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Big indexes to consider for every Ontario ancestor

Tried and true genealogy research techniques tell us to start with what we know—and to make previously done research and indexed records a priority. But more records are being indexed almost daily, and it is hard to keep track of what’s out there. This list was compiled for a session at the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference 2015. The indexes all cover a wide swath of Ontario, if not the whole province.

There are other indexes! If I’ve missed one you think should be included, please add a comment at the end of the post.

Most of the indexes are online, some are databases, others are digitized images organized alphabetically. All the websites mentioned are free except for Ancestry.com and ProQuest, which you may be able to access through your local public or university library or Family History Centre. I’ve also included some resources that you’ll have to find in a library or purchase.

In all cases, be sure to check variant spellings of the names. Many of these indexes were created from handwritten records, so be open to creative interpretation of handwriting. Sometimes it is a matter of “teasing” the information from the index.

ONTARIO GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY RESOURCES
These indexes were created by genealogists—for genealogists. They are growing and getting better all the time.

TONI: The Ontario Name Index (more than 3 million names linked to published or pay-per-view sources)

OGS Library catalogue (superb cataloging of names)

Family Charts Collection (not presently online, available only at North York Central Library)

MANUSCRIPTS
Whether or not you ancestor left personal or business papers, he or she may be mentioned in a manuscript collection from their community or circle of acquaintances. These resources help you search many collections at once.

Archeion.ca (includes holdings of 170 archives in Ontario)

Archives Descriptive Database (Archives of Ontario)

ArchivesCanada.ca (holdings of 800 archives across Canada. Some links may not function, but it should be easy to find a current link to the repository.)

Guide to the Manuscript Collection in the Toronto Public Library (a guide published in the 1950s. The collection has greatly expanded since then, but this is the only online listing.)

Union List of Manuscripts in Canadian Repositories (printed volumes available in major libraries)

LAND
No one comprehensive index to Ontario land records exists, but these indexes to late 18th and 19th century land records come close when used together.

Index to Upper Canada Land Books (OGS publication by Susan Smart)

The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project (McGill University)

Ontario Land Records Index ( a fiche index at the Archives of Ontario and other libraries)

Upper Canada Land Petitions (Library and Archives Canada)

Second Heir and Devisee Commission case files (Archives of Ontario)

NEWSPAPERS
Newspaper research is a time-consuming, fascinating task. These tools use optical character recognition to—with a little luck—jumpstart your search.

Globe and Mail – ProQuest Historical Newspapers (available through many libraries)

Google News (very few of the Ontario papers are every-word searchable, but the images are good)

Ontario Community Newspapers (ourontario.ca)

Toronto Star – ProQuest Historical Newspapers (available through many libraries)

VITAL STATS
Be sure to check these big indexes to births, marriages and deaths.

District Marriage Registers & District Vital Records, 1786-1870 (published resource, pdfs of the indexes to each volume are available online at this site)

Ontario Vital Statistics: Registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths (FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.ca)

Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register master index (OGS publication)

Toronto Trust Cemeteries (FamilySearch)

OTHER LISTS
An assortment of big indexes and smaller, but easy to miss, indexes.

Census (FamilySearch, Ancestry, Library and Archives Canada)

City directories (Toronto Public Library, Archive.org, Library and Archives Canada)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Index to pre-1858 Estate Files (Archives of Ontario)

The Héritage Project

Toronto Emigrant Office Assisted Immigration Registers database (Archives of Ontario)

4 comments to Big indexes to consider for every Ontario ancestor

  • Richard Murek Sr.

    There is misinformation being published by the “TONI” program. I had utilized the site and was excited to see that a relative was listed at a particular cemetery.
    But after communicating with the Director of that cemetery, no such person is located there, nor is there anyone of the same surname located there.
    I can we proceed to correct this error?

    • Jane E. MacNamara

      Hi Richard. Every entry in TONI has an information page or pdf about the published source for the entry. The authors/publishers of that particular source (usually a branch of OGS) are the ones you should talk to. It sounds like the source you are dealing with is a transcription of grave markers, which can be very different from the records kept by cemetery staff. It is entirely possible that there was a typo, but don’t forget that there may be people commemorated on a grave marker that are buried elsewhere. The cemetery’s records will show married women with their husbands’ surname, but a maiden name may be included on the marker. I would recommend exploring those (more intriguing) possibilities before concluding that it is an error.

  • Jan Coward

    the link listed for
    Land
    The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project (McGill University)

    did not connect for me, however
    this one does: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/search.htm
    Jan C

  • Jan Coward

    re Land
    there is another county maps resource that I have started using, for earlier years that the 1880 maps c/o McGill

    http://maps.library.utoronto.ca/hgis/countymaps/maps.html

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