials like the interactive Toronto Neighbourhoods map, to which the NYHS photograph collection will be added. The North York Central Library Canadiana Department has a great collection of North York history to be discovered online and in the library.

Valuable Historical Photographs, Scrapbooks and Family Papers Part of Donation from North York Historical Society

March 9, 2015 | Andrew L | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The North York Historical Society (NYHS) and the Toronto Public Library signed an agreement on February 6 to officially add the NYHS archives to the collections of the Canadiana Department on the sixth floor of North York Central Library. A special event was held to recognize this significant donation of historical materials about North York. 

The Canadiana Department and the NYHS have a mutual interest to preserve and make historical and current information about North York accessible, and have a long history of working together. This donation increases Canadiana’s collections related to the history of North York, and library staff and NYHS members plan to work together to promote and enhance access to these materials in the future.

NYHS and TPL representatives sign the donation agreement Feb. 6, 2015


The donation agreement is signed by Linda Mackenzie, Director
of Research and Reference Libraries for Toronto Public Library,
and Bill Aird, President of North York Historical Society on
Feb. 6, 2015.


  Group photo of NYHS executives and TPL managers with Councillor John Filion.



Standing from left to right: Edith Geduld (Director, NYHS),
Ruth Kingma (Secretary, NYHS), Geoff Geduld (Past President,
NYHS), Glenn Bonnetta (Vice President, NYHS), Greg Kelner
(Manager, North York Central Library Departments), Councillor
John Filion (Ward 23 Willowdale). Seated: Linda Mackenzie
(Director, Research and Reference Libraries, Toronto Public
Library), Bill Aird (President, NYHS)

The Canadiana Department has had a collection on the history of North York since its earliest days in the 1960s. The collection is in-depth covering North York back to its earliest human habitation, and includes books, local newspapers, photographs, maps and clipping files on North York people, places and events. Also part of the collection are about 30 small archival collections, and many municipal and planning documents issued by North York prior to its amalgamation into Toronto. Among the gems acquired in the NYHS donation are:

  • Aerial photographs of North York in 1942 and 1954
  • Series of 39 scrapbooks about lot owners, communities, schools, and churches
  • Papers of the Coulson family, which include documents going back to the 1830s
  • More than 1,600 historical photographs

North York Central Library Manager Greg Kelner served as master of ceremonies and introduced remarks from:

“Having these resources available in the library will be a wonderful aid to anyone researching the history and development of North York,” said Linda Mackenzie, director of Research and Reference Libraries. “We value our partnership with the North York Historical Society and look forward to more years of fruitful collaboration.”

Examples of NYHS photos on display.  
Examples of historic North York photos from the donation
were on display.
Event photos by Dona Acheson.  

  St. Andrews Golf Course, ca. 1935


St. Andrews Golf Course, ca. 1935 [NYHS00349]  


Colonel Cameron's House  


Colonel Cameron's House (later St. Andrews Golf Course) [NYHS00346]  

For more than 50 years, the North York Historical Society has successfully worked to preserve the history and heritage of North York, and maintains an active schedule of programming working with other community organizations. Notable achievements include the preservation, restoration and adaptive reuse of the Gibson House as a museum, and supporting the preservation of other historic buildings such as the David Duncan House, Dempsey Store, Elihu Pease House and Jolly Miller Tavern.

The Canadiana Department also houses collections from these societies:

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

Toronto Local History Collections in Toronto Public Library

March 2, 2015 | Barbara Myrvold | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto local history collections are provided in more than 30 branches of the Toronto Public Library. The collections include materials of historical significance about a specific geographic area. This could be the Toronto neighbourhood(s) served by the local branch library; an historic community, such as an annexed municipality; or the City of Toronto as a whole.

The collections are intended to serve students working on projects from elementary school to college and university, and adult independent learners, including newcomers, long-time residents and visitors, interested in learning more about a community.  The collections are also good starting places for local historians and genealogists, heritage groups and other professionals needing local information for their avocations or jobs.

Local history collections vary significantly in size, ranging from occupying a few shelves or file drawers to being housed in separate rooms, but generally they:

  • Cover a wide range of subjects.
  • Include a variety of formats, often books, vertical files, community newspapers, pictures and maps. 
  • Are for in-library reference use. Circulating copies of many books also are available in Toronto Public Library collections. 
  • Emphasize secondary sources and copies of rare, original materials. 
  • Include some items that are not listed in the library’s online catalog.

In some branch local history collections, new items are not being added to collections of vertical files, pictures and maps, which may have been superseded by electronic databases and digital archives.

Map of Neighbourhood Historical Resources
Browse or search by neighbourhood for books, pictures and maps

Consult our Map of Neighbourhood Historical Resources for additional local history materials in Toronto Public Library’s collections and links to websites selected by Library staff. 









Branch Local History Collections

Annette Street Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Junction, High Park (north of Bloor Street)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference   

Beaches Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Beach, Upper Beach, Danforth (Main Street area)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures
Use: Reference  
Bloor/Gladstone Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Brockton (north section), Dovercourt, Dufferin Grove-Bickford Park
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference. Duplicate copies of some books circulate
Cedarbrae District Branch Scarborough Historical Collection
Neighbourhoods: Former City of Scarborough and its neighbourhoods - Agincourt, Bendale, Birch Cliff, Clairlea-Golden Mile, Cliffside-Cliffcrest, Guildwood, Dorset Park, Highland Creek, Knob Hill, L'Amoreaux, Malvern, Maryvale, Milliken, Oakridge, Port Union-West Rouge, Rouge, Scarborough Junction, Scarborough Village, Upper Rouge, West Hill, Wexford, Woburn.
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps, Microforms
Use: Reference

Deer Park Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Deer Park, Rosedale/Moore Park (north of the CP line)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference.  Duplicate copies of some books circulate.

Don Mills Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Don Mills
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Maps, Ephemera
Use: Reference

Dufferin/St. Clair Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Earlscourt, Wychwood–Hillcrest (northwest section), Oakwood-Vaughan (southwest section)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Pictures, Maps, Community newspapers
Use: Reference

Forest Hill Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Forest Hill
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers
Use: Reference

Gerrard/Ashdale Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Leslieville, Upper Beach (Gerrard and Coxwell area of both neighbourhoods)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (inactive; PDF), Newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference

Guildwood Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Guildwood
Formats: Books, Community newsletters
Use: Reference

High Park Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: High Park, Parkdale (Roncesvalles area and High Park – the park itself)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Ephemera
Use: Reference

Leaside Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Leaside, Thorncliffe Park
Formats: Books, Community newspapers, newsletters and magazines, Pictures, Maps, Artifacts, Archival records (Leaside Public Library), Ephemera (scrapbooks)
Use: Reference

Lillian H. Smith Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Kensington-Grange, Palmerston-Sussex Ulster (Harbord Village)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (inactive; PDF), Community newspapers, newsletters and magazines, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference

Long Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Long Branch
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps, Archival records (Long Branch Public Library)  
Use: Reference

Maria Shchuka Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Former City of York and its neighbourhoods: Lambton, Mount Dennis, Silverthorn, Weston
Formats: Books, Vertical files, Community newspapers, Ephemera (Scrapbooks), Archival records (York Public Library)
Use: Reference

North York Central Library. Canadiana Department. North York History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Former City of North York and its neighbourhoods - Amesbury Park, Armour Heights, Bayview Village, Bridle Path-Sunnybrook, Don Mills, Don Valley Village, Downsview, Elia-Branson, Emery, Fairbank, Flemingdon Park, Henry Farm, Hillcrest Village, Humber Summit, Lansing, Lawrence Manor, Maple Leaf, Newtonbrook, Pleasant View, Weston, Willowdale, York Mills, York University-Black Creek  
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Ephemera (including pamphlets, posters and postcards), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps, Microforms, Artifacts, Archival records (e.g., North York Historical Society, North York Public Library)
Use: Reference
Finding aids (in branch): Electronic databases for Maps, Photographs, North York History, North York Public Library Archives, North York Newspapers. North York Scrapbooks Index; Archival Holdings List.  Research Guide to North York History Resources

Northern District Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: North Toronto
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Ephemera, Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference

Palmerston Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Annex, Palmerston-Sussex Ulster, Seaton Village
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures
Use: Reference  

Parkdale Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Parkdale, Brockton (south section), Exhibition, Sunnyside
Formats: Books, Vertical files (inactive PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference
Finding aids (in branch): Card index

Parliament Street Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Cabbagetown, St. James Town, Regent Park
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference; duplicate copies of some books for circulation

Queen/Saulter Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Riverdale, Leslieville (Queen-Broadview area)
Formats: Books, Vertical files, Community newspapers, Pictures
Use: Reference

Richview Branch Etobicoke History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Former City of Etobicoke and its neighbourhoods - Alderwood, Eatonville, Eringate Humber Bay, Humber Valley Village, Islington, Kingsway, Long Branch, Mimico, New Toronto, Rexdale, Richview, Sunnylea, Thistletown and Weston
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Ephemera (e.g., Tweedsmuir history scrapbooks), Community newspapers, newsletters and magazines; Pictures, Maps (PDF), Artifacts, Archival records (e.g., Etobicoke Public Library, Richview Women’s Institute) Microforms, Oral histories
Use: Reference
Finding aids (in branch): Subject card index to Etobicoke newspapers, 1950-present

Riverdale Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Riverdale, Danforth (west of Pape Avenue), Leslieville, Port Lands
Formats: Books; Vertical files (PDF), Ephemera, Community newspapers, newsletters and magazines, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference; duplicate copies of some books circulate.
Finding aids (in branch): Subject card index, 1880s-1970s

Runnymede Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Bloor West Village (including Baby Point, Runnymede), High Park (including Roncesvalles), Junction, Sunnyside, Swansea
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference; duplicate copies of some books circulate

S. Walter Stewart Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: East York
Formats: Books, Ephemera, Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference

Sanderson Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Kensington-Grange (west of Spadina Avenue); Palmerston-Sussex Ulster (south of Harbord Street); King-Spadina, Trinity Bellwoods (east of Ossington Avenue);
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Ephemera, Community newspapers, Pictures
Use: Reference

St. Lawrence Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Financial District (east of Yonge Street), St. Lawrence
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Community newspapers
Use: Reference; some books circulate

Swansea Memorial Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Swansea
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference; some books circulate

Toronto Reference Library.  Humanities and Social Sciences Department. Local History and Genealogy Collection
Neighbourhoods: City of Toronto and its neighbourhoods (along with many other geographic areas)
Formats:  Books (including copies of Toronto city directories (1833-1998) and telephone directories); Vertical files (Donald Jones' "Historical Toronto" articles, Toronto Star, 1973-1991; Toronto buildings - both inactive); Maps (including copies of Toronto fire insurance plans); Microforms (including Biographical scrapbooks, Toronto scrapbooks and Toronto Public Library scrapbooks); Ephemera (including The A. Norman Sands Collection of Local History)   
Use: Reference
Finding aids (in library): Card file indexes to biographies and Toronto buildings vertical files. Published Index to Donald Jones Toronto Star articles; Index to biographical scrapbooks; Index to Toronto scrapbooks. Electronic subject headings for A. Norman Sands Collection of Local History York (County) - Toronto section

Toronto Reference Library. Humanities and Social Sciences Department. Toronto Collection (PDF)
Neighbourhoods: City of Toronto and its neighbourhoods
Formats: Books, Vertical files (closed in 2010), Community newspapers (mostly on microfilm), Maps, Microforms, Archival records (e.g., City of Toronto Council minutes), Ephemera (e.g., election campaign literature).
Use: Reference

Weston Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Weston
Formats: Books, Pictures, Maps, Archival records (Weston Public Library and its predecessor and successor libraries), Ephemera
Use: Reference; duplicates of some books circulate
Finding aids: Pages of Weston History 100 Years and Beyond

Wychwood Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Wychwood-Hillcrest, Oakwood-Vaughan (southeast area), Cedarvale (south area)
Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Pictures, Archival records (Bracondale Public Library), Ephemera
Use: Reference

Yorkville Branch Local History Collection
Neighbourhoods: Yorkville, Rosedale-Moore Park (south of CP line, west of Mount Pleasant Road) Formats: Books, Vertical files (PDF), Pictures, Maps
Use: Reference

Guide to City Directories of Toronto: Decoding Abbreviations

March 1, 2015 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

This updated guide was originally posted in 2011.

This guide provides explanations of many abbreviations for personal names, occupations and other words used in 19th-century Toronto city directories. 

1896 Toronto City Directory-sample

ab  above
acct  accountant
adv  advertisement
ag implts agricultural implements
agt  agent
al  alley
Albt  Albert
Alex  Alexander
app  apprentice
appr  appraiser
arch/archt architect
Archd  Archibald
assce  assurance
assn  association
asst  assistant
attdt  attendant
av/ave  avenue

b  boards
barr  barrister
bdg  boarding
bdg h  boarding house
bds  boards
Benj  Benjamin
bet  between
bg  building
bgemn  baggageman
bkbndr  bookbinder
bkkpr/bkpr bookkeeper
bkr  baker
bkslr  bookseller
bld/bldg building
bldr  builder
blksmith blacksmith
br  branch
brklyr  bricklayer
brkmn  brakeman
brmkr  boiler maker
btchr  butcher
btlr  bottler

c  corner
c h  custom house
cabt mkr cabinet maker
Can  Canadian
carp/carpr carpenter
carr  carriage
cash  cashier
Chas  Charles
chauf  chauffeur
chkr  checker
clk  clerk
clnr  cleaner
Co  company
col  colored
coll  collector
com  commission
com mer  commission merchant
comp  compositor
comr/commr commissioner
cond/condr conductor
confr/conftr confectioner
contr  contractor
cor  corner
Corp  corporation
cres  crescent
ct  court
ctr  cutter

d gds  dry goods
Danl  Daniel
dept  department
depy  deputy
dlr  dealer
do  same place or same street
dom  domestic
Dom  Dominion
drftsmn  draftsman
drsmkr  dressmaker
dsgnr  designer

e  east
e s  east side
Edwd  Edward
elect  electrician
electro  electrotyper
elev oper elevator operator
Eliz  Elizabeth
emp  employee
eng/engr engineer
engr  engraver
est  estate
examr  examiner
exp  express

fcy  fancy
fnshr  finisher
Frdk  Frederick
ft  foot of
ft  foot
furn  furniture
furng  furnishing

GTR  Grand Trunk Railway
GWR  Great Western Railway
gard/gdnr gardener
gds  goods
genl  general
Geo  George
geol  geological
gro  grocer
gts furngs gents' furnishings

h  house
h  householder [general owner]
hdwre  hardware
Hert  Herbert
hlpr  helper
hsekpr  housekeeper

imp  importer
implts  implements
ins  insurance
insp  inspector
insts  instruments
Intl  international

J & K 
Jas  James
jwlr  jeweller
kpr  keeper

l/la  lane
lab  labourer
landrs  laundress
lino  linotype
litho  lithographer
lndry  laundry
ltd  limited

mach hd  machine hand
mach/macht machinist
mar  market
Margt  Margaret
mech  mechanic
mer  merchant
mfg, mfr, mfy manufacturing -urer -ory
mgr  manager
mkr  maker
mkt  market
Mkt gdnr market gardener
mldr  moulder
mlnr  milliner
mlstr  maltster
mng dir  managing director
mntr  mounter
moto  mortorman
mssr  messenger
mus  musical
mus tchr music teacher

n  north
n  near
n e  northeast
n s  northsouth
n s   north side
n w  north west
NR  Northern Railway
NRC   Northern Railway Company
nr  near

off  office
Ont  Ontario
op/opp  opposite
opr  operator

pc  police constable
Parlt  Parliament
pat med  patent medicines
pckr  packer
ped/pdlr peddler
photo/photr photographer
phy  physician
pl  place
plmbr  plumber
plshr  polisher
plstr  plasterer
pntr  painter
pntr  painter
pr  proprietor
pres  president
prin  principal
prntr  printer
prof  professor
prop  proprietor
provns/provs provisions
prsfdr  pressfeeder
prsr  presser
publr  publisher

r/res  resides [not owner]
r  rear
rd  road
Regd  Reginald
rep  representative
repr  repairer
rest  restaurant
ret  retail
Richd  Richard
Robt  Robert

s  south
s e   side entrance
s s  south side
Saml  Samuel
sch tchr school teacher
sdlr  saddler
se  southeast
sec  secretary
sec hd goods second hand goods
sew mach sewing machine
shpr  shipper
slsldy  saleslady
slsmn  salesman
smtrs  seamstress
soc  society
sol  solicitor
sq  square
Stand  Standard
statr  stationer
staty  stationery
stenog  stenographer
stero  stereotyper
stkpr  stock keeper
stmftr  steamfitter
stn  station
stu/studt student
suprvsr  supervisor
supt  superintendent
surg  surgeon
sw  southwest

tchr  teacher
tel  telepraph
tel opr  telephone operator
telph  telephone
ter  terrace
Thos  Thomas
tlr  tailor
tlrs  tailoress
tmstr  teamster
tnsmth  tinsmith
Tor  Toronto
trans  transportation
trav  traveller
treas  treasurer
trk drvr truck driver
twp  township

U & V 
uphol  upholsterer
v pres  vice president
vet  veterinary
vet sur  veterinary surgeon

w  widow of
w  west
w s  west side
wd wkr  wood worker
wh/whol  wholesale
w'hse  warehouseman
wid  widow
wks  works
Wm  William
wrehsemn warehouseman
wtr  waiter
wtrs  waitress

The A. Norman Sands Collection of Canadian Local History

February 6, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

This post by Richard was previously published in the Toronto Reference Library Blog.

Norman Sands Bookplate

The bookplate belonging to A.N. Sands is affixed to many of the items in the collection

A. Norman Sands (1894-1979) was a veteran of WWI (48th Highlanders, Naval Air Service, and Corps Cyclist Battalion), a Director at T. Eaton Co. Ltd, and an avid collector of local history. With 50 Years of service at T. Eaton, he amassed a considerable collection of pamphlets, booklets, and ephemera from
all across Ontario and Canada.

Sands Collection CabinetsIn March 1971, Edith G. Firth, then Associate Head of the Metropolitan Toronto Central Library, contacted Norman Sands to express interest in his collection. The A. Norman Sands materials were subsequently donated to the library. The collection is now housed and available for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library

Things to know

A. Norman Sands collected Canadian church histories, local history pamphlets, travel brochures, souvenir booklets, and postcards, printed between 1890 and 1970.  The collection emphasize Ontario church history and histories of Ontario counties, towns, townships and tourist attractions. Churches, cities, and rural communities celebrating 100 year anniversaries trace their early roots, identify founding families, and comment on origins and changes in place names and district boundaries. Many items were produced as part of Canada's centennial celebrations.

The files contain travel brochures from the early part of the 20th century, but primarily issued in the 1950's and 1960's. Souvenir postcards are available for some large cities and popular tourist destination.

The Toronto files were expanded by including pamphlets for the period 1970-1999.

Geographic Arrangement

The Ontario files are organized alphabetically by country or district and then by town or township. Files for other Canadian provinces and territories are arranged from west to east coast, and then alphabetically by town or township. Large communities with more than 3 pamphlets have their own file folder. Topical files on churches, history, tourism, etc. are interfiled alphabetically with the corresponding province/territory or county/district.

Access to the Collection

The Sand's Collection is located on the 2nd Floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department.  Please ask a librarian for assistance in browsing and retrieving the items you want to see. The Sands collection is in locked filing cabinets for security reasons. You will be required to fill out a retrieval slip in order to view materials in the library.

Items in the Sands collection are uncatalogued. However, a significant portion of the collection is duplicated in our regular collection and does appear on the Toronto Public Library (TPL) website. For example, the Souvenir Book authored by St. Patrick's Church (Phelpston, Ont.) in 1965, is in the Sand's collection and is also at the North York Central Library. Whereas, Women in the Church, compiled by the Local Woman's Associations of Simcoe Presbytery in 1957, is only located in the Simcoe folder in the Sand's collection and is not in the regular collection or on the Toronto Public Library website.

Finding Aids

You can view a county list of Ontario coverage here: Download The Sands Ontario County Index (PDF).  If you know the town name but need the county name Download The Sands Ontario Towns & Cities Index (PDF). For a listing of files outside of Ontario for the rest of Canada Download The Sands Index of Other Provinces (PDF).

Size of the Collection

There are over 500 place names listed for Ontario alone, and over 200 place names listed for the rest of Canada. While some folders may contain only few pieces, other folders contain over a dozen. A sampling of two of the drawers would suggest that the collection exceeds 2,700 items, in roughly 25 linear feet or 7.5 metres of storage.

One dozen examples . . .


Order of Service St. James' CathedralA special service at Toronto's St. James cathedral was held to commemorate the coronation of George V and Queen Mary in June of 1911.

The Internet Archive has digitized the form and order of the service  of the actual coronation in Westminster, on Thursday, the 22nd day of June, 1911, which includes the Oath taken by George V.
















Toronto Visitors' Guide

This map brochure, printed by the TTC in the mid-20th century before Toronto had subways, shows Routes and Rates of Fare for Street Cars, Buses, and Coaches.

The back page notes, "The Commission is required to collect a self-sustaining fare. No taxes have been or may be collected for the support of the addition to the city transit system, the Commission owns the Gray Coach Lines, with interurban bus routes radiating from Toronto to Buffalo, London, Owen Sound, Alliston, North Bay, Beaverton, Uxbridge and Oshawa...(and) also owns the suburban electric line to Long Branch and the Scarboro and Port Credit bus routes".




















Dominion Bank King & Yonge

This pamphlet [no date] details the construction of the Dominion Bank Building at 1 King Street West at Yonge in 1913 in an area of the city that "was considered at the time to be the busiest corner in America outside of New York City".

The building includes a great vault "which, when constructed, was the largest and best equipped in Canada".

To enter the Safety Deposit Vault, "it is necessary to pass through one of the largest and heaviest doors ever built. It is circular in shape, four and one-half feet thick and has an opening of seven feet six inches. Although the complete door assembly weighs in excess of forty tons, the precision is so fine that a paper clip accidentally dropped in the opening will halt the door from closing".

The building is now part of One King Street West, a hotel and condominium development (2005).






Official Guide to TorontoThis Official Guide (46 pages), published in 1899, describes Toronto in classic Victorian style, and includes an Historical Sketch, a section on Municipal Progress and Government, Public Buildings and Institutions, etc.

The Guide boasts of the recently built City Hall...the "total cost (not yet definitely settled) is estimated at about $2,500,000, for which one of the finest buildings on the continent has been is in the Romanesque style and is of magnificent proportions'.

The Guide also highlights many of Toronto's other accomplishments: "The water supplied to the City is of excellent quality, and is taken from the depths of Lake Ontario by a steel conduit, through which it is forced by pumping engines having a capacity for pumping more than 40,000,000 gallons daily. The supply is stored in Rosehill Reservoir, which covers a bottom area of more that 40,000 square yards, one-third of which is laid with concrete, and around the banks of which is one of the loveliest of Toronto's many lovely parks."



Secord Secretarial School for Girls

A real piece of ephemera, this little booklet outlines: the purpose of the Secord Secretarial School for Girls, the course offerings (Secretarial - Stenographic - Business Machines), the time required for each type of course (12 weeks to 10 months), the Tuition fees ($5/wk or $18/mth) School Hours, description of subjects, and employment prospects.















Muskoka Lakes

This CNR fold-out four page brochure, with no date, was possibly printed in the 1910's. It includes a listing of over 90 hotels in the area along with accommodation capacities. Rates on the "American Plan" range between $2 and $4 per day or $12 to $31.50 per week. Listed are famous hotels that went up in flames: the Beaumaris Hotel (1945), Royal Muskoka Hotel (1952), and the Windermere House (1996).

 Women in the Church"In the following pages", this 47 page booklet begins, "may be found the History of some fifty-five local Woman's Associations of Simcoe Presbytery compiled by ladies searching through old minute books and any other source they could find available." The economic contribution of these Associations is one of the recurring themes of these accounts e.g. the "Treasurers' Reports since 1891 show a total amount raised during those 66 years of $113,995.90" - St. Paul's United Church Woman's Association, Orillia.











These sixty years

One of the many Church Histories in the collection.

"The pages which follow are intended to indicate the trends and high points which sketch, in briefest outline, the story of "These Sixty Years". The publication of this brochure is timely, if only as a record of facts of historical value, though it is more than that. It is a story of Vision; of devotion to God and the fruits of the investment of love and labour."

"Ours the task sublime
To build Eternity in Time!










Canadian Memorial ChapelThis Chapel in Vancouver was constructed as a memorial to those who died in WWI. 

REV (Lt-COL) G. O. Fallis, CBE, B.D. is identified as the "Man with a Vision", who was responsible for raising the money for the building. He served as the minister until 1933.

The booklet describes the 10 beautiful stained-glass windows representing the provinces and one territory ..."Keep in mind the thought that the soldier went overseas dreaming of a peaceful world to be. Think of him as he was in that strange environment, and remember the suffering of those who remained behind". Note that Sir Robert Borden, our eighth Prime Minister, is listed as the Chapel's first patron.







Cathedral Church of the Redeemer

Another example of one of the many church histories; this one is for a church in Calgary.

The church pictured replaced an earlier wooden church built in 1884. The replacement of church buildings is a common recurring theme in these sorts of church histories.

"The cornerstone of the present Church was laid by His Excellency, the Earl of Minto on September 9th, 1904".


Charlevoix, Chicoutimi, Lake St. Jean

This guide with a beautiful cover, published by the Québec Tourist Bureau in 1940, includes a formal looking Invitation "to Our Friends from the United States of America".

"Your President, Mr. Roosevelt, declared in a recent official statement that no deterrent to travel exists among the friendly nations of the Western hemisphere, and he then proclaimed 1940 Travel America Year."

The invitation is signed by, "Adelard Godbout, Prime minister of la Province de Québec".












Irving Oil Travel GuideIrving Oil expanded across the Maritimes in the 1930's.

"This booklet is one of a series, developed by the Irving Oil Company Limited, for your information and pleasure, covering all principal cities, main routes and points of interest throughout the three Maritime Provinces. Ask for these and for the Irving Road Map of Eastern Canada at any station identified by the Irving Sign".



















As the above examples illustrate, the A.N. Sands collection is a treasure trove of documents of potential interest to a wide range of researchers across many disciplines.


Holocaust commemoration: Yizkor (memorial) books

January 30, 2015 | Irena | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Yizkor book of Lyubcha and Delyatichi

On January 27, 2015 the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

In the period following World War II, Holocaust survivors wrote Yizkor (memorial) books to preserve the memory of families -- and in some cases entire Jewish communities -- destroyed during the war. These books were originally written in Yiddish or Hebrew and, until recently, were not available in English translation. Fortunately for the English-speaking world, the Jewish genealogical organization JewishGen developed the Yizkor Book Project.

To date, Toronto Public Library has acquired print copies of seventeen titles, which are shelved in the Local History and Genealogy collection, 2nd floor, Toronto Reference Library. They represent the following communities:

Antopol, Belarus

Brzeziny, Poland

Buczacz, Galicia

Ciechanow, Poland

Czenstochow, Poland

Dzialoszyce, Poland

Horodenka, Ukraine

Jaslo, Poland

Lyubcha and Delyatichi, Belarus

Novogrudok, Poland

Orhei, Moldova

Ostrow Mazowiecka, Poland

Podhajce, Ukraine

Rozniatow, Ukraine

Ruzhany, Belarus

Telekhany, Belarus

Yampol, Ukraine

Please refer to the research guide Jewish Genealogy for additional library resources .

Find the history (and cool historical images) of your neighbourhood!

January 21, 2015 | Barbara Myrvold | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto has been dubbed a “city of neighbourhoods” and neighbourhoods are of great importance to local residents and organizations, as well as to city planners and service providers.

Interactive MapBut finding local information is often difficult, so Toronto Public Library staff has created an interactive neighbourhood map to assist users in discovering resources in the Library’s collections. 

The city has been divided into 107 neighbourhoods, and relevant materials are indexed using the area's assigned name within specific geographic boundaries. No other library or archive provides this level of indexing.  

We include historical pictures, maps and atlases, ephemera (posters, flyers, etc.) and e-books in the Library’s Digital Archive as well as catalogue records for print books and other formats in our collections.

Links to external sites that library staff recommends are also provided from the map.  Let us know about additional websites for your neighbourhood that you would like us to review. They should have some historical information and preferably be non-commercial.   

Find your neighbourhood from a list (see below), or zoom in on the map, or, if you aren’t sure what neighbourhood you are looking for, type in a specific address, intersection or place name in the dialogue box above the map.

Neighbourhoods Available for Browsing

Beach NeighbourhoodWhen you click within a neighbourhood on the map, a bubble shows alternative names – one person’s “The Beach” is another’s “Beaches”, for example.  Other names are provided including smaller neighbourhoods within the larger unit - Balmy Beach, Beach Triangle and Kew Beach are all part of our “Beach”. Let us know if we’ve missed a name, and we’ll consider adding it.

How neighbourhood names and boundaries were determined

Common usage was the most important criteria for choosing the neighbourhood names but library staff also checked out historic names, and usages by the City of Toronto, resident and ratepayer associations, local institutions such as schools, parks and libraries, and real estate advertisements. 

City of Toronto studies such as neighbourhood profiles and heritage conservation districts helped the Library determine neighbourhood boundaries, but we were also guided by our own collections. The map shows more neighbourhoods in the older areas of the city where the Library has more historical materials, and fewer neighbourhoods in the more recently-developed areas.   

Additions and revisions to the map

The Toronto neighbourhoods map is a work in progress, and we are always adding new digital resources and supplementing or refining the indexing terms to help our users. A few years ago, we added some new names to the interactive map that the Toronto Star and Toronto Life used for their neighbourhood maps. Recently, our cataloguers made sure that the designated heading “Beach (Toronto, Ont.)” was used consistently so that more of the Library’s records could be found.

Weston Search ResultsOften, we focus on digitizing historical materials from our collections to support community celebrations such as the centennial of the incorporation of the town of Leaside in 2013 and the 100th anniversary of the present library in Weston in 2014.

Right: Thumbnails of some results for Weston

This year, we will start adding hundreds of photographs of North York neighbourhoods from a collection that was donated by the North York Historical Society. We will also be digitizing the 1912 fire Insurance plan of Toronto whose plates include detailed maps of some of the city’s newly-established suburbs. We will continue to add catalogue and holdings records for community newspapers in our branch local history collections. 

Of course, each picture, map and newspaper title will be indexed by neighbourhood names!



Military Records

January 20, 2015 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

When searching for ancestors in earlier military records such as muster rolls or pay lists, you may only find lists of names.  However in later periods, personnel records which include date and place of birth, next of kin and occupation may be available. The Canadiana Department at North York Central Library has resources focusing primarily on Canadian military records.  The Toronto Reference Library has additional resources on British records, including regimental histories and armed forces lists.

Searching the Library Website

Suggested Subjects and Keywords

Suggested Titles


War of 1812


1914 - 1918


Using Online Resources

Recommended Websites

In Library Resources



Microfilms  (those marked with *** have been digitized at Library and Archives Canada )

Check the finding aid available at the North York Central Library:

  • 1755-1815 Registers of POWs
  • 1777-1783 Loyalist regiment muster rolls (see also Online Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies)
  • 1812 Claims for losses index (and documents)***
  • War of 1812 nominal rolls & paylists - Lower and Upper Canada***
  • 1812-1838 index to British military and naval records (and documents)***
  • Records relating to the Rebellion of 1837/8
  • 1866-1870 Fenian Raids bounty, general service, medal registers
  • 1885 - North West Rebellion medal registers
  • 1899-1902 - South Africa/Boer War medal registers
  • 1902 - Coronation medallion register
  • 1910-1940 - Canadian Navy lists
  • 1914-1917 - Canadian Expeditionary Forces nominal rolls

Note: medal registers information has also been indexed in the Library and Archives Canada database "Medals, Honours and Awards" 

For further assistance contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

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

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


Jewish Genealogy

January 6, 2015 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

There are collections on Jewish genealogy at both the Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library and at the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Department at the Toronto Reference Library  (TRL). Both locations have general handbooks and guides for various countries. The Canadiana Department emphasizes Ontario and Toronto material with additional resources available through the library collection of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto [JGS] which is housed at Canadiana. The Humanities and Social Sciences Department has extensive British, European and Holocaust related material, aided by a strong map and atlas collection.

Searching the Library website

Suggested keywords and subjects

Suggested Titles

        Handbooks and guides:

        Additional  Jews genealogy handbooks


        Biographical resources:


        Maps and atlases etc.   (Europe)


        Jewish Names:  personal and surnames


        Holocaust, Jewish (1939 - 1945)

For Holocaust related titles for other countries, add the country name to  your search e.g. Holocaust Jewish 1939 - 1945  Latvia


Using online resources

Recommended websites

        a major Jewish genealogical website is


The following resources require a Toronto Public Library card to login:

For assistance with the ProQuest Historical Newspapers  consult TPL's  Digitized  Toronto Newspapers guide.


In Library Resources



For further assistance contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

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

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




Historian Jack Granatstein presents Canada's One Hundred Days on Dec. 3

November 25, 2014 | Andrew | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Jack Granatstein The Greatest Victory : Canada's One Hundred Days

North York Central Library continues with the eh List author series and its World War I Centenary programs. Award winning Canadian historian Jack Granatstein will discuss his new book The greatest victory : Canada's one hundred days, 1918. Granatstein examines the contribution of the Canadian Corps from Amiens to Mons from August 8, 1918 leading up to the armistice on November 11, 1918, known as Canada's One Hundred Days. Canadians not only helped put an end to the war, they helped shape the course of warfare that would follow later in World War II.

North York Central Library, Auditorium
Wednesday December 3,
7:00-8:30 pm

Toronto Public Library is offering many programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The library also owns many items including regimental histories, biographies and if you are looking for the names of your ancestors who served in WWI, nominal rolls. Below are just a few examples:

Century of Service : the History of the South Alberta Horse Old Enough To Fight : Canada's Boy Soldiers in the First World War From Thunder Bay Through Ypres With the Fighting Fifty-Second

This program is co-hosted by the Canadiana, Language Literature and Fine Arts and the Society and Recreation Departments of the North York Central Library.

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.