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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Archival Centres  by Ryan Taylor. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Provincial Archives (cont.)


Archives of Ontario
134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C5
Telephone: (416) 327-1600
Toll-Free Number (Ontario only) 1-800-668-9933
Email: reference@

The Ontario archives’ website is the most extensive. Near the bottom of the home page is a section entitled ‘On Centre Stage’. This contains important information such as notices regarding changes in opening and closing hours due to holidays, new releases, featured exhibits, etc.

The Archives of Ontario (AO) will not do research for you, but will answer specific questions and their archivists are generous in giving advice about how to proceed. The services and resources of the Archives of Ontario are made clear on the website, and potential users are urged to look at the informational handouts, all of which are online. Queries are accepted by mail, telephone, fax or email. Because the institution is so large, preparation before visiting is essential. This can be done by using the resources of the website (information and database searching) and consultation. It is essential to be familiar with the services they offer to the public. These services are outlined in the Customer Services Charter poster displayed in each of the Reading Rooms and in the Reception area. This document explains some of the things the archives can and cannot do for you and outlines what you can do to help them help you. You may also want to review their services to the public at Archives of Ontario Customer Service; in preparation for your visit. Items which are held off-site, and which require 2-3 days for retrieval, can be ordered ahead of time to be ready when you visit. Queries are answered within fifteen days.

As well as extensive land records, there are microfilms of vital statistics, wills and administrations, newspapers (pre-1930) and a full run of Eaton’s catalogues. From the LAC collections there are census and passenger list films, and the Upper Canada Land Petitions. There are also materials from other institutions.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the site is the ability to search databases. Researchers can search by name of fonds, originator or even at the item level. This last is very useful. A search on Bowmanville in the ‘groups of archival records’ section brought up twenty-two hits, but the same search at the ‘file or item’ level resulted in 835 hits, including individual letters.

The archives’ J. J. Talman library holds 80,000 books, pamphlets, Ontario Government publications, periodicals, microfilm, microfiche and other printed and published items. Its catalogue is available online also.

There is a researchers list. The explanatory paragraph makes clear the criteria for inclusion.

This website is very large and complex, but it offers a clear picture of the archives and its services. It is also very welcoming and friendly.

The basic text for researching in Ontario is Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records, by Brenda Dougall Merriman (4th edition, 2008), which contains much information about materials at the Archives of Ontario.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses

offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at 

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 29 September 2014, at 17:26.
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