Digital City Directories - A Great Resource to Research the History of Ontario Places

July 9, 2018 | Barbara Myrvold

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Are you interested in finding out more about the development of a community in Ontario to:

  • Research the history of a house or other buildings
  • Trace people that have lived in an area including family members, missing persons, birth parents
  • Determine how a site has evolved over time
  • Discover the growth of a street or an area
  • Learn about services, products and entertainments that were available to local residents at a given point in time
  • Find out about local businesses and other organizations
  • Have historic images of places, businesses and other services

Then city directories of Ontario places are an excellent starting point for your investigations.

Hamilton 1868 Customs House rev
Image of Custom House in Hamilton city directory, 1868

Because of their popularity with so many researchers - genealogists, local history buffs, urban planners, architectural historians, environmentalists to name just a few - city directories are popular for digitization projects. 

To assist our users, Toronto Public Library staff has created two finding aids to locate digital directories for communities across the province.  Of course, the digital directories are available to all at any time from any place.

Digital Toronto City Directories 
Arranged chronologically, links are provided to digital directories from the Library's collections originally published from 1833 to 1969.  The listings include some separate directories for places that once were outside of the city, such as Yorkville, North Toronto and Long Branch, but now are part of it.    

Toronto directory 1969 LightfootExcerpt from "Alphabetical list of names" in Toronto city directory, 1969

Digital Ontario City Directories
Arranged alphabetically by the main place covered in the directory, the inventory links to more than 1,000 digital Ontario city directories originally published between 1853 and 2013, and digitized by seven service providers.  Directories from almost 30 main communities are linked, extending from Brockville to Windsor and from Niagara to Sault Ste Marie.

North Bay 1919
Excerpt of North Bay street directory in Temiskaming city directory, 1919

The Ontario digital city directories page was launched on Friday July 6, and is an ongoing project. Please Contact Us to let us know about revisions or additions that we could make to our listings.

Peterborough business directory 1883
Advertisement for T. Dolan and Co. in Peterborough Business Directory, 1883