A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. It describes towns and villages; townships and counties; provinces; sizes of population; and rivers, mountains, and other geographical features. Gazetteers usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place-names are listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Use a gazetteer to find the places where your family lived and to determine the civil jurisdictions over those places. For example: Iona is a small village in the townships of Southwold and Dunwich, Elgin County, Ontario.
Gazetteers are also helpful for determining county jurisdictions as used in the Family History Library Catalog.
Finding Place-Names in the Family History Library Catalog
The Family History Library catalogs place-names as follows:
For provinces of eastern Canada except Newfoundland, places are listed under the names and counties that existed between 1960 and 1970.
For Newfoundland and for western Canada, the county level is not used. In Newfoundland, and in Manitoba and provinces further west, cities and towns are listed under the names of the provinces.
To find the county that a town is filed under in the Family History Library Catalog, use the "see" references on the first microfiche of each province.
For provinces other than Quebec, Gazetteer of Canada is a useful series of gazetteers. It was published between 1962 and 1977 for the Canada Permanent Committee on Geographical Names by the Surveys and Mapping Branch, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. For the call number for each separate volume, see the Locality Search of the catalog under:
[PROVINCE] - GAZETTEERS
These modern gazetteers may be helpful:
Bullinger’s Postal and Shipping Guide for the United States and Canada. Book 2, Canada Section. Westwood, N.J.: Bullinger’s Guides, Inc., 1982. (FHL book 970 E8b.) For eastern Canadian towns and villages this lists postal code, county, and province. For western Canadian towns and villages it lists postal code and province.
Schindler, Marc A. Administrative Atlas of Canada. Vol. 1, Atlantic Provinces; vol. 2, Quebec; vol. 3, Ontario; vol. 4, Prairie Provinces and the Northwest Territories (3 parts); and vol. 5, British Columbia (2 parts). Gloucester, Ont.: Schindler-Spring Family Organization, 1986–92. (FHL book 971 E7sm vols. 1–5; film 1750799.) Each volume has a gazetteer that lists major towns and the jurisdictions they are in. Schematic maps show boundaries of those jurisdictions.
Because names and boundaries have changed and some places no longer exist, you may nee descriptions of historical places. Some of the most useful nationwide gazetteers are:
Crossby, P. A. Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America . . . Six Thousand Cities, Towns and Villages in the Provinces . . . Montreal: John Lovell, 1873. (FHL book 971 E5L 1873; microfilm 844905 item 1.)
Crossby, P. A. Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America . . . 7,500 Cities, Towns, Villages and Places in the Provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, British Columbia, the North West Territories, and Newfoundland. Montreal: John Lovell, 1881. (FHL book 971 E5L 1881; microfiche 6010015–6010020.)
These list places alphabetically, provinces for each place, electoral counties for eastern Canada, and sometimes population and historical information. Townships or similar jurisdictions are not listed but are in 1871 Dominion Directory, also published by Lovell. See the "Directories" section of this outline.
There are historical gazetteers that identify places in a province. See "Gazetteers" in the research outlines for the provinces.
For other useful gazetteers and shipping guides, see the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
CANADA - GAZETTEERS CANADA - POSTAL AND SHIPPING GUIDES CANADA - NAMES, GEOGRAPHICAL [PROVINCE] - GAZETTEERS [PROVINCE] - POSTAL AND SHIPPING GUIDES [PROVINCE] - NAMES, GEOGRAPHICAL