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Researching Historic Buildings in Toronto

March 26, 2014 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

TO Built

Researching old buildings in Toronto can be extremely interesting but also extremely frustrating. Often people come to the library to begin their research. Here are some online sites to use before you come to the Toronto Reference Library. You will be amazed at what is available online in a digital format.

Let's start with our own website . It's not just a catalogue of books. You will find print books and journals, online magazines, pictures, digital books, directories and maps, blogs, audio-visual materials, programs and events as well as links to outside sources. Here are some quick tips:

Once on our site, you will see FIND YOUR WAY in big letters near the top of the page. Go to History and Genealogy. Then go to the Local History and Genealogy section. Don't miss it! Check each section of every page carefully so you don't miss any of the many leads to other sources.

Click on the Local History section. You will see Toronto History listed along the left side of the page.

Toronto Neighbourhoods leads to an interactive map:

Toronto Neighbourhood Map

Toronto City Directories;

Toronto Buildings and Architecture;

Toronto Geography and Maps.

Outside Sources: 

Toronto City MapDo not miss the City of Toronto site. You can find the Inventory of Heritage Properties which lists historically designated properties.

Try the City's Archives for records and photographs of buildings.


There are some terrific sites put up by individuals but beware! These could change or be removed at any time:

Put together by J. Robert Hill, try the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950. This site lists the work of individual architects by address and building name and more.

E.J. LennoxHave a look at Nathan Ng's Historical Maps of Toronto which aims to improve digital access to fire insurance plans and other maps found at the Toronto Reference Library and City Archives.

And last, but not least, a wonderful site lovingly put together by Bob Krawczyk : TOBuilt. Enjoy the blue skies and sharp images of our Toronto. You'll find information on historical buildings, ordinary buildings, new and old, residential and commercial - even some demolished sites are included.

1851 Fleming maps-r-19








Digitized Toronto Newspapers: Globe and Mail and Toronto Star

February 3, 2014 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (13) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

The ProQuest Historical Newspapers Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail are two databases that allow users to search for words and phrases in complete issues of these newspapers.   These databases display images of the newspapers as they were originally published, including news stories, editorials, photographs, advertisements, classifieds, and birth, marriage, and death notices.

Coverage: (usually stops at 3 years before the current year)

Globe and Mail  - starts in 1844 ; Toronto Star starts in 1894


Access to the databases from outside the library 

Note: Valid Toronto Public Library card required. (Many Ontario Public Libraries also subscribe to these two databases)

Toronto star basic search


In the ProQuest search platform, the indexing is different for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. The Globe is more detailed than the Star. Searching by document type is only available with the Globe and the page viewing options are more limited in the Star than the Globe.  The Search Results page in the Globe is article specific and gives the title of the article. Only the page number is displayed in the Star search. Obituary/death notices searching, especially for a common name, can be difficult in both  databases, despite the search tab labelled "Obituaries". (See separate searching instructions for obituaries).

Globe advanced search screen

  • Click on "Advanced Search"
  • Enter search term(s) e.g. Hurricane Hazel or Heintzman piano
  • Enter date or date range e.g. 1954
  • For the Globe and Mail, select Document Type e.g. " Front page article" or "Display ad"

Obituary Searching

The "Obituaries" tab can be useful IF you are looking within a very narrow date range or for an uncommon name, because there is no reliable way to search for first and last names together. Enclosing within quotation marks does not work.

Since especially prominent people are more likely to have articles written about them rather than specific death notices or obituaries, it may be better to use "Advanced Search".

Death notices in the Globe can be searched by doing the following, also using "Advanced Search".

  • Enter Last name in the first search box
  • Choose a date range
  • Under Document Type, select Obituary

In theory, if you first select the subject box on the right "Genealogy" before entering a name, it will search both the Globe and the Star simulataneously. However, in practice the vast majority of the results are from the Globe. It's best to try the Star separately.

 Viewing the results of a search

Search results

  • Results will appear most recent article first. (To change this, go to " sort results by" on the right side of the screen)
  • Clicking on a result brings up a PDF version of the article [Globe] or the page [Star].
  • Search terms should be highlighted. If not, try Ctrl-F (Find). (not always successful)
  • From the PDF article in the Globe, there are additional options to see the entire newspaper page, "Page view PDF" or "Page view clickable". The "Page view" options allow browsing of the pages of the Globe.  The Star also has "next page/previous page" options in the upper right of the newpaper page.
  • Also at the top right of the screen are the commands to go to the Next search results, start a New Search, or go Back to results.
  • To change the size of the image use the Adobe Toolbar and Click the + or - buttons.


Printing or Saving

To print a specific article (Globe only) or the whole newspaper page to fit on one piece of paper

Adobe toolbar again


  • Click on the printer icon  Adobe Print icon in the Adobe toolbar 
  • Cick Print
  • Printout will also include the details of newspaper title, date and page number.

To save a page to a flash drive/memory stick (PDF format)

  • insert a memory stick into the computer
  • click the save Adobe Save icon or download icon in the Adobe toolbar 
  • in the "save" box select the correct drive name for the flash drive
  • give the file a meaningful name
  • click "Save"

To copy or select part of a page

  • From the Search Results, open the newspaper page  in "PDF"
  • When the page appears, click "Open in PDF Reader"
  • Save as a PDF Adobe Save icon
  • Open the saved PDF
  • Click Edit on the Adobe Toolbar
  • Scroll down and click "Take a Snapshot"

Edit menu take snapshot


  • Outline the desired article. It will be " copied to the clipboard" or "selected area has been copied"
  • Click the printer icon Adobe Print icon on the Adobe Toolbar to print

To Save the selected item 

  • Use Copy command on the Edit menu of Adobe and Paste the selection e.g. to a Word document and then
  • Save that document


Try the "search tips" available from ProQuest on the upper right of the Search Screen.


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


North York History Resources

June 3, 2013 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Getting Started

The Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library houses the North York History Collection where you can find books, newspapers, photographs and maps of people, places and events in North York. Both Canadiana and the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at Toronto Reference Library house minutes, reports, planning documents etc. from the former municipality of North York

Searching the Library Website

Suggested Subjects and Keywords (to limit results, use Advanced Search and the subject field)

Suggested Titles

Using Online Resources

  • click on a neighbourhood name and follow the link for books and digitized images

Recommended Websites

Recommended Databases

In-Library Resources



    • North York History Files 
    • Contains mainly newspaper articles about North York people, places and events . (In Reading Room)


    • North York Pamphlet Files
    • Contains pamphlets and other material concerning North York people, places and events. (In Closed Reference Stacks)


    • Urban Affairs Scrapbook Collection (years 1969-1999 available on microfiche)
    • →More


Newspapers on Microfilm

  • Bayview-Mills Town Crier (1993- [almost] present)*
  • Bayview Post (1989-[almost] present)*
  • Enterprise (1926-1969) [some issues missing]
  • Mirror (various editions: 1957-[almost] present)*
  • North York News (1951-1995)
  • *More recent issues available in paper format


  • Abstract index [by lot and concession number], York Township (Reel LML 1494+)
  • Assessment Rolls, York Township, 1882-99 (Reel LML 2-105-6+)
  • Deeds, York Township,1868+ (Reel LML 1455-6+)
  • York County Surrogate Court Records Index 1940-1967 (Reels MS 869)

Additional Resources

  • Directories (list in North York History Files) and some extracts (917.1354 Y in North York History Collection)
  • Family histories
  • Maps and aerial photos (see finding aid Guide to Canadiana Maps)
  • Municipal Documents (former City of North York documents such as official plans, minutes of North York Council)
  • Photographs
  • Township Papers (Toronto and York)
  • Voters' Lists, York Township and North York (1942+)

For further assistance contact:

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

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

Toronto Public Library helps celebrate Leaside 100

April 22, 2013 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


The Leaside neighbourhood is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It was incorporated as a town by an act of the provincial legislature passed on April 23, 1913.

The centennial festivities include an archival exhibit, the Layers of Leaside, that explores the area’s cultural landscape over many years.

The exhibit will be on display at Toronto Public Library's Leaside Branch from Tuesday April 23 to Sunday April 28, 2013. (The branch will be open for regular service, 1:30 to 5, on that Sunday only.)

Jane Pitfield and Geoff Kettel will lead several historical walking tours in connection with the exhibit, including one on Sunday April 28 from 1:30 to 3:30 starting and ending at Leaside Library.

Thorncliffe Park plan

Thorncliffe Park proposed plan, 1956?

The Leaside 100 committee used some materials for its exhibit from the collections of the Toronto Public Library.  Geoff Kettel found the Toronto neighbourhoods map on the library’s website especially helpful to locate materials quickly.  “The library has the most accessible collections of all of the resources we used,” he claimed.  The neighbourood map links users to library records about Leaside and neighbouring Thorncliffe Park, which became part of the town in 1954. 

These include digital pictures and photographs of Leaside from the Special Collections Department, Toronto Reference Library. Dating back to 1900, the majority of the images were created in the 1940s and 1950s by James Victor Salmon (1911-1958), a gifted amateur photographer who lived in Leaside for part of that time. His images of buildings, streetscapes and events are an invaluable record of the town’s mature phase of development after the Second World War.

Catalogue records for books about Leaside and Thorncliffe Park also are provided on the library's website.  Most titles are available for reference in the Leaside Branch Local History Collection.  Housed in the Leaside Room, the collection also includes pictures, maps and scrapbooks that library staff has gathered from a variety of sources over the years.  

Toronto's community newspapers are an important but often overlooked source of local information. Leaside Branch has several local papers. The Leaside Advertiser, published from 1941 until about 1999, claimed to be "Leaside's home newspaper - the ONLY published and printed in the town" in 1960 when our holdings begin. Current papers in the collection include Leaside-Rosedale Town Crier, which started in 1981 as the Leaside Villager, and Leaside Life News.  Microfilm copies of some titles are available at the Toronto Reference Library. There are some gaps in the library's holdings, and we would appreciate hearing from anyone who could help us fill them.  


First Leaside Library, 1946

Not surprisingly, the history of library service in Leaside is well documented at Leaside Branch. Key resources are photographs of library services and facilities, and annual reports of the Leaside Public Library Board, which operated from 1944 to 1967 when the Town of Leaside joined with the Township of East York to form the Borough of East York.

A selection of materials from the Leaside Branch Local History Collection will be added to Toronto Public Library’s Digital Archive later this year. 





Historical Walking Tour of North York Centre, Saturday, September 15, 2012, 10:30 to noon

September 12, 2012 | Barbara Myrvold | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

You are invited to join me and other library staff, along with our partners in the North York Historical Society, the North York Community Preservation Panel and Gibson House Museum, for an historical walking tour of the North York Centre neighbourhood.

North York Central Library, 1987

Meet us at 10:30 in the first floor atrium of North York Central Library this Saturday, September 15 to start the tour.  The walk is part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of North York Central Library, 1987-2012, and participants will be provided with a commemorative walking tour booklet.  The booklet will also be available electronically on the Toronto Public Library website following the tour.

I have worked at North York Central Library for the past 14 years, and have come not only to rely on its extensive collections (638,893 items in 2011) and expert staff, but also to appreciate the neighbourhood where the library is located.

Here can be found a cluster of Modernist buildings designed by some of the country's most prominent architectural firms: Moriyama and Teshima (North York City Centre including the North York Central Library); Adamson Associates (North York Civic Centre); Zeidler Roberts (Toronto Centre for the Arts) and Mathers & Haldenby (Toronto District School Board).

Joseph Sheppard II (Dempsey Bros.) store, 1921
Here too, amazingly, are three Georgian Revival buildings – a store and two houses – survivors from the Willowdale and Lansing farming communities of the 1850s and 1860s. The trio all were built after their first owners, David Gibson, Joseph Shepard II and Michael Shepard, returned from exile in the United States, where they had escaped following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

The neighbourhood also boasts extensive public spaces – parks, a huge cemetery and an attractive square - where I often relax and sometimes exercise during lunch breaks.  

I must admit that I am a convert to the charms of the neighbourhood. When I was sent, figuratively kicking and screaming, to North York Central Library following library (and municipal) amalgamation in 1998, as far as I was concerned the city ended at Yonge and Lawrence and the idea of a North York “downtown” was ludicrous. 

My opinion of North York Public Library was slightly more favourable.  I grudgingly acknowledged that, although it was such a newbie compared to Toronto Public Library (it began in 1883) where I had worked for many years, its achievements were impressive.  In less than half a century since 1950, North York's public library had grown from having 2,740 items in a room in a community centre to housing several hundred thousand volumes in a seven-storey Central Library (officially opened on June 4, 1987), which also provided support to five regional branches, 13 community branches and various deposit collections.

In the subsequent years, my respect for North York Central Library has grown and my feelings about the local area have changed radically. Join us on Saturday, and discover, as I did, that North York Centre is one of Toronto’s most interesting and surprising neighbourhoods. 

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




Fire Insurance Plans for Toronto

May 7, 2012 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

This guide was revised to include recent online Additional Sources which help in navigating the atlases.

Getting Started

Toronto Public Library has fire insurance plans for the City of Toronto dating from 1858 to 1973. Digitized versions of many of these maps up to 1910 are available on our website. 

Sometimes called Goad's atlases, after Charles E. Goad who initiated fire insurance mapping in Canada in 1875, fire insurance plans are large scale aerial drawings of municipalities. They often show not only the locations of current buildings, but their size, shape and construction materials, as that was important information for insurers.

Fire Insurance Plans: why are they useful?

Today, researchers find fire insurance plans an invaluable information source, using them for a variety of purposes, including to:

  • narrow the date when a building was constructed.
  • determine earlier street numbers of individual buildings and previous names of streets which may have changed.
  • locate a building on the street and in relation to other buildings on the block. This is useful in resolving confusion that sometimes happens in directory research. Sometimes a directory will indicate that a building, which is now located in mid-block, as being at the corner if no closer buildings to the corner have yet been built.
  • determine the lot number, block number (if there is one), and the registered plan number of a property. These can be useful with assessment and title searches.
  • indicate buildings that may have been demolished or recently constructed.
  • track how buildings have been used and altered over time.
  • indicate a building in relationship to its neighbourhood, such as schools, churches, industries.
  • show how a neighbourhood has changed over the years.
  • indicate sites where soil may be contaminated from former noxious uses.

Atlas-r-195_smallDetail of Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity. (Goad) 2nd ed. 1893 Plate No. 47

For a guide to the symbols and colours used on the fire insurance maps, see the detail below from the   Insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario. (Goad) 1880 edition revised to 1889.  Plate No. 3.

    Goad's key 1889crop2

Searching the Library Website for Digitized Toronto Fire Insurance Maps

Suggested keywords and subjects:

Sorting the results by date will make them easier to use.  If you know the Plate Number, enter the year of the atlas and the Plate Number preceded by two zeros  e.g.

Note: for 1910, zeros on Plate Numbers are not required.

What's my Toronto neighbourhood called?

Toronto fire insurance maps must be searched on the website by neighbourhood, not street.  To find out what the area you want is called, check out the neighbourhood map. Fire insurance plans focused on built up areas, so that the digitized plans available on this website are primarily for the old city of Toronto, or former municipalities, Weston for example. This neighbourhood map link also allows you to retrieve other digitized items such as photographs, as well as information on the local history books the library owns. To limit your search to maps for your neighbourhood, click " microforms, maps and computer disks" on the left of the screen , under "Type".


Where to Find Toronto Fire Insurance Plans from Toronto Public Library

Location code: TRL SC: Toronto Reference Library, Special Collections 

                       TRL HSS: Toronto Reference Library, Humanities & Social Sciences

                       NYCL CA: North York Central Library , Canadiana Department

  • 1858 Boulton Atlas of Toronto. (W. S. and H. C. Boulton)  
    TRL SC

      1858 Boulton digitized maps  

  • 1880 Insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario. (Chas.E. Goad) 1st ed. 
    TRL SC 

                Not digitized

  •  1884 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs from special survey and registered plans showing all buildings and lot numbers. (Goad) 1st edition   

         1884 Goad digitized maps

  • 1889 Insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario. (Goad) 1880 edition revised to 1889  
    TRL SC

        1889 Goad digitized maps  Note: mislabelled as 1892

  • 1890 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity from special survey... (Goad) 2nd ed.  
    TRL SC

        1890 Goad digitized maps 

  •  1893 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity.(Goad) 1st revision of 2nd edition.  
    TRL SC

         1893 Goad digitized maps 

  • 1894 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity.(Goad). 2nd revision of 2nd edition. 
    TRL HSS (microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1899 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity...(Goad) 3rd revision of 2nd edition.  
    TRL SC

        1899 Goad digitized maps

  • 1903 Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity...(Goad) 4th (last) revision of 2nd (1890) edition. 
    TRL HSS (microfilm)  TRL SC (photostat)   NYCL CA (catalogued as 1890 edition)

                  Not digitized

  •  1904 Area of fire, wholesale district, Toronto, Canada April 19, 20. (Goad)
    TRL SC (T1904/4Msm) and NYCL CA

         1904 digitized map Great Fire Toronto

  • 1903 - 1918 Insurance Plans for the city of Toronto (Goad)  
    TRL SC (912.71354 G573.6 microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1910 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs. (3 vols). (Goad) 
    TRL SC

               1910 Goad digitized maps 

  • 1912 Atlas of the City of Toronto and suburbs (3 vols)  3rd edition (1910) revised to May 1912. (Goad) 
    TRL HSS (microfilm)   NYCL CA  (1912 not indicated in date)

                  Not digitized

  •  1914 - 1918 Insurance plan of the city of Toronto [including Toronto Juntion]. (Goad) 
    TRL SC (microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1923 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs  (3 volumes) (Goad) 2nd revision of 3rd edition (1910). 
    TRL HSS  (microfilm only)

                  Not digitized

  • 1924 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs  (3 volumes) (Goad) 2nd revision of 3rd edition (1910). 
    TRL SC  NYCL CA (Ontario Genealogical Society collection)

                  Not digitized

  •  1904- 1951 Insurance Plans of the City of Toronto 
    TRL SC (microfiche in 9 vols., various years)

                  Not digitized

  •  1952 - 1973 Insurance Plan of the City of Toronto. (Underwriters' Survey Bureau)  
    TRL SC   NYCL CA  (1952-1969 only)

                  Not digitized


Additional Sources:

City of Toronto Archives has digitized selected plates from fire insurance plans, 1880 to 1924

Access by Plate Number is provided on  Nathan Ng's blog "Recursion"

Library and Archives Canada has digitized the following editions:

Detailed information on all Toronto and Canadian fire insurance plans is available in:

Catalogue of Canadian fire insurance plans 1875-1975


For further assistance contact:

Special Collections Department, Toronto Reference Library, 416-393-7156

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

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


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




James Esson, Photographer – 1853 -1933

October 12, 2011 | Kathryn | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

  James Esson was one of a small number of Canadian photographers to produce stereoscopic views, a popular format for photographs in the late 19th century.  Here are some of his architectural stereo views of Toronto, currently on display in Special Collections.






Can you guess where the following pictures were taken?  You'll find the answers by viewing the exhibit on the 4th floor of the Toronto Reference Library.                   .





 The James Esson exhibit of photographs will be on display until the end of October, 2011.




Guide to City Directories of Toronto: Decoding Abbreviations

September 27, 2011 | Canadiana Staff | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

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


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
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

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

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