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Researching Scottish Family History from the GTA

—New Directions

Eilean Donan Castle (

An exploration of fresh local and digital resources for Scottish genealogy

Saturday, October 28, 2017 at Toronto Reference Library, Beeton Hall

Jointly sponsored by Toronto Branch OGS  and Toronto Public Library



Early Bird (paid by September 30):
$65 for OGS members,  $75 for non-members

After September 30:
$75 for OGS members,  $85 for non-members

Note that this workshop does not include lunch or refreshments, however there is a coffee shop located in the library and plenty of restaurant options nearby.

REGISTER ONLINE TODAY! (Toronto Branch workshops often sell out before the early-bird discount date.)


The Toronto Reference Library building is on the east side of  Yonge Street, one block north of Bloor Street. The library opens at 9:00am. Beeton Hall is on the ground floor of the library.

By public transit: The closest TTC subway station is Bloor/Yonge.

It is not recommended to drive to the Library as parking in the immediate area is limited.

Toronto Reference Library is wheelchair accessible.  For more information on workshop accessibility, cancellation and refunds, late and at-the-door registrations, and copyright, visit our policies page.

Bagpiper Statue in Edinburgh (

PROGRAM  (subject to change without notice)


9:00 – 9:30 AM Registration

9:30 – 10:45 AM Session P1: Kirk Session Records and Newly Accessible Church RegistersJames F.S. Thomson
Online access to kirk session and other church court records of the Church of Scotland, and to records and indexed registers of other Presbyterian congregations, is at last being realized!  This session  is devoted to exploring the implications of these immensely important new developments, describing the remarkable range of records which are included and offering strategies for approaching and profiting from them at the earliest possible moment.

10:45 – 11:00 AM Break 

11:00 – 12:00 PM Session P2: New Opportunities for Researching Beyond the OPRs—James F.S. Thomson
A great many newly-available and forthcoming online resources with specific relevance to Scottish genealogy offer the GTA-based family historian opportunities for taking distance research in new directions not contemplated a few years ago. This absolutely current and information-packed session describes some of the most exciting such resources and suggests innovative strategies for taking advantage of them.

12:00 – 1:00 PM Lunch

1:00 – 2:00 PM Session P3: Finding and Using Scottish Genealogy Resources at Toronto Reference Library—Irena Lewycka
This lecture will be an introduction to the depth and breadth of Toronto Reference Library’s collections in print, microfilm and digital format. A brief tutorial will be given on searching the library’s online catalogue to find Scottish genealogy resources.

2:00 – 2:15 PM Break

2:15 – 3:15 PM Session P4: Splendid Local History and Digital Humanities Resources Online  —James F.S. Thomson
Information which can be superbly helpful for Scottish family history research is now accessible on a wonderful and fast-growing array of web sites (and as new data on existing web sites) which do not have a primarily genealogical focus. This fast-paced session surveys and celebrates such sites, focusing on new resources and the practical and perhaps unexpected ways in which such intriguing material can contribute greatly to a genealogical project.

3:15 – 3:30 PM Break

3:30 – 4:30 PM Session P5: Under-Appreciated Resources in the GTA for Scottish GenealogyJames F.S. Thomson
Perhaps surprisingly, south-central Ontario is one of the best places in the world from which to conduct Scottish family history research. Our day concludes with a discussion of highly useful resources which are available to us locally, beyond those at Toronto Reference Library, and how they can be of significant help to genealogists of all levels of experience.


James F. S. Thomson
James F. S. Thomson has designed and taught over a dozen advanced and expert-level family history courses co-sponsored by Toronto Branch OGS and the Toronto Public Library. For these courses and in his articles and presentations at conferences and workshops, as well as in his capacity as a University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies instructor, James draws on over thirty years of experience of family and local history research.

 Irena Lewycka
Employed with Toronto Public Library since 1990, Irena was a children’s librarian for twenty years before transferring in 2010 to the former Canadiana Department at North York Central Library, where she caught the ‘genealogy bug.’ From 2013 to the present, she has been a local history and genealogy librarian in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department at Toronto Reference Library.