Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

Local History

Guide to Census Records

June 29, 2016 | TRL Humanities and Social Sciences | 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 as well as Ancestry Library Edition. Ancestry Library Edition can be used in any Toronto Public Library branch and has all Canadian censuses from 1851 to 1921. It also has Canada East/Lower Canada censuses for 1825 and 1842, though not 1831, nor the 1842 Canada West/Ontario census.

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: CensusesGives 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 (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 Humanities and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference 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

The Toronto Reference Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Department has all the available Canadian census records on microfilm. To identify which microfilm reel to search, consult the Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1901. The department also houses many CD-ROMs and materials for U.S., and British and Irish census resources, as well as early Quebec censuses (1660s) 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

The Ontario Genealogical Society Deposit Collection at the Toronto Reference Library, Humanities and Social Sciences Department, has an excellent collection of materials on British, American and Canadian censuses.


Toronto Public Library contacts:

Answerline, 416-393-7131

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

Remembering Sunnyside Amusement Park and Bathing Pavilion: June 28: Snapshots in History

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

Sunnyside 1922

Sunnyside, 1922?

On June 28 and beyond, take a moment to remember Sunnyside Amusement Park of which one of its components, the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, designed by architect Alfred H. Chapman, was opened on June 28, 1922 by then-Toronto mayor Charles Maguire. The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion was intended to provide clothes-changing facilities for bathers wading into Lake Ontario. The cold temperatures of the lake water prompted the building of a nearby open-air swimming pool (aka the Sunnyside Pool, nicknamed “The Tank”) that opened on July 29, 1925; in fact, the pool was the largest outdoor swimming pool in the world at the time of construction. The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion itself underwent renovations in 1980 to update its changing facilities as well as adding a garden and a beach-side café. Previously, the Bathing Pavilion had been declared an historic site in 1974 under the Ontario Heritage Act. More recently in 2014-2015, the Bathing Pavilion had been undergoing more restorative work following a 2012 structural audit.

The Sunnyside Amusement Park, also referred to as the Sunnyside Beach Park, existed from 1922 to 1955, after which it was demolished to make way for the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway project. The amusement park had a large roller coaster (the “Flyer”), some merry-go-rounds, and a Derby Racer steeplechase ride. Additionally, the park hosted stunt events such as flagpole sitting, boat burnings on Lake Ontario, and fireworks displays.

Other facilities within/near the Sunnyside Amusement Park included:  the Sunnyside Pavilion (offering a tea garden and two restaurants) that was torn down in 1956 to make room for the new westbound lanes of Lakeshore Boulevard; the Sunnyside Stadium (for lacrosse and softball) that opened on May 19, 1925 but was bulldozed in 1956 to provide parking for the adjacent Boulevard Club; and, the still-existing Palais Royale (designed by the architectural firm of Chapman, Oxley & Bishop) that opened in 1922 with a dance hall on the upper level and with Dean’s Sunnyside Pleasure Boats on the lower level – eventually, only the dance hall function remained.




Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion – August 7, 1922


Sunnyside, swimming pool, looking east September 1925

Sunnyside, swimming pool, looking east – September 1925



Palais Royale 1930s



Sunnyside Boardwalk Toronto 1931


Sunnyside, showing demolition of pavilion October 1956

Sunnyside, showing demolition of pavilion – October 1956


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


I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era   I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era   I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era

Book, 1996


I remember Sunnyside the rise & fall of a magical era





Celebrating the Queen’s Plate on June 27: Snapshots in History

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

Seagram, Joseph E., winners of King's Plate, 1891-1905, shown at Woodbine (later Greenwood) Race Track. Toronto, Ont

On June 27 and beyond, take a moment to celebrate the running of the Queen’s Plate horse race in Toronto. The Queen’s Plate is Canada’s oldest thoroughbred horse race (inaugural date: June 27, 1860 at the Carleton racetrack.) as well as the longest continuously run race in North America. The Queen’s Plate comprises the first of three races in the Canadian Triple Crown, the other two being the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders’ Stakes.  Since 1957, the Queen’s Plate has had a distance of 1 14 miles (2.01 km).

The Queen’s Plate became the King’s Plate following the death of Queen Victoria and became the Queen’s Plate again following the death of King George VI and the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II onto the British throne. The reigning monarch is the patron of the event and last attended the running of the Queen’s Plate in July 2010.

The Queen’s Plate was held in different Ontario communities (such as Toronto, Guelph, St Catharines, Whitby, Kingston, Barrie, Woodstock, Picton, London, Hamilton and Ottawa) until it was held in Toronto permanently from 1883 onwards with royal permission.

Woodbine Racetrack (aka Greenwood Raceway) hosted the Queen’s Plate in 1876, 1881, and continuously from 1883 to 1955, after which the race moved to the newer Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke since 1956.

Avelino Gomez, Sandy Hawley, and Robin Platts tied for the jockeys with the most wins in the Queen’s Plate to date with four wins each. Harry Giddings Jr. and Roger Attfield tied for the trainers with the most wins in the Queen’s Plate to date with eight wins each.


Queen's plate trophy. Toronto Star June 18 1998


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

The Plate 150 years of royal tradition from Don Juan to Square Eddie

The Plate, 2009


The eyes have it Roger Attfield had his eyes trained on yesterday's running of the Queen's Plate His horse, Izvestia, was a runaway winner in record style.


Food for a king Trainer Roger Attfield offers a carrot to Queen's Plate hopeful Shudanz.

Celebrate the CN Tower on June 26: Snapshots in History

June 28, 2016 | John P. | Comments (2)

CN Tower

On June 26 and beyond, Torontonians and others should take a moment to celebrate the CN Tower, currently the seventh tallest freestanding structure in the world. For over thirty years from 1976 (opening to the public on June 26th of that year) to the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, the CN Tower held two records as the world’s tallest freestanding structure and the world’s tallest tower. (View the list of the tallest freestanding structures in the world.)

The CN Tower, built by the Canadian National Railway Company (CNR), stands at 553.33 metres (1,815 feet 5 inches), a dominant icon of the Toronto skyline. 1,537 workers were involved on the construction project over a 40-month period from February 6, 1973 onwards, working five days per week and 24 hours per day. The public opening occurred on June 26, 1976.

Workmen pouring bucket of concrete on CN Tower slip form Toronto Star August 21 1973

STEEL REINFORCING BARS and steel pipe-the backbone and arteries jut up from the rising CN Tower on the Metro waterfront Toronto Star January 2 1974


Seeing 90 Miles--or 1,500 Feet Down. The revolving restaurant in the Sky Pod of the CN Tower is 1,150 feet up, and offers a view of Niagara Falls on a clear day Toronto Star March 8 1976


Following the privatization of the CNR Company in 1995, the Government of Canada retained ownership of the CN Tower through a federal crown corporation called Canada Lands Company. Henceforth, the CN Tower could also be referred to as the Canadian National Tower or Canada’s National Tower rather than previously referring to the CNR Company itself.

In addition to serving as an entertainment and tourist destination with sightseeing opportunities and the revolving 360 restaurant, the CN Tower serves an important role as a telecommunications conduit for FM radio and television broadcasts, not to mention wireless paging and cellular telephone signals.

View the full collection of Toronto Star photographs about the CN Tower accessible through Toronto Public Library collections.

Consider the following book titles from Toronto Public Library collections:


The CN Tower by Meg Greene     CN Tower by Simon Rose   Towering giants and other tall megastructures  

The engineering book from the catapult to the Curiosity Rover 250 milestones in the history of engineering   Modern buildings identifying bilateral and rotational symmetry and transformations  


Or consider the following DVD for borrowing:


The height of excellence construction of the CN Tower

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.

Research Guide to Reggae Lane: Toronto's Jamaican Music Scene, 1960s to the Present

June 2, 2016 | Barbara | Comments (0)

Getting Started

Reggae Lane signage

“Reggae Lane" is a the name of a laneway located behind the storefronts south of Eglinton Avenue West and east of Oakwood Avenue.  It was given this title in 2015 by Toronto Councillor Josh Colle to honour the rich music tradition of this area. The York-Eglinton BIA and the Laneway Project joined to help with planning related initiatives. 

The history of reggae in Toronto dates back to the 1960s when many Jamaican musicians settled in the city where they performed jazz, calypso, soul, R & B, and other popular genres. Around the same time, musicians in Jamaica had started a new sound - reggae - which soon was adopted by Jamaican-Canadian musicians. Before long, record shops, music studios, and performance venues lined Eglinton Avenue West between Marlee and Dufferin streets. The strip was also home to many West Indian clothing shops, beauty and barber shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses, and became known as “Little Jamaica”.  

Find research materials on reggae in Toronto in the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection and at the Toronto Reference Library Arts Department

Searching the Library Website

Recommended Subjects and Keywords


Reggae Toronto

Reggae music

Recommended CDs

Jamaica to Toronto Series. Listed below are six CDs featuring reissued soul and reggae albums and singles that were compiled by DJ/Canadian music historian Sipreano with Light In The Attic Records of Seattle, Washington.

Innocent youths 

Innocent Youths, by Earth, Roots & Water. 2008; originally released 1977.







 Jamaica to Toronto Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974. 2006.

Liner notes - front (PDF)

Liner notes - back (PDF)




  Noel Ellis. 2006; originally released, 1983.

    Liner notes (PDF)





 Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988. 2007

Liner notes - front (PDF) 

Liner notes - back (PDF)


 Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy. 2004; originally released 1970.

    Liner notes (PDF)




 JACKIE MITTOO wishbone - cd

 Wishbone, by Jackie Mittoo. 2006; originally released 1971.

Liner notes (PDF)




Recommended Books

Dubwise book cover

Dubwise: Reasoning from the Reggae Underground, by Klive Walker. 2005

Series of essays that delve into the Jamaican diaspora and its musical influence. See "One-Drop Dubs the Maple Leaf: The Story of Reggae in Canada," pages 155-176.





Global Reggae
Global Reggae, edited by Carolyn Cooper. 2012

Plenary lectures from the 'Global Reggae' conference convened at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica in 2008. Chapter 9 discusses "The Journey of Reggae in Canada". 






Jamaican Canadian music in Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s : a preliminary history, by Keith McCuaig. 2012.

Master's thesis on the musical community of Jamaican musicians in Toronto in the 70s and 80s.

Read it online (pdf) 




Jamaican Popular Music

Jamaican Popular Music: From Mento to Dancehall Reggae: A Full Bibliographic Guide, by John Gray. 2011.

Bibliographic references to books, articles, reviews, dictionaries, newspapers, electronics sources, videos, and dissertations on popular Jamaican music and the music abroad. Materials about Jamaican music in Canada are detailed on pages 88 to 89.




Jam in Canada when ackee meets codfish-3
Jamaicans in Canada : When Ackee Meets Codfish, by Kamala-Jean Gopie. 2012.

Profiles of 250 Jamaican-Canadians from across Canada. Jay Douglas is featured on page 62.





King Alpha's Song in a Strange Land : Jamaican Migrant and Canadian Host in Toronto's Transnational Reggae Music Scene, 1973-1990, by John Jason Collins Wilson. 2013.

Doctoral thesis on the migration of people and music from Jamaica as seen through the eyes of the immigrants themselves and locals.

Read it online (pdf)




Settling in Canada

Settling in Canada: Jamaicans Have a Story to Tell, by Billroy Powell, 2014.

Through interviews, this book provides accounts of the Jamaican experience settling in Canada over five decades from the 1950s to the 2000s. There are references to the Eglinton Avenue West neighbourhood on pages 181 and 267. Music and culture are described throughout.





Jackie Mittoo at Home and Abroad: The Cultural and Musical Negotiations of a Jamaican Canadian, by Karen Anita Eloise Cyrus. 2015.

Doctoral thesis on the career of Jackie Mittoo and an analysis of his body of work.

Read it online (pdf)





Using Online Resources

Recommended Articles (newest to oldest)

Video: A home for reggae in Toronto, by Adrian Mendes. The Laneway Project. January 8, 2016.

Video footage and interviews taken during the unveiling of the Reggae Lane plaque on September 19, 2015.

Reggae Lane mural unveiled in Toronto, by Amy Grief. BlogTO. September 21, 2015.

The Eglinton West neighbourhood got a new 1,200 square foot mural that throws a spotlight on Toronto's rich history of reggae music and culture.


Reggae Lane Mural and Plaque Unveiling, by McKie Rich, September 19, 2015.

Video of Jamaican and Toronto reggae artists perform and receive awards. 28 min.

Toronto’s reggae roots to be celebrated in Eglinton-Oakwood laneway celebration: Party for ‘Reggae Lane’ takes place Sept. 19, by Dominik Kurek. York Guardian. September 15, 2015.

Councillor Josh Colle is hosting the unveiling ceremony for Reggae Lane.

Eglinton Avenue laneway renamed to celebrate Toronto's reggae history: Coun. Josh Colle hopes Reggae Lane can be a successful model for revitalizing Toronto's side streets and alleyways, by Luke Simcoe. MetroNews. September 14, 2015.

Contains images of the mural and plaque dedicated to the musical history of the area.

Toronto Reggae Hall of Fame Launched, by Kerry Doole Mon, FYI Music News, August 31, 2015.

First inductees into the Toronto Reggae Hall of Fame are Jay Douglas, Leroy Sibbles, Everton 'Pablo' Paul and Bernie Pitters.

Toronto Laneway to Become Reggae Hot Spot (Once Again), by Ryan Ayukawa. Blog TO. April 18, 2015.

The clean-up project of Reggae Lane led by Dewitt Lee and JuLion King.

A Brief History of Reggae in Toronto, by David Dacks. Blog TO. December 24, 2014.

Chronicles the reggae music scene by collating the venues, musicians, promotors, and record stores which comprised the genre's infrastructure in Toronto.

Eglinton West's Music History Gives Beat to Street Name. The York Guardian. August 14, 2014. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Eglinton Avenue West's rich music history to be remembered in the naming of Reggae Lane. 

Historicist: Sounds of Home II: After-hours clubs and the West Indian Music scene of the 1960's, by Kevin Plummer. Torontoist. Dec 28, 2013

Details the West Indian after-hours nightclub scene in Toronto going back to the 1950s.

Wisdom’s Barber Shop and Hair Salon: A community hub in Little Jamaica, by Nancy J. White. The Toronto Star. July 13, 2012.

Jimmy Wisdom is a legendary singer from Jamaica who has been barbering on the Eglinton West strip for over three decades.

Toronto's Lost Soul & Reggae Stars Revisited, by Kevin Plummer. Torontoist. December 12, 2007.

Tells the story of the "Jamaica to Toronto" series and the reissue of classic Canadian soul and reggae albums by Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records. Includes an interview with Jay Douglas and his experiences with his band The Cougars.

The soul survivors, by Murray White. The Toronto Star. July 15, 2006. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Chronicles the process behind Light in the Attic Records' launch of the "Jamaica to Toronto" CD and the reunion of contributing artists such as Jay Douglas, Everton "Pablo" Paul, Terry Lewis, Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams.

Maple Leaf Soul Compiliation, by David Dacks. June 30, 2006.

Announces the release of the From Jamaica to Toronto CD by Light in the Attic Records.

A Soul Man Lost...And Found, by Guy Dixon. The Globe and Mail. July 31, 2004.

Jay Douglas recalls finding his old friend Wayne Mcghie and reminisces about the Toronto music scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

Reggae Roots Run Deep, by Nick McCabe-Lokos. The Toronto Star. July 27, 2003. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Highlights the immigration experience of artists from Jamaica to Canada within the context of Canadian immigration during that time.

Jamaica Beckons and Sibbles is Listening, by Peter Howell. The Toronto Star. April 26, 1991 (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Leroy Sibbles, a reggae pioneer who moved from Jamaica to Toronto, describes his immigration.

Randy's take out shop
Randy's Patties at 1569 Eglinton Ave. West


Recommended Websites

The Canadian Encyclopedia

An encyclopedia article on the history of reggae in Canada written by Daniel Caudeiron.

Canadian Reggae World 

A blog by JuLion King that promotes and showcases Canadian reggae artists and events.

Reggae Lane Project  

Information about the laneway improvement project presented by The Laneway Project and the York Eglinton Business Improvement Area.

Reggae Toronto

Lists influential artists, and provides an interactive Google map of the venues, shops, recording studios, record labels and more.

See also this related Twitter account that features a historic Toronto reggae event or news item on each day. @ReggaeToronto

The STEPS Initiative

The public arts organization involved in designing the mural to be placed in near Reggae Lane.


Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul paid a visit to Maria A. Shchuka Library on June 16, 2015 to talk about what the Reggae Lane project means to them and their memories about their early days on the Toronto music scene. Jay Douglas and Everton

  1. What does Reggae Lane mean to you?
  2. What can you tell us about the music scene in the Eglinton West area during the 70s and 80s?
  3. What infrastructure on Eglinton West supported local musicians?
  4. Some people refer to this area as "Little Jamaica." What did you call the Eglinton West neighbourhood?




Jimmy's Barber Shop
Wisdom's Barber Shop at 1754 Eglinton Ave. West

The Fabulous Cougars: Reggae in Toronto Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul, with Karsten Frehe, 2010. This interview is on a German online magazine called Irie Ites, which features information, interviews, recordings, and live streaming on dub, reggae, dancehall and ska. 

Learning Portrait - Jimmy Wisdom TV Ontario, 2016. From TVO''s series about how learning has changed people's lives. Jimmy discusses his life. This video also features Everton "Pablo" Paul.

Everyday Ambassadors: Jimmy Wisdom. Toronto 2015: Panamania. This video (3:22) tells the story of Ronald "Jimmy" Wisdom who came to Canada in 1968 from Montego Bay, Jamaica and now owns Wisdom's Barber Shop and Beauty Salon on Eglinton West in Toronto.


Organik Sound System featuring RAS Simeon plays a set during the Reggae Lane Heritage: Explore Eglinton Ave. West Jane's Walk. May 7, 2016.

Bonus feature: Listen to Jay Douglas sing his original song called Reggae Lane, written for the occasion of the lane naming.

This research guide was developed by Barbara Baillargeon, Librarian, Maria A. Shchuka, Toronto Public Library and Tania Gamage, Graduate Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Last edited on June 17, 2016.



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

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.



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.