An organization of family historians, some with Toronto roots, others who live in Toronto, we have ancestors around the world.

City directories now online to 2001!

Among the key sources for Toronto research—especially between census years—are city directories. Bound hard-copy Toronto directories from 1833 to 2001 are available in the Local History and Genealogy Collection on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library. And now, with the completion of a major digitization project by the Toronto Public Library and Internet Archive, that entire run of directories is available to browse and search online free of charge.

By 1861, Toronto directories were being published annually. In more recent years, as the city grew, directories were sometimes spread over two years and split into several volumes. Most city directories contain an alphabetical list of inhabitants, as well as a street list identifying occupants at each address. If you work back and forth between these two lists, you can piece together where an ancestor lived at a particular date and with whom. You may very well find other personal details too, such as what residents did for a living, whether they owned or rented, and their telephone number. Be sure to browse the surrounding entries, as well as the advertisements and business listings, to really get a sense of your ancestor’s neighbourhood at the time.

Typewritten text.
Excerpt from Metropolitan Toronto City Directory, 1985/86. Toronto Public Library, digitized on Internet Archive.

You’ll find convenient direct links to digital versions of all of the Toronto directories, right up to the last ones published in 2001, through the City Directories page on the Toronto Branch website.

Some inspiration for your sleuthing—at left, take a look at how city directory information can help us interpret and flesh out a photograph of a block in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood in 1986, below.

Storefronts on city street.
Gerrard St north side, (standing on Marjory Ave, looking east) 1986. Toronto Public Library, Riverdale Branch, Local History Collection, object number LOCHIST-RD-066.