Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Finding Your Ancestors in Ontario

If you are looking for ancestors or relatives in Ontario, this province is a rich resource for genealogical research. This review of Ontario resources is based loosely on my own experiences of family history research in Simcoe County and Huron County. Although I am an experienced genealogy researcher, I do not profess to be an expert in Ontario research. Listed are numerous how to articles and standard resources for Ontario genealogy. Perhaps you will find a new favourite?

Your best success will come from blogs of genealogists who live in the area and are familiar with Ontario repositories. Contact these genealogists with first hand knowledge of Ontario records - please see below.

Brief History
One of the earliest settled provinces in Canada, present day Ontario was formed in 1791 and originally known as Upper Canada (southern Ontario). Another name you may come across is British North America or BNA. (Source: Wikipedia_Upper Canada) By 1841 it had become known as the province of Ontario. The capital of Canada, Ottawa (1858) located in Ontario, was known as Bytown (1841). Toronto, the capital city of Ontario, was known as York (1793). (Source: Canadian Encyclopedia) Placenames in Ontario were often named after places in England, family names or indigenous names.

© Penny Allen
Family History Research
Start your Ontario research with the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), as they have fabulous resources, and as well, most county family history societies are branches of the OGS. TONI - The Ontario Name Index  is a great resource to search for your ancestor by name - it is an index, however, there are options for purchasing the information. (>3,000,000 records!) Remember to check the OGS journal - Families, as it has been a great help to me, significant articles on very specific family names or areas of interest.  Ontario Record Resources provided by the OGS is another page that provides links.   Sign up for the FREE OGS weekly E-newsletter for the latest news and insights into Ontario genealogy.

In first attempts searching for your ancestors in Ontario, it is important to identify the name of the town and also the county that the town is located in. The easiest way to do this is by using the County Locator tool provided by the OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society).

Another very good tool for early County research (1870s - 1880s) in Ontario is the online County Atlas provided by McGill University. These county atlases contain information about landowners and their property giving a very visual picture and sometimes a drawing of the landowner. Next a sensible course of action is to investigate whether the county archives or genealogical society have transcribed cemetery lists or obituaries.

BMDs or Vital Statistics Ontario - certificates usually only available to next of kin

Archives of Ontario     Ontario Archives on Twitter

Huron County
   Search the webpages of the Huron Branch of the OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society) Goderich, Ontario. There are many specialized online collections to be found in the county of Huron. A few to mention here:  Wingham Cemetery Database  |  Reuben Sallows (1855 - 1937)  photographer, Goderich Ontario  |  Huron County Library - Online Newspapers

Simcoe County
  Search the webpages of the Simcoe Branch of the OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society). As with research in many parts of Canada, there is quite a bit of information in archives at the county or provincial level.  The Simcoe County Archives have many specialist publications that may not be digitized and are only available in print at the archives. For example, a publication of the Auld Kirk Cemetery is available listing all the people of Scottish descent who are buried there. Please check out Wayne Cook's Simcoe County pages a little bit on the 'loud' side, but full of interesting resources.

Peel Regional ArchivesPeel Railway Records

Ontario E-Resources:

John D Reid (Thursday 7 April 2016 WDYTYA handout) - Finding English Emigrants to Canada and Their Descendants

Ontario resources on Dave Obee's CanGenealogy pages

Search tool for Archives in Ontario  |  Archives of Ontario Guide: Tracing Ancestors at the Archives of Ontario

Toronto Public Library Digital Collections - the city of Toronto and Home District directory of 1837

Early Ontario Records - Although a teeny bit old school web design, this is a website that I latched on to quite early in my genealogy research. I am so impressed with the amount of work that went into this site and all those links!

Thunder Bay World War One Centennial Project a searchable database of university related World War One experiences. Sponsored by Lakehead University Archives

Print Resources

Ontario Genealogical Society Publications

The Beginner's Guide to Ontario Genealogy by Fraser Dunford Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9780777934128

Ontario Land Registry Office Records, A Guide by Fraser Dunford Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9780777934469

Important genealogical collections in Ontario libraries and archives : a directory by Ryan Taylor. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9780777901854 

Here Be Dragons!: Navigating The Hazards Found In Canadian Family Research, A Guide For Genealogists With Some Uncommon Useful Knowledge by Althea Douglas Published by Ontario Genealogical Society ISBN13: 9780777901960

Genealogy in Ontario, Searching the Records, 30th Anniversary Edition By Brenda DougallMerriman, CGRS, CGL Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9781550343113

Toronto Ontario from the CN Tower
© Penny Allen 
Ontario Genealogists' Blogs

Candice McDonald - Finding Your Canadian Story

Gail Dever - Genealogy a la Carte

Jane E. MacNamara - Where the Story Takes Me

John D. Reid - Anglo-Celtic Connections

Olive Tree Genealogy - Lorine McGinnis Schulze

Researchers Located in Ontario 

Janice Nickerson -

Kathryn Lake Hogan

Lorine McGinnis Schulze  Olive Tree Genealogy

Melissa Ellis

Ruth Blair

Archives of Ontario Genealogical Researchers

Although this may seem a teeny bit of information overload, it is a partial list of resources (too many to list here!) & more waiting to be discovered through family history society, archive and library webpages. Please do have a thorough look through all of the links. Ancestry, Family Search and the Ontario Genealogy Society are also hard at work providing more and more Ontario resources online. It is worthwhile staying up to date with the current research and records by following one or two Ontario genealogy blogs that I have mentioned above. Have fun!

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