One of the most important and easy-to-use sources for Toronto research is the city directory. The first Toronto directory was published in 1833. The next one, published in 1837, included the whole Home District, and therefore all of today’s Toronto including rural areas. Others were published in 1843, 1846, 1850, 1856 and 1859. Directories were being published annually for Toronto by 1861.
As suburban communities grew, their residents may also have been included in directories as separate listings. Check the table of contents in each volume or consult this Places in Digital Toronto City Directories finding aid created by the Toronto Public Library.
Most directories contain an alphabetical list of inhabitants (usually heads of households and others working outside the home), and a list of occupants arranged by street. Be sure to browse the advertisements, business listings and other information to get a good picture of what your ancestor’s Toronto was like.
Toronto Branch Publications has published facsimile editions of the 1846 and 1850 directories which are available in our e-Store.
Toronto directories from 1833 to 2001 can be found at the Toronto Reference Library. This is the easiest collection to use and is well worth a visit to the Library. The directories from 1833 to 1969 have been digitized by the Toronto Public Library and Internet Archive.
Use the following chart to link directly to these digitized directories.
©Toronto Branch OGS and Jane E. MacNamara