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Guide to Census Records

May 16, 2013 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

This guide has been updated with 1921 Canadian census information.

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

Search the library's website for:

  • census handbooks  for background and tips on using the censuses of various countries
  • Add  location and year to the word "census"
  • Use library recommended websites to discover a variety of  online census records.

    Suggested Titles:

 Finding answers in British Isles Census records

    Additional material on Great Britain census handbooks

 Guide to the United States census 1790 - 1930

    Additional material on the American censuses

Manual containing "The Census Act" and the instructions to officers employed in the taking of the first census of Canada (1871)  .

    Additonal material for 1871 census of Ontario.

Online Resources

Canadian Census Records Online

Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666- 1901
Searchable online geographic index allows for identifying microfilm reel numbers for census returns. 

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 1851 to 1921 have been digitized and are currently available on multiple websites in addition to Ancestry Library Edition.   Ancestry Library Edition can be used in any Toronto Public Library branch and has all Canadian censuses from 1851. 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 searachable geographically.

Library and Archives Canada : Censuses 

Gives an overview of the Census collection with links to LAC census databases and finding aids.  The microfilm of the 1916 census  has also been digitized. Details on census column headings, abbreviations and enumeration dates can also be found on their site.

Canadian Censuses on FamilySearch  includes provincial censuses prior to 1842, and censuses 1851 - 1911, and 1916.  The 1861 census is listed by province. FamilySearch is provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Automated Genealogy has indexed the 1852 census (Ontario and Quebec and New Brunswick), 1901, 1906 and 1911 censuses

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 (Newfoundland's Grand Banks Genealogical and Historical  Data)   Some are incomplete.


British and Irish Census Records Online

1841 - 1911 Census for England,Wales and Channel Islands   (FamilySearch)
  ( note: 1871 census is ~ 80% complete)

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

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


Griffith's Valuation 1847 -1864
Griffith's is considered the Irish Census substitute.

Census of Ireland 1901/1911


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

1841 - 1891 censuses  free on Family Search.

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.


In Library Resources

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

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

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

Canadian censuses 1851 - 1921;  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 in 1881 and for both Quebec and Ontario in 1901.  

 Additional Library Collections

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


Toronto Public Library contacts:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

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

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


Toronto Parks: the aspiration of the ‘Commons’

June 22, 2012 | Jonathon Hodge | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

I live near Dufferin Grove Park. I take my wee lad there at least twice a week. I’ve met friends for coffee on its benches, enjoyed camp fires at its fire circles, seen live theatre and summer dance shows, watched bicycle polo(!) last summer, and most recently, witnessed the community’s outpouring of support for other people in Canada engaged in social struggle. It’s got me thinking about the place parks in Toronto enjoy in people’s lives and about their history as the ‘third’ place.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg argues that societies need ‘third’ places – distinct from one’s home and one’s work. Such places provide a neutral ground where people can gather and interact, and “promote social equality by levelling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.” (further details)

As a setting for recreation, public association and grassroots politics, Toronto parks have a long and colourful history. In the late 19th century, parks were for the moneyed classes to stroll through in their finery. They were certainly not for athletic endeavours or children’s play. Children were fined and put in jail for doing so! (Yesterday’s Toronto 1870-1910, p.85)

Diving HorseBy the early 20th century, authorities had perhaps decided that jailing ten year olds was not in the best interests of their education and sociability, and parks in Toronto had become places of sport, recreation and entertainment, including diving horses on Toronto Island (no kidding!), and horse racing at Dufferin race track across the street from my neighbourhood park. The Dufferin race track was the first track in Canada to use a starting gate, as well as the first to implement finish line cameras. The things you learn, eh?


By the 1930s, parks in Toronto would feel the weight of the world’s problems much like the rest of the city, becoming staging grounds for exactly the ‘grassroots politics’ (read: opposition) that Oldenburg envisioned decades later. The Toronto Star reports on August 16, 1933 (in this excellent database available with your library card): “Charging mounted policemen, motorcycle exhausts belching oily fumes and scores of constables on foot put a stop to speech making, but failed to disperse thousands of persons gathered in Allan Gardens last night at a meeting announced by the Worker’s ex-Service Men’s League.” The meeting – call it a demonstration – was called to “protest against treatment accorded war veterans,” and drew crowds of men, women, children, including one “young woman [who] was seen to strike a motorcycle officer across the face with a folded newspaper as she was bumped by a wheel of his machine.” Allan Gardens has since been the site of many demonstrations and political gatherings, oft focussed on problems of urban poverty and homelessness.

The date of that action is significant. I was perusing the Toronto Star’s Pages of the Past to find reportage of the famous ‘Riot of Christie Pits’, another (much larger) political action that is inextricably bound up in another Toronto park.

The Riot was unplanned, unorganized, but in no ways un-political. It was also the largest such action in Toronto’s history before or since. Reflecting the tensions of the depression and the xenophobic prejudice that was dominating European politics, the riot brought the politics of the old world to the new, and in so doing, galvanized the immigrant communities in the city and paved the way for the multi-culturalism we take for granted today.

RiotChristiePitsA baseball game between teams that were primarily Anglo-Protestant on one side and Jewish on the other spilled into a punch-up when young Anglo-Saxon fans unfurled a large white banner of a Swastika in the stands. The fight ranged across the park for possession of the banner, and left at least one Jewish youth with substantial injuries. Boys on bicycles then zipped to the immigrant neighbourhoods south of Bloor with the story that a Jew had been killed. Thousands of young men (mostly) responded and a post-game dust-up morphed into a full-scale street fight.  It was the ‘culmination of a summer of conflict, and remains a disturbing, even legendary, part of the city’s history.’ You can read all the details in Levitt and Shaffir’s The Riot at Christie Pits. Or, for the Youtube generation, watch this:

You will note the showcasing of a Toronto library. ;)

With so much of any city’s space occupied by private property – whether for residence, commerce, finance, education, or governance, public space becomes more and more important to the vibrancy (even the existence) of civic life. Toronto parks have a long and proud tradition of stepping into that role; a tradition built on circumstance and perhaps chance, but also on people’s willingness to fight for it. Dufferin Grove comes by its community feistiness honestly.

GreatGoodPlace                   Yesterday'sToronto                    OldToronto



The Great Good Place: cafés, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, general stores, bars, hangouts, and how they get you through the day. (Oldenburg, Ray, 1989)
307.0973 O47  - Humanities and Social Sciences, 2nd Fl., Toronto Reference Library

Old Toronto: a selection of excerpts from Landmarks of Toronto, by John Ross Robertson (Robertson, J. Ross, 1954)
971.3541 R - Canadiana, 6th Fl., North York Central Library

Riot at Christie Pits. (Levitt, Cyril et. al., 1987)
971.3541 L - Canadiana, 6th Fl., North York Central Library

Toronto Star's Pages of the Past - online archive includes over 30,000 complete issues. The digitized full-image version of the complete contents of the Toronto Star newspaper since 1894. Available at any Toronto Public Library branch (with valid library card)

Yesterday's Toronto 1870 - 1910. (Shapiro, Linda, 1997)
971.3541 SHA - Canadiana, 6th Fl., North York Central Library




War of 1812: Bicentennial Talks

May 2, 2012 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

From 2012 to 2014, Canadians and Americans will commemorate the War of 1812 – a seminal event in our shared histories. This spring, a unique series of lectures, debates and conversations will be presented by the Toronto Public Library in partnership with Heritage Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, Luminato and several community heritage organizations.


1812: The Big PictureBook cover Benn
Dr. Carl Benn, author of The War of 1812
Tues. May 8, 7 pm
Royal Ontario Museum, Theatre
100 Queens Park
A ROM/Heritage Toronto presentation
Free. RSVP e-mail: or call 416-586-5797

ROM History Wars Debate: The U.S. has Coveted Canada since the War of 1812ROM_bicentennial_1812
Jack Granatstein vs. Stephen Clarkson. Moderated by Michael Bliss.
Fri. June 8, 6:30 pm
Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.
A Luminato/ROM presentation.
Tickets: $30 Purchase online or call 416.368.4849


The Struggle for North America Book cover Taylor
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor, author of The Civil War of 1812, in conversation with TVO’s Steve Paikin.
Wed. June 13, 7 pm
Toronto Reference Library, Appel Salon
Book free tickets starting May 16

Tecumseh and Brock
James Laxer on the two greatest heroes of the war. Luminato_logo
Sun. June 17, 2 pm
Bloor/Gladstone Branch


Discover How the War Affected Where You Live

Etobicoke and 1812
Denise Harris, President, Etobicoke Historical Society.Heritage_toronto_logo
Wed. May 16, 7 pm
Mimico Centennial Branch

York Township and 1812
Janice Nickerson, genealogist and author of York’s Sacrifice, Militia Casualties of the War of 1812.
Wed. May 23, 7 pm
North York Central Library, ConcourseJanice Nickerson image

Scarborough and 1812
Richard Schofield, Archivist, Scarborough Archives.
Wed. May 30, 7 pm
Bendale Branch


Bicentennial of the War of 1812
The Aboriginal point of view presented by the Native Canadian Centre
Thu May 31, 1:30 pm
North York Central Library, Concourse

Why the War of 1812 Still Matters
Wayne Reeves, Chief Curator for City of Toronto Museum Services, tackles this question.
Tue. June 12, 1:00 pm1812 logo_Toronto
Toronto Reference Library, Beeton




Adoption Records

March 12, 2012 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

This guide has had minor revisions January 2014.

With recent changes in provincial legislation across Canada, it is now possible for adoptees to often obtain health related information, adoption orders and even their own birth information form.  They can also register that they do, or do not, wish to be contacted by their birth parents.  Similarly, birth parents can register their wishes about being contacted.  If these avenues are insufficient or for more general resources on searching for lost kin, including high school yearbooks, the genealogical collections at North York Central Library, Canadiana Department and the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at Toronto Reference Library, can be of assistance.


Searching the library website

Suggested subject and keywords:

  Suggested Titles

                Ontario specific       



Using online resources

Recommended websites:

Genealogy - adoption
Genealogy - directories

For digitized early city directories try Internet Archive

For persons born in Ontario, the Service Ontario website, Searching for adoption information in Ontario is especially useful.

Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid

Toronto Star: Pages of the Past  (Toronto Public Library (TPL) card required)

Globe and Mail: Canada's Heritage (TPL library card required)

Guide to birth, marriage and death records  (research guide)


In Library resources

Ancestry Library Edition database has Ontario births (to 1913), marriages (to 1928) and deaths (to 1938) as well as some databases for other provinces.

Microfilms of: (may not be  listed in the catalogue)

  • city directories
  • voters lists
  • community newspapers

Additional 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



Land Records

February 24, 2012 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

This guide has had minor revisions in June 2013 and April 2014.

Historical land records in Ontario are with the Ontario government, either with the Archives of Ontario or in local land registry offices. The Archives of Ontario website has useful research guides on land records. The Toronto Public Library houses various indexes and guides to land records  as well as microfilm copies of some material from the Archives of Ontario and Library and Archives Canada. The Canadiana Department at North York Central Library also has material related to North York.

Searching the Library website

Suggested Subject and Keywords


 Suggested Titles


Using Online Resources

Recommended Websites  

 Genealogy - Land Records 

For early Upper Canada/Canada West  records you should first consult Library and Archives Canada Upper Canada Land Petitions database that provides more than 82,000 references to names of petitioners. If you find a reference of interest to you, note the microfilm, volume, bundle and page numbers in order to easily find the digitized images of this land petition. Note: the Help link is very useful in order to find the images you want.

Canadian County Atlas Project shows landowner names as of the 1870s and 1880s in Ontario.

Ontario Crown Land Patent  Plans have been digitized on the Archives of Ontario site.

In Library Resources 

(primarily microfilm/microfiche)

        Ontario Archives Land Records Index 1790 - 1920

        Ontario Land Patents 1793 - 1852

       Land petitions for Upper Canada and Canada West 1763 - 1865

        Land petitions for Lower Canada 1764 - 1841 (check the online index)

        York County land records 1797 - 1876

        York Township assessment rolls 1882 - 1899



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


Keep it Local: discover Ontario local history

December 20, 2011 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Display case image

Bird's-eye view, looking north from harbour to north of Bloor St...

I have to admit that ever since I began working in the Canadiana Department I have been fascinated by Ontario place names, the histories associated with the places and maps.

The place names  Athens, Baden, East Garafraxa, Lotus, Morningstar and Zavitz all sound exotic to me and yet are located in our province! How about Punkeydoodles Corners? I have always valued the effort that local authors have devoted to compiling and writing local history. Documenting the minutiae of a place and at times creating the only existing record of the past in a certain place, are invaluable in terms of our history.  

Local histories in Ontario have been published since the early 1800s. Since genealogy and local history are complimentary subjects, the Canadiana Department has always collected Ontario local histories to support our genealogy collection.  The reference collection of local histories for Ontario on the 6th floor of North York Central Library includes:

  • Architectural histories
  • Biographical dictionaries by place
  • Community newspapers and indexes
  • Directories for cities (provincial and national coverage)
  • Federal Voters Lists on microfilm (1935-1979)
  • Gazetteers and geographical dictionaries
  • Histories of companies, institutions, villages, townships and counties
  • Maps, fire insurance plans (focus on Toronto and York County) and county atlases
  • Municipal documents for the former City of North York up to 1997
  • School histories and yearbooks for Toronto and some Ontario schools
  • Scrapbooks

Our books are all reference and can be easily located in our library catalogue by typing the name of the place and the word “history” and/or a related subject e.g.  "Toronto school history" in the search box of Toronto Public Library’s catalogue.

If you are interested in discovering local histories (usually published before 1925) that have been digitized you can have a look at the following sites:

Early Canadiana Online (fulltext available as a TPL database)

Internet Archive

Our Roots   

You can obtain an overview of the local histories published by consulting:

Barbara  Aitken’ s  “Local Histories of Ontario Municipalities 1997-2007 : a bibliography”.

Local Histories4225

For other titles listing earlier Ontario local history publications please search our library catalogue.




Hope you will visit the 6th floor of North York Central Library to discover our extensive collection of Ontario local histories!


Guide to Ontario Genealogy

August 31, 2011 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

This guide had minor revisions in September 2014.

The Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library has resources from many towns and regions across Ontario to help in your genealogy research. We specialize in collecting Ontario local history and family histories.

Searching the Library website

For an introductory guide to Ontario genealogy try

More guides to Ontario genealogy  can be found at Ontario genealogy handbooks.

 Additional tips on searching the library website:

  • "Registers"with [place name] e.g. Registers Guelph
  • [Place Name] followed by the word "Genealogy" e.g. Simcoe County genealogy
  • [place name] "Directories" e.g. Elgin directories
  • [place name] History e.g. Cobourg history
  • For family histories use [surname] "Family" e.g Fraser family (Note: Canadiana Dept. collects family and local histories)

Some general Ontario titles

Early Birth Marriage and Death registers

Recommended Websites

Ontario - Genealogy

Births, Marriages and Deaths - Ontario

Land Records- Canada

Recommended Databases

In Library Resources

Available at the North York Central Library

Microfilm or Microfiche

Cemetery records

  • OGS – Ontario transcriptions (also in paper format)

Directories/Voters Lists

  • Pre 1901 city directories
  • Toronto City directories 1833- 2001 (also available in paper at Toronto Reference Library)
  • Guelph, Hamilton and London City Directories
  • Phonefiche Ontario 1986 -1991
  • Federal voters’ lists for Ontario 1935-1980 (including By-Elections)
  • Ontario voters’ lists (incomplete 1847 – 1954 for various townships)
  • Digitized Ontario directories on Internet Archive

Land Records

Local Histories

  • Early Families of Leeds
  • Local Histories (Tweedsmuir)
  • Note:published local histories for many Ontario places and institutions. Search library website.

Military records


  • Loyalist Lists (C 1475, C 2222, C 9821)
  • Toronto Emigrant Office Records  (Hawke Papers)(MS 6909 -  MS 6912)
  • Upper Canada Sundries and Contents Listing: (Chronological list of contents C 9822 - C 9825)

Vital Statistics

  • INDEXES to Ontario registrations of Births 1869-1913, Marriages 1869 - 1928, and Deaths 1869 - 1938 published by the Archives of Ontario. 

Newspapers on Microfilm

 Toronto Area

  • (Globe & Mail and Toronto Star are available online and microfilm to approximately one year before the present) 
  • Toronto Telegram 1876 – 1971
  • Enterprise. North York. 1926 -1969
  • Mirror. North York. [1957 - current]

Beyond Toronto

  • Ottawa Citizen 1851 - 1991
  • Upper Canada Gazette 1793 - 1845
  • … and selected early newspapers for other cities and towns

Periodicals (in the Reading Room)

  • Families (Ontario Genealogical Society OGS)
  • Ontario History . Also available online from 2005 - 2010 (TPL library card required)
  • OGS branch newsletters including OGS Toronto Tree and OGS York Region Ancestors
  • Loyalist Gazette (up to 2008 – continued online) (TPL library card required)
  • … and many regional genealogicaland historical society publications


County Historical Atlases  many of which have been digitized. Copies of maps, some with names, for Ontario counties.

Deposit Collections

The Canadiana Department at North York Central Library houses the libraries of the following Ontario - based genealogical societies. Search their catalogues at the links given below.

For further assistance contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

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

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

Guide to Birth, Marriage & Death Records

August 28, 2011 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

This guide has had minor revisions in April 2013.

These records may  include information such as the event date and place, parents' names, occupation, residence and religion. The cause of death is also included in most death records.

Searching the Website

Search within these subject headings

  • Baptisms [place name] e.g. Baptisms Truro
  • Obituaries [place name] e.g. Obituaries Saskatchewan or for more general listings try obituaries indexes
  • Registers [place name] e.g. Registers British Columbia

Suggested Titles

 Recommended Websites

Recommended Databases

  • Ancestry Library Edition (available in any  Toronto Public Library  branch) has the following:
    Ontario Birth Registrations 1869 -1911
    Ontario Marriage Registrations from 1857 - 1926 (soon to 1928)
    Ontario Death Registrations up to 1936 (including Ontario overseas deaths 1939 to 1947)
    Ontario Roman Catholic Marriages in 6 counties for 1827 - 1870
    Various French Canadian databases ( see "French Ancestors" section in this guide)
    Free BMD Index England and Wales
    JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry
  • Globe and Mail - Canada's Heritage from 1844  TPL library card required to login.
  • Toronto Star – Pages of the Past  TPL library card required to login.


In Library Resources

Cemetery Transcriptions from the Ontario Genealogical Society's Provincial Library collection

Index to Ontario Vital Statistics  on microfilm to 1913 for births, 1928 for marriages and 1938 for Deaths.Images of the registrations themselves are also on Ancestry Library Edition.  Indexes and registration forms for  1914 - 1915 births, 1929 - 30 marriages and 1939 - 40 deaths are presently only available on microfilm at the Archvives of Ontario.

York County Surrogate Court Indexes 1940 - 1967.

French Ancestors

  • Ancestry Library Edition has added several useful databases (Drouin Collection) whose records are primarily from 1621 to the late 1940’s.
    • Quebec Vital and Church Records 1621 - 1967 which contains records for all religious denominations
    • Ontario French Catholic Church Records 1747 - 1967
    • Acadia French Catholic Church Records 1670 - 1946
  • database, available at North York Central Library and Toronto Reference Library, has a wealth of databases including:
    • Parish Records: church records from origin to 21st century. Cropped records of baptisms,marriages and deaths and
    • 1926 - 1966 Quebec Marriages and Deaths

 Other Deposit Collections aAt the North York Central Library

  • Canadian Society of Mayflower Descendants Deposit Collection
  • Jewish Genealogical Society Deposit Collection

For further assistance contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

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

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


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.