The richness of resources on local history – and that of Ontario in particular – constantly amazes me. Today I have two starting points to recommend: the University of Calgary’s digitzation project, and a list prepared by the Toronto Public Library of resources for finding photos.
Library and Cultural Resources Digital Collections at the University of Calgary (https://library.ucalgary.ca/digital) has a daunting number of collections – many about Alberta and some about the Arctic – even some about Japan. But the area of particular interest at present is Local Histories and Local Histories (2). Select one or both from the list and enter search terms for the subjects, people or places of interest. The search interface provides guides to further filtering by date, subject and title.
Ourroots, the service that had digitized many Ontario historical texts, was taken over by the University of Calgary project and gradually all (or nearly all) texts have been remounted on new servers with the improved search interface. Two titles of great interest to us that are now available are:
- Beckett, Wilmer G.. Wilkinson, A.W.. History of Derby Township 1839 to 1972. Owen Sound: Richardson, Bond and Wright Ltd. (1972). https://cdm22007.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p22007coll8/id/930239/rec/16
- Marsh, Edith Louise. A History of the County of Grey. Owen Sound: Fleming Publishing Co. (1931). https://cdm22007.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p22007coll8/id/454709/rec/2
Use the Advanced Search to search a selected field for your terms – eg., Title = Grey County.
The complete local history collection is best browsed from https://cdm22007.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p22007coll8/search/order/title/ad/asc. Use the filters to narrow by region (Ontario), subject, and place.
Another excellent starting point, especially if pictures are the primary objective, is a posting from the Toronto Public Library on How to Find Old Pictures of Ontario Online. (May 27, 2019). It lists “websites to help you find vintage images of Ontario. These images include photos as well as sketches, paintings, maps, postcards, posters and other bits of history.” Archives of Ontario and City of Toronto Archives are two.
The surprise entry is the Digital Public Library of America with millions of items from US sources. My search was for Christopher Alexander Fleming, and to my great surprise and delight, I was rewarded with digitized versions of four business books he wrote for students at his Northern Business College in Owen Sound in the 1890s.
Even when you think you’ve found everything that can be found on some aspect of your family history, a new source or a new addition is sure to turn up.