Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Canadian city directories from Ancestry.ca

Ancestry.ca issued a press release on Tuesday. It starts:

In a world-first, Ancestry.ca today launched online
the fully indexed Canada City and Area Directories, 1819-1899, which feature the names and addresses of more than 5.2 million people who lived in Canada during the greater part of the 19th Century.

In total, 19,764 pages of directory pages were scanned and are now available to search online.


A pre-cursor to phone books, these historic directories feature an alphabetical listing of the majority of heads of households in major cities across Canada along with their address and occupation. It also lists businesses, town officers, schools, societies, churches and other public institutions.

Sounds comprehensive. How extensive is this collection?

For British Columbia directories are for New Westminster for 1890, for Revelstoke for 1897 and 1898, for Vancouver for 1888, 1890, 1896 and 1899, and for Victoria for 1860.

For Ontario there are directories for Hastings County for 1869 and for Ottawa for 1891, 1893, 1895, 1896, 1897, and 1898.

For Quebec directories Montreal has extensive coverage: 1819, 1820, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1852, 1854, 1861, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1869, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, and 1895. For Quebec City coverage is 1822, 1847, 1855 and 1857.

In addition there are "All Provinces" directories for 1851 and 1857.

For several years Library and Archives Canada has offered, free of charge, Canada Directories: who was where with more comprehensive coverage.

For Ottawa, for example, the LAC collection includes 21 directories from 1863 to 1899. The Ancestry.ca collection is for just six years, but is fully searchable. Furthermore it's searchable across the whole directory collection. The LAC volumes are indexed so that you can go the the start of an alphabetical section but must then scan through to the person or address you seek volume by volume.

1 comment:

GW said...

Ancestry can do whatever it likes and if people are willing to pay for the product, then so be it. However, I think this underlines the fact that city directories are being digitized in several different venues, i.e., LAC, BANQ, Interent Archive etc, and we need some mechanism to know where they all are. It is also unfortunate that so much duplication has taken place when there are so many undigitized city directories left on the shelf.