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


Ontario Census: Online Lecture Series
Nov 17 @ 7:30 pm
Ontario Census: Online Lecture Series @ FOUR-SESSION ONLINE SERIES | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

Four-session online series:
7:30 pm to about 9:00 pm
November 17, 18, 24 and 25, 2021
$20 OGS members / $25 non-members

This four-session series will take a detailed look at census records for Ontario. We’ll look at why and how the records were created, how the process changed over the years—and how those factors impact on the ways we search for our families. We’ll go way beyond the quick snapshot of a household to find rich information about community and location. And if your ancestors were too early or seem to be missing from the census, there will be tips to help you find them—or understand why they’re not included.

Each session, including discussion, will be recorded and archived for a limited time, but for the most benefit, please try to participate in the live Zoom session. Register early to reserve your spot!

November 17: Ontario Census Fundamentals
The census is one of the first records most genealogists discover, but we don’t always know what we don’t know. Starting with the 1851/2 census, this session will cover all the little details you might have missed: dates of enumeration, enumerators’ instructions, common enumerators’ practices, explicit and implicit information, abbreviations, quirks of each census year, non-population schedules, missing districts, strategies for finding people when the search engine doesn’t work, what’s where and why.

Speaker: Janice Nickerson is a professional genealogist based in Toronto. Her expertise includes Upper Canadian history, criminal justice records, turning bare bones genealogies into shareable family stories, and using genealogy gifts and games to create a legacy. Visit Janice’s website:

November 18: Locating a Property Using the Census
Census records can be used for more than just finding the names, ages, birth places, and occupations of our ancestors. Starting with the 1851/2 census this session will walk through the different processes for searching the surviving census schedules to locate where our ancestors lived in Ontario. Depending on the enumerator and what they recorded we might be able to find the exact address of a property and even locate it on a modern day map.

Speaker: Ken McKinlay, Ottawa, has been researching his family tree for over 20 years and discoveries are still being made. He has given talks for several branches of OGS, BIFHSGO, and the Ottawa Public Library. Ken shares the methodologies that he uses in his own research on his blog

November 24: Census and the Community
Our ancestors did not live in isolation; they belonged to communities. Learning about our ancestors’ communities can help us understand them better, identify new sources of information and provide the evidence you need to be sure you have the right people. This session will show you how to use the census to learn more about your ancestors’ neighbours and community and how to use information you already have about your ancestors’ community to help you find your ancestors.

Speaker: Janice Nickerson is a professional genealogist based in Toronto. Her expertise includes Upper Canadian history, criminal justice records, turning bare bones genealogies into shareable family stories, and using genealogy gifts and games to create a legacy. Visit Janice’s website:

November 25: Early Census and Similar Lists
This session will look at census returns and census substitutes prior to the 1851/2 census of Canada West. While earlier returns are not comprehensive or easy to use, we’ll look at the best places to view the images and tips to decipher them. We’ll also look at an assortment of lists created by various levels of government and institutions to document inhabitants. The session will help you think creatively about what type of lists might exist for your ancestors and where you may find them.

Speaker: Jane E. MacNamara, Toronto, is the author of Inheritance in Ontario: Wills and other Records for Family Historians (OGS/Dundurn) and writes about genealogy at A long time member of OGS, Jane lectures about research methodology, Ontario, and English family history to genealogical and historical groups throughout southern Ontario. She teaches courses for Toronto Branch OGS, most notably hands-on courses about Ontario records.

Great Moments in Genealogy
Nov 22 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Great Moments in Genealogy @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

In keeping with our November, last-meeting-of-the-year tradition, ten Toronto Branch members will be sharing “great moments” in their family history research in a series of short, inspiring and frequently humorous presentations.

We look forward to this meeting all year. It should be a blockbuster of an evening!

Here are the speakers and topics:

Dawn Kelly: Edward Francis Kelly and the Champagne of Ginger Ales

Paul Jones: A Christmas Surprise

Melanie Parker: Thomas Urquhart, Former Mayor of Toronto

Debbie Hewitt: A Remarkable Story Connecting 5 Generations of my Maternal Line

Greg Marlatt: Four Sisters of Cork

Diana Thomson: Cooke Family Revelations

Janice Nickerson: The Most Respectable Ladies in this Land

Ann Brown: Francis Robert Aloysius Conway

Linda Reid: Proving and Disproving Family Stories

Beth Adams: A Colossal Collection of Coincidences

Click here to register in advance for the meeting.

German Ancestors in Ontario
Jan 12 @ 7:30 pm – Jan 19 @ 7:30 pm
German Ancestors in Ontario @ TWO-SESSION ONLINE SERIES


In this two-part series, we will provide a broad overview of the historical context of German immigration to Ontario from 1790 to 1960. The first night we will focus on German migration to Ontario, discussing timing, origin and destinations. The second night will highlight growing up German in Ontario with a focus on school and language.

The two sessions will begin at 7:30 pm EDT. Each session will consist of an hour-long presentation and an opportunity to ask questions.


Note: All lectures will be recorded, so that registrants who can’t attend the live presentations may watch at a more convenient time.

January 12, 7:30 pm: Part 1

German Immigration to Ontario, 1790–1960
German speakers were among the first European settlers in Ontario. After people of British and French heritage, Germans were consistently the largest ethnic group in the province. In the early nineteenth century, like other immigrants from the United States and Britain, they moved onto Indigenous-controlled lands and expanded the frontier of the nascent colony. This presentation gives a general picture of the timing, origin, and destination of German-speaking immigration to Ontario from the late-eighteenth century and until after the Second World War. In addition, it will discuss potential German- language sources available to carry out research in Canada and abroad on individual people or groups from a particular region.

January 19, 7:30 pm: Part 2

German Bilingual Schools in Ontario, 1880–1912
When Anglophones and Francophones debated bilingual education in Ontario from the 1880s to the eve of the First World, they often spoke of German schools. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, German stood alongside French and English as one of three possible languages of instruction in the public and Catholic separate schools of the province. Yet starting in the 1880s, a series of cultural policies aimed to ensure that all schools in Ontario taught English, even if it was alongside French or German. With these policies, government officials and politicians increasingly sought to merge cultural and political definitions of belonging, and they embraced the idea that all citizens should share a common language. This talk presents the history of German-language education in Canada’s largest province and its slow removal (long before the First World War) while also tracing some of the origins of Canadian multiculturalism and government attempts to manage that diversity.

Speaker: Benjamin Bryce is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at UBC and received his PhD from York University in 2013. He is the author of The Boundaries of Ethnicity: German Immigration and the Language of Belonging in Ontario (forthcoming with McGill-Queen’s University Press) and To Belong in Buenos Aires: Germans, Argentines, and the Rise of a Pluralist Society (Stanford University Press, 2018). In Vancouver, he teaches courses about migration in the Americas as well as German and world history.


Distorted Descent
Jan 24 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Distorted Descent @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

Dr. Darryl Leroux will discuss findings from his book Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity (University of Manitoba Press, 2019) that will be of particular interest to genealogists. An expert on French-Canadian genealogy, Dr. Leroux will focus on the genealogical mechanics that are leading an increasing number of white French-Canadians to identify as Indigenous. What he calls “practices of descent” explain how one must do something with certain ancestors to justify one’s nascent claims to an Indigenous identity. The three main practices of descent identified by Dr. Leroux are lineal descent, aspirational descent, and lateral descent, each of which provides amateur genealogists with the material to change certain ancestors’ identities to suit their own present-day interests.

Dr. Darryl Leroux is an associate professor in the Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University. In 2019, he published Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity, which explores, in part, the genealogical mechanics at play in the phenomenon of self-indigenization. He has been researching the social and political dynamics of French-Canadian/Québécois genealogy for a decade, during which time he has published articles on the topic in academic journals such as Ethnic & Racial Studies, Journal of Critical Ethnic Studies, Social Studies of Science, and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal.

Click here to register for the meeting and get your unique Zoom link.