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Libraries & Archives

Toronto, being the centre of government for the Province of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada, has an exceptional collection of libraries and archives. The main institutions in Toronto of interest to family historians are described below, followed by some out-of-town libraries and archives with significant holdings for Toronto researchers.

For LDS Family History Centres: See Family History Library

ARCHIVES IN TORONTO:

Archives of Ontario
Location: 134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard, near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue.
TTC directions: From Downsview or Sheppard subway stations take the 196A or 196B York University Rocket bus to the Keele Campus.
From Union Station: Take Spadina subway line north to Downsview station, then take the 196A York University Rocket bus.

The AO is the repository for records of the Government of Ontario, including registration of births, marriages, and deaths; estate records (wills) and other court records; and early land records. It has the best collection of Ontario newspapers for places other than Toronto, and holds most available Ontario census returns on microfilm.

City of Toronto Archives
Location: 255 Spadina Road at Davenport Road.
TTC directions: Walk north one block from Dupont subway station.
From Union Station: Take Spadina subway north to Dupont subway station, walk one block north.

The TA holds the records of the current “mega” city, with emphasis on the pre-1998 City of Toronto. These records include assessment rolls, building permits, council minutes, and records of city departments. The TA also holds the archives of the Toronto Transit Commission, and the records of the St. Andrew’s Society and St. George’s Society. Don’t miss the excellent photo collection, much of which is arranged by street.

DENOMINATIONAL ARCHIVES:

These are mostly very small facilities, and can accommodate only a few researchers at a time. Be sure to contact archives staff in advance of your visit to book an appointment.

Anglican Diocese of Toronto Archives
Location: 135 Adelaide St. E., 416-363-6021
TTC directions: From King subway station, take the 504 streetcar east to Church Street (one stop). Walk north one block to Adelaide Street, then east on Adelaide.
From Union Station: Take the Yonge subway line north to King station.

The Diocese covers Toronto, York, Dufferin, Simcoe, Peel, Durham Region, Victoria, Peterborough, Haliburton and Northumberland. Toronto researchers should also be aware of the archives and museum of the Cathedral Church of St. James, just around the corner on Church Street.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto Archives:
Location: 1155 Yonge St., Suite 505, 416-934-3400 ext 310
TTC directions: From Summerhill subway station, walk west on Shaftsbury Avenue to Yonge Street. Archives is on the corner.
From Union Station: Take Yonge subway north to Summerhill station.

The Archdiocese covers Toronto, York Region, Peel Region, Simcoe County, part of Dufferin County, most of Durham Region. Access to recent records is restricted. Most records are also available from the LDS Family History Library.

Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives
Location: 50 Wynford Dr., 416-441-1111
TTC directions: From Eglinton subway station (on the Yonge line) or Broadview subway station (on the Bloor Danforth line) take the 100 bus. Ask the driver to let you off at Wynford Drive and Gervais Drive.
From Union Station: Take the Yonge subway north to Eglinton station.

Covers all Presbyterian churches across Canada. The Archives encourages churches to submit their registers for filming, and then returns the originals to the congregation. Note that many Presbyterian churches became part of the United Church of Canada in 1925, and their records may be found at the United Church Archives.

United Church of Canada Archives
Location: 40 Oak St. (off Parliament Street between Dundas St. and Gerrard St.) 416-644-3140 ext. 101
TTC directions: Take the Bloor-Danforth subway to Castlefrank station, and take the #65 Parliament bus south to Oak St., or from the Dundas subway station (on the Yonge line) take the 505 streetcar eastbound to Regent St. and walk north to Oak St.
From Union Station: Take University subway north to St. George station and transfer to the Bloor-Danforth subway line.

The United Church was founded in 1925, a union of the Methodist, Congregationalist, most Presbyterian, and later (1968) the Evangelical United Brethren. The Toronto Conference covers most of Ontario, except Grenville, Carleton, Prescott, Russell, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry counties, and the Kenora area.

LIBRARIES IN TORONTO:

Toronto Public Library
The Toronto Public Library (TPL) has 97 branch libraries, as well as two major reference libraries detailed below. All the branches and reference libraries share a common online catalogue, so it is very important to note the location of an item. All TPL libraries provide free onsite access to Ancestry.com and many other databases. Many of the branch libraries also have collections of local history material that may not be included in the online catalogue. Please visit the TPL website for branch profiles, locations, hours and contact information.

Toronto Reference Library
Location: 789 Yonge Street, at Asquith, just north of Bloor Street
TTC directions: Walk north one block from Yonge-Bloor subway station.
From Union Station: Take Yonge subway north to Yonge-Bloor subway station, walk one block north.

One of two major reference libraries in Toronto, the TRL shares a catalogue with the North York Central Library and more than 90 branches. When consulting the catalogue, be sure of the location of the materials you find.

For Toronto research: The TRL has the easiest-to-use set of city directories; an excellent map collection; lots of local histories and biographies; and a manuscript collection that emphasizes Toronto and area. It also has the best collection of Toronto newspapers on microfilm, and free access to the digitized Toronto Star and Globe and Mail newspapers.

For Ontario and other places in Canada: The TRL has a broad range of city directories and local histories from throughout Canada, and one of the country’s best collections of local histories for Western Canada. The TRL holds the entire Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproduction collection and includes those holdings (except periodicals) in its catalogue.

For Irish and UK research: The TRL has a good collection of city and county directories; extensive record society and family history society holdings; Victoria History of the Counties of England and many other local histories; modern and Victorian ordnance survey maps; Griffith’s Valuation and tithe applotments (Ireland); indexes to Services of Heirs (Scotland); and Army Lists and other military history.

North York Central Library
Location: 5120 Yonge Street at Park Home Avenue.
TTC directions: The Library is connected by a shopping concourse to the North York Centre subway station.
From Union Station: Take Yonge subway north to North York Centre subway station.

One of two major reference libraries in Toronto, the NYCL shares a catalogue with the Toronto Reference Library and 97 branches. When consulting the catalogue, be sure of the location of materials you find.

The Canadiana Department of NYCL collects Canadian genealogical material and local history, emphasizing North York and Ontario. It holds census returns for all of Canada on microfilm, and a very broad collection of Canadian immigration records, also on microfilm.

The Canadiana Department also houses a number of deposit collections for other organizations. The largest of these is the library of the Ontario Genealogical Society, which includes cemetery transcriptions and virtually all publications of OGS and its branches. Please see the Ontario Genealogical Society’s library catalogue.

Other deposit collections at Canadiana are: Canadian Society of Mayflower Descendants, Jewish Genealogical Society of Canada, and the York Pioneer and Historical Society.

 

University of Toronto Libraries
Location: The main Robarts Library and Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library are located at 130 and 120 St George Street at Hoskin Avenue.
TTC directions: Walk north two blocks south from St. George subway station.
From Union Station: Take Spadina subway north to St. George subway station, walk two blocks south.

The University of Toronto Libraries are many. They have diverse collections of Canadiana as well as significant international holdings. You can search all the catalogues at once and find the locations and hours of individual libraries.

 

LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES OUTSIDE TORONTO:

Library and Archives Canada
Location: 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario

This important facility combines the former National Archives and National Library. It holds records created by the federal government—such as census returns, military service records, and passenger lists—as well as the papers of public figures and some private citizens, businesses and associations. There is also a considerable collection of early religious records. The Library collects all Canadian publications through its Legal Deposit system, and other material about Canada and Canadians.

Family History Library
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

The Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world, and contains many microfilmed records from archives, municipal offices, and churches in Toronto, as well as published material about Ontario sources and families. You can access them through the Family History Library Catalogue. Most of the resources you find in the catalogue are on microfilm and you can borrow them through the Toronto Reference Library or a local Family History Centre. Be sure to call the local Family History Centre in advance for an appointment.

There are two Family History Centres in Toronto:

Toronto Family History Centre
24 Ferrand Drive, Don Mills
(416) 422-5480 x111
The FHC has a blog to keep you up to date on hours, holdings and other news.

Etobicoke Family History Centre
95 Melbert Road, Etobicoke
(416) 621-4607