Skip to main content

Genealogy and Family History

Explore your roots at VPL and beyond: resources and services for genealogists


The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) has a very extensive collection of British Columbia directories, held mainly in the Special Collections Department. The collection dates back to 1860 and comprises many types of directories, including provincial, regional and city directories, telephone directories, criss-cross directories, social registers and more.

This section provides information about print and electronic directory resources for other Canadian provinces.



The VPL collection includes many types of current and past directories. Try some of the following tips when searching the library catalogue for directories of special historical and genealogical interest.

  • Enter the name of the place for which you want to locate directories, combining it with the words directories and genealogy, for example: Toronto directories genealogy
  • If your search yields few or no results, try broadening the place name to a county or province, for example: Ontario directories genealogy
  • Dropping the word genealogy from your search strategy will yield a larger set of results (although some may be irrelevant): Ontario directories
  • Using the word registers in combination with the name of a township/city, county or province may also retrieve some directory records, for example: Wentworth registers
  • Note, however, that as well as retrieving some directory records, registers also retrieves references to census and other kinds of records.


The print directory resources listed in this section are facsimile publications. All are available at the Vancouver Public Library.



The following series of directories are all sub-titled "Names of Professional and Business Men and Other Inhabitants in the Cities, Towns & Villages Throughout the Province". All were originally produced by Lovell, a leading directory publisher, and have been reprinted in facsimile editions by the Genealogical Research Library (GRL).

The directories do not provide a single alphabetical listing of individuals for each province, but are arranged by place name. The entry for each place includes a brief description, the approximate population, and an alphabetical list of members of "Professions, Trades, etc."

See our Provincial Directories booklist for a list of related books.

Only a few historical city directories for outside B.C. are available at the Vancouver Public Library, mainly covering the Toronto area:

  • "Based on the Toronto portion of George Brown's 1846 directory of Toronto and the Home District".
  • "Extracted from the Toronto portion of Rowsell's City of Toronto and County of York directory for 1850-51, published by Henry Rowsell in 1850".
  • "Extracted from the York County portion of Rowsell's City of Toronto and County of York directory for 1850-51".
  • Includes a transcript of the alphabetical name listing for Lethbridge, Alberta from Henderson's Manitoba, Northwest Territories and British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory for 1891.

See our City Directories booklist for a list of related books.

Ontario Farmers' Directories
The farmers' directories listed below provide alphabetical listings of all the farmers in one township or more, along with each farmer's post office address, status (e.g. freeholder, tenant, etc.), concession and lot number. Covers the entire county.

  • Ancaster
  • Barton
  • Beverly
  • Binbrooke
  • Brant
  • Burford
  • Caistor
  • Canborough
  • Cayuga
  • Charlotteville
  • Clinton
  • Crowland
  • Dumfries (South)
  • Dunn
  • Gainsborough
  • Grantham
  • Grimsby
  • Houghton
  • Humberstone
  • Louth
  • Middleton
  • Moulton
  • Niagara
  • Oakland
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga
  • Pelham
  • Rainham
  • Seneca
  • Sherbrooke
  • Stamford
  • Townsend
  • Walpole
  • Walsingham (North)
  • Walsingham (South)
  • Windham

See the Ontario farmer's direct* search results for a VPL catalogue list of titles.

Historical County Atlases
The Vancouver Public Library owns a series of facsimile reprints of Canadian county atlases originally published in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. These atlases provide a great deal of information about individual counties, townships and villages. Many include directories. The directories usually only list the names of patrons - individuals who financially supported the publication of the atlas. For more information, see the Historical Atlases section.


Early Canadiana Research Collection
Many pre-1900 Canadian directories are part of the Early Canadiana Research Collection of digitized microform documents compiled by (formerly the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions). UBC holds a complete set of the microform collection, which can be consulted by the public.

VPL has print indexes of materials in the Early Canadiana Research Collection, including the following:

You can also search the UBC collection directly online, using the UBC Catalogue. To find CIHM materials in the catalogue:

  • Enter CIHM and place name and directories, e.g. CIHM and Kingston and directories
  • In the Using box at the right, select Keyword (USE and, or, not, "a phrase")
  • Click on the Search button.
  • If there is a result that you would like to follow up, click on it, and note the CIHM number. You will need this when you visit UBC to look at the microfiche copy of the directory.

Peel Collection
Pre-1953 directories are included in the Peel Collection, named for Bruce Braden Peel, compiler of a comprehensive bibliography of the Prairie provinces.

Originals of most items listed in the Peel bibliography have been microfilmed. The Peel Collection microform collection is available at UBC (Peel Bibliography on Microfiche). A finding aid specifically for the city directories is shelved with the UBC Peel Collection.

The Peel bibliography can also be searched online.

Canadian Directories at Library and Archives Canada
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a very rich collection of Canadian directories in print, microform and electronic formats. The directory holdings of the LAC are listed in the following publication, available at VPL:

This publication lists the print and microform directory holdings of the LAC, and includes both bibliographies and place-name indexes. There are 1200 bibliographic entries for directories published from 1790-1987 for Canadian cities, towns, townships, counties, districts, regions and provinces.

You can also search the directory holdings of Library and Archives Canada through the AMICUS database, a catalogue of published material held by the LAC. Note, however, that many directories are not available for interlibrary loan. If you are unable to visit Library and Archives Canada or another owning library in person, you may have to contact the library or hire a researcher.

Library and Archives Canada has also digitized selected early Canadian directories on its Canadian Directories Collection webpage.

To order a print or digital reproduction of material in the collection at Library and Archives Canada, please visit their Reproduction Requests web page.


Annuaires Lovell de Montreal et sa banlieue
Annuaires Lovell de Montreal et sa banlieue is a free online database containing digitized copies of Montreal city directories from 1842 to 1977, and criss-cross directories from 1974-2010. While the coverage provided by the directories has varied over time, many of the Montréal et sa banlieue directories include separate listings for "Places in the neighbourhood of Montréal outside city limits." The database also includes a Banlieues section, with completely separate directories for Laval (1958-1968) and Rive-Sud (1956-1966), as well as criss-cross directories 1962-1974). The database is browsable. It is not possible to search for an individual by name.

British Columbia City Directories, 1860-1955
British Columbia City Directories, 1860-1955 provides access to digitized images from a number of British Columbia provincial, regional and city directories. Although not a searchable database, browsing by surname or the name of a business is possible. Images can be downloaded as high-resolution TIFF and PDF files.

Canadian County Atlas Digital Project
Township maps, portraits and properties from the illustrated historical atlases of Ontario counties have been scanned, and are linked to property owners' names in this online database. To access the database, go to In Search of Your Canadian Past.

Canadian Directories Collection
Library and Archives Canada is in the process of digitizing Canadian directories, and making them freely available on the web. The project so far comprises 95 pre-1901 directories, offering comprehensive coverage of Halifax and Kingston and a representative sample of other directories from across the country. Future phases of the project will add more pre-1901 Canadian directories. Access the project at Canadian Directories Collection.

The directories collection duplicates directories available in Early Canadiana Online.

Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s
This large electronic collection of Canadian genealogical data includes information derived from a wide variety of sources, including many historical Canadian directories. It is part of the Ancestry Library Edition database, available at all Vancouver Public Library locations.

To locate directory information in the Canadian Genealogy Index:

  • Open Ancestry Library Edition (available at VPL locations only; no remote access).
  • Click on Search (in the navigation bar at the top)
  • On the Search page, click on Card Catalog (under Search Resources at the top right of the screen).
  • In the Card Catalog, enter Canadian Genealogy Index in the Database Title box.
  • Click on Search.
  • Open the Canadian Genealogy Index.
  • Make sure that the Exact matches only box is checked.
  • Enter appropriate information in the Last Name field and complete other fields as desired.
  • Select Living from the Event drop-down list.
  • Submit the search. Note that not all results will refer to directories.

Our Roots
Our Roots: Canada's Local Histories Online is a project initiated by Canadian Culture Online Program, with the support of partner institutions across Canada. The project provides free access to digitized images of local histories. The database includes a small number of directories.

For a list of all the directories in Our Roots, enter the keyword directories in the Search box.

Peel's Prairie Provinces
The Peel Bibliography can be searched electronically on the University of Alberta's Peel's Prairie Provinces website.

As well as the bibliographic database, the website provides digitized images of selected items from the bibliography, including some directories.


Relatively little historical Canadian directory information is available on the Internet, apart from that provided by the websites listed above. The following websites, however, act as gateways to some additional historical Canadian directory information.

Genealogy and Family History (Library and Archives Canada)
This site's resource directory, AVITUS, will point you to both scanned and transcribed information from directories, or to information about repositories (such as libraries and archives) where directories are held.

Local History: Toronto City Directories
Toronto Public Library is a rich source for historic materials on Toronto, including their digitized Town of York and Toronto City Directories from 1797 to 1899. Additional directories may be added in the future.

Canadian Genealogical Projects Registry
This treasure-trove of information and links to Canadian genealogical resources includes relatively little directory information.

To locate such directory information as is available:

  • There are two drop-down menus located below the Canadian Genealogical Projects Registry logo (near the top left of the page).
  • Select the name of a province from the first drop-down list.
  • Select Other from the second drop-down list.
  • Click on Go!

Featured Booklists